OUR BAVARIAN ODYSSEY
Those few months in Bavaria seem now like a time out of mind. The little village of Gauting was a storybook place. Its country lanes replaced busy streets and high- speed traffic. Farm carts and horse-drawn wagons drew us back into another dimension in time. Our time there allowed us to ease into a new culture, a new language and way of life. We relaxed and slowed down to the pace of country living.
Our little 4 year old daughter had the most difficulty adjusting. The cottage was picture perfect, but it was built out of dark stained wood and the Bavarian-style overhanging eaves made it quite dark inside. To Patsy it was spooky and scary. I learned too late that children of that age are especially sensitive to radical change, and are apt to feel very insecure. Patsy clung to me, and had nightmares at night. If I had understood better what she was feeling I would have been better prepared, but I had no clue, and I was often impatient. I regret that I was so blind to her needs.
The house itself, as lovely as it was, seemed even to me to have a life of its own. The children and I were there alone much of the time when Claude was away. We had no radio or stereo, and in those long silent evenings I often heard odd noises. I heard what sounded like a light switch click, only to find no explanation when I went to investigate. Luckily, I was not a fearful person, but I believe Patsy may have picked up on these strange vibrations.
Mike started school but had a long bus ride into Furstenfeldbruk each school day, and as winter approached and the days grew short, he arrived home in a deep blue twilight—at 4 in the afternoon at that latitude.
NORTH TO WIESBADEN
Although the entire country of Germany is about the size of one of our states, moving from South to North is like night and day. While the Bavarian folk are laid back and jolly people, we found the northerners to be more stiff and rigid and sober.
Our house in Wiesbaden was a two-story stucco dwelling built in a box- like design. It was in a lovely residential neighborhood that had once been occupied by the well-to-do. We moved in while renovations were still in progress. Painters and plasterers were at work, and only the barest furnishings had been put in place.
It was a lovely, spacious house, and we again were provided with a maid and a houseman. The houseman was rather a grouch, and we missed our jolly Alphons. Our maid was a young woman of 25 named Imelda, and we became very fond of her. She spoke English well and she was a big help in acquainting us with the town and acting as interpreter. She not only cleaned for us, but did our laundry and mending, and even darned our socks.
LIFE MARCHES ON
Wiesbaden was said to be the Hollywood of Germany. I suppose that meant
it was a wealthy town, and had been a popular hot springs resort. The name Wiesbaden means ‘bath in the meadows’. What had been the main ‘bath resort’, The Kur Hous, had been badly bombed, and the Americans restored it and it was converted into the American Civic Center. It had a big auditorium and many small shops and meeting rooms. Flags from every country graced the long boulevards and parkways leading up to the building.
We settled in to the business of living and life became quite normal. The kids attended the American School, and we shopped mainly at the American Commissary. We were supplied with dairy products from Denmark and Holland as Undulant Fever was prevalent in the German dairy herds. We also had to wash fresh produce in a disinfectant because of their outdated fertilization methods. We were told not to eat German ice cream.
I loved the German shops. I loved the porcelain, the crystal, the toy shops and the music boxes; everything looked old and Victorian. I loved going to the MarkPlatz on Saturdays, buying fresh produce and glorying in the acres of cut flowers and potted plants.
We drove our little German car up and down the Rhine visiting castles and picturesque little inns. We took Imelda and her elderly mom on rides with us, and listened to the old lady exclaim her excitement in funny German accents!
I signed up for a German class and endeavored to learn the language with dubious results. However, I became acquainted with the teacher, and when she discovered we had an automobile she offered to take us to visit the Old Roman Ruins out in the German countryside. This proved to be an outstanding excursion, very informative and interesting, and one that the family talks about to this day.
Winters are long in Germany, and many days are fogged in and sunless, but when spring comes it is spectacular. The streets of our neighborhood were lined with flowering peach trees, and I will always cherish the memory of walking beneath that beautiful tunnel of pinkness, breathing in the nectar that filled the air. I still see the crocus blooming in the snow, and beds of hyacinth lining the pathways of the old shacks along the river. I remember Germany as being so very green, and I could feel the joy and pride of the folk that loved to walk the countryside every Sunday.
We enjoyed our time in Germany, and our perspectives changed with each passing day. I hope that we left a good impression on Germany and the folk we encountered there.
We brought home a prize. John William Owen was born in Wiesbaden
on December 18, 1952.