Sunday late morning we drug our suitcases through the subway to the station to catch our train to Oberkochen. Thank god for the station master who connected with us over American football (he has a friend from DUNDALK of all places) and helped us figure out that our train splits in two halfway through the journey so we’d better get on the correct half – success on that front. Oh man, European trains…I forgot this duality of joy and pain that they create. JOY – holy shit you can get freaking anywhere you want ON TIME for a reasonable price and they are relatively clean. PAIN – oh hi group of German 20-something men with a crate of alcohol and a speaker of 90s alternative rock that decide to share our compartment. BUT we made it, with a bit of a facepalm and a bit of a laugh, and got to the important business of being greeted by our friends at the station and taking our time to tour the town at a 2 year old pace, throwing rocks in the water, spotting fish, listening to birds and catching up after 3 years apart. You know those friends where time doesn’t matter? These are them. Being around them makes my heart soar and then nestle down into a comfortable space.
J’s apartment is tiny but adorable. She spent time here as a child and told us stories of how some of the same people she knew then were still here running the stores and schools 25 years later. I couldn’t marvel enough over the German transportation and trash/compost/recycling systems. Nearly everything can be recycled or composted, so you are left with very little trash! Good thing with trash bags costing around 5 euro each. We split our time between exploring and slow living, reading to little J and talking on the balcony. The light lasted well past 9 with the nights just cool enough for a light blanket and a cup of tea. Dinner simple with plates of cheese, bread, meat and veg. On Monday I started the day by whacking my foot on the solid wood highchair, causing my toe to promptly turn blue and double in size. Not to be deterred, I shoved that thing into a shoe and we took a hike to the edge of town, across some fields, and up the hill to the Volksmarsberg, where a lookout tower stands next to a café with all the traditional German food, cake and drinks you could want. It was a holiday, so we were joined by other families and couples, enjoying the bright, sunny day at the highest point of the surrounding land. From the top of the tower you can see in one direction towards Aalen and in the other to Heidenheim – woods stretching all the way around. Apparently there are paths that you can bike from town to town all across the region. From here you can start to understand how the fairytales got their start in this part of the world. Meadows of golden flowers abruptly change to forest, houses and gardens are cared for, if not quite manicured, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find Rapunzel’s tower or a gingerbread house somewhere in the woods.
On our last day in Oberkochen, J, Todd and I walked to one of the local bakeries for breakfast – a leisurely breakfast is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. So much good bread and coffee along with Nutella and fruit and yogurt with meat and eggs for the other two. On our way home we picked up little J from his kindergarden, where I freaked out at 1. the adorableness of it all and 2. theexact types of wooden birdnest swings and tree houses that I’m trying to use for a project here in the states. Back home we all rested and took some naps before meeting a friend in neighboring Aalen for tea and cake. Why did I never think about this as a thing to do before?? Since Todd stopped drinking two years ago we haven’t quite replaced the “stop by for a drink” with anything else, but Todd loves tea (thank you Ireland) and I love baking, so this seems like a no-brainer.
It was really hard to leave this little town. It became our home base for the short time we were in Germany and I can’t describe enough just how elated I was to spend time with J&J, getting to know them better, slowing down and really noticing the pleasure in simplicity. On our last night the sky turned incredible shades of blue and pink with clouds streaking across the sky, the remnants of earlier storms, with mist rising through the trees up along the mountains. It was a perfect send-off.