Part of Heidelberg Castle
Wednesday, June 13, Day Three
The sun only lasted so long. What was dry on Tuesday became a torrent on Wednesday. We haven’t seen that much rain since Noah’s Ark. By the end of the day we were both completely soaked. But let’s talk about the day. We drove from Russelsheim (near Darmstadt) down to Heidelberg. Heidelberg is known for its university dating from the year 1386 (and we thought Yale and Harvard were old!) but it is also famous for its castle—dating back to the 13th century. It began as a fortress and later became the royal palace. It might have become the most complete and beautiful renaissance castle in Europe had it not been for the French who, in a fit of revenge, blew up much of it with gun powder under Louise XIV (remember him?) Still, it is a fabulous structure to behold—high on a hill overlooking the city and the Rhine River. Because of the work of Martin Luther and his friends most of the city was Protestant. During the 1600’s the castle had the best library in Germany. That didn’t last long. The Catholic Duke of Bavaria stripped the library and presented all of the books to the pope as a gift. Needless to say, interfaith relationships were severely strained! But, as providence would have it, when the castle was bombed shortly thereafter the books were no longer there, but safely entombed within the Vatican Library in Rome. For the past 300 years the castle has basically been a protected ruin.
Kid’s Corner: Did you ever dream of living in a castle? This one is so big it would have taken you weeks to explore it all! It had a prison tower, a huge library, a Chapel, and lots and lots of rooms for sleeping, eating, and parties. Have you seen pictures of moats around old, old castles? Well, this one has a moat too, but it was never filled with water. Instead deer roamed free and munched on all the grass that grew where the water should have been. One of the tall towers was so big around that a queen had a room built on top of it for parties. What a view they must have had from all those windows!
Moving quickly between the rain drops we made it back to our car and drove deeper into the Black Forest (Swartzwald, to the locals). We found our gastehaus tucked into an out-of-the-way village near Grafenhausen (just east of Freiburg).
Thursday, June 14, Day Four
Guess what we woke up to? Brilliant sunshine was shining through our window and lasted all day! It’s a good thing because this was the day we planned to visit a Black Forest open air museum called Vogtsbauernhof. Founded in 1964, they have moved various buildings representing the basic building styles of Black Forest architecture into one little “village.” Most of these reconstructed buildings are 400 years old or more. One of them was still being inhabited up until the 1990’s. One thing really stood out about these pioneer farmers: they had a strong faith. You will see many large crucifixes attached to their homes and barns. In some cases they had even built their own personal chapels. Like farmers everywhere, being people of the land, they knew they were at the mercy of Nature and thus had to depend upon God for their livelihood. Besides houses they also had grain mills, saw mills, a forge shop and Kathy’s favorite: a Granny house. Upon handing over the farm to next generation, the elderly farm couple made an agreement that their heirs would supply their needs when they were no longer able to work the farm (they had no Social Security, IRA’s, 401 K’s or pension plans). Often a separate home was built for them and all their needs provided by their children who now took over the farming business.
Kid’s Corner: Do you know who gave the Black Forest its name? The Romans did! When they sent their soldiers north to conquer the barbarians (That’s what they called the people who lived in the area known as northern Europe today.), they had a lot of trouble moving their huge armies through this area because of the way the trees grow so tall and so close together. When you are in the Black Forest, there is very little light that makes it down to the ground because the trees grow side-by-side. Reminds me of what happens in the rainforest.
It was fun to visit the open air museum and see how the people of the Black Forest have lived during the past 400 years. I liked the old parlors. They were like our family rooms today. There’s a big dining table with benches and chairs around it, fancy painted cupboards, lots of sunny windows with flower boxes, lots of pictures of Jesus on the walls, and a big heater that is covered in bright green tiles. The other side of the heater is in the kitchen. It’s the stove and oven where the “mutter” cooks and bakes. Some heaters have places for sitting. Wouldn’t it be fun to curl up there with a good book on a snowy day! One of my favorite things about the Black Forest is the traditional hat that the women wear. The top of these straw hats were covered with huge red or black pompoms about the size of softballs. I wonder if the women had to start practicing when they were young to keep such a big hat from falling off their heads! Another favorite of mine is the “Granny House.” It is a small, cozy house with a living area, a kitchen, a bedroom, and a barn all under one roof. The Granny House I saw today had a kid-size bed in the bedroom next to Granny’s bed. I’m sure that would be fun for sleepovers with grand-kids!
Next stop: tomorrow we head out to a lake in Southeastern Bavaria where the famous King Ludwig built one of his magnificent palaces.