This summer Peter and I went on an adventure to Europe. With the help of a stellar memory and my obsessive journalling, I’m sharing those adventures with you.
Friday evening (19 July) we got a late start to Fritzlar with Thomas and Claudia. The drive was about two hours, much of it on the autobahn. No speed limit but some traffic so the fastest we got was just over 160 km/h. We stopped once on the way to look at a church, dating back to the Romans.
Where once a village surrounded this church, now only rolling hills remain in every direction. The whole region is lush and green; farms growing wheat and hay in each direction. In the fields we saw small wooden huts on stilts – hideouts for farmers to shoot deer and boar to protect their crops.
It was dark by the time we reached Fritzlar, which is the town that Claudia grew up in. We explored the town square of this medieval village by electric light.
Originally a walled city with numerous towers to stand watch from, Fritzlar’s buildings have the brown and white facades that are almost exactly what you might imagine when you think of a German town. A fountain in the town square bears a statue of Roland the Giant. The streets are immaculately patterned with cobble stones.
Legend has it that St. Boniface came to Fritzlar (or somewhere nearby) in 723 and felled a holy oak tree, dedicated to Thor. The people believed that if that tree were ever cut down, armageddon would be let loose on them. When Boniface chopped the oak down and nothing happened, the townspeople converted to Christianity. This is commonly believed to be the beginning of the spread of Christianity in Germany. Boniface used the wood of the oak to build a church and today, on that same site, stands the Dom of St. Petri, Fritzlar’s cathedral. A statue of St. Boniface faces it. In one hand he holds the church, in the other an axe. On Saturdays, a market fills the space between Boniface and the cathedral.
The next day, we explored Fritzlar in the light. We climbed the stairs of the main tower, finding one level where they’ve recreated a medieval prison. Complete with creepy mannequins in stocks. Nice views though.
Today the main industries of Fritzlar include a Volkswagon Factory and a sauerkraut factory. There’s a joke about Germans in there but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
We had lunch at an Austrian-style restaurant on the main square where I had some sort of delicious, German approximation of pizza, called flammekuchen. If my time in Germany taught me anything it’s that German food deserves more recognition in the world.
Then a mid-afternoon visit to Claudia’s parents, enjoying their backyard facing the river, where we were fed three different types of kuchen. Obviously, it would have been rude to not try a slice of each!
Claudia’s parents’ English far outranked our German and, with the help of a Deutsch-English dictionary, we communicated fairly well. They taught us names of things on the table and I learned that the cake I most enjoyed – made with iced strawberries – was called erdebeerenkuchen. It was a special experience to simply sit by the river, drinking coffee and eating cake, listening to the conversation in a mixture of German and English, and to be welcomed in to their home.
Next stop: Bern, Switzerland