Monday, January 25, 2016

That Girl and Her Sister in Bad Wildbad

That Girl and Her Sister
Blogs from Across the Pond
Bad Wildbad

Every now and again, as I make my way through the world I find a place that feels like home. Colorado, the sacred Valley of Peru, a small cabin on board a freighter, Milan, Rijeka. Now, as we get off the train in Bad Wildbad, Germany, I’ve found another place that makes me think, I could live here.

We stay in a delightful, immaculately clean, nicely stocked fourth floor apartment overlooking the river and the train tracks. Our host is so accommodating he makes us feel as if we’re already best friends, or family. He’s stocked the fridge with breakfast foods, milk, and juice, and has left a loaf of bread for us on the cabinet and some fruit in a bowl on the table. When Jesse asks if there is a place to print documents here in town, he says he'll do it himself later that afternoon. And he does. His parents live two floors below, and he says we could ask them for anything we need. Call him if we need anything else.

Here, we relax. Bad in German means spa. And Bad Wildbad is a place known for its relaxing thermal baths. We've come here because who wouldn't want to visit a place called Bad Wildbad? It sounds like the perfect setting for a real life fairy tale—a Hansel and Gretel story replete with goblins, ogres, and witches, good food, gingerbread houses, and adventure. We’re also here because it's in the Black Forest, and that holds another charm. Jesse loves trees the way I love mountains. After our nearly foodless time in Berdorf, Luxembourg, and our epic trekking there, we accept Bad Wildbad as a good place to recuperate. Around the corner, we find a charming cafĂ© that serves potato soup and omelets, hot tea and wine. We lunch another day at a Creperie and have spinach, cheese, and mushroom crepes with frothy lattes. At night, I make us up Grog (rum, apple juice, and ginger water) to soothe our coughs and remove the lingering chill from our bones. In between excursions out, we cozy in on the couch and read and read and read, wrapped up in blankets and with the heat on high. Occasionally, we get up to look out the window at the Brothers Grimm fairytale world below us and to listen to the sound of the bells ringing the hour, the quarter hours, the half hour.

"It's like a postcard," Jesse says.

It's peaceful and magical. It's autumn in Germany. The trees have turned a blushing red with the knowledge of their impending nakedness, a heartbreaking orange, a soft Midas touched gold. The strewn leaves blanket the pathways and float atop the river, flit over the train tracks. The air carries a hint of winter, but we have a warm place to stay if the outdoors become too much.

Inside our apartment we’re comforted as if with a longed for hug. But outside holds other magic. Places with names like the Zig-Zack-Weg, Fusweg, Baumwipfelpfad, Aussichtsturm are out there. In between reading, eating, and visiting the bakeries and corner store we walk up the Zig-Zack-Weg up to the top of the hill where the Baumwipfelpfad (the tree top tour) enchants me to absolute delight. As we walk at tree level toward the Aussichtsturm (tower) soft flurries fall down upon us. And I laugh, happy as a child, turning my face upward to catch the snowflakes on my cheeks and on my outturned tongue.

"It's like a magic fairyland," I say, my eyes aglow with joy.

Exhilarated, we walk up the ramp of the Aussichtsturm, all ten stories, and look down at the trees. I’ve never seen them like this before. I lean out over the edge of the top railing, trying to memorize the shape of the treetops, the out-flung branches, the far off faint towns. We’re high up and down below us is the whole, misty, cloud-covered world.

We take the funicular down, a frightening thrill like a carnival ride. I want something to hold on to even as I all but press my nose to the front row glass. Not wanting to miss a thing.  

On Sunday, as we sit on the couch with our books and blankets and feelings of contentment, the bells ring out a pealing song. A beautiful melody that goes on for seven minutes, fifteen, a half hour? It’s our last full day in Bad Wildbad. Our time here has been all we could wish for. We take a final walk up the Zig-Zack-Weg. Blue sky breaks through the clouds for a brief moment complementing the orange tipped trees. Perfect mushrooms grow up like fairy homes out of the rich earth. Far below us, we hear the bells chime the hour.

The funny thing is, although we knew Bad meant spa we didn’t think to bring swimsuits. So we never actually take Bad Wildbad up on its more traditional relaxing thermal baths. Nevertheless, we find exactly what we need all around us.

The next morning as we wait in the chill air on the platform for the train to arrive, there’s comfort in knowing that no matter where I am or what happens in the world I have a home in Germany. No matter what happens in the world, in Bad Wildbad the bells still chime five o’clock, six o’clock, eleven o’clock.

The bells will still chime.

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