02 April, 2012

Eine Gute Reise


I write this from Florence, Italy, already nearly two weeks into my post-London travels and  already feeling so “full.”  Full of good experiences, sights, sounds, and yes, food.  There is so much to write… This post will begin the project of getting up to speed by telling a bit about the five days I spent in Germany after leaving London.

On March 20 I flew from London to Leipzig, stepping from one language to another in a few hours.  Suddenly I was gone from an island of soft accents and had arrived in a country of umlauts and mile-long nouns.  Two parts of my heritage, very different and very dear.

I was met by Amy, one of my very oldest friends.  We met when I was nine and, together with my sister Emily, were essentially glued at the hip and helped each other survive those wonderfully awkward teen years.  Post-high-school life took us in different directions (literally!  Amy to Germany, Emily and I to Pennsylvania) and we don’t see each other very often now.  It was very sweet to spend five days with her and her husband in Halle Saale, Germany, and get a glimpse of the life she has carved out there.

Halle’s old city is lovely; the buildings are so elegant, with beautiful wood fixtures, pastel colors, and flourishes of Jugendstil.  There is a wonderful art collection in the Moritzburg, an old castle proudly overlooking the Saale river.  [Art History Geek Alert!]  I loved seeing paintings by Die Bruecke artists and Caspar David Friedrich.  

Leipzig Wildpark
On Friday we went to Leipzig and visited the animals at the Wildpark.  I fed rams out of my bare hand.  So that makes me kind of outdoorsy, right?  But this up-close encounter with nature was balanced out by another artsy museum experience.  We visited the Museum der bildenden Kuenste, and I loved so many things there!  [Art History Geek Alert!] Highlights included works by Max Beckmann and Max Klinger.  I was happy to get a dose of 20th-century German art before being completely immersed in medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque Italian art for three weeks.

Bauhaus Dessau
Sitting in a very comfortable Marcel Breuer masterpiece.
On Saturday we met Amy’s friends Karl and Kordelia in Dessau, where they showed us around the [Art History Geek Alert!] Bauhaus buildings and then took us to their home for a meal.  The Bauhaus is one of the 20th-century design movements I am most interested in, so I’m  thankful to have seen the home of its Dessau iteration.  We also toured the houses that some of the instructors lived in; duplexes nestled amongst pine trees, flooded by natural light.  PaulKlee and Wassily Kandinsky lived in adjoining houses.  That seemed appropriate, somehow; such mutual delight in color unleashed on such orderly space.

We had a great meal at Karl and Kordelia’s home.  They live in an old schoolhouse in a village of 40 people.  They love to eat good food, drink good wine, and be free.  I learned a bit about German reserve that evening -- At one point after I thanked Kordelia for a cup of tea, she looked at me for a second and then said, “It makes me uncomfortable when you thank me so much…But I guess it would probably make you uncomfortable not to thank me, wouldn’t it?”  Cultural differences.

On Sunday I flew from Berlin to Rome, another surreal day of language limbo.  I was immersed in words I do not know and spent the day largely mute, for the only words I could possibly use with any fellow travelers are the words of children.  When, where, please, ticket, bathroom, coffee.  Do children know how much more they could wish to express?  I don’t remember feeling so handicapped or being aware of how much expression was out of my grasp.

But at last, I landed in Rome and was met by dear Carrie to begin our Italian adventure!  To be continued…

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