When I was younger, just seeing the sights was enough to make me a happy traveler. But on this trip, the best thing was the hospitable people who took us into their homes and made us welcome.
In Darmstadt, Germany, we had the good luck to be hosted by the Eurythmy group director’s friends Jens and Julia. Jens is a freelance graphic artist and Julia is a Waldorf teacher. They live with their children in a rural village outside Darmstadt. Their house is 250 years old and they restored it themselves with insulated windows and modern appliances, but it feels old in a very pleasant way. Here’s their front yard, with the house on the left and the barn on the right:
Here are Jens and Julia’s children, who kept running away and hiding when their parents tried to introduce them to us:
And one of their horses, which shared the barn with a sheep and a goat (more on them later):
And their children’s riding toys:
And a few of the local houses, to give you a sense of the Otzberg scene:
But back to the goat. Jens and Julia own a goat and a sheep, both of which we took for a walk up to the local medieval fortress, which crowns a hill about two miles from their house. Here’s a view of the castle (photo by Otzberg on Flickr.com):How, you ask, do you walk a goat? Or a sheep? Answer: with a dog leash and a lot of determination. The leash is to keep them from eating the neighbors’ flowers, which are a tremendous temptation if you are a goat or a sheep. The determination is needed to make the goat do what you want instead of what she wants. (Goats are not natural cooperators. This goat’s impulse control reminded me a little bit of a teenager’s.)
But even the goat was fun to walk with. Once we got out of the village into farm country, we didn’t even use the leash. The goat and sheep went free and followed us like a couple of dogs. But first, we ran into a little sheep herding adventure. One of the neighbors was moving his flock from one side of the village to the other, and we were pressed into service to help herd the sheep in the right direction. There they go! The shepherd is the one riding the bike.
After that exciting interlude, we headed up to the fortress, stopping along the way to pick cherries from trees that were loaded with ripe fruit. It was like hiking in Eden, with ripe greenness all around us. Rain kept threatening, but never really fell. The glowering sky made the whitewashed church look even more beautiful:
When we reached the castle, the goat and sheep had to be forcibly restrained from trying to climb up the rickety stairs to the top of the fortress tower. Their owner went up to the top, and just like dogs, they wanted to go where he went. The sheep wasn’t too hard to persuade, but the goat was very strong and did not want to take “No” for an answer.
On the way back down, we met this little citizen, who smiled non-stop but declined to pet our menagerie:
Then we stopped at a farmer’s house to order some hay for Jens’ animals and met these charming little pigs, who were very anxious to say hello:
Then we hiked the rest of the way down and had a dinner of homemade vegetarian pizza made by Julia. The children kept popping out to pick fresh raspberries from the garden and put them on our dinner plates.
It’s hard to think of a better way to spend a day.