Germany in Autumn
A few years ago I visited Vermont with my wife. As we meandered our way through the beautiful landscapes and picturesque towns, we had only two regrets: that we rented a tiny European car in a country of SUVs and pickup trucks and that we were too early to see Vermont in the fall. My wife fell in love with the natural beauty of Vermont, while I fell in love with all the micro breweries. While I gazed longingly at bottles of IPA in the evening, my wife looked wistfully out the car window during the day, willing the leaves to turn yellow and red before her eyes. Oddly, the reason she loved Vermont so much was that it reminded her of Germany. Both Vermont and Germany look especially amazing during the Autumn months, but holidays tend to make people forgot what they have at home. My wife has seen Autumn in Germany before, she’s never seen it in Vermont. I on the other hand am still amazed by Autumn here, especially in Bavaria.
For instance, this morning I drove to work early and was greeted by morning sun and views of beautiful forests and woodlands in various reds and yellows. The weather warned of low hanging cloud and mist, but this only served to heighten the experience. One minute I was driving into dense, claustrophobic fog, the next minute I was flipping down the sun visor as I was hit by morning sun and amazing views of the Oberpfalz. It felt less like driving to work and more like beginning of some modern Grimm’s fairy-tale. Thankfully, all that greeted me at the office was rank coffee and emails, rather than cannibalistic witches and houses made from confectionery.
Commuting to work at this time of year is nice, but luckily for my wife there are many other things to enjoy in Germany during the Autumn months.
If there is one thing Germany loves more than efficiency or time keeping, it’s a Herbstmarkt or Autumn market. Most towns and cities have one or two, here in Nürnberg the Haubtmarkt is handed over to all manner of market stalls selling everything from gloves and socks to new-fangled cooking gadgets and stalls filled with spatulas. Quite why Germany feels the need to Autumn clean rather than spring clean is a mystery to me, but they have been doing it for hundreds of years. Part of the fun is that it is basically shopping channel live event, with traditional wooden brushes being sold next to miked up product demonstrators trying to sell housewives the next big thing in frying pan technology. Of course, like any German event there is someone selling beer, which I find curious given that one of the more traditional stands is for knife sharpening. Drink five beers, buy a knife and finally get your hands on a kitchen gadget that can dice any vegetable while picking up digital radio.
The March of the Cranes
For the more nature orientated, the north and east of Germany is one of the main stop off points for migrating cranes who use the Autumn months to recharge before continuing to warmer climes. Around 150,000 of them stop off at lakes and while they hang out, people can take safaris to see them. Although many Germans enjoy their time watching the birds, I for one am not convinced we should be so welcoming, I mean they are basically free loading. It’s not like they pay for the privilege or anything and unlike Storks they don’t even bother to do anything useful like deliver babies, they just stand around sqwaking and generally making a mess. I also hear they are bad tippers. Go see them if you like, but I warn you if we keep encouraging migrating birds to just turn up for a jolly once or twice a year, it won’t be long before they’re taking over the place. I don’t want to lose my job to one, I mean their German is terrible and don’t get me started on their English pronunciation.
America is not the only country that goes wild for pumpkins during the Autumn months, Germany also loves the bulbous winter squash. Unlike America, however, Germany is more likely to put it in a soup than a pie. In fact, Germany does practically everything with a pumpkin but pies, with recipes suggesting that pumpkin can be used to make salads, lasagne, quiche, risotto or stuffed in a chicken. Drive around rural areas during autumn and you will see many farmers and local growers standing at the side of the road selling pumpkins and in some areas farmers will happily deliver them to your house. With such availability of pumpkins, it makes you wonder why so many American expats spend vast amounts of time and money importing canned pumpkin from the US for their Thanksgiving pies. Fair play I suppose, if I could just order pasties and pies from the internet I would, even if it meant regular bouts of botulism.
While Americans may be importing canned pumpkin, Germans have been importing US Halloween celebrations for years. Well actually, that isn’t true, Germany has had Halloween for centuries, but it is common for older Germans to blame the growth of costumed tomfoolery on the pumpkin loving colonists. Ask any German in their 40s and they will tell you that Halloween is an American construct, that is frankly un-German. This is of course ridiculous, given that for most of February during Fasching, Germans spend their time dressing up in wacky outfits, drinking schnapps and parading around. Germans are just as susceptible to dressing up as superheroes or a slutty Teletubbies as anyone else, maybe even more so. Germans are also unburdened by the concept of cultural appropriation, which can make for some uncomfortable costume choices, but if you’re lucky all you’ll come across are normal things like flesh eating zombies or horrifying clowns. Oh, god…it’s going to horrifying clowns this year, isn’t it? I’m staying in on Halloween, with a stiff drink and a baseball bat.