Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bad Soden (2) 2.5.05: Spargelzeit and Lilacs

Now sitting in the Stadtarchiv in Kronberg, the Kreisstadt for Hochtaunuskreis. It has proven to be a wild goose chase to find it. A book from which Steve had copied information says the archives are at an address we found to be part of the Stadtamt. But no one there seemed to know of the place. I had copied from the internet a description of the Stadtarchiv saying it was in the Landamt, part of the same complex. Again, not there.

So they sent us to the post office, and sure enough, a sign says the archives are here. We’re waiting now as an attendant retrieves materials.

Something seems awry this trip: lots of obstacles and frustrations. It may be simply I don’t want to be here. I feel like an appendage.

Steve is snappy, and I imagine I’m hardly good company. I ask what seem to me to be reasonable questions—“Is she (looking at a picture of a man and a woman) the daughter of those two?” (pointing to a picture of an older couple—and he looks blank, as if I’d asked, Did that cow just jump over the moon? We’re so . . . separate. It’s as if our minds occupy different planets, classic Venus and Mars conflict.

We passed that beautiful fountain again today. It’s, I now realize, on the outskirts of Kronberg, which seems to have some very posh houses, golf courses, the accoutrements of British spa-goers in the 19th century (including a very discreetly elegant Hotel Viktoria surrounded by a beautiful hedge of white rhododendron in full bloom).

I saw now, it’s a metal-clad fountain, definitely, though whether it’s copper, I couldn’t say. Wouldn’t copper have a patina? And I also see that I remembered it wrong—actually didn’t see it right yesterday. It has at least two sides, like a street sign. It’s lovely.

Looking out now on the Taunus Hills through a dormer window in the archives. Lovely slate roofs, black slate, framing the slice of hills. This seems more wooded country than I remember the Oberpfalz of Bavaria being, or the region around Jöhlingen.

Beautiful bushes of lilac in full bloom everywhere—purple, white, and well, lilac. I want to go and bury my face in them. Lilac is such a special treat for one raised in a southerly clime. Horse chestnuts also blooming. The ones lining the square where we ate last night were mostly mauve, a color I’ve never seen. And some very sweet fragrance in the air that I seem to have smelled before, but can’t put my finger on—maddening. It may be a small white flower I saw yesterday at the Oberhöchstadt church, similar to daphne, but not daphne.

In Kronberg, Steve parked in a no-parking zone. In typical German fashion, people would turn around and eye the car (and me: he had gone inside to ask directions) coolly, so that I knew immediately we were illegally parked. Finally—again, typically German—a man comes up, leans down to the car window, says, “Morje,” and proceeds to explain you can’t park within so and so distance of the stripes for the crosswalk. Lukily, Steve came up then and rescued me.

Also typically German: the spargel craze. Everywhere now, signs of asparagus, blackboards outside restaurants advertising asparagus this and that (one place, asparagus soup with salmon strips!) and—oddest of all to me—a sign in the supermarket over the wine selection telling you what wines go best with asparagus.

I remember from trips to Hamburg at Spargelzeit, asparagus means more than just asparagus to Germans. It’s a season it itself, an encapsulation of spring, winter over— Whan Zephyrus eek with his sweete breeth inspired hath in every holt and heeth the tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne . . . .

+ + + +

Signs everywhere in English. It could be because we’re so near Frankfurt; it could be because we’re in a resort area once frequented by the English. Or it could be just (as I observed when we were last in Hamburg) that mixing English and German is increasingly chic.

Perhaps a bit of all. Anyway, interesting to see a flower shop today with signs all in German and then a sign reading, “plants.”

Thinking a moment ago of our first trip to the Eifel, how we met an elderly Lamberty couple, and as Steve talked with him, I listened to the wife talk on and on, understanding little, except “American soldiers,” “snow,” “so cold,” “nuns,” and “Die Füβe waren so kleine.” Did the nuns have the small feet? At the time, I thought that was the gist of the story. And how did they fit into the story of the American soldiers, which seemed to be about soldiers in the woods around the village during the war?

Anyway, she was very nice, especially given that I could understand so little and could say almost nothing in reply. I do recall her asking if I had German blood, and I replied something like, “Leider habe ich kein,” and then told her I was Scottish, largely (for convenience, since I wasn’t sure how to say English and Irish). She answered, “Aber das ist ein gutes Blut.”

I also recall her asking (or did we say?) about religion, and when I said Catholic, she asked, “Römisch Katholisch?” I said yes, and she said, in German, “There are different kinds, you know."  That strikes me as odd to say, unless the Old Catholic split is still alive for German villagers.

It’s equally odd what specific memories I have of when I first heard a particular German word, of the tiniest details of what are, after all, very mundane conversations in other languages—and calling such encounters conversations is glorifying them, wince they were monologues without any turning to the other.

Sybille Bedford speaks of a Sherlock Holmesian sous entendu—what does that phrase mean? Something understood without being spelled out? She speaks as well of pollarded chestnuts. I don’t know what to imagine when I read that word. Not espaliered, it seems. Are all the large old trees we see here, cut back to mere nubbins of twisted, contorted trunks and limbs, pollarded?

More fractured German (English) in the supermarket—a sign reading, “Ananas—extra sweet.” Another said, “Softcake—ruby red grapefruit.”

+ + + +

And, of course, a whole section on German news tonight on—what else?—asparagus! We spent half an hour on it. Apparently the best (and biggest phallic) Spargel is from Poland.

And what did I have for supper? Risotto with asparagus and a green salad, with dry Riesling.

No comments: