Wednesday, September 13, 2006. Malsch, Germany.
Let me just say that German engineering is quite wonderful. The windows on the Zirnfus’s house open two ways, either swinging outward like a door or hinging at the botton and opening inward just enough at the top to let the air circulate. They also have built-in mechanical shades that raise or lower with a switch on the wall. Fully closed the block all sunlight allowing one to sleep in pitch darkness any time of day, or in my case, to sleep in as long as one desires. 🙂
I did eventually get up, and we embarked on a cycling adventure to Malsch. We climbed steep roads through rows of grapevine until we reached a hilltop chapel called Letzenberg. It was tiny with a green-tiled, cone-shaped roof rising to a golden cross. As we stood admiring it a white-haired man puttered up on his mototscooter, parked it beside the door, and took out a ring of keys. He unlocked several bolts and stepped inside. Assuming he was some sort of official at the chapel, we kept our distance, not wanting to appear to be gawking, disrespectful tourists. But he came back out and spoke to Jeff in German, inviting us to look inside.
Half a dozen pews completely filled the room leaving just enough space for a small-but-elaborate altar. Bowls of holy water flanked either side of the wooden door. Even in this petite chapel painted statues adorned the stone walls–saints gazing down on the worshiping few. The cute little haus meister (house master) welcomed Jeff to come back on Sunday when they have live music. Then he re-locked the door and buzzed his scooter on down the hill.
I explored a bit among the endless rows of grapevine that sloped away from the Letzenberg chapel. The grapes were almost ripe and shone in the sunlight in hues of green, rosy pink, and deep purple. A walking path called the Weinwanderweg (Wine walking way) winds through the region. Along one section stone monuments mark the stations of the cross, each with bright red geraniums planted at its base.
We coasted our bikes into Malsch and parked them in an alleyway beside a local cafe called the Letzenberg Stube. It was family-run and served authentic German food. George ordered bratwurst mit brot (with bread), and I ordered suppe and a grun salat mit brochen (soup and a green salad with a roll). All the food was quite tasty. While we ate another group came in, one of them leading on pit bull dog on a leash. The dog lay under the table while they ate lunch. Jeff said Germans regularly take their dogs into stores and restaurants. Also, they don’t clip ears or tails on breeds like Dobermans, because they don’t like hurting animals. When they catch a fish, they club it to death immediately to put it out of its misery.
After lunch we biked to the tierpark–a small zoo with swans, goats, bunnies, donkeys, ponies, and sheep. All the animals had little houses that looked like a miniature Alpine village. The bunnies were my favorite. 🙂 We continued our ride, biking through forests, fields, and towns. Jeff knows many of the paved trails but always carries a trail map. I never grew weary of the views. We passed people of all ages riding, walking, or pushing baby strollers. We even passed tow men in a horse-drawn buggy. We emerged from the woods into a cornfield and spotted the clock tower of St. Leon in the distance marking the end of our day-long journey.
We showered and drove to Epphelheim to meet Kim at Schutzenhaus–one of their favorite schnitzel places. Jeff and George ordered Radlers–beer mixed with lemonade. We chowed down on schnitzel topped with sauerkraut and gravy, potatoes pan fried with onions and bacon, and salad. In true European style we lingered at our patio table as the sun set in fiery splendor–a lovely final evening in Germany after a tiring but perfect day.