We were taken on an excursion this afternoon to Kirschberg, a medieval town in the outskirts of Schwabisch Hall. In typical fashion, the buildings were beautifully preserved, as Germany really appreciates the historical value and cultural significance of its past.
Our second stop was a visit to one of Germany’s model farms. It grows the maize and the hay to feed the cattle, and the cattle are grown for meat. It is cheaper to import beef from other countries to Germany, but the farmer can sell his meat at a higher price because of its flavor.
The farm used to produce alcohol but it became too expensive to produce. They have a new operation that processes methane for bio-fuel. Nearly every sloped roof I could see in the farming areas were packed with solar panels, and windmills are also located in the area to create electricity.
The second part of our excursion outside of town was at the Freilandmuseum of Schwäbisch Hall. Located in Hohenlohe, it is one of the seven open-air museums in the area. It is similar to Williamsburg, where period buildings are shown in their natural environment. Buildings were moved here from elsewhere to preserve them. We saw an early medieval farm house and a more recent one from the 19th century. We also visited a school house, where our instructor gave us a lesson on the present tense. He read us what the teachers would tell the students to discipline them. Corporal punishment was the name of the day–see “the White Ribbon”, a chilling film about a family in rural Germany by award-winning film director Michael Haneke.
The buildings showed the construction of the walls. Twigs were carefully cut and sorted to be consistently equal in size, and then they were placed between the posts and studs. The straw and mud plaster was used to fill in the gaps, and then plaster and paint was added over the walls. Early buildings were built of stone to avoid the eternal fear of fire, but eventually the materials were organized better to concentrate the use of stone in the basement for cooling and storage of food over the winter, and then placing the living quarters over the stone level to keep the house warm. Stone and iron were used in the cooking or hearth area to protect it from catching on fire.
If it wasn’t fire, the next greatest fear of any family was poor health. Of 15 children, half or more died in the 19th Century. Families had to live together for economies of scale and to look after the children. As mentioned in other historical tours, hygiene was very poor and people did not wash for a year. There was very poor sanitation and waste treatment. Like in the Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber Midnite Watchman tour, Schwabisch Hall had its alleys full of waste that was thrown out the windows of the houses. Wealthier people lived at the top of the steep hill so all the waste washed or slid down the hill to the river. So the poor got the worst of the lot. This contributed to the disease and infestation that baffled and plagued generations of farmers and city dwellers alike. I woke up just in time to notice that tour attendees tend to get pretty lethargic, until the stories about gore and horror get mentioned. Everyone perks up and pays attention intently. It must be trick the tour guides use to give everyone a jolt and reminder to achtung. Unfortunately, I’d heard it before.
We were treated to a specialty of the area known as “Wibele”, tiny tiny waffle-like coated snacks that look like mini macaroons. I confess that they were more delicious than they look. Our teacher told us it was a highlight that he remembers as a child. The schwein shown in the picture below is also known to be a specialty of the area. Its black head indicates that it was bred from another pig and it yields a distinct and delicious pork flavor.
I’m trying really hard not to overeat, so I am buying food from the supermarket and even tried cooking in the guest house kitchen tonite. I buy the usual fruit, granola and yogurt for breakfast, and conjured up some twistee noodles with garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes for a tasty home-cooked meal. I have been making sandwiches for lunch with delicious aromatic schinken ham and Swiss cheese and arugula on a fresh brot. Sorry foodies, no pictures to brag about for awhile. You’ll probably have to wait until I get to New York.
Finally, here’s a stray photo of our classroom, for those contemplating doing this program in the future:
If you are the adventurous type, like meeting people, and living a spartan life, I highly recommend this program to you. You also get to learn a delightful language that is full of grace, elegance, and structure.
(Featured Photo, above: our class Mascot “Goethie”, from the Schwabisch pig shown in the background. They have black heads and bottoms, just like the stuffed one shown.)