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Travels with Georgia and zig
Overseas Trips

Episode 7—Thursday 5/20/10: Lindau and then to Fussen, Switzerland, Austria, Bavaria 2010
Herr Dandruff (pun intended) told us that Mass began at 9am. Breakfast at the Gasthaus was going to be served at 8am. That presented a challenge. It was only a five-minute walk to the church but we Catholics have this requirement that we should take communion on an empty stomach. You are supposed to be physically as well as spiritually hungry—so nothing to eat for an hour before communion. That leads to a bit of casuistry: “Father, does that mean an hour before the service begins? Or an hour before communion begins? We decided that for today it was going to be the latter, so assuming that the liturgy of the word would take half and hour, the liturgy of the table would begin about 9:30. We needed to be finished with breakfast by 8:20 to give us a ten-minute margin of safety. No wonder catholic theology produces so many logicians and philosophers.


But truly, the breakfast was worth a bit of casuistry. Our hausfrau was wonderful. She must have been in her mid to late sixties. With only a smattering of English she spoke most eloquently with her hands and with her ready smile. She kept patting us, and was so excited to meet people from “Kain-Tuck-Kee.” Her hair was un-naturally dark (except the roots) and her hands were about the size of two sides of beef. She must have been a lumberjack before opening the Gasthaus Ladine in der Gruss.
She sat us down beside a small window and brought us coffee. Germans do seem to put a lot of effort into having variety at breakfast: on the buffet table there were at least 3 kinds of bread, 3 kinds of cheese, and 3 or 4 kinds of meat plus cream cheese, yogurt and fruit. On our table there were soft-boiled eggs in cute little eggcups. It had been a very long time since I decapitated an egg but luckily I remembered how to use my egg knife and egg spoon without getting too much shell. The bread was especially delicious with cream cheese and jam. I think it must have come from the bakery right next door. The soft-boiled egg was an additional treat.
Eating much too fast we finished at 8:15, but lingered over the coffee, reasoning that coffee didn’t really count as “food.” Brushed our teeth then walked to the church under gray and threatening clouds. The sanctuary was like a small glorious confection—full of gold, silver, and carved pink, gray, and white marble. There was a middle-aged man with a leather breviary making the somber stations of the cross, and Herr Dandruff was obviously the sacristan—shuffling back and forth setting up the altar and credence table with the sacred vessels and lighting the candles. It looked like he was wearing the same clothes as last night though the rain might have washed his shoulders off a bit.
As the five-minute bells sounded the last of our 20 or so communicants filed in. Most were elderly women—but 20 isn’t bad for a daily mass on a rainy day. The priest looked like Ted Baxter, the newsman on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. He had the same sweptback gray hair and booming voice.
After mass we went to gather our bags and leave our landlady a postcard. She exclaimed and waved her arms and almost hugged us but patted us instead. Then she hurried off to show the card from “Kain-Tuck-Kee” to everyone in the breakfast room.
There was a sewing shop across the street. Had to buy a lovely tablecloth of stitched daisies. It was just the perfect size for our round oak table. Bought foccacia and pastries from the bakery and coffee at the train station. The train rocketed through evergreen forests on its way to Fussen. I hope to see them in the snow someday.
Our reservations at Oberammergau were for tomorrow so we needed to find overnight lodging in Fussen—with luck, somewhere close to where we would have to catch the bus. The trip from Lindau to Fussen took about 2 hours. We didn’t see the tourist office at first, but Georgia had printed out the addresses of some places that looked promising. So we set off in search of them, pulling our little carry-ons behind us. They were either too expensive or they didn’t want to rent to us for just one night. Seems like Oberammergau presents the surrounding countryside with a tourist bonanza. We found the tourist information office and located some inexpensive hotels. For the first (and only) time the office wouldn’t call and make the reservation for us. They just gave us the address of a place that was very close to the bus station. And so we headed back pulling our little carry-ons behind us. Couldn’t find the address. The house number was 8 ½ . What kind of number was that? All we could find was “8” and that was a bakery/coffee shop.

When we asked the girl at the counter she said to wait outside and the owner would come gather us up to show us the rooms. Sounded very mysterious and slightly seedy. We stood under the awning in the drizzle and watched the (mainly) middle-eastern clientele come and go. In about 10 minutes a swarthy, burly young wheeler/dealer sidled up to us: “You looking for a room?” We admitted that we were. He said, “Follow me, the room’s up there,” pointing above the bakery, “but the entrance is around back.” We walked down the street, turned left at the corner, then left again in the alley behind the bakery, into a small parking lot. Dodging rain-puddles we stood beside a solid metal security door. “Here’s the key to the outside door, and here’s the key to the room.” Opening the door he paused and pointed at another door: “That’s the back door to the bakery. In the morning you knock on that door and tell them what you want for breakfast. They will bag it up and bring it back to you.” Then he lead us up two flights of wide stairs to a hotel hallway. Opening one of the doors he showed us the room proudly. It was something he should have been proud of. It was obvious that the room had been completely refurbished with all new floors and windows and a new bathroom. He was especially proud of the windows. The room was loud with street noises. “When we close the windows, the noise, she goes away,” he said closing the window. He was right! The windows must have been sound-proofed. There was also a nice little wardrobe kitchenette and a small TV. No credit card. Cash only. Fifty-nine Euros.
I guess I’m not surprised the tourist office wouldn’t make the reservation for us—the landlord didn’t seem to have a regular “office.” And it did seem slightly disreputable—but it looks to me like a lot of middle-eastern families (from Turkey?) are moving into Germany and Austria looking for greater opportunities. They seem to be buying up derelict properties and sinking their life savings into them. Seems like I’ve seen the same thing with independently owned motels in the US bought by Pakistanis looking for opportunities as well. God speed to them all.
We unpacked and took off to see the sights in Fussen. First stop was an Internet café where we saw a “YouTube video” of my grandson Eli taking his first steps from the table to the TV. I commented that he’d quit doing that as soon as learned how to work the remote. Walked up some steep steps leading toward a castle we could see on the top of the mountain. Turns out it was the Hohes Schloss medieval castle complex. Turns out it had been converted into a museum. On the driveway through the portcullis it really wasn’t that easy to tell what the building was: private residence, hotel, or public building. It’s another example of local people not really being able to see their own resources through the eyes of visitors. What’s clear to locals is very mysterious to us. Everyplace needs more “Welcome, come in” signs.

Since the museum was closing in 20 minutes the lady only charged us half-price (2 euros) and told us how to find the tower. That was evidently the most popular stop. I asked if there was any old stained glass in the castle and showed her my business card. She said there was but that it was in a restricted part of the building. But, since I was a “glass-mahler” she would show it to us. There were 5 or 6 exquisite little panels from the 1500s painted with silver nitrate. In the 1500s that was cutting edge. Before 1500 the glass was always uniformly colored. If it was painted it was painted with metallic oxides mixed with powdered glass and then fired. This “paint” blocked out the light. It was generally used to paint faces and hands and add decorative details to colored glass. But in the 1500s someone discovered that if you painted clear glass with silver nitrate and fired it the silver nitrate would actually “stain” the glass bright yellow or orange. This permitted creating windows using the black “paints” for hands and faces and adding beautiful touches like yellow-gold crowns or hair without having to introduce lead lines holding another piece of yellow glass. It was very liberating and artists rushed to incorporate this new technology. I’d come to Europe on a similar mission to learn the latest new thing: laminating glass.
When the museum closed we walked through the park looking for another way down to the river. We saw a sign on the path pointing to a swimming area 40 minutes away. I opined that there had to be other paths down to the water before we would get that far. Georgia disagreed. That made me wonder aloud if a man expressed an opinion in a forest and there was no woman to hear it would he still be wrong? That comment occasioned a rather heated discussion about which of us had the better sense of direction. It seems to be the opinion of one of us (I won’t say which) that the male half of our partnership couldn’t find his posterior with a detailed map and a flashlight. Turns out that neither of us deserve the appellation “path-finder,” but after wandering around for a while we did find the river just outside town. You could tell that it had been harnessed by stone walls for more than 100 years so they could use part of the river valley for buildings—but that girdle made the river god cranky. The river was about 30 yards wide at this point with some very impressive rapids.
Walking along the river toward town we came upon the back of the Cathedral but couldn’t go in. They were preparing for an Italian/Bavarian festival. We took some pictures of people in period costumes and wished that it had begun today. Looked like it was going to be a lot of fun.
We found a “Kebap” stand for supper and had currywurst and french-fries. Didn’t need catsup. The tomato-curry was delicious. Hurried home through the rain and crashed.
Tomorrow we go to the Passion Play at Oberammergau. It’s been put on every 10 years for four hundred years. I have no idea what to expect.

to be continued