Interlude: Small-town Germany

I met my friend Courtney on my very first frisbee team when I moved to San Francisco. It was a fantastic team – we nearly won the league, we *always* won the bar after the game, and I’m still in touch with some of the folks from Layoutnall (team name theme: pharmaceuticals) eighteen years later! Courtney moved from San Francisco to Oakland, met her husband Greg, then moved way outta town to Auburn. When we last saw them, their son Zack was just learning to talk, second son Ryan was a tiny baby. Soon after that they extended a regular summer vacation in Germany to living there full-time, and added Lexie to their family. Lexie is now eight. Time flies.

So it’s been a while. We arranged our dates and trips to make a weekend visit to their place in Kaufbeuren. One fast train and one slightly-delayed rental car acquisition later, we were tooling along the Autobahn toward their place. German freeways are notorious for their no-speed-limit policy, but they didn’t seem too nuts to us, other than the occasional sports-car dude whipping past us at 120 miles per hour. But you get that in the States, too.

We turned off the main road and saw three grinning kids, spaced out along the sidewalk. “Wait,” said Julie, “those look like Schroeders.” And indeed they were – our friends had sent their kids out to wave us in. Folks, it’s hard to describe how wonderful that feels. When you have been on the road as long as we have at this point, being made to feel welcome, at home, even eagerly anticipated… it’s highly underrated.

Adorable welcome

Also highly underrated? Kaufbeuren. It’s another one of those places that you wouldn’t go to unless you knew someone there (well, an American wouldn’t, but it’s a hotbed of back-to-rural tourism for northern Germans), and it’s utterly charming. Let’s make a list of charming stuff:

  1. Great bike lanes – we all took an easy ride into the old downtown (the Schroeders happened to have three spare bikes that fit us perfectly).
  2. Old walkable downtown, with fountains and cafes and a quirky beer store.
  3. Ancient medieval town wall, complete with a crumbling old brewery and views of the distant Alps.
  4. A hilltop restaurant with Adirondack chairs, again for viewing those distant Alps.
  5. Scads of lovely agricultural stuff right outside of town. An aside – at one point we were driving past a field and saw several people bent over, picking stuff. Including several children. “Man,” I said. “That German efficiency apparently includes skirting child labor laws.” Turns out it was a U-pick strawberry field. Whoops!
  6. Easy country walks everywhere, including the one we took to a pretty stream + waterfall, where the kids happily spent time taking mud from the bottom of the stream and slathering it on a rock. The goal of this activity was unclear, but they had fun.

And so on. Of course, the larger point of all of this was to spend time with our old friends. We ate and drank all kinds of delicious things, stayed up far too late chatting, and thoroughly enjoyed engaging in a little slice of Kaufbeuren life. And as with everyone we’ve seen, we were reminded why we’re friends in the first place. Courtney and Greg are lovely hosts, and their kids are a hoot. Thanks for having us!

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