One of the best parts of keeping a blog is the “second point of view” that develops in your mind; one that keeps track of interesting occurrences, funny stories, and your own silly missteps with the intention of sharing them later. The natural irony in this is that you start amassing so many memories and ideas that the physical and necessarily time-consuming act of actually writing them down gets continually placed on the back burner by the next wave of events (or the enjoyment of the next mixed metaphor). Then more experiences and hilarious happenstances come along and the “backlog” becomes like the 6AM TSA security line when you have a flight to catch at 6:20AM: never moving forward, somehow always getting longer, and full of interesting people that you wish you had more time to get to know.
It’s a new year and, while we’d never know the difference without this rather arbitrary midwinter marking (well, who am I to say it’s that arbitrary? – the new year has started on January 1 since something like 150BCE), such a thing does offer the perfect excuse to get back on (or off) various bandwagons. This is one I’d very much like to get back on, especially as the next year looks to be one with travels and experiences I really should and want to share, if you’re willing to read about them (and because I know how much my wonderful Nana loves to continue her own fabulous travels through these paragraphs and photographs!).
In case you missed the plethora of pictures that appeared online in September (and please skip this paragraph and the next if you’re [understandably] tired of hearing of such things), I got MARRIED just over four months ago to — of all things — an ORGANBUILDER. Cue celeste-filled English choral anthems, French Romances, and a lifetime of discussing (debating?) how one can also listen to the interpretation and the pieces as well as the sound of the instrument (current solution: it’s easier to divide and conquer). I’ve never been one for waxing on, but Dave Brown is (and I’m completely biased) not only thoughtful and charming but brilliant with the ability to both keep me laughing and on my toes. His “punning” capacities have sharpened my reflexes to the extent that my father claims he can no longer keep up.
Our wedding, at the Church of the Advent in Boston, was full of so many dear friends and family hailing from near and far, and we felt so much love from all those who were there with us both in person and in spirit. The glorious Choir of the Church of the Advent, with Mark Dwyer and Jeremy Bruns at the helm, gave the gift of music that lifted us from the mundane into the extraordinary: Howells: Collegium Regale (Kyrie/Gloria, Sanctus/Benedictus, Agnus Dei), Walton: Set me as a seal, Duruflé: Ubi caritas, Murray: God is love, Wesley: excerpt from Blessed be the God and Father. The church outdid itself, with friends in the congregation both serving as acolytes and adding their joyful smiles to the gorgeous day by attending the service. Father Sammy Wood, former associate rector of the Advent and now rector of St. Bartholomew’s in Nashville, flew back to Boston to marry us and Father Sean Ferrell of Champaign, IL, who did our marriage counseling, joined as intercessor. An extraordinary number of Dave’s family and friends were able to fly all the way from Australia and Thailand to join us (including both of his sisters and all five nieces and nephews!). We are so grateful for the support and love that everybody shared and are still reliving this incredible day.
After three weeks in Australia for a little honeymoon and visiting lots of family and friends (that’s a whoooooole different blog post), one week of re-packing, and one more Stateside concert, we moved back to Germany, where we are now mostly settled (besides having to move out of our apartment from tomorrow until February 15 — another long story).
In order to uproot his life and move to Germany for a year, Dave looked for work in organbuilders’ shops on this side of the pond. We’re both thrilled that he’s working for Glatter-Götz Orgelbau here in southwest Germany, where he is helping to build instruments for Marietta, Georgia and New York City (two new organs for Trinity Wall Street). The Glatter-Götz shop is in Pfullendorf, a tiny town an hour and a half south of Stuttgart and, although the German train system is a thousand times better than that in the USA (no exaggeration there at all), there isn’t a train from Pfullendorf to Stuttgart (where I am continuing my studies until this July). So, we are living in the little town of Tuttlingen, population ~35,000, which is on the direct train line from Zurich to Stuttgart and a mere 20-minute drive from the Lake of Constance. I’ll pinch myself for a moment: we’re equidistant from Zurich and Stuttgart, with no need to change trains, and we can see the Alps from the top of a neighboring hill. For us Americans, Europe can be absolutely mind-boggling, in the best possible way!
Tuttlingen, with a charming name that makes both German and English speakers giggle just a little bit, nestles between hills outside the easternmost edge of the Black Forest. On the hill in the center of town sits a privately-owned (but open-to-the-public), ruined castle from the 15th century that was fully destroyed in 1645, during the Thirty Years’ War, and later looted for its remaining stones. Two hundred years later, the towers were rebuilt (although not in the original style) by the Verschönerungsverein Tuttlingen (“Tuttlingen Beautification Association”) and, today, the castle offers a perfect view over the area.
A German city with more than a half million residents and one that with fewer than 40,000 don’t just differ in quantity of pharmacies, grocery stores, and restaurants (arguably, the number of bakeries seems about equal). From the capital of this region to a smaller town, moving here has offered a wealth of learning experience every step of the way, whether in daily living or bureaucracy. The linguistics, we’ll leave for another day!
A few surprises of moving to more rural southwest Germany:
- Even if you have heard this before, believe it: in Germany, cash is king!
- People are EARLY to things. A half hour early to an organ recital! To church! Before the grocery store opens!
- There are NO QUEUES in the Auslanderbehörde (foreign office)! NONE.
- People are NICE in the Auslanderbehörde. I’m still shocked!
- People are always willing to help, if you don’t mind diving into unintelligible German to ask.
- H&M is in the pedestrian center of downtown but one needs a car to get to dm (an equivalent to Walgreens).
- If you speak English in a restaurant (even if it’s not to the server), they will expect you to tip like an American.
- At least 1/3 of the cars on the Autobahn are from Switzerland.
- It’s a good thing to be recognized by the lady in the bakery.
- When arriving, the train will always be at least 5 minutes late and miss the bus into town. Plan accordingly.
- The 10:00AM train always departs at 10:02AM. The 8:59AM train always departs at 8:56AM. Don’t ask why.
- Okay fine, one linguistic one: nowhere is dialect more prevalent than in train rides north to Stuttgart during the month of December, when everybody takes a weekday off to visit Christmas markets when it will be “less busy.”
- Where Christmas markets are involved, “less busy” is always relative.
So, as we all head off into this new year, I can’t wait to share in your adventures and thank you for joining me in mine. It’s already proving to be one heck of a ride!