This blog collects notes from Höfen, a small village in Southern
Germany, where Kathrin from public works was living and working for
Nürnberg isn't far away with its well known market, which isn't
just a Christmas Market, but a Christkindles Market, with
an estimate two million visitors a year, and a long-haired beauty
voted as the Christkind. We had a far more quiet start in
Rattelsdorf, the village next door, which was genuinely sweet and
cheerful (and cheep anyway, since its rural Frankonia) and it all
lasted four hours. It seems that every village now has to have some
kind of One Day Christmas Market, and judging from another one we
visited today, we have to prepare ourselves for far too many
handmade wooden x-massy things. Höfen won't have its own market -
it's not even certain if the Christmas party for the women and
children will take place next Friday. There is a kind of social
crisis going on in the village, which means that it's extremely
difficult to get anyone involved in anything. Various theories on
the why and why not are circulating. More over a beer.
We went to drop off my mashed fruit at the local distillery
Leicht today (an official one that is). It's the first day with
snow, and when we arrived at the yard, Mr. Leicht (who runs the
distillery together with his wife) told us to drop the barrels off
"just next to my office". This is a small wooden box with
super-glue tape and a permanent marker: all he needs in the yard to
register incoming mash. We delivered 224 litres of mash, got an
appointment for a distillation on the 13th Dec, and will probably
go home with around 25 litres of schnaps. Total cost will be Eur 44
for the actual distillation process, and around Eur 70 for tax paid
to customs. Only those who own fruit trees can use this distillery,
and my father had to sign. Mr Leicht told us that customs officers
were around all day yesterday to check the whole process, and fined
someone who doesn't own enough trees for the amount of mash he was
getting distilled. More on the quality of what will come out of all
of this on the 13th.
Saturday afternoon we went shopping, to the house with the
number 17 and three quarters, half way down the hill. Bernhard is
making seasonal craft work, which is arranged carefully in the
spare flat on the ground floor.
It's obviously christmassy now - with all the Christmas markets and
real size public nativity scenes opening this Friday as well. We
bought quite a lot, and I think there will be return visits. Some
of the animals remind me of Peter
Hodgon's animal versions which are on the Peter's
Pots. Is it a dear? Is it a horse? Does it matter?
Painting, that's what I did when I first had an interest in art.
Hunting, that's what my father does in his spare time. My father
"rescued" terrible terrible paintings, that I had chucked away
years ago, from the bin and casually spread them across the
corridor, garage and barn. I can hardly look at them, for obvious
and less obvious reasons. The other day, outcomes from both of our
activities came very close to each other - in the garage.
The mashed fruit is ready to go to the distillery.
The Sauerkraut is ready to eat.
The deer is ready for the freezer.
The fact that you can go up to a cellar seems rather particular
to the area. Almost each house has a natural cellar, often carved
into the rocky hillside. Our house has two, one smaller and warmer
one beneath the actual house that's been carved out of sandstone,
and one at the other end of the garden - the much cooler one. It
keeps an average temperature of 7 Celcius, and is currently used to
"let hang" a couple of deers. Beer has been stored in those caves
or cellars, and the breweries would open their cellars during
summer and sell beer on the field in front. Those cellars were
often up or near a hill, and therefore the expression of going "up
to a cellar" makes a lot of sense.
I grew up catholic, and I grew up in a very catholic area, where
crosses and wayside shrines are much more common than stolen cars
or unironed shirts. I once read in a catalogue essay about the
sculptors Canova (supercatholic) and Thorvaldsen (superprotestant)
that Catholics arrive, put down churches and monuments, and then
look for a congregation. Whereas protestants would first start a
congregation, and then build churches. So it's kind of funny that
Lawrence and Theodor shout in full exitement "Jesus on the cross"
whenever we pass one, and - as pointed out earlier- there are
50 kg white cabbage, 500 gr salt, 1 bottle of frankonian white
wine, cumin and fennel seeds, juniper berries and some sugar.
I got this photo a few years ago, when I asked each household in
the village to contribute old images about village life for an
exhibition in the village hall. This one seemed to be the oldest
photo, probably from around 1910, and shows the main road with the
chapel in the background. Someone travelled through the village on
a weekday and stopped to take a photo - maybe for an early
agrosociological survey - and returned a copy. Most people can
still be identified, and the others are probably farm labourers who
were rushed out into the street to become part of a village
There have been quite a few amazing views and images in the last
few weeks, but we never took a photo.
The thick fog in the valley that we drive into in the morning, with
the early morning sun colouring the top layer in either pink or
cold orange. A week of vast blue skies, with hundreds of
criss-crossing contrails marking the central european skyscape. The
other day Theodor saw stars for the first time - what a discovery
when you are three . "Wow, there ARE stars!" He knows the moon from
London, but stars rarely make it through the light pollution. We
went to the cemetery in the pitch dark yesterday evening, because
my mum thought it's very special to see all the hundreds of candles
which are still on from All Saints Day.