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Knights in Shining Armor are not always what they seem.

In April, we drove to France for lunch. (I love saying that!) We met several friends in Riquewihr, another lovely Alsatian village. After eating something very delicious (I’d like to tell you what it was but I don’t remember. You just need to know that everything I’ve eaten in Alsace has been delicious.), we walked up the main street and looked in the many wonderful shops. I saw this Knight standing in the doorway of one of the stores and knew I had to have my picture taken with him. I say him, though he never spoke to me, nor did he raise his helmet so I could see his face! Anyway, I took the photo and sent it to our grandson, Graham, back in Texas. He and I have this thing about knights and dragons and such.

One of the first things I noticed about this particular Knight in Shining Armor was the size of the armor itself. If I stepped up on the platform, it appeared to be just my size. So, this could have belonged to Joan of Arc. Hmm.

All this to say, in my new novel, a trusted knight is sent on a dark errand . . . not a shining one at all. His travel takes him across the valley from Kaysersberg to the Rhine, then on to the Black Forest. In order to familiarize myself with the terrain, Jim and I drove in as straight a line as possible to the river. It was a beautiful drive.

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Looking across the vineyards toward the Vosges mountains and the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg.

As you can see the weather was lovely. Cold and rainy. The perfect day for a dark ride east. The first body of water we came to was a small river, Le Fecht. We’re going to need a small bridge to get across. Wood or stone. More research. Next, we came to the L’ILL river. Even bigger. Bridge or Ferry? Continue the research.

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Le Fecht.                                                                                      L’ILL.

A few miles further down the road, we took a side trip from my story in search of a more modern knight. Jim had read there was a monument honoring Audie Murphy in Holzwihr. An intense battle took place in the woods outside the village in WWII, and he saved the day, the village, and much more. A true knight. Do a little research of your own and check it out. Very interesting!

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Jim next to the Audie Murphy Memorial near Holzwihr, France.

Leaving Holzwihr, we traveled on across the valley to the Rhine River. It’s very industrial along the river in this area today. I was continually asking myself what this all looked like seven hundred years earlier. So many questions. Finding the answers is part of the adventure I find myself a part of.

 

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The Rhine River bridge at Breisach am Rhein, Germany.

 

Join me next time for the final days of my writing vacation. I’ll introduce you to Luc. You won’t be disappointed. A current knight  who yields a paint brush in place of a sword!

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(Woke up to snow.)

I woke up this morning and there was a dusting of snow in the backyard. It has continued to snow off and on. We should have several inches by tomorrow. Coming over from Texas, where things are blooming and sunshine is plentiful, the snow is actually lovely. For our dear friends who have been here all winter…not so happy.

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(Wall decor at one of our favorite restaurants.)

We had lunch with our Young Life staff friend, Erin, at Mellows in Starnberg. It’s a Cuban/American restaurant. There are pictures of Che and Fidel hanging on the walls and lots of memorabilia. It’s quite fascinating, and the food is good. I had pizza, the quintessential cuban cuisine.

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(Look what time it is!!!!)

We were driving to Berg to pick up our former neighbor, Barbara, to take her for kaffee und kuchen and look what we found! It’s time for the toad crossings. You see they know it’s March, and romance is in the air…as is snow. This is my favorite road sign of all time. Just so you know.

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(The little toad fences!)

Just past the sign, they put up the little green fences to catch the toads before they cross the highway. Then there is someone called a liebekröte, toad lover, who takes a cup and picks up the toads at the little green fence and takes them safely across the road to the other side and releases them. Is this not the cutest ecological event on the planet! My spring is complete. I arrived in time for the Toad Crossings.

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(Easter candy by Lindt.)

Our sweet neighbor, Barbara, gave Jim and me this delightful and delicious Easter Candy when we picked her up this afternoon, after our toad crossing extravaganza. The three of us, drove down the hill to the Starnberger See to the Hotel Schloss Berg for afternoon coffee and cake. We sat in the warm restaurant next to the large windows overlooking the beautiful Alpine lake, snow gently falling, ducks swimming, and enjoyed life, friendships, and chocolate.

As darkness falls, I am content. It’s been a good day, and I’m grateful.

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(The cemetery in Kaysersberg, Alsace, France.)

It’s fall in France. Everywhere I look, from the once green ivy blushing red to the golden vineyards, life is preparing for winter. I look at the cemetery and wonder who’s buried here? I don’t think so much about how they died, but I find myself imagining how they lived. What must life have been like to live and work in this small Alsatian village?

All work and no play makes for a really, really long day. Yesterday, Jim and I decided to break up our work day with a short trip across the Rhine.  I returned to Kaysersberg on a three-fold mission. First, to find the sun and enjoy a piece of quiche-Lorraine for lunch. Success on both parts. With tummy full and skin soaking in the Vitamin D, I embarked on my second task. Shopping. Success again.

(This is my favorite clothing shop ever, well it’s right up there with Anthropologie.)

There is a shop I step into every time we visit Kaysersberg. Many times I leave with some new weird and wonderful piece of clothing. The couple who own the store are really cool. He has long gray hair, and she has short magenta hair. Very artsy looking. I think we might be good friends if we lived there. And if I spoke French. They speak no English. But we somehow manage to get along quite well.

Yesterday, something crazy happened. After making another fun purchase at their shop, we walked down a couple of stores and stepped inside a shop that had watercolors, prints, and drawings of various Alsatian villages. The owner began speaking English with us (How did she know?) and explained about the artists, and then said she knew we come here every year. (Of course, we’d been there twice in as many weeks as of late.) It appears we’ve become known! Can I just say, I LOVE THIS. Who knows what they say about us. One can only imagine!

I’ve gotten carried away with the shopping, but just one more thing about this part of my mission. I was determined to buy two cookie tins I’d seen in a bakery with cute Alsatian children painted on top of them. Hansi style. (If you’re not familiar with this artist you should check him out.) They were 6.90 Euros. I thought this was very reasonable. What I didn’t know was the only way you could purchase said tins was to fill them with the gourmet cookies sold in the shop, it was after all a French Bakery. Just let me say the final cost of the tins was more than I would normally spend in a month on cookies, but the tins were so cute and the cookies, well…gourmet. Yum.

My third and final reason for returning to Kaysersberg was to wander around as if I were my latest character and try to see things from her eyes. I walked down alley ways and took more pictures of town. I looked up at the woods on the hillside and wondered if she hunted wild mushrooms there.  I looked at the small stream running through town and imagined she might have washed her clothes there.

I left Kaysersberg feeling excited about writing her tale. Armed with more photos and story ideas, we drove home to the Black Forest. As we left France, the sun disappeared behind the low-hanging clouds and the multi-colored leaves of the forest covered hills welcomed us back to Germany. And, I wondered…

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(Lion Pharmacy in Kandern, Germany)

One of the many things I love about living in Europe is being surrounded by ancient civilizations. Every where I go there is evidence of those that lived and walked here before me. Roman ruins are exciting, but there are ruins here that pre-date Rome. Amazing.

The fact that our pharmacy has been here since 1665 gives me vertigo! On every hilltop there is a castle ruin, some dating back to the 600s. And, beneath some of those ruins there is evidence of a BC site. Crazy.

With these antiquated civilizations come rich lore and ancient voices. My mind hears them all and stories are beginning to form demanding a home on paper. There are so many, I’m not sure where to begin. But begin I will. Exciting.

I’ve decided to write them down as short stories and let them sit on the page for a bit to see which one has the strongest voice. Or maybe I’ll write an anthology of short stories from this region, the Black Forest. But then, I drive across the border to Eastern France and more voices fill my head. So I jot down more stories. Next, I discover Frankenstein’s Castle further north in Germany, and there are whispers now, dark voices. More stories. In a few weeks I’ll be in Prague, Czech Republic. Bohemian voices have spoken to me on past trips there. They too will ride my pen onto the parchment. (A poetic way of saying: they will ride my fingers onto the keyboard. See what I mean, this doesn’t sound quite so romantic.) As you can see there’s a lot of writing to be done. Daunting.

Let the writing begin!

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Driving in Germany is always an adventure…

Leaving the village of Haimhausen, near Munich, this sign appeared. Several questions came to mind.

1.  Who are they yelling at?

2. What are they yelling about?

3.  Will there be chocolate at the end of this road?

Let me offer up a few suggestions for what this might be saying.

HEY YOU, WATCH OUT, TRUCK EATING TREES AHEAD!

IF YOU’RE DRIVING A LARGE BLACK BOX, WATCH OUT FOR TREES!

WARNING! DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT HITTING OUR TREES!

What are your thoughts about what this sign might be saying? And, oh by the way, there was no chocolate at the end of this road. Just the Autobahn. Which, as everyone knows, is the fastest route to whatever you’re looking for.

 

 

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Driving in Germany is always an adventure…

It’s impossible to drive very far without seeing a sign bearing an exclamation point. Why is this? I’ve come up with several possibilities.

1. It’s easier to fit on a road sign than…DANGER, DANGER…WATCH OUT…PAY ATTENTION…READ THIS…HEY YOU.

2.  You forgot your glasses and can’t read the words on a sign, but you CAN see this.

3.  You can’t read. (But then, why are you driving? Do you have a license?)

Normally, you will see the triangle sign with the exclamation point in the center. Then, underneath will be an attached sign with words or a picture. I have several personal problems with this. First of all, I feel as though I’m constantly being yelled at. Secondly, and this is because of my lack of understanding German, I don’t always know what the words are saying.

So, this is what’s going on inside my head: What is it saying? Is the bridge out just ahead? Are there terrorist sharp-shooters at the next exit? What? What?

The other day I was driving along and there was a road sign with just the exclamation point in the middle, no attached picture, no words. They just wanted to yell at me for no reason. This troubles me. Really.

I will be posting a new sign each week and we’ll see if you can figure out what it says. No cheating. No looking up the words. Of course sometimes there’ll just be a picture underneath. For example, the frog in my earlier post on Life in Germany. Are you in? I promise not to yell at you.

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(U-bahn in Munich, Germany)

This is the first of a series of posts on German advertising and the joy it brings to my day. I’ve decided to post these as I find them. So here we go…billboard #1. This is an ad for a company that sells tanning beds. The loose translation is: This is only tasty tanned (browned, literally). Oh come on! Surely you think this is as funny as I do. If I was better with photo shop, I’d place someone I know and love, or maybe just someone I know’s head on the chicken. But it would have to be someone very pale. This narrows down the list.

I’m sorry. I just stood and starred when I saw this ad at first. Using a raw chicken to advertise a tanning bed. Genius! Then, the longer I looked, all I saw was a naked newborn pic. (Minus the head, not trying to be morbid here.) You know the one I’m talking about. They’re just lying there asleep and naked, arms and legs all waded up underneath them. I should probably stop before I scare someone. Too late you say?

Then there’s the whole use of the word tasty. I see a poem forming or perhaps lyrics to a new song. Tasty/Pasty, you see where I’m going with this. These are the thoughts that go through my mind while innocently traveling the underground in Munich. Taking a picture of this with my iPhone drew a bit of unwanted attention to myself, but hopefully it caused people to pause and look at the advertisement and make a call to Sunpoint. After all, who doesn’t want to cover themselves with a bit of oil, sit under the broiler, and brown that pasty white skin until you’re golden brown. (BONUS: I hear the more fat, the better the taste. This is just what I’ve heard.)

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