Last weekend saw me visiting Suebia & walking around the Schwäbische Alb (Ger., Eng.) It is an interesting landscape – if I would have to characterise it, words like “reluctant”, herb – what my dictionnaire translates as “austere” – “bitter-sweet” come to mind. Die Alb ist ein karges Land. And beautiful.
Basically it is a brick that stretches roughly from West towards East in the Southern part of Baden-Württemberg. Different to other regions, like e.g. the Hohenlohe (Ger.), the Alb has clear borders : There is a region before the Alb, there is the Alb itself, and there is a region after the Alb. When you look at a north-oriented map the Northern border is marked by the valley of the river Rems, the Southern border by the river Donau. Yes, this mighty European river starts as humble creek somewhere South of the Alb.
And, because it is a brick, there is a clear difference between what is down & what is up : You have to climb up to the Alb, what today means that you have to drive an Albaufstieg, a steep, winding, and sometimes a bit challenging ascent to reach the plateau. On top it is windy, obviously cooler than down below, and all the vegetation is three weeks behind : While the apple trees have blossomed in the valleys, they stand in full bloom up there.
The winters also are a bit different, they use these markers (Ger.) besides the roads not for nothing, these sticks (snow poles) simply show where the road is under the snow drift.
The people there are proud of their Alb, and love it to bits. Others can’t be dragged by horses to live & work there, mostly verweichlichte city dwellers. (I can not translate “verweichlicht” correctly, namby-pamby perhaps ? Because it must have an ironic touch.)
Nevertheless, all those softy city dwellers, notably from the Suebian capital Stuttgart, invade the Alb on weekends, sit happily through traffic congestions eager to reach one of the many Wanderparkplätze (parking places from where a nice little ramble or hike can be started, usually in a circle of two hours or so) or scenic outposts. There they gaze in awe towards Stuttgart (Fernsehturm !) or in Southern direction towards the Alps.
(I personally do not believe in the possibility to see the Alps from there, I think it is clever marketing trick : When I looked South it was either foggy or hazy on the horizon, or the land lay in a wonderful Sonnenglast that prohibited to see further than 30 kilometers. This happened every time when I was brought to observation points looking South. Nevertheless, some happy individuals may, possibly, have seen something in the far distance that could be interpreted as a Swiss mountain, with a little good will from all involved.)
We went to Gruorn (Ger. only).
If you ever had to deal with the German military you know that they like abbreviations. So on the road sign you will find it as “Ehem. Trup.-Üb.-Pltz.”, ehemaliger Truppenübungsplatz, former military training area.
Back in the late 19th century a military training ground was created near the small town Münsingen (Ger., Eng.), there is still a place called “Altes Lager”, old barracks or camp. In the 1930s the area was significantly enlarged and the old village Gruorn was “entsiedelt”, what means that the inhabitants were re-located and the whole local district was incorporated into the training facility. After the war the French took over and used it as intended, among other things, for training of house-to-house-fighting. I am not sure when the French handed it back, but since 2006 the area is de-militarised and open for walkers and cyclists, you should better stay on the established paths.
The church of the village Gruorn is still standing and renovated, the old school house is used as a small pub, and up on the first floor you find a little exhibition about the place’s history.
This may sound pretty bleak when you read it. But it is not at all. No modern roads, no traffic, no electric poles, no fields. In the end you see a country side as it was in the 1930s or earlier. It is remarkably quiet there. Open spaces with green meadows, woods, sky.
Apart from the sound of those mountain bikes’ tires on the paved roads, only natural sounds.
And because this year is an extra-ordinary pollen year, you see clouds ascending from the woods, where the wind shakes them trees and pollen dust disperses like smoke.
I want to go back there, and wander around.
The Alb is a good place. I want to be there. Actually I already miss it.
The rest of the week was quiet, back to work, the usual. I looked into the web, read news, and tried to read your blogs, but I beg for your pardon and hope you accept my excuses, venerated readers – I did not feel up to do this. When I finally came home in the evenings I just wanted to go to bed. Another kind of silence. And asked myself what I am still doing here. Thoughts are floating, ruminat in cerebro, “es schafft” as the Suebian says.
Sunday Music will be resumed, everything will continue, but sooner or later I hope to change some things.