A few days ago, my son came to help me put up Christmas decorations and, wanting to reward him, I offered to take him and his girlfriend to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. He chose a local family-owned German restaurant here in coastal, west-central Florida. We go there often and are friends with the owner and his lovely wife who immigrated here a number of years ago. Just stepping inside their restaurant always makes us feel as though we have traveled back in time and are journeying down memory lane, once more.
We were a military family and we lived in Germany for three years. Our home was in Morbach snuggled in the Hunsrück Mountains near the Mosel River and not far from Luxembourg. At the time, it was a rather small village with delightfully helpful people and was not an area known much to tourists. So, most of our friends were either fellow Americans or German neighbors or people we met while we were there.
Every chance we got, we traveled around the country, trying to cram in as much history, art and culture as possible and as I looked around the restaurant at all the beautiful objet d’art that decorated the rooms, I was reminded of some of those experiences. Folklore fascinated me and how it was manifested in artwork and in particular, woodcarving. In the Black Forest, I met an artist who sold me three of his works that he had hand carved. He explained that the styles might be different in each, but they were based on German fairy tales, folklore and history.
The first object was a witch with a cat sitting on her shoulder. It was 8 ½” tall and carved with large strokes of the cutting blade which, amazingly didn’t hamper the detail of her figure or face or of the little animal. This technique actually created shadows and wrinkles and character.
The next object was a mask about 11 ½” tall. I was captivated by the fact that the carving totally followed the grain of the wood; the center was the tip of the nose. It had to take real planning to imagine ahead of time how to accomplish the carving. The kind of thinking-ahead required of a chess player, I thought. Amazing!
And the last object was a mountain climber which measured 22” from the top of his upper hand to the bottom of his lantern. The carving technique on this work was similar to the witch with the wider carving strokes and was also rendered from a single chunk of wood, except for the feather in the climber’s cap, and of course, the metal lantern. I found it enchanting that the lantern actually lights up and hangs from the ceiling by the climber’s rope. Since then, I’ve seen this piece often copied because of its uniqueness and popularity.
Germany will always be a special place to me. I have wonderful memories of good times, good people, and good experiences that I shall cherish always. Opportunities to spark those memories again and again abide in my local German friends. Thank you, Dagmar and Uwe.
Do you have a place or people that remind you of a cherished previous time in your life, just by going there and seeing it or them? I’d love to hear.
Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.
Join her here each 11th of the month