I’m back from all that Gypsy-esque traveling I was doing this summer, and since I wasn’t actually able to keep up with the writing throughout, I now owe many recaps, stories and photos from this #summerofAriana. Last I informed you, FRANCE showed me many picturesque landscapes, filled my tummy with delicious foods, and was my first peak into traveling in Europe long-term without fixed plans. Instead, I had only IDEAS of where I wanted to go and the DESIRE TO FLOW WITH THE UNIVERSE. Flowing with the best of them, I left France earlier than expected. My workaway in France ended after just a week and I was off to discover a new country for me: DEUTSCHLAND. I traveled by 3 ride-shares and 1 train over 670KM to arrive in a small German town that would house me for the next 10 days. My favorite part of the journey was when we crossed into GERMANY by driving on a bridge that crossed a river that separated the countries, as if the border didn’t even really exist. . . signage just began appearing in Deutsch and we soon jumped on the AUTOBAHN! Hello Speed. Nice to meet you. What a rush going 180-190km/hr (111-120 miles/hr) at the fastest points, and seeing that their system of driving was so safe and organized. Germans know how to operate on said Autobahn. Those who wanted pure speed stayed in the left lane. Those that didn’t, stayed in the right one. Nearly a full day of traveling, but I had finally arrived to my second Workaway of the summer.
First stop in Deutschland was a little treasure I’d like to keep as my own. . . in the quaint town of HEUCHLINGEN!
HEUCHLINGEN (that CH is pronounced like the Spanish “J” sound by the way. Oh how the Deutsch language challenged me in these months) is a town in the Southwest of Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Here, they speak a dialect called Schwäbisch, which according to another German, is hard to understand even as a German if you aren’t from the region. Not that it mattered too much because my level of Deutsch upon arriving was ZERO, and my level of Schwäbisch, the same. This small town was full of Magic for me, tucked away in a very natural setting with nearby forest to get lost in; I am certain I was guided in choosing this place. My host was ALEX, native of Heuchlingen and a stone mason by trade. He was truly a wonderful introduction to German hospitality. I settled into the workaway home where I shared time with travelers from Italy, Chile, Canada, Germany, Colombia and France. That’s the best thing about workaway I found out, that you have the chance to share working tasks and meals and likely free time/exploration too with people from around the world. These same people, also happened to be awesome spirits that I shared the days/week with, each with his/her own history and reason for visiting Deutschland. Many were doing something similar to me, traveling around Europe from country to country making this little stop in southern Germany to cut back a bit on traveling expenses. Others were building up their Deutsch, practicing with Alex when they could and studying on their own too (those Duolingo days!!!).
Participating in Workaway, we each gave 4-5 hours a day of our time to work on Alex’s property. He had several projects going on in construction and he had a large garden that needed tending to. That’s where I felt at home. I had the task of weeding the garden (once again), picking the fruits and veggies to incorporate into the cooking and then most of the days assisting in cooking for the household. I made myself comfortable out there in Nature, where I connected with all the insects that crossed my path and the sights and smells of the herbs and plants. Alex showed me what every single thing in the garden was and made me taste everything too. He’s extremely knowledgeable about plants and herbs and it’s not surprising why. Something he had mentioned on his workaway profile when I applied was that he had a serious food allergy to Glutamate (also known as MSG, which is found in nearly everything). Over 90% of what Alex eats has to be natural (not packaged or manufactured) foods. Everything that is grown in the garden is therefore cooked by us in dishes we invent or collaborate on.
From giant zucchinis the length of my arm, to a variety of pumpkins and lettuces, onions, garlic, sugar snap peas, fennel & herb varieties to make any cook happy. . . it was GREAT to see food go from farm, to table, to our bellies.
He’s dealt with this challenge in the best way possible, and he’s changed his lifestyle so that he knows everything that he’s eating. I was sad the gorgeous tomatoes from the green house weren’t quite ripe during my stay, nor were all the delicious varieties of APFELS (one word I did learn during my stay which means APPLES). Can I tell you though, that in this household we had both 100% Natural Apfelsaft (juice) from his harvest of the year before, and Apfelwein (the alcoholic version complete with spices and a Merry Xmas feel to it). Alex actually called it the Christmas wine and every day he’d offer me some. I could never resist it was just too delicious and I am only human!! I was able to try the last of the blueberries that were growing in the garden, and I used them to make delicious smoothies full of vitamins from all the greens I also added. Alex loved my smoothies, and I hope that whenever he drinks them that he’ll remember me. I’ll probably associate any Apple Cider-like alcohol with him for years to come. I absolutely loved that Alex decided to bake for us one of his favorite desserts just before I left, a Pumpkin Cheesecake to remember. I assisted in a few simple steps, but mostly I took photos and drooled while he did the hard work. He baked it over night and the heavenly smells that filled the house were pure temptation. After baking, it had to then set in the fridge for another 10 hours or something. If you know me at all, you know I’m not a patient person when it comes to desserts. Yea that’s just not me.
Some of my other favorite moments in Heuchlingen were having BIERS at the local BIERGARTEN in the center of town (they come in German sizes though: PINTS!!). I also did a full walking tour with Alex on the day after my arrival. He asked me if I wanted to walk in the town or in the Woods, and then he said a short walk or a long walk. Well I chose Woods and long walk. . . and what a walk it was. I think it was longer than 3 hours exploring the areas surrounding his house and town. We walked and walked and encountered Wild Raspberries, Blackberries and Blueberries for the taking. I was in heaven. I picked and picked and filled my belly with these delicious berries from the forrest. What an experience. I felt so lucky, so blessed.
I got in touch with la Madre Tierra during this walk and she assured me that there would always be an abundance for me, her daughter.
As if I hadn’t eaten enough already, we came upon some of Alex’s neighbors who were gardening outdoors. They showed me their beloved garden and had me taste even more varieties of BEEREN, as they had Crossed and created many new berries. The wife was a great florist as well, and the husband an abstract sculptor. I wish we could have communicated more and better. They used some English and I could only smile big in between berries and said thank you, DANKE, over and over again. Other days when I had time to myself, I decided to bike ride around Heuchlingen and the surrounding towns and villages. One day I went with the Chilean guy, who was on the hunt for yet another SCHLOSS (castle) nearby since apparently Germany is full of these castles and huge manors, but I couldn’t keep up with him. He was biking over 20km a day already, and it was just my first attempt after not having exercised for weeks. Touristing has a way of making you feel out of shape. So we went together halfway and then he followed his route and I explored one all my own. The best part was, I biked farther and farther to reach many small towns and ended up biking over 12KM on my first day. These towns left me in awe of their adorable architecture and their beautiful natural surroundings. I went up and down their hills by bike, and often I felt like I was flying in the countryside; getting lost purposefully in these towns. I saw horses and cows graze, and I even took some time to daydream off the bike path, listening to the eagles’ calls that echoed throughout the hills. It was powerful. It was something I never thought I would have experienced in Deutschland, but I’m so grateful I did.
The one fun day trip we went on as a group was to the nearby city of SWÄBISCH GMÜND. A typical German town you know. . . complete with a Gothic Cathedral, an ancient German Tower, a magnificent Unicorn adorned ceiling in Johanniskirche, an Outdoor Marketplace for all your snacky needs, and a lot of charm. Alex took us up to the tower of Johanniskirche before operating hours (as a good host and stone mason with a set of keys to the Church does), where we walked up hundreds of tiny steps to get some great views of the city. A city with the EINHORN as their official symbol of the region is one I will not forget. The Unicorns. . . Einhorns were everywhere!! MAGICAL! We took in the sights and smells of the Saturday Open Market, and I bought myself some German bread, cheese and Wildschwein (wild pig). No regrets. It had to be done. And the rest of the day was ours to explore the city by foot, so we did just that.