I have not always been the fully-fledged tree-hugger of today. Had I been, I would have taken more than a single day trip to the home of the Black Forest while living in neighbouring Bavaria for a year, and spent more than one day – possibly two – while in the northern neighbouring state of Hesse for 7 years. My destination from Bavaria was Freudenstadt, where I did take a walk in the woods. From Hesse I headed for Heidelberg.
I think this is where my penchant for literary tourism began. You see, had I decided to continue in academia, I would have become a medievalist. I was still mulling this over when I moved to Frankfurt. Then I discovered that the Manesse Codex, the most comprehensive, illustrated manuscript of medieval German songs, was homed at Heidelberg University. (It still is. Here is the digitised version.) Well, it was only a matter of time until I visited.
And here’s the young, skinny Lizzy on that very day in 1983.
I’d trade my entire book collection to own the Manesse Codex! (Though funds raised wouldn’t even buy a single stanza.) I do have a number of books with extracts, but until now nothing that conveyed the pure magic. Then somehow, and I don’t know how I found it, but earlier this year I discovered this lush edition, written by the foremost expert on the book.
I’m currently working my way slowly through it . Luxuriating in it, actually. (Why rush? I waited 4 decades for this book to come to me.)
To return now to living trees … The Black Forest finally called loudly to me in 2018, and I spent some time in Northern Baden-Württemburg. Reading Russians (as you do) in Baden-Baden, and finding other perfect reading spots. The picture at the top of this post is of a perfectly peaceful reading glade I found somewhere in the suburbs of Karlsruhe. (Not telling where it is. It’s mine, all mine!)
Part of the reason I’m putting this German scrapbook together is to determine where I’m headed as soon as I feel safe to travel again. To get right into the heart of the Black Forest, southern Baden-Württemberg is a prime candidate. I hear Freiburg is excellent for gluten-free culinary requirements. That was the hammer, as they say in German. I came back from this trip in 2018 to doctors imposing a life-long ban on gluten. Which means that the best wheat beer I’d ever tasted, brewed by Hoepfner in Karlsruhe, and declared the world’s best in 2016, was the very last “normal” beer I will ever drink in Germany. It appears that all good things do indeed come to an end. Boo!
Favourite Reads from or about Baden-Württemberg
Friedrich von Schiller, born Marbach am Neckar, is Baden-Württemberg’s most famous literary son. He got a week all to himself during GLM V. Here’s an introductory A-Z I wrote for that event. Of his plays, I think only The Robbers was written in Baden-Württemberg.
Nuremberg-born Oliver Bottini might hail from Bavaria , but his crime novels, starting with Zen and The Art of Murder are firmly set in Black Forest country.
Johann Peter Hebel is an honorary Baden-Würtemberger, isn’t he? Born in Basel (Switzerland) he spent half his childhood in Hausen in Wiesental, before moving north in his adult years to the area in and around Karlsruhe. I have to thank fellow blogger Thomas Hübner for introducing me to The Treasure Chest, perhaps my favouite #germanlitmonth discovery to date.
So that’s one of my rules for #germanlitmonth X broken. I intended to recommend only books written by German-born authors. Let’s break the only books written in German rule now. Heimat is a very special graphic novel by Nora Krug (born Karlsruhe) about coming to terms with the Nazi past.
While in rule-breaking mode, I’ll be reviewing another Baden-Württemberger who wrote in English tomorrow. I’m hoping this will be as special as Nora Krug’s book. It came recommended by none other than Ali Smith …