A Story from the ancient past (long)

lilod(NoCal/8)April 6, 2011

Summer Magic in an Enchanted Forest

In 1935, participating in an exchange program, parents hosted Heinz Schmidt, a twelve year old from a small village deep in the forests of the Westerwald. He had a scholarship to a secondary boarding school and stayed with my family until the school-year began.

Frau Schmidt reciprocated, inviting Carola and me to come and stay with her for three or four weeks and learn about village life.

Sister Carola and I were put on a train and sent to the Westerwald and boy�s village, met by Frau Schmidt at the train-station and then had a lengthy hike to the "Dorf".

Frau Schmidt lived in a small, old house, typical of the villages. There was neat little kitchen-garden, there was an outhouse. Our sleeping quarters were in a loft, gabled windows overlooking the trees. The main living area was the large kitchen, low ceiling with heavy, exposed beams, a wood- or coal-burning cook-stove, a stone sink, water provided by a hand-pump, warm water came from a reservoir built into the cook-stove.

I thought I knew about country living, our Aunt Elsa lived in a village just outside of Frankfurt, but is was not near a simple and old fashioned as Frau Schmidt�s home. Tante Elsa had electricity, Frau Schmidt made use of oil- or kerosene lamps, but it was summer, not much need for lamps, everyone went to bed when it got dark.

So our Adventure began. Carola was a somewhat fearful child and at first wasn�t sure if we didn�t end up in Hansel and Gretel�s situation, but she got over that fast.

We went mushroom picking with Frau Schmidt, chanterelles were in season, and she had a small income from selling mushrooms to buyers coming from the city.

We learned to recognize the good and bad mushrooms, but out hostess was very careful: we each had a basket to hold our pickings, and before adding them to the big mushroom container, she carefully checked each one in out basket to make sure they were safe.

I remember delicious meals of chanterelles and Stein-Pilze, a relative of Portobello, I think. They were huge and served breaded and fried as though they were cutlets.

When not gathering mushrooms, we would roam the woods, picking blueberries and watching squirrels and other small wildlife, picking bouquets, taking our sketch-pads with us and drawing what we saw.

Then we discovered the Artist, or he discovered us! This man lived in a small cabin in a forest-clearing, he was a painter and, as I found out much later, a well-known cartoonist. He took a liking to us and created a family of mice for our amusement, every time we came to visit he drew another strip about the adventures of the mouse family, teaching us the techniques, although we didn�t know that these were lessons, we just had fun.

It started a past-time Carola and I continued for quite some time: we drew cartoons .

The big event during our stay was the bread-baking. The village had a great brick-oven in it�s center, which was used by all the inhabitants, I believe they must have had some schedule about that. All I know it was Frau Schmidt�s turn to bake her bread. She set out a big, oblong wooden through on the eve of bake-day and made a big batch of dough - sourdough as leavening, dark flour as the body. The big oven was stoked with lots of wood and then banked with enough coal to reach the proper temperature next day. Dough was kneaded and formed into loaves, set to rise. She made a couple of small loaves for Carola and me, we were thrilled and looked forward to the treat.

Next morning, the risen loaves were loaded onto a wagon and transported to the village square, the embers were raked out of the oven and the bread disappeared in the oven�s maw until done.

When all was declared done, and the oven-door opened, what delicious aroma! We pulled the wagon to the house and Carola and I got the little loaves, warm from the baking and spread with home-churned butter.

I don�t remember the name of the village, but I will always remember the truly magical time spent in this enchanting place.

Vacation time had to end, we boarded the train and went back to the city,.

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gandle(4 NE)

Great story, Lilo.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 6:23PM
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kathyjane(z6VA)

This was a wonderful peek into times past, Lilo.
Life was hard, but the simplicity gave solidity and substance to a towns' inhabitants and
rural folk, alike.
I just fell in love with your story; I could almost smell the bread baking and you made my mouth water as you described eating those beautiful mushrooms.
I bet sleep was wonderful in that loft and the morning sun was so welcomed, as it ushered in another day of adventure just made for children!
You even had a man-in-the-woods to round it all out in your special adventures!
I thank you so much for sharing this beautiful spot in your life and allowing us to carry home another gift from your memories!

I'm sitting here remembering all the wonderful times I had at my grandmothers' house in the Adirondacks and I can still smell the Balsam.
You've made my day!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 6:35PM
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west_gardener

Thanks for telling the story, lilod.It reminds me of my childhood in Norway when I would visit my Onkel Johan and Tante Marit who lived in the mountains just outside Oslo. Every Wednesday they would send me up the mountain, to an old farm house to buy fresh churned butter, Creme Fraiche, Farmer's Cheese and cream for the coffee.(It was was all unpasturized, and the cream rose to the top of the bottle) Tante Marit backed the bread in a wood burning oven and we had a feast.
Great memories.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 7:16PM
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gabriell_gw

What a wonderful story, I loved reading it. You have such interesting memories. Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:11AM
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don_socal

Mushrooms, fresh bread and simple living, the best of the best. You tell the story well and create a place in the mind. Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:47AM
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anneliese_32(6)

Thanks for the memories of learning how to bake sourdough rye bread in a wood-fired oven from my maternal grandfather at my father's family farm. Have done it often after that, but in a regular kitchen oven it don't taste the same, not even in a bakery oven.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 4:58AM
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mawheel

Lilo, thanks for sharing your memories with us. That was a wonderful story. How old were you and your sister? You said the student who stayed with your folks was 12, but didn't mention your age. I would agree that you and your sister had a wonderful adventure.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 1:38PM
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lilod(NoCal/8)

I was probably just ten years old or so, my sister is 4 years younger.
When I think that we were put on a train (conductor knew where we had to get off), traveling to a place my parents didn't know to be guest of someone my parents didn't know, though they must have corresponded, and wandered through woods, meeting up with a strange man, old in my ten-year opinion, our hostess didn't know him, either, though she knew about him.
Amazing, now it would just not be possible.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 2:21PM
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Janis_G(z7GA)

Lilo, I loved reading a chapter from your childhood.
It was wonderful and refreshing to share with you.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 9:21PM
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jazmynsmom(Z5 Madison-ish)

Thank you.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 9:27PM
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