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As promised in the previous post, here’s some information about Germany’s past and present inhabitants.  One surprising creature in Germany: storks.

Who you looking at?

That’s right! All our babies come from Germany.

These storks live in Africa during the winter and Europe during the summer.  Holzen, which is part of the greater Kandern area, is famous for its stork nursery, and has adopted the storks as part of their history and culture.

I guess I haven’t adjusted yet to the geography; I’m used to birds migrating to Florida from Canada or South America, and yet migrations from Africa to Germany were a huge surprise.

They don't need it to be a Sunday to go to church!

Seeing them on a church was also surprising!

I learned more about German critters when I went on a hike yesterday.  A new friend, Jenna, wanted to show me some of the cool locales around Kandern that I hadn’t seen yet.

We climbed up a steep hill to see a WWII memorial:

Very simple, and very beautiful.

Also included on the memorial were the dates for WWI.  The hilltop was a quiet, hallowed spot to reflect on the lives lost during the two world wars.  Appropriately, the monument looked out over the valley, almost guarding Kandern:

You can see everything from here!

On the way back down, I had to get a lovely sunset shot of the German countryside:

Sunset near Kandern

Jenna then promised to take me to a “creepy place”.  Up for an adventure in the thickening dusk, I followed her into a tunnel of beech and elm trees, their branches forming a perfect Gothic arch above us.  The air turned cold, its unexpected chill coming from the trees, not the altitude.  We turned off the dirt path onto a leaf-strewn path made visible only by the absence of undergrowth.  After a bend,we entered a small, winding ravine:

Jenna, to scale

I learned that this hidden area was called something along the lines of “Wolf’s Cove” (but in German), because wolves used to live here (no kidding).  The perfect home for wolves, rock loomed on every slope, providing both protection and a vantage point.  The path was long, twisted, and narrow, good for trapping prey and hiding from humans.  The sun no longer in the sky, I felt cold, like something was watching me.  Jenna agreed, saying she’s always felt that way when she visits here.

Unfortunately (but fortunately for us), wolves were killed off a long time ago.  Conservationists are actually trying to reintroduce wolves to Germany, so that hawks will have predatory competition and not overpopulate the region.

Small caves like this were everywhere

Leaves rustled around us as we walked; sometimes it was the wind chasing us, and sometimes–if you looked quickly–it was mice scampering away into tiny holes in the rock.  I almost thought a kobold might be running behind me, always staying just out of sight.  Dusk and dawn, according to folklore, are when the fairy world is closest to our own and we are most likely to see magical creatures.  I found, in this twilit gorge, that such tales were coming alive.

At first just a mass of cut rock, then small surprises everywhere

Jenna told me how she would have camping trips here, as a part of a youth group.

A fallen tree in the ravine

We took a different way back, on a path that seemed even less traveled than the one before.  It ran parallel to old train tracks, and through the trees we could see a circus troupe who had set up camp.

A small glen opened up, and we descended down to see a tiny stream coming from a minuscule fountain.  It was so unexpected and small, and I felt like it must have been built by fairies.

The pipe was smaller than my fist.

Nailed on a tree nearby, a wooden sign added to the mystery of the glen.

I believe the poem is in Alemannisch, and I have translated it as best as I can (having no experience in the dialect):

Lever well
Larger, much larger than our knowledge,
it draws water (from?) a secret, living circle,
In water is everything, who knows and understands it,
in water is both, is life and death.
– From “On Brother Nameless”, by Lina Kromer

Eventually, we left the wood.  And yet, lingering with me, is an awakened childhood dream.  I had forgotten what it was like to almost believe that elves and sprites lived in a world next to our own.  My rational adult self had been struggling with writing fairy stories (something I used to do all the time).  My experiences in Germany might be restoring my ability to imagine the fantastical.