The German way of saying hello is “Guten Tag” (good day, literally). But in Bavaria, it’s Grüß Gott. The German ß is pronounced like an “ss” and I discovered it as an alt-S on my keyboard. Grüß Gott (“Gruss Gott”) means “may God greet you.” In the mornings, it is said quietly as you pass people on the sidewalk.
I was curious about the mysterious chalk message scratched on many doors here and found it in our Rick Steves’ travel guide. This house blessing is done on Epiphany (celebrated Jan 6th). Epiphany is the Christian holiday celebrating the Magi’s adoration of the baby Jesus. Epiphany is observed more strictly in Catholic Europe than in the US. The message is “20 + C + M + B + 14”. The letters are the initials of the three wise men Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar— and also stand for the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat (“May Christ bless the house”). The small crosses between the letters remind all who enter that this house has been blessed in this year (20 + 14). On many Oberaudorf doors, the previous year is smudged out and the new one written over it. The European Epiphany holiday includes gift-giving, feasting, and caroling door-to-door—often for a charity organization. Those who donate get their door marked up in thanks. Seven months later, nearly every door in this small town proudly sports this inscription.
I understand Europe has many holidays, many of them religious. We’ve witnessed a few of these store and bank holidays already. I’ve read the churches in Europe are often dying, but you wouldn’t guess it by the frequent state religious holidays.
We slumber beneath individual duvet comforters only and on top of a fitted sheet. The windows are covered by a rolling, plastic shutter people lower at night. The shutter is hoisted and dropped into place by a thoughtful canvas strap inside the window casing (you have to look closely in the shot below). The “garage door” shutter keeps light and noise out. In the mornings, people let in the morning sun by rumbling their shutters up.
The oversized, screen-less windows sport ingenious handles. The window is locked closed while in the six o’clock position and in the “swing open” position at three o’clock. The twelve o-clock position allows the top of the window to be tilted into the window providing ventilation and the security of a locked window. Our patio door works the same way.
Active lifestyles are king here. Kayaks on cars and people on bikes enjoy the winding roads. The hometown hero is Bastian Schweinsteiger who plays for the German national football (soccer) team. He is a professional player and helped Germany capture the World Cup last month. His footprints are on display outside the town’s tourist information. His dad’s sports store—Sport Schweinsteiger—is next to the ice cream store and the bakery in the heart of town. He doesn’t carry the tennis balls we were looking for but we did buy a soccer ball from his store. We struggle in our German to tell him we enjoyed watching Bastian in the World Cup and the dad brings out autographed shots of his famous son. We spot a couple wearing Schweinsteiger Bayern Munchen jerseys snapping a selfie in front of the store.
Our walls hold a Bavarian calendar that has a monthly scene of life through the year. August’s page displays this great shot of rafters enjoying beer and greeting naked people frolicking on the river’s beach. Too bad, I didn’t see any sign-ups for such trips!
The family “ski lodge” hotel includes the swimming pool room, 80s style fitness room, ping pong room, and a sauna. I enter the sauna area one evening to use the men’s restroom. The sauna itself has a glass door and glass wall. I lock eyes through the glass door with a naked man and woman sitting in the sauna. Without meaning to, I immediately turn to read any signage on door assuming I’ve entered a private area. No such sign is posted. It’s just good ‘ol, naked Europe!
We love the lodge and its playground but the trail down by the town’s small river is somehow ours. We walk and run alongside the trout facing into the current. Sometimes there are rainbows. But mainly it is a gravel path with the sound of rushing water. Trees, footbridges, a candle shrine to a beloved daughter, a few houses, chickens and sheep border our trail. There are worn, granite rocks to build kid bridges and “secret” places to dig.