"Bavarian Pretzels", by Kerry McFall - watercolor, ink, colored pencil
Europe at last! Our friends live in Bavaria about an hour outside of Munich in a Corvallis-sized town called Ingolstadt. The first Bavarian state university was founded here. Beavers gnaw at trees along the Danube. The resemblance between home and here ends there. Bicyclists rarely wear helmets. Pedestrians of all ages (not just college students) cross the street at unexpected times and random spots, cars honk at them but rarely slow down. There are no bumper stickers. The town mascot is a creature that is obviously a griffin – well, maybe a dragon – but they call it a panther. Centuries of history unwind as we walk along cobbled streets. Duke Ludwig the Bearded built a New Church in 1418; he was succeeded by his son Ludwig the Rich, who apparently imprisoned his father to be sure he DID become “the Rich”. Museums abound, notably the “Alte Anatomie” medical museum, which served as inspiration for the Frankenstein tale. We had a delicious Pancake Soup with our lunch – what a fabulous way to use up leftover pancakes! – at an inn whose claim to fame was serving the local doctor who was the model for Frankenstein…
When we arrived yesterday, our host presented us with a traditional Bavarian midday feast of steaming white sausages drowned in honey mustard, fresh pretzels, and Hefeweizen beer – mmmm. The pretzels were gorgeous and golden, spread with real butter (there went my illusion of losing weight with all the walking). Sketching them was the logical choice for the day, given my jet lag.
As I worked on the sketch and tried to stay awake, Markus baked a fresh plum cake and tea for the four o clock traditional “snack”. The “eat dessert first” philosophy may have originated here! At the evening meal, (fresh salad, cheese, cold cuts, more pretzels, and bread) I was introduced to the region of Franconia via Franconian wine. Evidently Franconia (spelled Frankisher in German) is in north Bavaria – somehow we skipped that in 5th grade geography… but it’s pretty important out here… kind of like the Corvallis/Sweet Home relationship… It was a crisp Pinot Grigio-type and was quite good. We’ve been promised a different wine with this evening’s meal… I really like Bavaria so far!
Last Saturday we navigated what’s left of the California freeway system from Sacramento to Claremont in a car crammed to bursting with Corey’s posessions and our travel gear, Corey continually reminding me that holding on to the car door does not make a bit of difference as to whether or not the idiots in the next lane will stop careening along so crazily. At one point it reached 113 degrees fahrenheit as we crept along in 7 lanes of traffic at 20 mph. Evidently, a paper bag over my head and a bottle of wine are the only way for us to survive those freeways.
Griff and Corey unpacked her things and schlepped them upstairs to her room, while I spent a hot hour under a white tent on the lawn, my feet and ankles being nibbled by unseen insects, sketching the outside of her dorm and drinking in the scent of oranges ripening on the nearby trees. The outside looks like a Mexican villa, the inside looks like Harry and Ron and Hermione should be arriving at any moment down the chimney of the Common Room. A glorious place for what Corey termed her Last First Day of School as she begins her senior year.
I am writing from Ingolstadt, Germany, safely arrived with our dear friends Ursula and Markus and Baby Simon. But I want to record the journey in order, so stepping back a few days to put first things first.
The first “leg” of our journey was Albany to Sacramento on the Amtrak Coast Starlight. I love train travel! We arrived at the Sacramento depot at 6:00 a.m., where we waited for Corey to pick us up. The architecture is elegant simplicity, curves and arches, marble and stones, with a huge mural from the WPA project era at one end. The fittings have endured – wooden benches, wrought iron chandeliers, cast iron door handles. Decoration celebrates every detail without being fussy. Why is it we can no longer put together such pleasing, enduring projects to keep artisans employed? Surely we can… Dear Congress – think WPA!
Even early as it was, the train coffee was strong, so I drank enough of it to be able to focus and sketch. I tried to convey the incongruity of the architecture as a backdrop for the garish plastic signage advertising the new do-it-yourself ticket machine, so out of place at such an early hour…