Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 25

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Monday April 21, 2008 (diary, travel)

Today a little bit of sun early in the morning, but then it becomes overcast combined with a chilly wind. I feel very unsettled today. Must find a rhythm, routine for this new way of life I have thrown myself into. So I go on a walk in the morning. There are 10 designated walking trails starting from Altenahr, plus the famous Rothwein Wanderweg (also mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide). I always prefer to do my own thing and take Trail 4 for a while then turn back on a nice bicycle track along the river.
Ahr, Ahrtal Railway and Altenborg There are several benches along the route, from one of which I take the adjacent landscape view. There is a regular train service along the entire Ahr valley route from Kreuzberg (a few kms upstream from Altenahr) to Remagen where the Ahr flows into the Rhein.

I sit there for a while, contemplating, tears in my eyes. These last few days I have come to realise that through my entire life I have really followed two old quests started hundreds of years ago by the two separate strains of my successive previous ancestors. The quest for awareness and deeper understanding of life from my mother's side and the quest for freedom from my father's side. (I will explain more about this at a later stage in this Blog.)
Whether these two powerful drivers of my life are ages old very successful and persistent passed on genes (as per Richard Dawkins' thinking) or something entirely different I don't know. It does not really matter I believe. The main thing is that I feel I have done my best in this regard. That I have followed through on these quests for about as far as my ability allows me to go. And I am happy with that.

So what is left for me to do in this life ?
It is quite simple : looking for my country. My country, I have come to realise however, is not a which or a what or a where, but a who*.   Who is my final country, the one woman I at long last will come to rest with, feel at home with, no matter where we are ??   Could it be She" ?  Someone else ?   Or will I never find her ?   Time will tell.
These last few years I have in fact done second best. I have thought out to live near friends or with family I feel happy and comfortable with. I appreciate this enormously and will continue to do so, but I keep looking out for that one and final destination : my country.........

I arrive back at the Hotel. I am cold, but find central heating in my room I can switch on. I book myself in with The Cloud, a wireless network installed in the Hotel, probably a Vodafone service. For €10 I get 180 minutes valid for 30 days on any Cloud network, enough time to pick up my emails, online orders and upload photos and text on my blog for a month. Hopefully the other Hotels are also switched on this.   For dinner we have a delicious asparagus soup with small pieces of boiled egg in it. I love it. Things are looking up.

(* = I could not resist using this great metaphor from The Russia House film. It is so very apt.)

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Tuesday April 22, 2008 (diary, travel)

Along Trail 6 I feel much better today and have settled down.
I receive some photos from an old friend by email. Finally I get to see that hat I heard so much about. Quite nice, but I like the wearer of it better. A picture of elegance and relentless (or restless ?) energy.
It is still overcast, but the chilly wind has disappeared. I have a long chat over breakfast with one of the Manstaedt family who own and run this Hotel and I start to feel at home here.
After working on some photos I go for my walk, downstream this time along trail 6, past a nice Youth Hostel, then up the mountain. Holy moly, major lungs workout here. I switch to trail 7 which is a real horror, going up and down and up and down without any mercy whatsoever. But I finally get there. The signature village outlook on top of a frighteningly steep (near vertical) cliff, the Schwarzen Kreuz.

Altenahr When I get down, absolutely drenched with sweat, I immediately get myself to the Imbiss stand next to the bridge, the ultimate heaven for sausage and meatball lovers like myself, and settle down with a lovely cool drink. Siesta is followed by dinner (again superb : vegetable soup like you would not believe, roulade of don't ask me what but great), then in bed watching TV, English Snooker Championships would you believe.

At night someone enters my room and covers my face with kisses. Who is this ? I wake up. It was only a dream. What else is new ? Just my luck. But I fall asleep with lightness in my heart.

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Wednesday April 23, 2008 (diary, travel)

"The secret of happiness" says Thomas Hardy in his book The Woodlanders, "lies in limiting the aspirations."

Is he spot on, or what ?   This is very much what I am doing at present and it gives me great peace of mind. Focus on the small things, and the big ones will look after themselves (near enough, anyway).
The sun is out this morning and after breakfast I walk to the Post office to do, guess what ?, drop off my washing. There are no longer regular Post offices in the smaller villages in Germany. These services are now farmed out to any shop who is interested. This is not very convenient, as each shop has its own opening and closing times and the Postal franchises change hands quite frequently too. Despite this measure of supposed economy it costs twice as much to send my CDs from Germany to Australia, as the other way around !

The present one, in Altenahr, just new into the job, is quite good according to the locals. But yesterday when I brought my envelope marked Airmail on it the lady got into a panic. "What is this, what is this ? I have not done this one before." She was about to ring Head office in Berlin for instructions when I pointed into the air and made flying movements with my arms. "Ah, Sie meinen LUFTPOST, Das kenn Ich ja schon."
Anyway, today they will wash my clothes, no stamps required, pick up tomorrow.

I go and sit on the waterfront on one of the benches next to the bridge, watch two ducks sniffing out food along the river's edge. The water flows fast, they can't swim against this strong flow. That's why they can fly too. Nature is wonderful.

I did a bit of a traffic count the other day. On average one out of every 10 cars driving through Altenahr is a sports car would you believe. And quite fancy ones too. In Australia this number is more likely to be one in 200 at the most. But then, what is the point of having a sports car in Australia anyway. You can't drive it properly anywhere. Not like here on the Autobahns.

Imbiss Conrady I love practising my German here. Being confined to just one language in Australia is very constraining. And the German language is warm and comfortable too. I have a long conversation with one of the waiters in Hotel Central when I read my book there in the afternoon.

Towards 6pm I go for a stroll and have a couple of beers in the Imbiss across the bridge. The local beer of course, Bitburger. At the Imbiss it is half the price of the Hotels too, served by a delightful happy lady in her 50s, Marguerite. This Imbiss stall has been here now for 50 years she tells me, and Marguerite has worked in it very happily for 40. She enjoys talking to people. Although her hubby is retired she still works here twice a week.

When I talk to her about red wine Marguerite advises me to try the local "Trockene Spätburgunder". I somehow manage to remember this secret formula until back in the Hotel for dinner and get the drift over to the waiter. "Just remember the number on our wine list" he says, "It is number 206". Well, that is easy to handle, and the wine proves to be quite nice too.

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Thursday April 24, 2008 (diary, travel)

Ahr rive, Trail 1 It is sort of overcast with some sun now and then and no wind. I start the day by picking up my washing from the Post office (where else ?), then decide on the Wanderweg 1. It follows a long horse shoe bend of the Ahr river around a huge steep mountain, all flat country, no climbing required and very peaceful. Halfway I sit down on a bench for a while.

A retired couple with dog comes along and start talking to me for quite a while. In the end the old lady presses on me that I MUST marry again (that is then at least 1 woman in the world who thinks I am being wasted). She will drive to family in South Germany next week and tells me she will think of me when passing by Glottertal.
This all seems silly to me, but it does reflect the enormous warmth and friendliness which I encounter and surrounds me here in this small village every day. It is a very nice feeling indeed.

The rest of the day is all peace and quiet until dinner time. I first have a couple of Bitburgers at the Imbiss, then into the dining room. There is the Dutch couple again from yesterday (a retired IT man from Eindhoven with his wife), and also a tradesman with his helper who are fixing tiles on the Hotel roof. Later another German couple from Hamburg arrive. So I have ample opportunity to practise both my Dutch and my German.
I am also testing out young Maria, the tiny waitress, on her knowledge of the Wine list. She passes with honours however, she knows 206 by heart, as well as all the other wines listed below and above this number. Only later when I order a 618 does she become slightly puzzled, until I explain to her it will be my 3rd 206 (3 x 206 = 618). That is enough wine for me, so after the 618 I switch back to beer.

A good evening is had by all and when I finally reach my bedroom I have attained that level of deep clarity of mind only a certain amount of alcohol can generate.   Life is so simple I decide, you only have to follow one golden rule Be Yourself. And in the odd situation when that does not seem to help I tend to close my eyes, cross my fingers and jump. One of these days I am sure I will land on my feet.   Come to think of it that is actually quite being myself too.

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Friday April 25, 2008 (diary, travel) Das Teufelsloch

After last night you can imagine that I don't feel all that good this morning, however breakfast with some coffee helps the recovery a lot. After writing my blog and emails I am on my way again.
I repeat the walk of my first day here, a combination of Wanderweg 4 and 5. In these past few days many more tiny leaves have come out and flowers on the trees and bushes are in full abundance. It is overcast again with now and then just a short period of some sun. As I walk towards Altenborg I suddenly spot on the top of the hard rock mountain above it Das Teufelsloch. It is quite a large hole (at least 1 meter wide by the look of it) right through the rock formation, and clearly visible from below. I must have climbed past it the other day (Wanderweg 7) without noticing the track to it.

Lunch at Imbiss Conrady I walk on, and have a quick look in the Altenahr Caravan Park. Very nice indeed with Restaurant, Imbiss and Biergarten. Most of the German caravans, I notice, are small or even tiny, quite cute really.
Back in Altenahr I have lunch at the Imbiss Conrady. Marguerite works here on Wednesdays and Fridays. I promised to make a few photos of her and the Imbiss, so do that now.
After a siesta I return to the Imbiss with Marguerite's photos I have burned on a CD for her. In return I receive two complimentary Bitburgers, which I enjoy while chatting to one of the old timers eating his "pommes" with a curry wurst (chopped sausage covered in spicy tomato sauce). A few years ago, he tells me, they had to re-establish the ruined castle above the town. There is no car access to it, so they had to use a chopper to bring the materials up. During one such haulage, the chopper hit the rock and fell down, all on board killed instantly.

Dinner is again marvelous, goulash with a great sauce, then back to my room where I watch TV : the English Premier League Highlights plus part of the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield until I can't keep my eyes open any longer.

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