Living Off-Post

Driving in Germany is actually not as confusing as learning the difference between the military installations here in Heidelberg (there are 5 or 6, maybe more). We get our mail on one, go shopping on another, go to another for community service information, and the list goes on.

I’ve been visiting them all, going to and fro to get acquainted. I went to pick up Alan from work today… My internal GPS is still getting the to and fro confused.

While passing the military housing, I acknowledged that there is a lot to be said for living on-post. There’s American TV, American stores with American sized products using American dollars, being surrounded by English speakers, lots of lawn where Woody can run off leash; just to list a few.

It’s enough to make one sorry for not living there.

Instead, we stand, staring at the German grocer shelves doing our best to interpreting the pictures on the packaging. And then we live dangerously and just pick one.

Two of my favorite finds at the REWE (grocery store).

We take Woody to the local restaurant around the corner, where he behaves himself like all good German doggies.

The Brauhaus, where we have eaten twice and taken Woody inside once.

We make our way to Heidelberg via a 35 minute ride on the Strassenbahn. Or we drive 10-15 minutes through farmland  getting a mile full of onion scented air and a view of the Gladiolas in bloom.

We definitely wouldn’t get to hear the 10 year old boy laughing at his little sister who nearly ran into the gas guzzling American Ford Expedition parked in our building’s lot. His laughter came with a German sentence that included “das Bus” (that bus!). An Expedition is as big as their buses. He was serious.

And If we lived on post, I’m not sure we would have explored the streets of Leimen and said, “Well, let’s just see where this leads us.”

And do you think we took the camera? No! When will we ever learn?

We came upon a home with an orchard and a large vegetable garden where the lady owner was picking the fruit from her trees. She saw us and came speaking German. But she was friendly and patient and persistent. We caught the words “tasche” and “kaputt” and gesturing toward her bucket. We got the gist of what she was saying and responded happily, “Danke”. She scurried to her house and came back with a tasche (a sack) and dumped the whole bucket of small yellow plumbs into it. After all, they were going kaputt.

Fruit is falling all over this village floor.

We did go back a few days later with our camera.

After the encounter with a friendly German lady, we walked on, eating a yummy plumb and then a kaputt plumb, making our way back down the hills of Leimen.

Back down we went and when we came upon this sight, we knew we just had to go straight down to get back home.

The wheat had not been cut that night. And the sun was out. And there was no haze. That’s what we get for leaving the camera behind.

All that was left of the field was this.

And this.

(And, oh yes, I did think about how significant it was to find a poppy on German soil when I’m married to a soldier who participated in a war and have a grandfather who served in WWII Germany. That’s exactly why I left that single emblem of U.S. war veterans right where it was.)

The most direct way to the road below us was through the wheat. Traipse, we did.

Here is the view from the other side of the field.

And standing in that spot, here’s the view when I turned around.

That path led us to a set of stairs as the church bells rang for the fifth or sixth time since we left home (they ring every 15 minutes).

And we ate blackberries along the way.

Through this tunnel of trees we find the Sacred Heart Catholic Chruch (which you can see from the above and below photos) and a few minutes later we were home.

 One could say that we spend a lot of our time in life justifying our choices. There is good to be found everywhere, this I’ve heard and this I know. But Leimen didn’t seem like a choice. Unless you take away my coming when I did. And Alan’s going when he did. And his position that prevents us from living together on-post. I’m counting my tender mercies.

The best thing about on-post is that we can visit any time we want.

The best thing about living off-post is Leimen.

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