Consider a formal garden: enclosed in siegeproof walls a hundred meters on a side, edged by gravel paths wide enough for a badminton court. Ten-meter medallion of plants blooming all summer in the center of it. This is what's left of it. (Or maybe not -- that was a few years back, and the developers may have come up with some new hook.)
This is where I spent five summers of my childhood, climbing in the hedges that surrounded the cool walk at the back of the lawn, learning how to make the right kind of paper airplane, swimming in the trout pond, playing foreign-language Monopoly and card games, composing birthday poems for my feared and hatred grandmother. It's pretty much all gone now.
The hotel was in decline even then, 30 years ago. The ballroom, or whatever it was, had been closed off for years, maybe damaged in the war, and there were only a handful of regulars like Herr u. Frau Dr. Hoelle, who had been coming every summer since 1928. Profits, such as they were, came from the endless busloads of American military families on weekends, who ate in the front rooms and put ketchup on everything. We crossed the street when we saw them.
Oh, and the woods where there used to be mines have been logged off to within 10 meters of the forest trails and converted to gravel pits, the castle grounds are closed, and no one lives there anymore except the son of the old stonecutter, who makes a decent living nursing the one-cylinder diesel the powers the rock saw. The unpolished marble still comes up gorgeous when you wet it. One of the summer waitresses now runs a four-star restaurant in the village a kilometer down the hill. The school where we used to finish out the term is closed now, but new houses are creeping up the hillside around it. And the fog still fills the Lahn valley to the very brims, of a bright morning.
This is where the glassed-in breakfast room used to be, with cactus along the wall to the left where the debris is neatly piled. Once a swallow flew in the open doors and beat its wings against the windows until my uncle caught it in his cupped hands and carried it outside. He threw it into the air and it flew off. The large plaster fragment in the middle of the frame (with an X magicked onto it) is where I used to sit.
If you got down this far, here's a site for another part of germany we used to be connected with.
Web Page © 1999 Paul Wallich