It seems like this is my year to travel.
I’ve now returned from another month-long trip, this time from abroad. My brand new passport book has been duly christened by … drum roll please … Germany!
Why Germany? To visit my son, the apple of my eye, who will be living there for the next couple years.
So besides our familial visiting bliss, I managed to do quite a bit of sight-seeing along the way. Since this was my virgin voyage to a non-US territory, my main goal was to avoid all tourist traps and really capture the feel of what it’s like to live in Germany, to sample the quintessential lifestyle of a “European”.
And I wasn’t disappointed. Nay, I captured the ‘brass ring’, a veritable treasure trove of wonderful memories that will last me a lifetime.
Although to my immense amusement, I think I discovered what it’s like to live in America too. It’s amazing how much we, as human beings, take for granted – the simple stuff that creeps through our everyday life with barely a glance of conscious thought because it’s all just background noise in our own familiar surroundings – until we plant ourselves smack dab in the middle of foreign soil.
All those things that I knew on an intellectual level, suddenly took on layers of new meaning.
As a writer, this became an epiphany of sorts. Research is an integral part of authoring stories, and knowing the details of certain settings or customs of local people is paramount to the writing process. But my European adventure honed in on a simple fact, that standard research – whether by maps, libraries, museums, interview, etc. – is all well and good, but experience adds a depth and richness that really brings a story to life.
Personal experience also excites the imagination. It grasps the emotions of a place, pierces our mind as all senses record even the tiniest details to memory – the smell of an ancient forest, the sound of footsteps on cobblestoned streets, the feel of age-old polished wood, tolling bells, mist covered valleys – all to be duly recorded in a writer’s journal. But to be frank, I was awestruck by so many sights and wonders, my journal didn’t capture near enough as I would have liked.
Because – besides my more obvious goals of time with my son and absorbing a German experience, I had a secret goal too. I wanted to visit the Black Forest and walk the lands that inspired so many Fairy Tales as told and recorded by the Brothers Grimm, stories from my early childhood of dark forests, evil witches, and cruel step-mothers – hoping for inspiration in writing a ghost story for the new Anthology project my Writers’ group is leading.
And I wanted a hand-made, authentic, Black Forest cuckoo clock too!
Then, there’s all that history with those pesky witches. Talk about fodder for a good ghost story. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:
“Witch-hunts were seen across early modern Europe, but the most significant area of witch-hunting in modern Europe is often considered to be central and southern Germany. …The peak years of witch-hunts in southwest Germany were from 1561 to 1670. The first major persecution in Europe, when witches were caught, tried, convicted, and burned in the imperial lordship of Wiesensteig in southwestern Germany, is recorded in 1563 in a pamphlet called “True and Horrifying Deeds of 63 Witches”.”
Now that I’m settled back home – I have to sift through all the sensory overload rattling in my brain, so many stories are just aching to be told. Yeah, and about that ghost story…