July 3, 2010 § Leave a comment
I love Kassel for its pockets of unobtrusive beauty. You take a tram down a busy street, hemmed in by buildings built circa 1950, when suddenly you have a sense of space around you and, looking up, you tumble off the tracks into a beautiful cobbled plaza.
You can walk from the thriving marketplaces near Am Stern, dusty with Turkish spices, into the serene and secluded Orangerie. The brightness of the Georgian architecture at high noon makes you feel as though you’re gazed upon by two suns — and that’s without accounting for the marble eyes of the many Gods that line the graveled pathway. Nor the geese that line the stream. You feel like Lizzie Bennett stumbling around Pemberley while the master’s away.
Yesterday morning my host family invited me to take a picnic with them at the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, where on occasion in summertime there are beautiful fountain shows (WasserSpielen) that tumble down from the Herkules statue overlooking the park. We ate sandwiches and salad on the front lawn of the majestic Schloss Wilhelmshöhe, before climbing to the top of the monument, traversing over 300 steps and 300 years of history on our way. We were rewarded with the dreamy blues and greens of the evening falling over Vellmar and Kassel — a secure and peaceful plane that seems untouched by time, despite the neon green strobe lights that celebrate the summer.
That’s the way this country feels to me, comfortable and securely rooted and bravely modern at once. This morning I caught a train through the countryside, golden with wheat, to the heart of a primeval forest that Hans and Jacob Grimms visited for its wealth of stories, many seasons ago. The flowers were joyous in the summer sun and the briar roses climbed tall beneath the castle that housed a sleeping beauty for a century — or so the legends say.
We soothed our baking throats with water and colas and looked out over the patchwork countryside, drinking in the romance of the view. Then we went for a walk through the ancient woods, where the trees tower over you and create a dappled sun-blanket on the floor. We set table on a moss-covered log and had a Märchen picnic of toast spread with herbal honeys and soft cheeses. Our guide regaled us with mythology all the while. Beware of the foxglove flower (Fingerhut), she said, stately and toxic and the entrancepost to the fairy realm. Elves sometimes lurked behind the tall stalks, demanding a passage-toll in the form of a song. If you sang well enough, you could choose to pass through unmolested. I think we all held our breaths until we reached the clearing.
How is it that here I can wander the grounds of Netherfield one morning and then chance upon elven groves the next? I have, in a weekend, sat sentinel over castle ramparts and wished over mossy waterfalls. I expect Prinz Darcy any day.