Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 12 / Marktl

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Rural Marktl / The River Inn

Rich Green Countryside of Marktl
Today after lunch Wendy and I were invited by her host, Rosi Mittermeier, for a drive through the country to visit the working farm where she grew up just outside the village of Marktl.  The village has become much more famous since the spring of 2005 when Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was chosen as the successor to Pope John Paul II who had recently passed away.   Following his Papal Inauguration Mass in late April, he was dubbed Pope Benedict XVI, becoming the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Vatican in Rome was a long way from the modest home in Marktl where Pope Benedict was born in 1927.  Born the son of middle class parents, young Joseph grew up to become a long time theology professor at the University of Regensburg.  The home where he grew up, near the center of town still exists and has become a frequent tourist attraction.  The home was recently purchased and turned into a small museum to cater to the constant flow of visitors.  As a former resident of Marktl, Regensburg, and Munich, Pope Benedict XVI also has strong ties to Altötting, which he designated as the Heart of Bavaria and one of the Hearts of Europe.  Our plan was to stop by the Pope's birthplace for a quick photo if time permitted but visiting the farm was first on our agenda.

 Rosie's Parents / The Straubingers
We pulled down a long cinder covered lane to a large farm with several big barns, farmhouses, and many additional outbuildings.  Many of the building rooftops were covered with the ever present solar panels, harnessing the energy from the sun.  The farm was a multifaceted operation that included a working horse farm, a dairy cattle ranch, and expansive fields of grain crops.  First, we headed out to one of the horse barns to see if we could find Rosi's brother Richard, who oversees most of the farm's business operations.  We found him working on several horses, performing the skilled actions of a seasoned farrier, replacing the horseshoes on a large bay mare.  After introductions, it was a joy to watch Richard go to work, through the multistage routine of shoeing a horse.  First the old metal shoes had to be removed by pulling out the metal nails that held them in place.  Next, he matched a new shoe to the horse's hoof much like an old school shoe salesman did back in the day, assuming you are old enough to remember shoe salesmen, who once pampered you, carefully measuring your feet to ensure the best possible fit.  Richard shaped the shoes on an anvil and heavy hammer located on the ground, going back and forth between the horse and the tools of his trade until he was satisfied it was a match.  The horse was secured by the bridle, which was hitched to posts of the horse stalls located on both sides of the animal.  Richard bent the leg of the horse upward and placed the shoe on top of the hoof's bottom surface and then placed a nail within the shoe and hammered away.  Even though I had grown up around farms my whole life, and even had worked on them from time to time as a kid, I had never actually seen a farrier at work.  It was a joy to watch...

A Skilled Farrier at Work
A horse is not the easiest animal to manage due to their large size, weight, and strength, which is made even more challenging when forced to stand on three feet.  Richard had the ability to stabilize the animal by constantly moving to the position the horse was most comfortable, trying to keep the multiple tools at his feet within reach, dragging them along with his foot.  As he nailed the shoe into the hoof with swift even blows of the hammer, the horse seemed more curious than alarmed... Hey, what are ya doing back there anyway?  I never realized it before but the metal nails actually protrude through the outer surface of the hoof with their sharp pointed spurs sticking upright into the air when the horse placed his foot flat on the ground.  Frank then took a large metal tool shaped like a pliers that clipped the sharp end of the nail off, which fell to the floor.  He then used a large file to smooth the remaining metal nail stub down until it was flat in line with the surface of the hoof.  In the end the nail ends appeared as little graphite colored dots on the surface of the hoof that would soon be cloaked in dirt and made invisible.  The whole process would have to repeated three more times for each foot.  The horse appeared completely content and pain free throughout the whole procedure.  The whole process takes over an hour from beginning to end for each animal.  Servicing some of the maintenance needs of the horses he boards was another way for Richard to generate income for the farm.  A very smart business practice.  A mother and daughter arrived to take their boarded horses for a planned countryside ride and began the process of saddling their mounts a few feet away.  It was indeed a beautiful day for a ride!  I could have stayed and watched Richard at his task all day long but there were a lot more areas around the farm to check out and explore.

 Cute Newborn Farm Puppies
We turned the corner into an interior courtyard space where Richard's son Simon was tending to a litter of newborn puppies of the family's two dogs.  They were more than cute but watch out for the needle sharp puppy teeth.  They were clamoring after their mother hoping to nurse but she didn't seem in the mood and gruffly turned them away.  Wendy instincts immediately kicked into gear as she quickly swooped in as a surrogate mother to provide unconditional love and support, which was much appreciated by the brood.  We continued our self guided tour, walking through a dairy barn where many of the cows were neatly lined up ingesting the pile of feed that had been recently distributed before them in a long trough.  They began bellowing as we passed by to offer a greeting or warning not to touch their portion of the grain share.  We passed by a small paddock containing two young calves who were curious but tentative of our presence and remained shy and withdrawn in the far back corner of the stable.  We stepped outside the barn into the sunlight and encountered a large green John Deere tractor pulling an empty manure spreader, which came to an abrupt stop.  A man in his eighties emerged from the tractor cab, who turned out to be Rosie's father who was still hard at work with daily farm chores.  He greeted us warmly and appeared to be a man happy in his work as a simple farmer, reaping a living from Mother Nature's bounty.  As we talked, a young man who was an apprentice on the farm used another tractor with a front end loader to collect manure from a large walled fertilizer reservoir to refill the manure spreader.  When the task was complete conversation ceased as Mr. Straubinger hopped back up into the tractor to tackle the task at hand and pulled his rig out toward the far fields.  Break time was over!

Silage, It's Whats for Dinner!
Next, we headed into one of the large farmhouses and scaled the steps into the living space Rosi had called home during her childhood.  Her mother had been expecting us and had the kitchen table already set with small white dishes and a homemade pineapple and peach upside down cake placed as a centerpiece.  We sat down around the table as she made fresh whipped cream from scratch and brewed a full pot of hot coffee.  As we ate the delicious cake, Rosi and her mother began to discuss the upcoming celebration plans for her upcoming 80th birthday.  Turning 80 years old in Bavaria is a big deal and is usually recognized with a large dinner party as a matter of custom.  It was not a surprise party by any means as Rosi's mother carefully considered what style of invitations would be sent out to people on the guest list.  They paged through an invitation catalog and narrowed down the decision to several possible choices.  But that was only half the decision process...  An interesting characteristic of the traditional invitation for an 80th birthday party included a featured picture portrait within the card's design.  What picture should be used?  Multiple photographs of Rosi's mother from various stages of her life were compared, contrasted, promoted, and debated and then debated some more.  I didn't have a vote so I had another piece of cake topped with a heaping spoon of heavy whipped cream and downed a second cup of coffee.  I was kind of hoping that they were going to try and tackle the menu choices next!  However, with the pending invitation choice and accompanying photograph narrowed down to a select few, that was enough for one afternoon.  By the way... Happy 80th Birthday Mrs. Straubinger!

Along the Banks of the River Inn
Mrs. Straubinger admitted that her husband was far less picky the previous year making the invitation decisions for his own 80th birthday celebration.  Despite vast differences of nationality, language, and customs, it was evidently clear most men don't differ very much across the globe.  I imagine Mr. Straubinger made his invitation and photo selections in less than five total minutes.  The Straubinger Farm is located along an elevated ridge that runs parallel with the Inn River about fifty yards away.  In fact, a great view of the river could be seen from the farmhouse kitchen window.  The source of the Inn River is high up in the Swiss Alps where it flows through two lakes following a northeasterly course crossing into Austria, past the city of Innsbruck, and then entering the state of Bavaria into Germany near the city of Kufstein.  The 312 mile long river increases in volume as the tributaries of the Salzach and Alz join the Inn along the river's route flowing toward the city of Passau, where it empties into the Danube River.  The final third of the Inn's journey toward the city of Passau serves as the official border between the nations of Germany and Austria.  As soon as we descended the hillside pathway and got our first closeup view of the Inn River, I was immediately intrigued by its unique color.  The river was a cloudy lite turquoise green that appeared to perfectly match the color of the willow trees growing close to its edge along the river bank.  They were a perfect compliment to one another.  What a beautiful setting to ride a horse! 

  Matching Colors of River and Willow Trees
We walked along the sandy shoreline, heavily covered by rounded riverbed stone, which was colored various shades of white and green.  Although it appeared the stone had been purposefully dumped on the location to form the riverside pathway, Rosi said the stone had been naturally deposited there by the river over time during heavy rain events.  It seemed if you could take an equal number of the white and green stones and put them in water, they would dissolve to form the unique shade of light green matching the river itself.  The river water was extremely cold even though it was early July and the weather had been hot.  Since the source of the river was high in the Swiss Alps, the water it contained had previously been the snow and ice resting on the mountaintops from the previous winter.  No wonder it was cold!  Rosi's husband Klaus is an avid hiker and mountain climber who loves the outdoors and the challenging tests of strength and endurance Mother Nature has to offer.  One day long ago, Klaus tried to impress Rosi by swimming across the Inn River to the other side, close to where we were currently standing.  He made it but it was a struggle.  He later said the ice cold water had a crippling effect on his muscles making it difficult to fight the strong current the final third of the way across.  He thought by wearing a wet suit, it would keep him warm but he was shocked by the low temperature of the water.  Klaus placed it on his list of outdoor accomplishments but never attempted to go swimming in the frigid Inn River again!         

The Confluence of the Inn and Alz Rivers
We continued along the riverbank and were suddenly attacked by swarms of huge hungry mosquitoes  that may have been churned up by the recent heavy rains.  The space of land between the stone pathway and edge of the woods seemed marshy and thick with the aggressive pests.  My wife's voice warning me to take along and pack bug repellent in my suitcase repeatedly sounded off in my head.  I hate that!  It would be just one of many of my wife's ignored packing item suggestions that would come back to haunt me during my trip.  We hurried through the gauntlet of invisible flying attackers and continued onward toward the end of our route.  We came to the confluence where the Alz River, flowing from its source at Lake Chemisee 40 miles to the south, joins the Inn River.  The two merging rivers were drastically different in color, creating a distinct visible line where the two reluctantly came together to battle for the right of way to continue their flow toward Passau.  The larger and more powerful Inn River seemed to push the inferior Alz off to the side, winning the contest of strength to push through toward the northeast.  It was a beautiful site, minus the ever present attacking mosquitoes!  The trail now left the riverbank and headed into the woods and within a few minutes we were climbing a farm road uphill and out of the reach of the bothersome insects.  We emerged from the shade of the woods into the sunlight at the edge of expansive green cornfields growing waist high.

The Edge of the Straubinger Farm
We hiked our way back to the Straucinger farmhouse walking along the edge of the cornfield, parallel with the line of the riverbank below we had just traveled.  The Inn River remained cloaked by the forest trees growing on the hillside between the fertile soil above and the riverbed below.  We reconnected with Rosi's parents and wished them well and then it was time to depart for home.  Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit the center of Marktl and the birthplace of Pope Benedict XVI but we had a great day touring the Straucinger family farm.  Later that night, I was invited to attend a backyard barbecue hosted by Rosi and Klaus, the home where Wendy was staying during our trip.  We ate on the back deck at a large table surrounded by friends of the family, mostly English teachers from KKG school associated with the exchange.  The grilled meats, including an imported sausage, was delicious, followed by various kinds of Swiss and German chocolate for dessert.  As the evening grew dark, Rosi illuminated the table with a dozen votive candles spread over the table's surface.  The coffee from Rosi's mother had long worn off and following the hearty meal, I was beginning to fade fast.  It had been a long day and another was approaching fast!  A great big "Thank You" to Rosi and her family for a fantastic day!  Time to hit the sack!   

 Klaus and Rosi Mittermeier
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



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