Chapter Eleven
January, 2000

It seems a bit of a dream now, looking back. In real life, people don't live in castles, especially not people without any immediate claim to fortunes or noble ancestry. My memories of Rheineck are like this, foggy, misty, dim with the non-light of missing light fixtures (the previous owner took most of them before completing the transfer of title). During our afternoon walks, we spent as much time watching the progress of the sun across the northern winter sky as watching our footing on muddy trails. Returning home, our walk up the cobbled drive was steep and dark, the wiring to the driveway lights damaged when part of the road collapsed. The castle at the top of the hill was a fortress of black blotting out the sky, marked by a feeble light peering out from one window at the winter night. Calling this place "home" seemed strange in any language.

But it was home. This was the place we had been moving to when we left Santa Barbara four months earlier. We had managed to sneak in to see it one afternoon in the fall, before the papers were signed and it belonged to us, but otherwise it had only been a promise. Now we were here, and we learned all its secret corners, where the plaster was stained, where the stairways suddenly bottomed out into concrete. What had hung here? Where had this stairway led? Why was this room a bit trapezoidal, and why was the ceiling at two different heights? This place had stories to tell and the documents with those stories were in storage, the key held by the previous owner. We kept our questions and listened in where we could. And added our story, buying dishes and kitchen supplies, breaking the washing machine, installing a dishwasher, refinishing the main staircase.

Ok, so Ian and I actually didn't do much of that. We did go shopping and we did buy dishes, but I didn't break the washing machine. It was old and cranky and prone to attacks of its own. I learned to wash in one machine, spin in another and dry in the dryer that got warm; from wash to dry was a two hour process and weekly laundry could take all day. An expert came to install the dishwasher. Mario, the newly-hired caretaker-handyman-gardener-butler, refinished the staircase.

We installed ourselves in our rooms, gloried in the little shared kitchen down our hall, and went for walks whenever it was above freezing outside. We worked at the computer, and I measured every room in Rheineck. There was mid-morning/early-afternoon tea in the main dining-room-to-be most days, a meal and an event, featuring soft-boiled eggs, jam and bread, and several pots of tea, consumed while the conversation rambled between plans for projects and ideas for interior decorations. I learned that visionaries rarely speak in concrete terms, something both irritatingly vague and wonderfully freeing. What were we supposed to be doing in this castle on a hill? Anything we wanted. Think big. Think bold. Think of the ideal, the impossible.

Living fell into a pattern of twenty-six hour days; we rose at sunset, drove to Bonn for a movie, worked through the night, walked by the Rhein at dawn, bought bread from the earliest opening bakery, fell into bed by noon and rose even later to do it again. We found a Tai Chi class a few towns over. We collected a handful of favorite restaurants and became regulars, much to the bewilderment of the waitstaff. There was Colombian and Chinese food in Bad Breisig, Italian and an attempt at Mexican in Ramagen. Getting our leftovers wrapped to go was always amusing at the Pakistani restaurant in Bonn. I still crave a version of the piña colada from our favorite Thai place in Köln. We found a bookstore with a decent English language department and theatres which played the original version of the movies Hollywood had released since we'd moved. We bought cds and established an account for dvd rentals at a video store. If we were truly living here, then we would live as if we were truly here.

Chapter 12

Ian Gilman / Germany Journal
DolciDeleria / Germany Journal
Copyright 1998-2013, Ian Gilman & Christina Willott