Chapter Thirteen
February, 2000

We had planned to drive over to Bad Neuenahr to pick up a few items and run a couple errands, possibly dropping in on Killybegs for lunch. When we woke up that morning, it was abundantly clear we would be going nowhere.

It was snowing!

Snow is a treat for me, having grown up in a place not prone to white winters. Of course, when I daydream of snow, I don't think about shoveling out the driveway and the front walk or carrying extra firewood; I think of snowmen, snowballs that go splat, and riding plastic saucers downhill, my face stung pink in the cold air. Somehow, I had expected snow to be a major part of our winter in Germany. But with the exceptions of one small flurry in November and our trip to München there had been no snow. Day after day of gray skies and freezing temperatures, yes, but no snow.

I stood by our window, looking out into Rheineck's courtyard, watching the snow come down. The bulk of the castle curved in front of the wind's path, making the snowflakes waltz, falling down, carried up, blown around. When the wind was still, the silence was so thick I could nearly taste it. I wanted to run outside and glory in this magic. I wanted to stay inside lest I disturb it.

Magic or no magic, pristineness not withstanding, we went outside, of course. I tried, for a while, walking in the footprints Ian made, trying to disturb the blanket of snow as little as possible. I found another set of footprints, the architect having walked to his office, and inwardly cringed at his thoughtlessness. Today was special. This was not a day for working! There was snow!

I gave up on preserving the unbroken snow somewhere along the driveway. Switching tactics, I started to roll a snow cylinder, having no practice at balls, and completely banished any remaining feelings of peacefulness with my mess.

I gave up on my snow cylinder when it became too unwieldy to steer around the place where the driveway had collapsed. Besides, there were too many things to look at to spend time in just one place, focused on just one thing. Although the sun was not shining by any regular definition of the term, the world still seemed to sparkle. Perhaps someone had mixed fairy dust with the snow as it fell. Edges were softer. Lines were blurry. Our castle home looked like something dropped out of a fairy tale, otherworldly, magical, and perfect.

The architect whose footprints I had noticed earlier had abandoned his car outside the castle gate; the poor thing looked exhausted from its struggle up our hill. The road to Rheineck is not quite two kilometers long, barely wider than a car, entirely cobblestone, and framed by a stone wall on one side and a steep drop on the other. When I am the one driving that road, I take a deep breath, downshift, and get a running start. Granted, the architect has been driving in Germany far longer than I ever will, but tackling Rheineckweg in the snow either indicates an incredible devotion to his job or some rather questionable judgement.

Even so, if we had something that could have passed for plastic saucers, we might have tried sledding our way down, skidding and swerving between the tire marks.

Instead, we went exploring. Of course, we didn't realize just how inappropriately dressed for the circumstances we were until we returned to the castle and discovered our clothes were completely soaked from the knees down. Still, it is nice to learn that, appropriate or not, my cape looks fantastic in the snow.

Even as we admired and marveled at this strange white stuff, it was obviously not going to last. The snow-silenced woods slowly filled with the wet plopping sounds of snow melting, sliding off branches to the ground. Where once the whiteness spread smoothly, now it was pocked and dimpled. Once or twice I tried putting the snow back on branches, an endeavor about as successful as pinning the tide to the beach.

For some bizarre reason, it took a day of snow before we thoroughly explored the grounds all around our castle. There had been stories and fragments of stories exchanged between the egg course and the jam course of our midmorning teas. There was, we were told, a "water feature" in one of the gardens. A previous owner had once stocked it with ducks, much, I'm sure, to the delight of the local fox population.

There were also mentions of a graveyard. Even though we knew it was there somewhere, it was still a surprise to stumble upon it, so carefully wrapped in snow. The stones are black, and the moss has started creeping up their sides. I wandered among them, looking for a date, something to help me determine their age. But this is a Jewish graveyard; the inscriptions are in Hebrew and the dates are according to the Hebrew calendar. I suppose I could have returned on a drier day to copy down dates or perhaps make rubbings. Somehow, I don't mind that I didn't; it's nice to remember the place all snowy and soft and silent.

(I am wandering in the picture above. Can you find me?)

Just up the hill from the Jewish cemetery stands a mausoleum. According to the tea-time stories, former residents of Rheineck rest here. Part of the final agreement in the sale of the castle included a clause reserving the right of one aging gentleman to come visit his family crypt. They sleep here, behind the gate guarded both by the face of Christ and a rusting padlock. A rather frightening piece of statuary watches over them, an avenging angel, his wings outstretched, a sword in one hand and a trumpet in the other. The floor is strewn with autumn leaves and the ruins of several floral arrangements.

When we found the garden with the "water feature," we also made the rather prickly discovery of someone's rose bushes, long neglected, and running rampant over the duck pond. Snow laden sticks now, but they would be beautiful in the spring.

We climbed to the top of our Roman tower, where I discovered enough unmutilated snow to attempt building a snowman. Of course, there wasn't enough to build a very large snowman, and naturally, having no practice, I don't built very regular-looking snowmen. And, since this is me were talking about, I had to be overly ambitious. Who needs Frosty when you can have a Guardian Gargoyle?

Sadly, his wings didn't work out so well. But I managed a good hooked nose and a rather impressive tail, I think. Ian took his picture and we left the gargoyle there to watch over Rheineck. His body may have melted by nightfall, but I'm sure his spirit is still standing guard.

Chapter Fourteen

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