It’s December and cold in the U.S. right now. As I attempt to get in the holiday spirit, I’m reminiscing about a quaint, Christmas-y place in southern Germany: Mittenwald. This tiny town sits at the base of the Alps on the border between Austria and Germany. It’s one of those hidden, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it places near the end of the famous Romantic Road.
Something I learned…
Some of the artwork on the unique, hand-painted buildings is about 250 years old
Immediately on arrival to Mittenwald, I was confronted with beautiful, life-sized, caricature paintings on almost every building. To say this added to Mittenwald’s charm is an understatement. Then I quickly realized I’d have just a few hours to wander and get lost in stories the buildings wanted to tell. In my haste, I didn’t take great pictures of individual painted scenes, because my fleeting obsession demanded that I get ALL the buildings in ONE perfect photo (hello, idealism). While this quest didn’t pan out, I distinctly remember being captivated by how creative artists really are. I wanted to go back in time and meet the local painters that said, hmm, these buildings look plain… how about we liven them up with some fairytale scenes?
Something I ate…
Good ol’ homemade sandwiches in a gorgeous park
When we visited Mittenwald a few years back, it was a quick pit stop for me and some friends on the way to Munich for Oktoberfest. Since we were particularly weary from our travels that day, rather than post up in a restaurant, we hit the local grocery store and bought supplies for an impromptu lunch in the park. Six of us split a loaf of bread, cured meats, sharp white cheese, and some chips. We also found the most adorable local park where my (very) amateur photography quest turned from the buildings to the flowers. I would gawk and spin around for a few minutes upon each new find, trying to capture each bud from the perfect angle. Luckily my friends are quite gracious with me in these endeavors and waited patiently in the empty park as we wrapped up our sandwiches. Seriously though, the colorful displays added some liveliness to an otherwise overcast, dreary day.
Something I felt…
Sleepy… a good, relaxing kind of sleepy
Of all the German towns we visited, Mittenwald took me closest to imagining how my ancestors would have enjoyed a quiet, sleepy life. Throughout our trip, a couple of us with our short, stocky frames and round faces were sometimes mistaken for German, not American. Sprechen Sie Deutsch? was asked of us at least once a day, but it didn’t bother us a bit. While none of us spoke German, it felt nice to have the fleeting appearance of belonging in a foreign land. My husband and I both have German ancestors–the “great-great” kind that we never met–which is quite evident from many, er, endearing traits we have. Such as… our stubbornness and orderly mannerisms when it comes to quirky things, like how to load our dishwasher or how to walk our dog.
So maybe the memory of this trip came up for me because it’s 2020, and Christmas will be much quieter this year. We never travel out of state for the holidays since our folks live in town, though I greatly missed traveling on an airplane this year (we’d try to vacation to at least one new place annually, pre-COVID). And yet, I’m not down about having my first sleepy Christmas. We may get to putting up a tree and decorating the house, or we may not. We may get around to sending Christmas cards, or we may not. In the mean time, Mittenwald has me remembering it’s OK to be small, quiet, and slow. A big mountain of activity still beckons to be explored ahead, as soon as our new normal can safely emerge from the clouds.
There’s so much more to tell, but I’ll leave that to you to discover.
What would give you a full mind, belly, and heart in the next city you explore? Follow more of my “invitations to” adventure at the top right of the page: Home > Travel+Bug.