The past two posts I have been talking about how we recently went to Holland and Germany, with the intention of visiting family, and a friend; Jens Frank of Level One Kites. The Level One Workshop is located east of Stuttgart, in a small old 'hamlet' tucked among farm fields and stout forests. When we finally arrived at the workshop the sun had just set behind us, and was casting the last of a warm light across the fields. It was breathtaking. It is easy to see how so many fairy tales, and stories came from this area. It is a little 'different' to imagine that this is also the home of one of the premiere kite builders in the world. So far from the beach.
We spent the evening catching up, and enjoying a fine meal.
The next day was dedicated to sorting through parts, discussing kites, doing videos, (of which we can't wait to share!!!) and enjoying a fine autumn day in Germany. The Level One Workshop is located in the attic and basement of a home. Nearly every piece (connectors, center T's, etc...) are machined by Jens. As I watched him cut, drill, and flare piece after piece it made me think of the thousands of kites that he has built that are flying.... the tens of thousands of pieces that are flying.... and each one has been made there, in the basement. I wonder how many people know that? To know that the man who built your kite, not only is the one that shipped it to you, but is also the one that machined the parts.
My thoughts, and more of the story about Jens and Level One is going to take up a few blog posts over the coming month, so I will instead write about a little side trip we all took together. Exploring towns and learning unique tidbits about them, no matter where in the world, has always been fun for me. In a way I can see threads from one towns story weaving into another towns, connecting all of them, yet somehow remaining different.
In the afternoon we headed a few kilometers west to the town of Esslingen. The town is said to have existed in some form since 1000 BC, and at one point, like so many other places around here, was a home for Roman soldiers. Now-a-days it has a distinctive medieval feel, from its distinct architecture to the cobblestone streets and church towers.
While it had been occupied by US troops during the war, it sustained very little damage to the city center. Preserving this town, and what is the oldest row of half timbered houses in Germany. (oh.. and the Glockenspiel which moves and dances!!) With a little bit of snow, and some Christmas lights, this looks like the inspiration for everyone of those little mini Christmas villages your grandparents bring out for the holidays; replete with toy train. Which, according to Paul, in a nearby town is the home of Marklin Trains, a rather famous toy train company that has been in business for 150+ years.
We find a cafe in the town square across from the main church and within view of the vineyards and the Glockenspiel. The latter of which chirps, rings, and dances as we sit. I looked up this particular one and discovered that it currently has 216 songs and pieces that it can play depending on the occasion or season. The songs rotate, so you won't hear the same melodies in a row. We happened to be there at one of the appointed hours and it was special. Flocks of pigeons dancing and shifting, children coming out of school, a golden sunlight warming the skin.
This is not my video, but it is shot from about 200 feet to the left of where we were sitting, and is one of the many songs it plays.
We sat at the cafe and ordered a few pints and a snack. Honestly, I don't know which was more 'sensual', the look of the sun cutting through my pilsner, or the light reflecting off the bits of apples drizzled in caramel in my tart. It may sound like I am waxing poetic over a bit of simple food, but the moment really was special. It was one of those moments that you think "I could live here".
As the sun was dropping low again, Jens took us up to the 'Castle Esslingen'. Except, it really isn't a castle, although it resembles one. Castles tend to be associated with wealth and nobility, this was a citizens initiative to fortify the wall on the hillside for tactical advantage.
Essentially, it is two built up towers and a 5m wall that housed canons and fighters. With an impressive view over the city, and a vineyard below. It is simply affectionately called the Esslingen Burg (Castle), but has always been a building of the people for the people.
As the sun dropped over the horizon, we hiked back to the car, and on to dinner and more stories. Throughout the meal, I kept thinking back to Jens making each part, piece by piece...... and the town making the 'burg' brick by brick. We only ever see the finished monuments, and easily look over the act.
Just a thought.