(Read part 1 of this post here)
In the Franconia region of Germany the Main River separates the towns of Sommerhausen and Winterhausen. A bridge connects them. This is a metaphor for the communities themselves. They are distinctly different in a way that complements both.
Winterhausen is architecturally appealing and a beautiful place to spend a few hours aimlessly exploring the twisty cobblestone streets, but the absence of public accommodations, (I counted one bakery and one pub) leads me to believe it is primarily residential – maybe a response to Sommerhausen’s outgoing “drink our wine, visit our galleries” vibe.
But stroll or bike along the lengthy riverfront path and each community’s 16th century townscape provides so perfect a backdrop to the river as a tugboat rounds a bend and the sun shifts along the autumn colored hills that the view itself is all one needs for entertainment. I couldn’t help but think about returning with a bike, a backpack and a week to spend touring the length of Franconia’s wine valley.
In the evening, I joined several other journalists at the Artur Steinmann Winery and Hotel. Artur, the proprietor, was going to have us taste some of the family wines after a walk through a part of the town I had not seen earlier.
We started on Sommerhausen’s main street at the very old, very charming, very adorable, Tortourmtheater. This means “tower theater” I am told and true to its name, it is located in a tower that spans the street and is the main gate.
From July to December, the theater has performances in a theater so petite it would be like watching a play in someone’s living room. It is in fact the smallest theater in the country. Pillows on a series of stepped platforms is the seating area and the shows are German only, a language I do not speak, so hear me when I say I would so have gone to a play if there had been one during the time I visited.
From the Tortourmtheater we went through the garden pathways behind the old stone homes. The proper word might be alleys but here they are planted with flowers and vegetables with the occasional staked grape vine.
We continued on, stopping at a number of galleries including the historic indoor and charming outdoor garden displays of Galerie beim Roten Turm and then went to the several story home gallery of painter Annadora Diller-Koninger. She has divided her art into rooms by theme so that a walk through them provides many different experiences all under one roof.
All art is not visual of course, and as the sun set, we headed back to Artur’s place to sample the work of his hands. We were looking forward to the wine, sure, but in truth I was just as eager to hear him play the accordion. (Read why in my previous post, here.)
I did not know if shyness and the fact that he had not played in some time, would prevent him from performing for us. So, slightly emboldened by the first wine we tasted, Frank & Frei Secco feinfruchtige rosa, I offered a swap. I would sing a song from my country if, on completion, he would play a German song for us.
Deal done, my choice was a tune I’d learned as a child growing up in Florida. I’m not even sure what it is called, but it is a short song about orange groves and sunshine and bluebirds, a Florida song. I remembered all the words and it was over in about 90 seconds. Then Artur hoisted the accordion and played a series of peppy German tunes.
The music played and we toasted Florida, Germany, shrieked at the pub song contributed by an irreverent Canadian and sat back in awe as Domenico Sciurti, a young German with Italian roots gave a magnificent but too brief song that sounded like professional opera.
We passed plates of sausage and cheese and downed more wine until Artur took the lot of us into the cellar to open one last bottle.
Certainly the wine had some effect, but as we stood in the cool candle-filled room – closing out a day that had been filled with natural beauty, craftsmanship, God-given talent and a fellowship of silliness, I was thankful for Sommerhausen and Winterhausen and their contributions to this very special Autumn day.
(Read part 1 of this post here)