German trip May 2012
Well I am home from Germany now and I always have good intentions of blogging every day when I am there, but that never happens. Never enough time, although I do take train or car time to jot down a few notes. So, I will try to write about things now as I look through the pictures.
We usually do a trip in May because Germany is such a pleasure to the eye in May. Yellow fields of rapeseed blooming in fields scattered over the hillsides looking like a patchwork quilt, tons of lilacs blooming and rhododendron and hydrangea. It was gorgeous.
I had a few days before we met our clients for a personal heritage tour and we decided to visit a local “landlord’s” house called Schloss Hunnefeld, located near Bad Essen. In the olden days the landlord was the person who was in charge of collecting the rents and taxes from the small farmers. In the 13th century Schloss Hunnefeld was a moated “water” castle. Today you come down a long lane into a large clearing and see the impressive residence. The building is a three-winged two story in the Renaissance style. There is a small island in the moat now and behind it a beautiful English garden. There also is French style dovecote from the 1700’s. I could picture the small farmer walking his way down the long lane with his hard earned money or livestock or whatever he had as payment.
In the building where the café is now was the counting house, or the place where taxes and rents were collected. I guess a little history of the “farm system” in Germany is in order. Of course this is a generalization, different areas had different laws and different systems but the farm system had been around for centuries, its roots go back to the Germanic tribes, who were nomads and whose economy was based on summer military campaigns, in which the men earned the tribes living by plunder. When they settled down to more agricultural pursuits versus the nomadic lifestyle, they needed the protection against other marauding tribes so they pledged service and fealty to their warrior overlords. By the end of the Middle Ages, military protection by the overlords was not needed as much, so the overlords settled down too. Land and income from agricultural products replaced plunder as their primary source of income, and the relationship of overlord and peasant farmer became firmly established. At least this is what I have read and I am sure there are probably more complicated reasons but this serf and lord system was around for centuries and German villages and farms used to “belong” to someone that they owed taxes and rents too. We have found records for some of these big farms that list all the small farms they owned and how much they collected etc. Sometimes (not sure how often as I have not personally seen that many) they might list the farmers names that were under their control. Of course in the Northwest of Germany the larger farms had the names and whoever lived there took that name. But that is a story for another day.
So, as it was a cool day we stopped in the café and had a hot, steamy bowl of spargel soup. Spargel is white asparagus which is also a big deal in May in Germany; you will get it everywhere and in every way imaginable. But it was warm and tasty and I like to look out the window and transport back to centuries ago and imagine what would have been going on that cool, spring day.
For more pictures of Schloss Hünnefeld, see: https://picasaweb.google.com/115481397474939988366/Germany2012?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCN74ou6Uzs61-wE&feat=directlink