As some of you may already know, I live in Germany’s major city: Berlin. Even though I live in the outskirts near some beautiful lakes and nature, it is still living in a huge city. And sometimes I simply need a break, a summer retreat.
Our parents made us a gift a long time ago: they acquired a family retreat in the Bavarian mountains even before they had us children.
This old farmhouse on the slopes of a mountain has always been a place that speaks to my heart: It lies half way up a mountain, overlooking the wide valleys. There are a few neighbors, but a few hundred yards away from us.We spent almost any school holidays there when we were little. In summer, we went on hikes, climbed trees and got our feet wet in creeks. In winter there is a lot of snow and we would go skiing all day long.
When we grew up interests changed a little: hiking, cross country skiing, searching mushrooms, collecting berries, swimming in a mountain lake, going on walks with our Newfoundland Dog Fellow… and simply sitting in the shade under an old wild cherry tree in front of our house chatting with friends are now some of my favorite pastimes.
Over the past couple of years I never really had time for a holiday, facing bankruptcy with our startup and then starting anew with The Social Ms has taken its toll. We only went to Bavaria for a couple of days at a time, stealing what we could of our time, but still having to work part time when we were there.
This year, I used the slightly slower summer time, and the freedom of being my own boss with an online business and spent a couple of weeks of my summer in Bavaria: My own very personal version of a summer retreat. I still had to work, but wireless Internet and my phone was enough to stay in touch with clients and keep up with my work load.
Now, back in Berlin, I have to say its been a long time since I felt so good. I was not lazy, I still had too much work to do, to simply read books and dream away the days. But in between writing blog posts and ebooks, and talking to clients there was so much to do that I love.
How can you spend weeks on end on a lonely mountain without getting bored?
I started the days off with a swim in a lonely mountain lake. Some mornings the water was really freezing, but the water was crystal clear and only a few ducks, some beaver and otter were sharing the lake with us. Even on rainy days, we went swimming. A fair mist rising from the water enveloping us while we were swimming. A blazing fire in the hearth to warm us up and hot coffee was awaiting us when we got home.
Can you imagine a better start into a busy day? Fellow loved it, too!
Then there are the wild berries. If you have not seen it with your own eyes, you cannot imagine how rich in fruit these mountain regions can be. We picked buckets full of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries – I even discovered a field of mountain cranberries, on one of my trail runs, when I tried to take a shortcut and got slightly lost.
My mom made endless glasses of jam. I made heaps of juice and sirup from the berries. If you know what you are looking for, the forest can provide you with a huge variety of fruit. I made red elderberry sirup, blueberry juice, blackberry sirup and raspberry juice. I hope to get back to Bavaria in time to make some rowan berry and black elderberry juice and sirup.
But the most amazing thing are the blueberries. All mountain slopes, forests and meadows are overgrowing with blueberries. Tons of them. And they do not taste watery like the ones you can buy in the supermarket. The mountain blueberries are the real thing.
Truth is, if you have ever tasted blueberries freshly picked from a mountain side, you will never again, call the stuff you can buy in a shop blueberries, because it is an insult to the real blueberries.
Even Fellow knows what is good: he loves blueberries and loves to go into the forest to pick them or have me pick some for him.
Fellow also really appreciates the cool nights in the mountains, where he can peacefully sleep, while the Berlin city is melting in the summer heat. He also loves running free in the endless forest and bathing in the creeks, watching frogs and toads and roll in the grass – or blueberry bushes which gives his white fur fashionable pink stripes…
Jonathan and Marina came for a couple of days. We went trail running together, had barbecues with awesome long talking with beer and wine on the terrace overlooking the valley. Together, we turned cooking and eating into a social event. The Chihuahua Mia and Fellow the Newfie showed us that friendship is not a matter of size.
My older brother with two of his sons came to visit us, and you would think my eight year old nephew would get bored with a couple of rainy days in the country. Not my nephew. He said: Susanna, can we go into the forest and look for mushrooms? We could and we found tons of them. You can find some of the best sort of mushrooms that there are in Europe – and when you know the best places in Bavaria’s forests, you can quickly fill your basket. I even found some mushrooms on some of my trail runs.
We had the most delicious mushroom meals ever and tried a lot of different mushroom recipes – believe me or not: when you pick the mushrooms yourself they taste even better! We also dried tons of mushrooms for the coming winter months. They will spice up sauces and soups. And we will also give some to friends as presents – bought in the store dried boletus mushrooms are quite expensive.
We went on hikes – though not as many as I had planned for. We had family and friends visiting. We had barbecues. We watched the sun set. We had our meals under an old cherry tree. We watched the shepherd look after is sheep and goats, and saw deer, ermines, snakes – one morning I even surprised a dormouse in our kitchen (the kitchen obviously got too crowded for his tasted and he left quietly). I went running on trails and swimming in a lake. We got sunburned and we got freezing cold, when the summer took a break and the mountain top even saw some snow in August…
Do I have to explain, why I love the summer in the Bavarian mountains? I promise, I will be back for more…