Sunday, September 25, 2011

Greetings from K-Town, Germany

I am at Ramstein Air Base outside Kaiserslautern, Germany for a week of training for military doctors in which I am participating. The overnight flight to Frankfurt was uneventful but long and after arriving at the base around 10 a.m., I was determined I would stay awake all day to try to "reset" my clock. After a brief stop at the gate to get my papers in order so I could come and go freely, my colleague and I headed into the big town of Kaiserslautern to walk and shop. The weather was beautiful-sunny and mild, about 75 degrees-and the streets were packed. I must admit to feeling like a bit of a zombie from lack of sleep, but I enjoyed the afternoon nonetheless. Although I had my camera with me, I completely forgot about it until we were heading back to base. The view from my room:
From another view there are wind turbines dotting the horizon. In fact, on the drive from Frankfurt to the base (about 1 1/2 hours), we passed many turbines along with quite a few houses with large solar arrays on their roofs. Alternative energy is more prevalent here than in the states, it seems.
I slept fitfully last night which surprised me considering I almost drowned by falling asleep in the bathtub-I woke up as my nose slipped under the water. After going to bed around 10, I woke up at 2:15 and just couldn't get back to sleep. I read, I did sudoku (which generally puts me right out), but everytime I turned off the light I tossed and turned. Finally, around 4:30 I fell back asleep and slept until 9. I made coffee and watched a National Geographic show on volcanos before dragging myself out of bed to dress and start the day. There was a map of the base on my desk and I had noticed a 7 mile walking/jogging trail. Since work starts in earnest tomorrow-long days beginning at 6:30-I figured I'd walk today. I'm not sure there will be enough time to do the whole 7 miles after work this week, but I wanted to scope it out to see what shorter walks would work. It was about 65 degrees when I left the hotel-sunny and clear-and the walk was magnificent. I didn't bring my camera because it was too bulky to fit in my pants pocket. I won't make that mistake again. Although the path followed roads, a few times it cut through the woods under tall pines and oaks the likes of which we don't find in Texas. But I was surprised how many plants grow here that I recognized from home. Dock and yarrow, smartweed and dewberries. On a long, straight stretch of road, I saw a man standing under a row of trees. He had a small basket at his feet and, as I watched from down the road, I saw him repeatedly pick something up from the ground and toss it in his basket. I was intrigued and when I got closer, I stopped. He was a robust middle aged gentleman and when I asked him what he was harvesting, he lifted his basket to show me. Chestnuts! The trees were not large, but quite full of the spiny seedpods. Most of the pods on the ground were cracked open enough to peek inside and see the edges of the shiny brown nuts. Some pods held two nuts, but many held four. I asked him if he roasted them. He proceeded to tell me how to cook them-if roasting, make a cut through the tough outer covering first-but the best way to eat them, he told me in his halting English, was to melt sugar and a bit of butter in a pan and, after roasting, put them in the mixture. "To glaze them?" I inquired. "Exactly!" he told me and clapped his hands. I thanked him for the recipe and wished him luck. A few trees down the road, I picked up a few and stuck them in my pocket.
I feel fortunate to have a small "kitchen" in my room-a microwave, small fridge and coffeemaker-but the chestnut man made me wish I had a stovetop, too!

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