Tuesday, September 10, 2013


We have had a lovely summer here in Germany. The long grey winter, which lasted through June, turned into a warm sunny summer.  Taking advantage of the sun, we spent as much time as possible in Bavaria’s many lakes and rivers. The kids signed up for a sailing course which unfortunately was cancelled at the last minute. Luckily, we found a windsurfing course as a substitute. As an added benefit, the instructor spoke English. And he spoke it loudly. During the kids’ lesson, I walked part way around the lake.  I could hear the instructor yelling out my kids’ names in an accented voice, his voice somehow echoing across the lake. When I couldn’t hear him anymore, I knew it was time to turn around and collect my windsurfers.
The kids windsurfed on our lovely Starnberg Lake, the fifth largest lake in Germany and the second largest in terms of volume, and for personal reference, 10 kilometers from our house. The lake was called Wurm Lake until 1962 after the Wurm River, its only outlet. But apparently this name was not doing much for tourism, hence the change. (The Wurm River actually flows behind our house and is one of my kids’ favorite things about Germany. We spend many hot afternoons floating down the Wurm, jumping out, running upstream and doing it over and over again.) Starnberg Lake is rimmed by low green hills and dotted with church spires and castles. At the southern most end of the lake, the Alps rise up dramatically. The whole place definitely has a sparkling clean Sound of Music feel to it.
In addition to the beauty, there’s plenty of Lake Starnberg history. The oldest standing settlement on the lake goes back to 1450 but all sorts of older relics have been found in the lake. From about 150 years ago, bigger boats and more people began coming to the lake. In 1886, King Ludwig II was found dead in the lake near the little village of Berg. The kids actually windsurfed out of a town called Tutzing, where Brahms vacationed in 1873 and composed a number of pieces.
Sadly, I saw a small beautifully painted sign affixed to a tree stating that two children drowned at that spot in the lake on 140 years ago, when their boat overturned in a storm. At about this time, a storm swept onto the lake in front of me. Lighthouses across the lake were flashing warnings to our side of the lake. My kids were out on the water, drifting further and further away. I wasn’t too worried but eventually our windsurfing instructor got a motorboat and hauled them in. I thought they would be frightened but they weren’t. They were mostly excited by it all, by being out in the thick of it. They went on to pass various tests and get their windsurfing license, enabling them to rent a windsurfing board at any time, even in a storm. Their instructor thinks they can handle it. I think they can handle it. Most importantly, they know they can handle it.


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