The end of June is a fantastic time here in Gutenberg Land.
There is a feeling of ripeness, and heaviness
As if summer is truly here
With all its magical powers.
The trees are full of fruit right now.
The symbol of one of the neighboring villages
is a woman, in tied up voluminous skirts,
with a huge scarf full of apricots on her head.
Dragging in the harvest.
Down the river, the cherry trees are full.
This is the original Bingen of bing cherries.
Called just sweet cherries here.
And the fields are full of strawberries,
waiting to be turned into jams,
and proseco for the numerous strawberry festivals yet to come.
And not to be sold to eat,
due to a set of quixotic medieval, and now EU, farming regulations,
after the twenty-seventh of June.
Like the white asparagus.
and lying in the fields,
waiting to be mechanically peeled,
then frozen in huge amounts,
to be given,
later in the year,
by the farm families
in one pound lots,
to their friends.
It is as if the fields know a sort of closure.
And then the second season starts.
With no one here eating anything but salads.
The Thai Express here sells cold rice paper rolls and salad.
The German restaurants serve salad only after five o’clock since they can’t keep up with the turn-over.
It is so hot, most Gutenberger live by drinking only by day.
Or eat a butter bread,
Or cherries from the market,
and wait for the cool.
Or take them to the overfilled swimming pools.
Which often can’t keep up with the water purification,
but have very large grassy areas for drying off, playing badminton, and topless sunbathing.
July, then, is the start of the silence.
The time when almost the entire population of the city,
urged on by the release of school children into six week school holidays,
packs all their belongings, and
like thieves in the night,
One day here,
the next gone.
“Got to get an early start.”
The only hope for the rest of us being
that the departure date is decided by state lottery,
publicly posted in January,
since the start of the holidays are by state,
each state leaving a week later than the previously called up,
so the highways to the north to the sea, and the south to the mountains
don’t turn overnight into a solid sea of jammed traffic.
Or collide with the entire population of the Netherlands,
coming south to the mountains
with their huge airline trailers.
fully autonomic, fully self-contained.
The locals believe the NL plates,
stands for Nur (only) Limonade.
Netherlands orange is a not gladly seen color in July in Gutenberg Land.
When the factories close down.
(we have branches of General Foods, Proctor and Gamble, Nestle, and one of the biggest glass companies in the world, just for a start.)
And the land of Gutenberg becomes silent.
There are parking spots to be found in the city,
you can buy things at the market without having to shove and be shoved in all directions.
There are far fewer Russian accordian artists playing the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D
and even the large families in Columbian national dress with pan flutes,
Or the African families of drummers in front of the equivalent of Wall Mart
And sometimes even gone.
On vacation, I assume.
And that is when Harald and I go and sit under a tree,
on the edge of the town fountain,
dangling our feet into the now small child and dogless reflecting pools
and listen to the sound of the water.
The one moment in the year,
when the town is ours,
and ours alone.
Until the second German television suddenly decides we are the only people around,
and they want an interview on beating the summer heat.
But at least, we had our moment.