Breitenbrunn: My love affair with a town.
Just a few more days…
I would have never thought that moving to this small Bavarian town would be the beginning of a short and forever lasting love affair with a town. And now that we must go, I feel as thou the world is ripping out a part of my soul. It is safe here, it is beautiful here, magical, friendly, and it has my heart. I have cried many of tears and will cry many more before I leave Breitenbrunn. When telling you about my love affair with Breitenbrunn it is hard for me to pick a place to start. Is it the parks, school, soccer, people, festivals, kindergarten, or is it walking up Obergasse (um… no)?
So, I guess I will start with our house, Tannenweg 6, in a “neighborhood” of Breitenbrunn known as Breitenegg. Tannenweg 6 was the most perfectly perfect and horrible house one could ever dream of. When trying to find a house for are soon to be family of 5, larger houses where hard to find and hotel life was getting old quick. So, when this house became available we jumped at the chance to see it. Driving thru the Bavarian country side surrounded by corn fields in July, we came to rest in front of this “classic” German house, with a huge fenced yard, and the front door in the back (why I have no idea). The inside was far from fancy, it was a rental and updated when things broke. It had a kitchen from a Polly Pocket house and basement that made you question people’s color judgement and life choices. But, the porch was huge, had a fire place, and a yard made to play soccer. With hesitation, we signed a lease for the not so perfect house and moved in. Little did we know it would become more than a house it would become the perfect home.
Tannenweg 6 had its pitfalls but, the memories made there far outweigh the things on the surface. William learned to ride his bike here, walked to school alone for the first time here, learned to speak perfect Bayrisch Deutsch, and made lifelong friends. Getting to hear him and his best friend Luca play soccer in the yard always put a delighted smile on my face. My goal of having William live fully in the German Culture was a success. Declan ate his first piece of real cake with eggs in this house, he became “Evel Knievel” on his Balance Bike, and had his first “real” Birthday party with his Kindergarten friends. I had never seen a kid smile so big to have a party with his friends.
Tannenweg 6, would be the last house I would ever be pregnant in and Thank God for that. The master bathroom shower was so small that by month 7 I had to shower with the door open. The decent to the basement on the “Death Stairs” had become so scary because I could no longer see my feet or balance. However, this was the home I brought my last baby home to. This would be the house that would hold Cillian’s first year of firsts. Cillian would roll over, crawl, take his first steps, say his first words, open his first Christmas Gifts and eat his first birthday cake in this house. It was the house that we become a family of 5 in. I hope that the next family that plays in the yard and walks the halls of Tannenweg 6 has as many wonderful memories as we do.
Volksschule Breitenbrunn I am sure is like many other German Elementary schools but, for us it is the best school in the whole world. I will be honest I had my last-minute doubts about sending him to German school. I was so worried he would never make friends and never be able to speak to anyone but, I knew it was best and you never get anywhere not taking a chance. William was lucky thou to start his first year in German school in First Grade. In Germany First grade is the most important and most celebrated year of school. I had to dive right in for him and figure out what in the world the school supply list meant (I admit I pregnancy cried in the store in the “Heft” section because I knew I was going to fail William horribly). Then onto solving the mystery of the “Schultuete” and making a tone of mistakes along the way (I was always that Mom, who messed everything up.) But, before long we got into the swing of things and William was walking to school alone, that day my heart was in my throat until he arrived home at 11:35. Next thing I knew he was walking to school in the rain, in the snow, walking with friends, and buying soccer cards and treats at the store after school.
What makes the school so wonderful, well my now 8-year-old speaks and writes perfect German all while loving every minute of school. He is the product of what amazing teachers and a fantastic school can do. I can’t take any credit for this; his teacher Frau Fromm is the master mind who got him where he is today. Of course, he had to take a few special classes for non-native speakers and take some classes on learning to roll his “r’s” properly (that was gargled water all over the house). The curriculum is about the same as the states but, is taught in a completely different manner. I am not going to get into specifics here, I however prefer the education system here than to the states.
In school William learned more than just letters and numbers, he is learning to be an independent adult. On any given day, you will catch a class from the school walking around town or playing in the woods. The kids will learn about the towns history, the environment, the Catholic Religion (if you attend Catholic class), and learning about social responsibilities. The school also involves the kids in various activates that teach history and life lessons. William has learned to sew, make baskets, pick apples, learned small cooking skills and how to ride a train. The school children are always involved in the towns festivities; William sang for the Christmas Market and participated in parades. William also found a passion for playing Chess here while getting help from the older children on learning to speak German. In school, you will not find TV’s in every room and watching anything on a TV is rare to none existent. Volks Schule Breitenbrunn should know that they are an outstanding example of how children should be taught and deserve a standing ovation for their love and devotion to children.
Kindergarten St. Marien was a dream come true for are little Declan. He spoke about going for months before his first day. He couldn’t wait to play with friends and wear his new Star Wars hausschuhe. The first few weeks went great and then the communication barrier with friends set in. He wanted nothing more than to talk to his friends (if you know Declan, he loves to talk) but, it was challenging for him. Yet, his teachers and the school took the time and had the patients to make Declan feel comfortable. He eventually began to understand and speak small sentences in German. I just wish he had more time because he was so close to becoming bilingual.
Declan fell in love with his teacher. He said she was the best at writing notes and singing songs. She taught him to “play” the guitar and sing so many songs in German. The Kindergarten opened Declan’s love of music. Every day, they would close the day by standing in a circle holding hands and singing a song. He had a music book that they would add songs too as the year went on. On the days they had Gymnasium, the kids would walk to the fire house and play in the gym. Declan had Naturepur (Forest Day) once a week on Tuesday afternoons. Although, he sometimes dreaded all the walking, he made the most special items from the things he found in the woods. He made a “Mommy & Declan” hanging acorn decoration that I cherish with all my heart.
The Kindergarten also taught important things to Declan. The children helped in cleaning up after meals, they helped make breads and confections, the kids learned to dress themselves, and learn when to use the potty on their own. Once all the kids joined in and agreed to make egg free treats for everyone since Declan couldn’t eat eggs. Just like William’s school the Kindergarten participated in community festivals. During Erntedankfest they walked in the parade wearing Brezen tied with Bavarian flag ribbon around their necks. Then the loveliest of them all, was watching the kids parade thru the streets with their handmade paper lanterns on St. Martin’s Tag. Then listening to them sing their songs around the fire. The Kindergarten is a magical world for Declan and so many children. The space that has been created for the kids is thoughtful, magical, and fun. Everyone at the Kindergarten loves the children and their work and it shows day in and day out.
Since, I already feel like I am talking about some private gated community… let’s talk about all the various amenities Breitenbrunn offers its residents. This amazing little town has it all and within walking distance from my front door. Here is the laundry list of things you will find here, a small Edeka, Butcher, Bank, Library, Churches, Drink Market, Hotels, Eateries, and a Pharmacy. I would send William down the hill all the time to pick something up for me. So much easier than hauling all 3 kids with me. He would grab milk, bananas, or even ice cream out of the freezer for him and Declan. Even when it snowed like crazy, I would venture down the hill to pick up fresh baked goods for the kids. It was also great for wine and beer emergencies! Thou the stores hours could be short it was enough to get by, if you didn’t have a car or didn’t want to drive.
Breitenbrunn has no shortage of places to go to get you outside. With several playgrounds for the kids and one even has a zip-line. (Yes, German playgrounds are awesome). Without a doubt whenever we would arrive at a playground there would be other kids there that we knew, ready to play. You could also venture on one of the many walking or bike paths in the area. Although these are very common in Germany, Breitenbrunn has some of the most beautiful paths right out my door. It is pretty much like stepping into a fairytale no matter what the season. The wildflowers blooming wherever they find space and the flower boxes on the houses filled with color year-round. You can always find a little spot to take a rest with a breathtaking view of ducks strolling down a stream or watching the fall fog lift over the town. The view also comes with a soundtrack of church bells, babbling creeks and calling birds. The boys couldn’t ever get enough of nature walks collecting sticks, rocks, and whatever else they could find.
Declan would tell you the best part about Breitenbrunn is the Naturebad. It is the local natural pool that is free and open during the summer. On a hot summer afternoon, the whole town would be out to cool off. The pool would have scattered red and yellow umbrellas with relaxing parents drinking coffee. While the kids had water gun fights and bought ice-cream to cool down. All ages could enjoy the pool without a worry in the world. The water spitting green frog became the coveted seat for all the little ones playing in the water. If you stayed to late and didn’t want to cook dinner, have a beer, pizza, or Currywurst at the best place to eat in town (according to all the boys in my house), the Sportheim. We spent countless hours there letting the kids be kids and becoming part of a community.
Festivals, Parties, Parades and Celebrations are Breitenbrunn’s specialty. They might not be on the scale of Munich but, they are always fun and short walk from your front door. (Which is good because a beverage or two is always involved.) All the events held here always include the small neighboring villages and even some of the larger neighboring towns. The town host’s a Fasching Party for the adults and young adults (which I learned about several new drinking games) and a kids Fasching Party. The Fasching Parade is always spectacular with candy and schnapps galore for everyone. The boys discovered the best spot to stand, in between Schnapps’ drinking Omas, because they help collect even more candy for your bag. There is always Erntdankefest with its beautifully decorated parade floats dedicated to successful harvests of the year and St. Martins Lantern parade that is led by St. Marten on a horse with the Kindergarten children singing with their lanterns following behind.
Of course, there is a town Christmas Market that features the school kids singing, food and beverage stalls from local groups, and handmade Christmas decorations made by the children from the Kindergarten to buy. On the Sunday of the Christmas Market, Saint Nicholas arrives and gives each child a large chocolate Saint Nicholas to eat. My boys dive right into the chocolate, while Brad and I enjoy hot glasses of Gluhwein. On Christmas Eve, the church puts on a magical Children’s Mass featuring school kids telling the story of the birth of Jesus. The church is filled to standing room only while the girl dressed as an Angel narrates from the gold filigreed balcony above.
This year the town hosted a three-day event dedicated to 50 years of SV Breitenbrunn. With a fest tent, tables, and beer flowing the town came out in full swing to celebrate. During the festival, the kids played nonstop games of soccer on the fields while others sang songs under the fest tent raising their glasses in joy. The Fest Damen danced on table tops with their perfectly braided hair and colorful dirndls. On Sunday, the parade featured all of SV Breitenbrunn’s sports and athletic groups. William held the F-Jungen sign high and chanted loudly. After the parade, the young girls in their dresses cooled off if the hot summer sun by wading in the creek with a glass of wine. Parents could enjoy a beverage and a seat while the kids played safely. As the sun set a band would begin to play and the bar in the back would become packed with the late-night party goers. Breitenbrunn also hosts open-air concerts a couple times a year.
However, if you are going to visit Breitenbrunn come during the last weekend of summer break, right before school starts in mid-September. For that is the weekend of the best festival of all, Tilly Fest. The festival is about Graf von Tilly and Breitenbrunn in the 30-year war in the early 1600’s. Please visit this website…. I mean amazing! The entire town is transformed into a 1600’s village and battleground You can get free entrance into the festival for dressing in period themed costume. My boys of course enjoyed becoming Soldiers ready for the battle. During the battle reenactment, Soldiers break thru barrier walls and gun blasts echo thru the town. (They do pass out ear plugs if you get there early.) The food and drink will get you into a celebratory mood with friends. Tilly Fest is so much fun the boys built Tilly Fest in the yard for the next following weeks. If you need more adventure outside of Breitenbrunn a short bike or car ride can get you to any of the nearby towns and historic landmarks.
Soccer, more specifically SV Breitenbrunn, Brad and William would both tell you that SV Breitenbrunn soccer is the best part about the town and I would partially agree. When moving to Germany we knew that William had to play for a German soccer team. See, William has a true passion for soccer and we wanted nothing but the best experience for him. So we set out to find a place to live that we could accomplish that goal.
When we first saw the house on Tannenweg, we went searching for schools and soccer. Not knowing anything about how the soccer system works in Germany, Brad went to the local Sportheim (Sports Bar/Restaurant) near the soccer fields to ask for help. That is where met Peter and the rest in history as they would say. Peter was so open and ready to help Brad get William signed up to play soccer. He was really the first person we met here and I must say he is just an amazing man.
William began soccer that summer with the G-Jungen team a few weeks before school started. This was great because he was able to meet some of his future classmates. I however, quickly learned that there was no need for me to helicopter parent and hang around at practice. (Overtime, William was able to walk to and from practice alone. However, we did watch him train quiet a bit.) The first practice Coach Harry was amazing with all the kids and didn’t miss a beat helping William learn soccer terms in German.
Soccer in Germany is handled very differently than in the states. They take the game seriously but, it is relaxed and not over fussy. The kids only train 1.5 hours once a week and usually have 1 game. You will not see wagons of food and chairs drug to the field. Parents will stand and the siblings will play at the near by playground. Most parents keep (I said most) quiet and only erupt with cheers or slight “ooohhhh’s” when a goal is missed. There is no “snack parent” assignment, only a fun shoot out at the end of the game where everyone tries for a goal and receive a small piece of chewy candy. They even let the players siblings in on the action. There is no MASSIVE fee to play and girl & boys played together. The kids arrive to the games in their team warm-up an then get dressed in a locker room putting on their borrowed jersey, shorts, and socks. At the end of each game the dirty uniforms are collected and washed for the next match. For away games the team will meet, kids will jump in the coaches car, and the others will follow behind. In the winter the team switches to indoor soccer which is held in the school’s gym.
Some people might think that these kids wouldn’t be as skilled as the ones in the states who train harder and longer. Well, you would be wrong. These kids have talent and stamina for the game. The kids are taught the game and taught about community. Coach Harry was spectacular with the kids. His love of the game really showed in how he supported each kid on the team. The kids respect and love him. Soccer is more than a sport it is how the town connects with each other. The kids are loved and cared for by all involved in the sport and all in the community.
Brad began to play AH Soccer (Old Man Soccer) with SV Breitenbrunn. William loved to go and watch his Dad and his friends Dad’s play soccer matches. (Most the time the boys would play soccer on the side.) After matches the team would enjoy a “beverage” at the Sportheim and shoot the shit. Peter would give the kids gummies and soda’s. SV Breitenbrunn was also more than soccer. They offered tennis, table tennis, fitness classes, and kids “Sport & Speil” days. It really became the center of are life here and I was totally okay with that.
I believe I have saved the best part for last, the people, the people of Breitenbrunn are what make this town so special. The people who live here come from all over and from all backgrounds. You have the people whose families have lived here for generations, the few lucky American’s who have married into the town, and others who have come from almost every corner of the globe. The people of this town, no matter their reason for being here, they call Breitenbrunn home with pride.
Over two years I came to watch the people and notice their everyday rituals, as I am sure they noticed mine. For the simple head nod in the car, to the polite, “Guss Gott,” on the street became part of daily life. The lady’s riding their bikes with baskets full of tasks completed for the day. The old man who walks to the Edeka every morning for Brot. The older lady who opens the travel center every morning, who I am sure can out drink me at any festival (she is 3 times my age I am sure). The people who tend to their magazine ready gardens daily and the rest who just try to keep up. Watching the mother’s walk their kids to school and the grandparents that take the little ones to the park. The laughter of neighborhood friends talking from either side of their fence. The family who doctored William’s knee when they saw him fall on the way home from school. The teenagers caring racks of beer to the next party and the town band who practices every weekend no matter what.
William’s friend’s mothers became my biggest support and I don’t even know if they knew that. They always helped William out when I mistranslated an event wrong and didn’t show-up. They gave William rides home in the rain or when he was carrying to much school stuff. The parents always lent a helping hand to him without a thought. His best friends Mom would always take him to the pool and feed him yummy snacks when he came to play. She even helped me find this wonderful apartment in Breitenegg, that we are using till we leave. The Dad’s helped him get ready in the locker room for soccer or even take him to the game early for me when I had my hands full. His soccer coach would randomly show at the house to take him and his teammates to fun soccer games and even help him on the first day of school when his Mommy got lost on where to go. The people of this town really stepped up to help William, always when Mommy would mess-up and the thing is they didn’t have too. That kind of community is rare these days. I was so terrified that they would snub us, because we weren’t “German”. (Because let’s be honest a bunch of American’s snub kids and families when they feel like they don’t belong. So, I thought it would happen to us.) But the people of Breitenbrunn brought nothing but happiness and showed so much love to my boys and I am forever in their debt. Oh, how I wish I could make William and his best friends dream come true. They want us to build a house across the street and have a secret underground tunnel to each other’s rooms.
My personal and biggest regret is not speaking German fluently, so I could speak with all these wonderful people. The Bavarian dialect thru me for a loop and my old brain was slow to pick-up. Although I could listen, read, and converse enough to get by, I truly wish I had done better. It isn’t easy to learn a second language as you get older and the struggle to do so can be painful and isolating at times. But, I hope the people of Breitenbrunn know how much we loved their town and are grateful for them sharing it with us.
Breitenbrunn is by far the best place to live, it even beats “My Ole Kentucky Home”. (Yes, I know all my Kentucky family reading this just spit their bourbon. But, rest assured friends and family. I wish you lived here with me.) You would drive right thru Breitenbrunn and never know what this amazing place can offer. It doesn’t have any big buildings or flashing bright lights. In all, nothing really seems out of the ordinary for a Bavarian town.
Here my kids are safe but, not sheltered. Here my kids can be kids, while learning to be an adult. Here you are part of the community and part of the family. Life here isn’t over complicated or fussy. In two short years Breitenbrunn stole my heart and became my family. It showed me what a community should be and showed me a new way to live.
The love affair with this little Bavarian town is ending, the sun is beginning to set over the summer corn fields, the cool evening breeze cuts thru the humid air, all while the church bells begin to ring. You can hear the laughter of kids in the distance and see the people put the final touches on their gardens. I must now tuck my two boys into bed and make the path to bring my family of five back together again. I wipe away my tears, tip my hat and raise my glass to you my love, Breitenbrunn, Auf Wiedersehen and take care… till we meet again.