American Views Abroad

Monday, August 14, 2006
One World in a Small Town

Germany was hosting the World Cup and as though on command the weather turned sunny and hot in late June. There was no good reason to pack up and leave. Instead we decided to convert a sad lawn into various flower and herb patches in between watching the games, flags sprouting up everywhere, and people, young and old, having a grand time. One exquisite place to get a dose of inspiration on gardens and colors in northern Germany is the Emil Nolde museum in Seebuell, near the Danish border and the North Sea,, and Husum is the main town close to it where we decided to spend a few days.

Small towns in Germany sometimes hold delightful surprises. Husum doesn't have the medieval flair of Luneberg or the half-timbered houses of Wolfenbuettel, for example. To be honest, the plane-nosed windmill 'farms' have ruined the scenic view around the harbor, as well as along many parts of the North Sea coast. It's sad, but true. A way of providing energy without fuel is ugly to look at. Husum, however, made up for it by having a book shop you couldn't resist walking into. Eine Welt (One World) said it all from the outside. Inside it was warm, well-lit, big, yet cozy, and had very gracious, well-read owners. German book shops offer excellent service. I was looking for a pocket edition of Siegfried Lenz's Deutschstunde (The German Lesson) which is worth re-reading when visiting the Nolde museum. They were sold out, but a copy would be there the next day. We talked about books and the owner decided I would probably enjoy reading Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres. When I said I would rather not read a translated version of an English book, there was no problem getting it in English within two days. There I also purchased Ketil Bjornstad's latest novel about a young pianist. Bjornstad is a Norwegian writer whose Villa Europa was interesting reading. Twentieth century European history glimpsed through one Norwegian family and its villa in Oslo. Unfortunately, his novels have not been translated into English yet.

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