I was sitting on a train bound for Stuttgart, Germany to meet Sebastian’s family. Sebastian and I met during our first few weeks of college at Creighton University. Detecting an accent, I asked where he was from. I was a French major and was always interested when I met people from other countries.
After taking a course in France that summer, we made plans for me to come to Sebastian’s hometown to meet his family. Everything I read about Stuttgart made me imagine that it would be a motor city. It is the home of both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he grew up in a lovely wine village on the outskirts of the city.
From the balcony of the upstairs guest room, there was a lovely view of soaring vineyards. Perched on the highest point is a beautiful mausoleum that is visible for miles around. Sebastian packed a picnic lunch, and we hiked those steep vineyards for an hour to reach the top.
Etched in the facade of the mausoleum were the words: Die Liebe hoeret nimmer auf. (“Love never ends.”) These words were etched into our wedding rings when we were married a few years later.
Nearly two decades later, this place has become my home away from home.
Untertürkheim is a place we have come back to time and time again. School breaks and vacations brought us here almost every year. Once, during a hike through the vineyards, I noticed a broom placed above a vintner’s door. That meant they were serving simple fare and their lovely wines to the public that evening.
Even world events took place in this little corner of Stuttgart. Sebastian and I watched Spain play Tunisia in a World Cup game at the professional soccer stadium only a stone’s throw from his childhood home.
A few years ago, my husband was offered a job in Germany, and we moved our little family to a town only a few hours away from Untertürkheim. Seeing our sons enjoy the place of my husband’s childhood while visiting their Oma and Opa made me love this place even more.
In the late summer, our sons would sneak a couple of grapes as we hiked up to the mausoleum. A few weeks after the harvest, we would admire the vibrant yellow and orange leaves of the vines.
When our next baby was born, there was no question in my mind as to where we would baptize him.
During the offertory, the priest said, “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.”
Sitting in that simple little church, surrounded by the soaring vineyards that are cultivated by members of this congregation makes those words even more meaningful.
Those vines produce a wine that has sustained this village for centuries. I am so glad that this little village is a part of who our family is.First and second photo credit: Michael Houssmann
Leslie Fischer is raising four German-American kids, and writes about eco-living, wellness, and mostly, sleep. Find more of her work at Sustainable Slumber.