Sunday, August 17, 2014

Once upon a time in the Black Forest

Pic of the week

The Black Forest
Photo by John Weaver

Once upon a time…

That’s how I feel about my vacation this past week to the Black Forest in Germany. It was only a 5-hour drive from Belgium, but it was the first time either my wife or I had been there. We were impressed by the stunning views of pine-covered mountains, lush green fern covered forests, hearty German food, and the niceness of everyone we met. We left thinking, “Pity we only stayed 3 days.”

Once upon a time…

The Black Forest is home of the Grimm Brothers and their fantasy cast of fairy tale creatures. Hansel & Gretel, Cinderella, Rupunzel, Little Red Riding Hood – these are just some of the over 500 folk tales the Grimm Brothers collected and popularized 200 years ago.

I read a lot of fairy tales, as you do when you live with a toddler. What I love about them is not just that they put my little one to sleep, but that they feed the imagination with a timeless sense of wonder. Within each tale lies a truth about human nature – innocence and wickedness, fear and bravery, greed and generosity – that challenges us to pick a side. 

Most of the time we root for the good guy, the prince, or the underdog. But sometimes, too, we feel bad for the wolf.

Once upon a time…

This weekend we went to the Efteling, a fairy tale-inspired theme park in the Netherlands, not far from the Belgian border. It’s pretty well done, with a Black Forest-like walking path dotted with medieval-looking cottages depicting scenes from famous fairy tales. Having hiked through the real Black Forest just days before, it was a little bit disappointing however. Hoards of people everywhere, kids screaming and yelling, cigarette butts littering the ground – none of this helped “feed the imagination with wonder” I have to say.

But my 3-year old daughter loved it. She’s still talking about the witch, the wolf, the princess, the talking tree. And as soon as I stopped thinking about the real Black Forest – where I really did expect to see a gnome pop out from behind a mossy tree at any moment – and started looking at the place through the eyes of a child, I found myself enjoying it more too. 

And they all lived happily ever after.

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