WILDERNESS JOURNAL: INTERNATIONAL JOURNEY TO BRAUNSCHWEIG, GERMANY
I just spent the past week recuperating from jet lag but I wanted to share some of my international nature observations! I spent about a week in a relatively urban/suburban German town and really was able to see so many animals and plants thriving in an urban setting. Everywhere I looked there were cobbled streets with grasses and dandelions or other green things sprouting up. And then there were the trees! Germany is so much greener and full of trees than California. There were big tough trunks and large deciduous trees that were beginning to shake off their leaves. I was in heaven, it was finally fall! Not just the time of the year for fall, but the fall weather was in full swing. It took my breath away, both literally and figuratively. The dry cold wind blowing was enough to make you gasp for breath, but added to the fall beauty. The crisp breezes caught and tugged at the clinging yellow and orange leaves, tossing them into the gray sky and onto the gray road. It was a refreshing break from the excessively hot and humid fall we have had in California this year, which has felt more like summer than fall.
Since I did not have a car and I was staying with friends, I was able to walk everywhere I needed to go. And in all that walking I was able to soak in the fall, put on my nature eyes and get a good view of German nature every morning and every evening I was there. A spectacular fall wilderness experience! During my walks the crisp cool dry air would blow the leaves off the skeleton like trees, blanketing the ground in a golden glowing carpet of orange and yellow leaves of all shapes, sizes and stages of decay. These leaves shone out brightly against the dark grey of the manmade cobblestones (broken up occasionally by the hint of rouge green grass fighting the cool autumn to survive). When crossing bridges into town the cold water reflected the cheery autumn leaves and were a home to ducks and other winter fowl. The bridges themselves were a home to a spectacularly fall species . . . spiders! Small spiders everywhere hiding away from the cold and hoping to snag a few unobservant insects daring to come on the rot-iron bridge. Spinning little webs and almost unseen by the passerby.
Students stopped from their studies to take time for a quick photoshoot. As they tossed leaves high into the air and posed, the different fall colored leaves and other small leaf litter insects rained down. The fall colors were incredible and even historic against the gray sky and the bright red ivy leaves against buildings shell-shocked from WWII times. Crunching underfoot hazelnuts and chestnuts had burst from their confining shells and provided excellent miniature soccer balls and other times excellent slipping and tripping miniature mines.
The final night before I left, I was told that the street my friend lived on was home to infinite numbers
of hedgehogs! So that night we set out with a lantern and extra attention to the dimly lit streets hoping to catch a glimpse of one of these infamous hedgehogs. It didn’t take long, after we crossed the street, in the dim light of a streetlamp a small bundle of pokey looking blackness snuffled through the grass. The hedgehog moved slowly from the grass onto the cement it’s tiny claws making a pattering noise as it disappeared into the blackness. As we made our way back to the house jackrabbits jumped ahead of us in the dimly lit playgrounds. Playing and feasting on the abandoned grassy spaces. The whole trip was a whirlwind of fall, friends, and fascinating nature in surprising places.