“Today, the typical German Christmas takes place on the Autobahn (motorway).” When Francesca looked inquiringly, I added, “Everybody is driving from one fraction of the family to the other. I wonder why there isn´t a collapsable car tree yet.”
Everybody travels on Christmas but us. We travel on the 23rd. First by train, then by car, then by funicular, then by ski tow and finally by ski. After 10 hours we are where we want to be: at 1800 m altitude beneath the summit cross of the Partnom in Austria. Or rather, we sit, warm and safe, in a chalet in the Austrian Alps. And won´t move for seven days.
It started as an act of escapism. To get rid of what we Germans call “Weihnachtsstress”, a few years ago we decided to spend Christmas with friends. Of course, our parents complained that they wouldn´t see us and their grandchild on Christmas. But at least they all felt neglected equally.
When we first came to this 200 year old farmhouse high in the mountains, the night was dark, our hands and feet freezing. For a long hour we had been outside in the winter cold, wading through snow hip-deep, not knowing where to go. I carried my son in my arms to protect him from the icy wind. At last, we saw a lighted window and headed toward it. In our hurry we didn´t pay attention to the path. First my spouse and then my child and I vanished in a snowdrift we barely could crawl out. Wet and exhausted we dragged ourselves for the last steps. When we arrived at the plateau the house was sitting on, the upper part of a partitioned door opened and a man said: “Grüß Euch Gott. Kommt doch herein”.
The place he led us in was – a stable.
Without ox and donkey, though.
Of course, we didn´t have to stay there for the night. Behind a second door we found the living quarters: wooden tables, laid for dinner; a stove radiating heat; beds, barely visible under bulky duvets. And our friends.
Later, I listened to the silence of the night.
By trying to get away from Christmas we came nearer to the Christmas spirit than ever. No fight what channel to look at TV, because we didn´t have a TV. Not one child drowning in 10 presents, but 10 children receiving one present each. And no mother preparing dinner for 10, alone, but 10 adults caring for 10 children.
As I write this, it is midnight on the 22nd of December. I´m tired. Tomorrow, our travels will start at 6am. I write this now as I promised to post an entry for the blog every Saturday. I´ll put it on autopost, because up there, next to the stable, I´m only connected to the real world, not to the virtual.
But this will be another story.