Germany is beautiful. I mean, really beautiful. The landscape in the Eifel is like something out of a fairytale. Beautiful forests, bright blooming flowers, powerful rivers snaking their way through hillsides dotted with tiny villages. The colors of everything are more vibrant. The grass is greener, the sky is bluer, the flowers are bolder. And as much as I love Texas, it’s got nothing on the forests here. So, I’m pretty fascinated by them.
Our village actually sits on the edge of a forest, and I can see it from our living room window. We also drive through it pretty regularly, and I’m always amazed at how dense and dark it is: zig zagging, climbing, dropping back down. Drivers here have to navigate needle curves and insanely narrow bridges – all for about 15 minutes – before emerging back into the daylight.
As we drive through it, though, I can’t help but look out into the darkness. I think about how long that forest has been there, what it’s seen and survived. And my mind fills with images of all the different generations of people who have passed through it’s shadows. Of course, being a literature person, I start to fantasize about the different “stories” that took place there. I see knights in full armor, riding their horses through the maze of tree limbs, perhaps chasing some ruffian or rushing to save a damsel in distress. I see peasants making camp, soldiers taking cover, and wooden carts being pulled by oxen.
Imagination versus Realism
One afternoon, as we were driving through the forest, I let my mind wander in such a way for a while, and then turned to my husband and said, “Do you think people still live in the forest?” He looked at me like I was totally insane. “What???” I explained to him all of the things I’d been thinking about and how I was just musing on the idea that there still must be modern day people (homeless or criminal) that exile themselves to the forest, at least from time to time. He proceeded to be very German and tell me how completely impractical living in the forest would be and how Germany has social programs that would make the need to live in the forest obsolete. “Yeah, but what if they WANT to hide? What if they need to drop off the grid?”
There was a long pause followed by a very dramatic head shake.
“No. No one lives in the forest!” Fast forward to about a week later when I’m recounting this conversation to a friend of mine back in Texas. She also thought people must occasionally hide out in the forests, and as another literature person, my thoughts made complete and absolute sense to her. “Like Robin Hood and his merry men!”
Exactly. Like Robin Hood and his merry men.
So, No Merry Men…But Hookers?
While my husband will not admit that vagabonds might be squatting out in the forest, he and his friend did inform me that there are apparently hookers working out there. We were driving into the city one night to go to the movie theater, and we had to drive through the forest. He and his friend were talking in German, and I was playing “Try to guess what the Germans are talking about” from the backseat. There came a point in the conversation when I thought that something had surely been lost in translation because I could have sworn they were talking about a hooker meeting her clients out in the forest. I interrupted them to ask for clarification, but not only had I correctly understood the exchange, they pointed out her car as we drove past it.
Me: How exactly does that work? How can a hooker work in the forest? Where are they doing it at?!
Husband and Friend: She parks her car in the forest and waits for guys. Then they have sex in the car.
Me: I’m still confused. How do people know she’s there? Is that legal here? And if it is, she must be required to have health insurance and pay taxes. So, who does she report her income to? Is there a pimp somewhere out in the forest, too? Is she filling out paperwork on her Johns? Why is she doing it in the forest!!??
The idea of a hooker working out of her car – in my magically historical fairytale-like forest – just blew my mind. The conversation lulled for a few minutes, and I had time to sit back and think about things. Then, at lightning speed, I shot up in my seat, grabbed the back of my husband’s headrest, thrust my face into the front of the car, and quite animatedly shouted, “Wait a minute! You’re telling me that there are hookers in the forest, but you can’t believe there are merry men out there?!”
So, now when we drive through the forest, not only do I look for those elusive merry men, I scan for hookers. Hookers and merry men. In the forest.