After deciding to stay in Germany and not return to Australia in February 2009, I had two immediate problems to take care of: one was finding a secure job, the other was moving out of my ex-partner’s apartment and finding my own place. Back then Kenzingen wasn’t the rental hotspot that it is today, so fortunately it was a fairly easy process, especially for someone with only a suitcase.
While I looked for a place to live in Kenzingen, I stayed in a pension (private accommodation) in Nordweil, a seemingly quiet little village about a ten-minute drive east of Kenzingen heading towards the Black Forest. I say seemingly quiet because I soon learnt that every fifteen minutes the local church (dedicated to Saint Barbara) bells would go off and every hour there was a big clong and dance. Yes indeed, I was deep in Catholic territory - something that surprised me at first about Germany.
Church bells aside, Nordweil was a typical picturesque southern Black Forest village: surrounded by vineyards, immaculately clean, well taken care of, replete with timbered farm buildings, abundant garden plots, Allemannic carnival (Fastnacht, Fasnet, Fasching) statues and figures, windows with flower boxes, signs pointing you to local walking trails, well behaved animals and residents following a traditional way of life.
Originally the local economy was dependent on farming, such as cows, as well as at one point on tobacco, and later plant-based oil production. But today - like most of the surrounding villages - Nordweil’s economy is based on wine.
I only stayed in Nordweil for about a week, finding a ground floor apartment to rent in an old farm house on the outskirts of Kenzingen. The farm, called Mitteltal (middle valley), was on the main road heading out to another little village called Bombach (not far from Nordweil).
Yes, Bombach is also famous for its wine, notably the Bombamcher Weinfest (wine festival), which takes place in late summer and draws hundreds of locals from the surrounding areas to come and get sozzled on Burgundy and Gewürztraminer wine.
Random fact: both Nordweil and Bombach are separated from Kenzingen by a hill called Hummelberg, a rich, fertile location to grow wine in. I would later come to know Hummelberg very intimately through my daily trail running adventures.
I chose the apartment at Mitteltal not because it was private, which it wasn’t, but because being Australian and prone to living in the bush, it was outside suburbia, with no neighbours and surrounded by lush forest. In fact, it backed onto the amazing Nestbruch Wanderpark (wander meaning to walk or hike), a public nature reserve with marked and graded trails, where you could walk, run or bike into the forest and through the local vineyards.
One of its longest trails went past the driveway of Mitteltal - how cool was that! The cherry on top was that Nestbruch’s marked trails were sponsored by the local Kalfany (Suesse Werbung) gummy bear factory! Yum.
Well, Mitteltal turned out to be a rather dark and dank place to live in the end. The ceiling was rife with damp and mold, and the owner’s husband slowly died of a respiratory illness (maybe no wonder considering the amount of mould and damp everywhere), which I heard (seeing as he lived upstairs above me) as he progressively became worse.
Riding a bicycle in the snow was a definite first for me. As it was my only mode of transport to get to the shops, the train station, my secure work at the local Sporthotel and my teaching job at the local tech college in the neighbouring town of Herbolzheim, I became very good at riding on snow, ice and other exciting surfaces. Luckily the snow didn’t stay very long in the Rhine Plain, like it did up in the Black Forest.
One day I miraculously managed to bounce off the footpath as my tyres slid out from underneath me and I ended up on the ground. Fortunately, I made it to my class in Herbolzheim on time that morning, despite my misadventure.
My bicycle came in very handy as I gained private tutoring clients in the local area and it was through my bicycle that I got to know more of Kenzingen and Freiburg.