On our way down the Habkern mountain, we discover that the clutch pedal is not working properly. Frank has to winkle it off the floor with his foot every time he changes gear. Oh no! We’ve had this once before and it led to weeks in a Spanish garage waiting for a replacement clutch plate. But now as then, I’m not convinced it’s the clutch plate, I rather think it’s some kind of blockage in the pipes and this gets confirmed when we use our ‘phone a friend’ option and ring Walter, our German Mercedes mechanic in England. What’s more, he doesn’t think it’s going to harm us or the vehicle to continue on our journey, so we drive all the way to Staufen, a little town in Germany not far from the Swiss border. By the time we arrive the problem has literally dissolved.
Those who follow our blog regularly will remember Staufen from a chapter a couple of months ago, when I went there with Ines to teach a Tango workshop and we both were very impressed by this young and enthusiastic Tango community that also hosted a Bandoneon museum (I have a plan that involves Bandoneons – more of that later when it comes to fruition – and as we were passing through, I wanted to check out a few things).
I like Staufen. Apart from the fact that it is a very picturesque old town, a lot of little things talk of a place where people enjoy living. We park up on the central car park, which has clear signs against large vehicles, and go dancing at the local evening Milonga. Nicole, our Tango friend, tells us that Frau Mueller, the traffic warden, may well come and talk to us. Sure enough next morning (at a respectable time, mind you), Frau Mueller knocks on Emma’s door. You can’t stay here, you are too big for this car park. We pleasantly chat for 5 minutes and she gives us info on where we can go instead, which is only a short cycle ride out of town, so no problem for us.
Our new car park is by a beautiful lido built over 100 years ago. A listed building, it boasts a 50mtr long olympic-size swimming pool and cute changing cabins by the side. There is a statue that speaks of its first general overhaul that happened in time for the 1936 Olympic games in Muenchen. Recently, funds for the pool dwindled and closure was imminent when a group of volunteers stepped in and kept the facility alive for everyone. It is open from May 1st for the hardy ones, so for 3.50 Euros we have the joy of going into pristine, ice-cold water. It was so cold that I couldn’t really feel it but my swimming slowed down on the second length due to my muscles seizing up! We felt really alive after that.
We cycle into town to sort out This and That…. on the way, we come past an older woman who is meticulously brushing leaves off the road outside her house. When we come back four hours later, she is still in exactly the same spot, still brushing, and I realise there is more to this than the need for a clean road. I imagine her there, brushing and brushing every day of the year and the people around her allowing her the space to do so without making her feel like an outcast.
Nicole lives in a little house in the town centre, in a part where people sit outside their houses on benches, enjoying the first proper warmth of the year, or outside the pub, having a glass of beer and a chat with a friend on a Friday afternoon before heading home for the weekend.
Staufen has leisure, enjoyment of life, an unhurriedness and an acceptance. The traffic warden could have treated us very differently, and people could treat the old lady with the brush very differently, but there is a ‘live and let live’ feel about the place.
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