Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Old oaks

Oktoberfest and fall have arrived in Munich. The days are cool and frequently rainy; lederhosen and dirndls are seen everywhere; and leaves are covering the bike trails. It's this time of year that I start to notice the really big trees, whose trunks are usually hidden in greenery in the spring and summer.

The Fuerst, or prince (brother of King Ludwig), must have really loved oak trees, because he lined his forest avenues with them, and even spellt out his initials with a planting of oaks. In most of the Forstenrieder Wald, the oaks are continually replaced and rather young looking. But here and there, on the back paths, you can spot what look like ancient individual trees. With the exception of the main botanical specimens in the Eichlgarten, these trees are pretty gnarled, with maybe one or two massive branches still alive. But the foresters seem to treat them like honored grandparents. They are mulched, and the underbrush is cleared away, so they still hold the space that they once must have dominated.

I am always a bit touched by the sight of these old oaks, even just glimpsed as I'm whipping past on my bike. They remind me of a different scale of time and living; a notion of patience, maybe, or "wohlgefuel," that has been hard to come by in my stay abroad.

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