Went to get the car's tires changed today.
It should start snowing any day now, so it's time to put on the snow tires. There's a little place a couple of towns over that will change your tires and, for just a few euros, store your summer tires until next year.
I say "little place" and, really, this is the sort of small garage that you don't find in cities and suburbs much any more. It's a filling station with a single garage next to it, and a big pile of tires around the side. There was just one guy there when I came, doing everything -- taking money for gas, answering the phone, and putting our car on the lift to change the tires. So it took a little while.
So I went for a walk around the town of Sondheim.
Sondheim is just two towns over from Fladungen, but it could almost be in a different country. The reason is, the whole town burned to the ground back in the 1840s. And it was rebuilt in a style very different from the other villages around here: with wide, straight streets, laid out in a grid with right angles.
By way of comparison, Fladungen's street plan is almost exactly what it was back in the 1630s when Gustavus Adolphus was roaming the neighborhood. And a lot of the buildings date back that far, too -- most of the town center is 18th century, but there are plenty of buildings that are earlier: the town hall is from the 1690s, the church from the 1660s, and the chapel on the hill is from 1550 or thereabouts.
In some ways this is charming. The crooked streets and half-timbered buildings give the town a really cozy feeling; just walking the kids to kindergarten is pleasant. On the other hand, driving a car through town is a bit of a pain -- the main street is not very wide, and it does an S-curve that compels you to drive really slow. And crossing the main street, say from the bakery to the drugstore, is a bit more thrilling than it should be, because not everybody slows down that much, and the street curves sharply there so you can't see cars coming.
Sondheim, on the other hand, looked almost... American. Well, okay, not really American. A hundred little things said Germany, from the slate roofs to the crumbling remains of the old medieval town wall. But still: the streets were wide and met at right angles. The buildings were mostly 19th century, plain and sober. The town square was an actual square in the middle of the town. (Fladungen has sort of an irregular open space on the side of the Town Hall.) It just had a very different look and feel.
It was 9:30 on a foggy November morning, so there weren't a lot of people around. Sondheim is too small to have a cafe, so there was really nothing to do but walk. So in 45 minutes I pretty much covered all of Sondheim: the business district (two blocks), the winery (19th century, with a very nice villa attached), the library (open 4 to 6 om weekdays), the grocery store (tiny). A stream runs through the middle of town; there are lots of little bridges going back and forth over it. I stopped in at the church, which is Protestant (Sondheim is one of the few Protestant towns in this region) but... how to put this? It's that early Lutheran that, to American eyes, looks more Catholic than most American Catholic churches. Stained-glass windows, and lots of flowery Baroque art inside. I rather like it, but it takes a moment of mental adjustment.
At one point there's a plaque, which explains that the fire was the second worst thing to ever happen there. (The worst was during the Thirty Years War, when the surrounding fields were ravaged by marauding troops, and 399 people -- half the town? More? -- died in the ensuing famine.)
Anyway. I don't know if I'd recommend Sondheim as an exotic vacation destination, but for a place to walk around for an hour on a foggy morning? It's very nice.
And then I went and picked up the car, with its powerful new winter tires, and drove home.