Laura Boston-Thek “American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).”

Rauhnächte…Old Rituals are Alive in Schliersee

Between the 21st of December and the 6th of January, in what is known here in Bavaria as Rauhnächte (smoke nights), it is believed that at this time the veil between this world and the hereafter is at its thinnest. This is a time for change, purification and reflection. It is believed that at this time, through the ritual of “räuchern” or incense burning, you could affect positive change in the new year while protecting your family, farm and livestock. This might all seem very mystical but these old beliefs are now being found to have real evidence in science in our modern times. Many of these plants have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.

Recently, on a very cold dark night in November, my colleague Ulrike McCarthy and I, were invited to learn about these traditions at one of our local farms. Our spiritual guide, Angelika Prem, also a writer for Schliersee magazine, has been teaching and performing these ancient rituals for more than 15 years. You can say she has been involved in them much longer as it was all just a very normal part of the seasonal calendar for her family farm. What she didn’t learn at her mother’s hearth, she learned by taking courses and reading extensibly on the subject and now offers courses and seminars at her farm, Hennerehof, right here in Schliersee.

When we first arrived, before we gathered together around the roaring fire,  Angelika used a “Räucherbündel or Räucherzigarre” to clean our energy and prepare us for this ritual. In the US we call this a smudging stick. The plants for the purpose of making smudging sticks and other smoking rituals, are traditionally gathered on the 15th of August the official holiday of the Assumption of Mary.

Once “clean” Angelika began to hand us various items she had gathered for ceremonial purposes from the forest around her farm. Hardened tree resin, dry bunches of various plants and even hand written notes. All were given out at different times in the ceremony and we were encouraged to dig deep in our emotions and cast the difficult or negative thoughts into the flames, along with the plants and powders. “This is a great time to unpack your baggage” she repeated often to us. I have to admit I had a hard time deciding which bag to unload as it sure has been a challenging year.

When we could stand the blustering cold no longer, we went into the cozy alpine farmhouse of Hennerehof. Once inside we sipped steaming mugs of tea and snacked on homemade pumpkin soup and cookies. The energy of gathering with such knowledgable women was very intoxicating. Could that magical moment be a result of the exotic scent of mystical vapors from the various incense we were learning their uses? I do not know the answer, but I have to highly recommend coming to Schliersee and taking a few of Angelika’s seminars. It will most definitely reignite your connection with the traditions of the old ways.

 

 

To find out more about the amazing Angelika Prem and sign up for her courses, please click this link:

https://www.hennerer.com

 

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

A Sheepish Rescue in Schliersee

I often get phone calls that others might think strange. Recently I received such a call from my soft hearted colleague Ulrike McCarthy. She asked if I would come take some photos to help save the life of a young,Weißes Bergschaf, male sheep. The poor creature’s only mistake was to be born a boy in a herd that already had a Ram and future issues of fighting and inbreeding must be avoided.

So I packed my camera bag and grabbed the camera and fresh batteries and off we went. Friedl von Fridolin as he is now called was gathered with his flock out in a Schliersee pasture. His very protective mother watched our every move and inserted herself between us and her baby. They obviously had a deep bond. Friedl was easy to spot with his polka dot nose even amongst the other wooly thick coated lambs.

For the past 6 months Ulrike has watched over this little creature. Having a sheep of her own has been a lifelong dream for Ulrike so she was very invested in his well being. Determined to secure a safe place for Friedl, Ulrike set about to enlist other people in Schliersee passionate about the welfare of animals. She found a kindred spirit in one of our local residents, Margot Wolf. Margot was the perfect person to become Friedl’s God Mother. All the pieces were beginning to fall into place. to save Friedl.

With a benefactor was on board, Ulrike learned of the cost and logistics of keeping a farm animal when she herself lives in an apartment. The purchase price, winter feed costs, castration and vaccinations all add up. But I think she would tell you, little Friedl is worth every euro.

It is with great joy that I bring the news to you that Ulrike was successful. Friedl’s future is secure. Better yet, Friedl will continue to live out his life amongst his flock along side his loving family. He will continue to go to the woodland Winter pastures in Litzldorf with his farmer and this pasture is located close to where Ulrike works so she can visit Friedl weekly.

Friedl von Fridolin or Friedl as he is now known combines the Bavarian nickname for Fridolin, meaning peaceful one, the protector. Right in his name, the “Von” indicating high born status. A fitting name for such a noble creature to live out his bucolic existence.

 

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

Time Traveling in Schliersee at the Markus Wasmeier Freilichtmuseum with Irmi Baumann

Raus aus dem Alltag – rein in das Landleben, wie es einst war or Step back in time to experience country life as it use to be. This is the motto of the Markus Wasmeier Freilichtmuseum.

It was with this in mind, Irmi Baumann, museum guide invited myself and some close friends on a private tour in the final days before the season’s closing. Irmi is one of the museums guides who can speak english so for me it was a real treat.

On the day of our tour the village was blanketed in thick Autumn fog making it feel very much that the veil of time was thin and we could easily step through into the Bavarian farming past.   Irmi explained to us that the historic village, which is composed of 12 buildings painstakingly disassembled and then reassembled, was the life long passion of two time olympic gold medalist Markus Wasmeier. He and his family work tirelessly to preserve traditions and customs of this beautiful valley and the local way of life.

Irmi shares this passion and from a very early age, always clung to the stories her grandparents told about life as it use to be. When things were more simple and unplugged. Each fact she shares with the visitor about the structures at the museum are peppered with mystical folklore and farming practicality.

On our tour we met a lovely local craftsman in the dying art of shingle making. He was covered in wood shavings and fragrant with the scent of tree sap as he busied himself at his work. He kindly paused a moment and explained to us about the “Schindel Dach” or Shingle roof. He explained it is traditional that all roofs are covered with 3 layers of shingles made of lark wood.

Each roof will last about 60 years. The long poles and large stones on the roves of typical alpine farmhouses are there to hold down the shingles and in winter when the snow is on the roof, this also serves as insulation.

Inside one of the cosy historic sitting rooms or Stube, we gathered around the Kachelofen or wood fired, tiled oven, which heats the house. On the day of our tour, light was in short supply and it was explained to us how beeswax candles were too expensive for every day use. In the 18 hundreds, the period of these buildings, a Kienspan was used. The Kienspan was a long shiv of resinous pine that would be clamped in a tall holder and lit, this would burn for hours.

There are endless stories to discover and exciting lessons to learn from the past.

For example, why are the thresholds are unusually high? Was it because people back then believed that evil spirits could not pass over them? Where did the four-poster beds come from and why didn’t people sleep lying down in their beds? Why the hearth fires were never allowed to die out?

 

 

You can learn so much and more like this, just give the museum a call and see if you can arrange and english tour for your next visit when the museum opens once more in spring 2019.

 

The Museum
https://www.wasmeier.de

The Guide
https://www.irmibaumann.de

 

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

Polar Bears and Schliersee? What is the Connection?

Are you passionate about the environment and want to learn more about how to alleviate our impact on this beautiful planet? If so, make sure to come out and, hear Birgit Lutz, a Schliersee author and adventurer, speak on 14 November, 1930-2100 at Slyrs Distillery in Neuhaus. Spitzbergen: Eisbär im Fischernetz or Polar Bears in Fishing Nets, is sponsored by our local hiking store, Smartino.

I had the great pleasure of talking with Birgit about her passion project. She explained that for many years she was researcher on Artic ski expeditions and it was during these trips that she observed an incredible amount of the world’s plastic trash washing up along the Arctic coast. The plastic trash, discarded in daily use, is swept up by the Gulf Stream and deposited in the Arctic. Continuously polluting these once pristine waters.

Motivated by this discovery, Birgit mobilizes normal travelers who are guests on the expedition sailing vessels and recruits them to help collect the plastic. This trash is then sorted, weighed and then sent to Longyearbyen (Sweden) where it is burned. In 2016 she began working with the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research to study the plastic problem further.

Being the first person to have collected such data she knows first hand the damage our obsession with plastics is causing. Spitzbergen Island (Norway) has a population of around 2000 people; through her research Birgit she has discovered is more polluted than many coastal towns in Europe.

One particular plastic item she finds often is thin plastic straps used to bundle items together or to secure packages making them easier to carry. This seemingly simple piece of plastic has a massive impact on the arctic environments and its wildlife. Her photos tell a devastating story. In one very tragic discovery, she found multiple sets of antlers tangled within plastic straps and fishing nets, parts of skull still attached. She explained to me that reindeer are a social animal and when one of their own is in trouble, others will try to help free the ensnared animal and in turn become tangled as well. This causes a horrific chain of destruction. Once trapped the Reindeer cannot eat nor flee from danger and in this weakened state are eaten by Polar Bears.This simple act of entanglement from a plastic straps from possibly your Ikea bookshelf or a discarded fishing net, is now altering what is normal in this Arctic ecosystem. It is not natural for Polar Bears to eat Reindeer as they are much too quick.

Birgit is not looking to lecture her listeners but to build awareness. Her belief is that the necessity of new fundamental changes, which are desperately needed, should come from those in Government. She does however wish to inspire those who attend her talks. Her greatest wish is that a young person attending one of her speaking engagement, might possibly leave so inspired that they create new and innovative strategies to dealing with our cataclysmic problem of plastic.

 

 

For more information on Birgit Lutz and her powerful talk, “Spitzbergen: Eisbär im Fischernetz” at Slyrs. Please click the links below.
https://www.facebook.com/events/905835649804716/
http://www.birgit-lutz.de/en/

Interessierst du dich für die Natur und würdest gerne mehr darüber wissen, wie wir unseren Einfluss auf diesen wunderbaren Planeten verbessern können? Wenn ja, dann komm am 14. November um 19:30 Uhr zur Slyrs Destillerie in Schliersee-Neuhaus. Dort erzählt die Schlierseer Autorin und Abenteurerin Birgit Lutz von ihrer Arbeit: Spitzbergen ‒ Eisbär im Fischernetz ist gesponsert von Smartino, unserem lokalen Outdoor-Geschäft.

Ich hatte das große Vergnügen, mich mit Birgit über ihr Projekt zu unterhalten. Sie erzählte mir, dass sie einige Jahre auf Skiern in den arktischen Regionen unterwegs war, an den abgelegensten Orten. Eines fiel ihr dabei auf: Egal, wo sie hinkam ‒ Plastikmüll war schon da. Sie entdeckte unfassbare Müllmengen, zum Beispiel an den Küsten Spitzbergens. Der Müll wird unter anderem über den Golfstrom dorthin transportiert, ein unendliches Förderband an Müll, das diese Gebiete immer stärker verschmutzt.

Angetrieben von diesen Entdeckungen, motiviert Birgit nun die Gäste des Segelschiffs, mit dem sie das Archipel bereist, zum Müllsammeln. Der Müll wird dann aufs Festland verschifft und dort entsorgt. 2016 entwickelte sie mit dem Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung in Bremerhaven (AWI) ein Projekt, um das Problem genauer benennen zu können: Seitdem kategorisiert, zählt und wiegt Birgit den Müll. Das Ziel: Zahlen zur Müllmenge zu bekommen, zu wissen, um welchen Müll es sich handelt, um dann am Ende die Quellen benennen zu können.

Zum ersten Mal überhaupt wurden mit diesem Projekt Daten aus der entlegenen Region Spitzbergens gesammelt – mit erschreckenden Ergebnissen: Obwohl Spitzbergen so weit weg ist und nur 2.000 Menschen auf den Inseln leben, ist Spitzbergens Küste ebenso verschmutzt wie die schmutzigsten und am dichtesten besiedelten Küsten Europas.

Ein besonderes Müllteil findet sie sehr oft: dünne Plastikstreifen, die wir von Paketen oder Paletten kennen. Diese Streifen haben verheerende Folgen in der arktischen Natur: Zusammen mit Fischernetzen bilden sie oft tödliche Fallen für Rentiere oder Meeresvögel. Ihre Fotos erzählen diese traurige Geschichte. Mehrmals fand Birgit gleich mehrere Rentiergeweihe, verheddert in einem großen Netz. Sie erklärte mir, dass Rentiere soziale Tiere seien ‒ wenn sich eines verheddert, wollen andere helfen. Mit dem Ergebnis, dass sich mehrere in einer tödlichen Falle wiederfinden und dann weder fressen noch fliehen können und so zu einem willkommenen Fressen für Eisbären werden, denen Rentiere normalerweise viel zu schnell sind.

Birgit erzählt mir ihren spannenden Bericht, ohne mich belehren zu wollen – und genau das will sie auch: nicht belehren, sondern informieren, ein Bewusstsein schaffen, Horizonte erweitern. Die fundamentalen Veränderungen, die wir brauchen, müssen von oben kommen, sagt sie, von Gesetzen und Regierungen. Trotzdem möchte sie alle inspirieren, die ihre Vorträge hören. Was wir brauchen, sagt sie, sind Innovationen, junge Menschen mit neuen Ideen, intelligente Technologien, die ein gesundes Leben ermöglichen. Denn wenn keine Veränderungen passieren, darin ist sie auch klar, werden die Menschen bald ein sehr, sehr großes Problem haben.

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).