I was born on a very cold January 8th 1966 and raised in a forest region called Westerwald. It is a region, in which the Roman Empire never was able to conquer the German tribes. As soon as they crossed the Rhine and Main rivers they were slaughtered and could only defend some patches non permanently behind a wall called Limes. A popular folk’s song says: “Oh you beautiful Westerwald, over your heights blows the wind so cold. But the smallest ray of sun, reaches deep into your heart”. When visiting it, I remembered that it is true.
The forest is not breeding German unconquerable barbarians any more. But it still shapes the character of its people. Today I crossed the woods on a few hours walk to my sister’s village and when I met people with a chain saw in their hands they asked me: “Did you find your number?”. They were out to find their allocation of 15 m3 beech wood cut down and marked by a number and pull it out with a tractor. “I am looking for Oberelbert”, I responded, “right way? ... Do you heat all your house with wood?”. “Of course”, the man responded: “I don’t need Putin’s gas. I have a wood heating, a geothermal heat pump, thermal solar power, and a photovoltaic panel. The government does not subsidize photovoltaics too good any more. But I give a shit on the government. I don’t need anybody”. Must have been hard for the Romans 2000 years ago. They said that no civilized life exists in this forest.
The ravens followed me over the fields. Horses were coming for a treat. My shoes were heavy with mud and the wind was blowing fiercely as soon as I crossed open fields. These are also my childhood memories. When I crossed the woods, I found there is no “Return on invest” for planting a beech tree. People think in generations and just try to do the right thing without thinking about returns. This might make them look stupid in these fast times. But they withstood the Roman legions, were a fierce front to the Napoleon troops and later a tough resistance to the Americans at the Bridge at Remagen (unfortunately - sometimes it is better to be defeated). I remember, I faked my ID card pretending to be 16 to get a job in a saw mill, that the trees were still full with shrapnel and bullets flying through the workshop when the saw hit them. Nobody counted back then how many fingers were lost due to this.
The Westerwald is a wonderful place to be raised in. We still lived here under 1 Dollar a day, half of the family being refugees from Eastern Prussia and the other coming from Luxembourg, but I have no memories of material constraints. When I was a child, and I knew where to find the best apples and how to catch a rabbit. We were growing our own vegetables and fruits and the whole life was going with the seasons and the harvest times. Here I got my roots and also developed my wings to fly away. And both are good things to have.