Friday, August 27, 2021

Exondo Outdoor Shop

With September creeping ever nearer, hunters in Germany are gearing up for hunting season. Some game has been open since May 1st, and wild boars are open year-round because there are so many of them and ASP (Afrikanische Schweinepest) is a constant threat. For further details about hunting seasons in Baden-Württemberg, see this link.

Each year about this time hunters have to take a look at their equipment, tools, clothes, and supplies and figure out what they can still use, what needs replacing, and what new products are needed. Then it’s time to decide where to go to restock.

Every student at a Jagdschule gets the Frankonia Jungjäger Startpaket, so M and I have gone to their store in Stuttgart several times in the past. Although it carries a wide variety of supplies, we always feel like we’re paying premium prices for the name, as they spend a lot of money on advertising and they are a big chain. We prefer smaller family-run suppliers with whom it is possible to develop a trusting relationship, as in you can get to know them and vice versa. The customer service in smaller, more personal shops is close to what you'll find in the U.S., something that most U.S. expats miss. Dare I say it’s nice to be on a first-name basis as well. 

A few weeks ago we drove to a new (for us) hunter supply shop - Exondo in Meßstetten (Zollernalbkreis), owned and run by Mike Fortino. Mike is a hunter and Revierinhaber as well, so he can often tell you about the equipment he sells from firsthand experience. He has a deutsche Jagdterrier who spends most mornings in the shop.

Exondo sells clothing, especially the outer layers in hunter orange and camo, but he says his focus is more on the tools for hunting and personal advice and consulting. One of his strengths is night vision and thermal imaging devices and optics. If you tell him what you’re preparing for or what problems you’re having, he has ideas to get you where you want to be.

Mike has an online shop where you can find out more about the company itself and what it offers, but of course a visit there is where you get the personal consultation and hands-on knowledge of the items you’re considering. 

If you have specific needs, you can make an appointment with Mike during regular business hours (Mon-Fri, 9:00 - 17:00) and he will devote that time to you and answering your questions.

M and I have received our first invitation to a Drückjagd as Schützen in December, and we’re looking forward to the experience. We have been Treiber (drivers/beaters) at this and two other Drückjagden in the past two years, but being in the role of hunters carrying guns rather than sticks will be entirely different. Instead of bundling up and tromping through the forest, sweating despite the winter weather, we’ll each be standing still in a Hochsitz (deer stand) for those 2-3 hours, feeling the chill more than while driving.

Mike fixed us up with a variety of hats, and I found some nice warm gloves as well. M bought some boxes of ammunition, which we continue to need to restock because we practice frequently at the shooting range. We’re fixed for guns, but Mike has a variety of hunting and sport weapons in stock, as well as binoculars, scopes, range finders, suppressors and pretty much everything else a hunter needs.

Exondo definitely has advantages for me over that bigger store, despite the 50-minute drive. The drive to downtown Stuttgart does not take less time, and big city driving – no thank you. Parking is expensive in Stuttgart but free and convenient at Exondo - American-style, right at their front door. But more than that...

  • Personal consultation, also by telephone and email
  • I know who will be helping me
  • Mike also speaks English
  • Friendly, knowledgable and helpful customer service
  • Free delivery with online orders over €100
  • Dog in the shop (we were there in the afternoon, which is why I have no photos of him)
  • He is located near the well-known Schrotpatronen dealer, Alfred Feistel, so we can do two errands in one trip

I know several of those points appeal mainly to Americans, but what can I say? A personal touch matters to us, and we like to shop where the proprietor knows who we are and wants to sell us what we need rather than what he needs to sell,

In a future post I will write about our experience visiting the Falkner-Shop in Konstanz.

Disclaimer: While the thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely my own and genuine, Mike did give us a good deal on our purchases along with the hunting hats.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Falconry at the Landesgartenschau

Harris Hawk

Last weekend M and I drove to the Landesgartenschau in Überlingen on Lake Constance, not because we like flowers all that much, and certainly not because we like crowds. We are members of the VDF-BW (Verband Deutscher Falkner –Baden-Württemberg) and although we don’t have our own bird yet, we offered to serve as unofficial photographers for the event.

The Verband had 10 or so Falknerinnen and Falkner at their booth plus six raptors and two owls. There were four Harris Hawks (amerikanische Wüstenbussarde), two Saker falcons, a barn owl (Schleiereule) and a snowy owl (Schneeeule). The Falkner answered questions posed by curious and captivated onlookers who wanted to know what kind of birds these were, how long their lifespan is, how much the birds weigh, what it involves to become a Falkner, and what the birds and owls eat. The children were especially curious about the Schneeeule, who looked like Harry Potter’s Hedwig (who, by the way, was a male, just like Hedwig). Several lucky children were allowed to hold a Harris Hawk on a borrowed Falknerhandschuh (falconer’s glove) and their faces beamed like at Christmastime.

Verbandsvorsitzender Joachim Ehni and three additional members, each with an owl or raptor on the arm, gave a presentation on a nearby stage three times that day, telling the attentive audience about the raptors and owls, sharing some stories and explaining how the Beizjagd (hunting with birds of prey) works.

Ehni shared a story about sending one of his young hawks after several crows, when all of a sudden a whole hidden flock took to the skies! The young Greif went for one crow, changed her mind upon seeing the overwhelming number – like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock – and flew straight back into the car! When Ehni got there the hawk looked at him as if to say, Schließ die Tür, Kumpel, und weg hier! Es ist scheißgefährlich da draußen!“ (“Close the door, Mate, let’s git!! It’s dangerous out there!”)

This is Hekate, the Harris Hawk who's teaching M and me
how to be good falconers.

Wouldn't you love to be able to look behind you by just turning your head? So does every teacher who has ever taught children. Raptors have 14 neck vertebrae compared to our 7, which allows them to turn their heads about 270°.

I’ll let this be a photo-heavy post since that’s what we were there for!

One leg ring is her ID and hatch year, and the other
is her falconer's telephone number in case she gets lost
(and found by another falconer).

Answering questions about falconry and the Schleiereule (barn owl)

Ayla, Harris Hawk
perched on a Sprenkel

Sakerfalke (light coloring)

Sakerfalke (dark coloring)
wearing a Haube because she's more relaxed
when she doesn't see anything that gets her excited.

Schneeeule (snowy owl)

This is a Harris Hawk Terzel (male).
A Terzel is about 1/3 smaller than a female.

A lot of teaching and learning went on that day.

The Verband is grateful for the donations guests put into the collection box. The money is used, for instance, to fund food and medical help for sick or injured wild raptors that are cared for by Verband members.

What questions do you have about falconry or these lovely owls and birds of prey?

Monday, August 9, 2021

Minding Others' Business

Something interesting (to me) happened today. Many expats have complained about Germans’ (and Dutch as well as some other Europeans’) tendency to “mind other people’s business,” that is telling total strangers what they should or should not be doing. A common one in Germany is crossing a street when the Ampelmännchen is red. You’re setting a bad example to children who might see you, so don’t do it. And if you do do it and someone sees you, you’re likely to get scolded. Another one is sitting on cold surfaces (like stone) in the winter because that supposedly causes bladder infections. Now, I’ll admit, when I’ve heard expats tell about experiences like this, I’ve sometimes thought, “Come on, is there something missing from your story? I mean, why would a total stranger publicly scold you like a child for doing something that doesn't affect him or her?” Ok, a stranger definitely did tell me I shouldn’t be sitting on the cold steps of M’s office one winter’s day while I was waiting for him, but I'm sure she was just considering my health.

This (someone minding my business) happened to me today. What on earth was I doing wrong? I was taking a walk with earphones in, listening to music.

Read on for the rest of the story.

One of my semi-regular walks is past the edge of our village, across some fields, through a forest to the neighboring village where there is a fabulous bakery. I always listening to music until I get to the forest, and while in the forest I ditch my music in favor of the symphony of nature. Then I usually listen to music again rather than the man-made noises of the village. On the way back, same thing – no earphones in the woods, but when I get to the field, I put them back in again.

This is the beginning of the forest between villages.
I used to walk straight here, until I learned the path to the right
leads into a longer unpaved forest path, traveled by fewer people.

This morning as I rounded a corner to head along the fields, I noticed a father and son standing near the last house (farm) on the way out of the village, talking to the farmer. Not wanting to interrupt their conversation, I gave a nod and added a pleasant expression (not quite a smile). The farmer half-shouted at me, “Ja, gude Morga!” I hesitated and said, "Morgen!" while taking out my earphones, and he said, “Schmeiß das Ding weg!” (“Get rid of that thing!”)

Now, I could have felt offended, I could have ignored him, I could have told him he should mind his own business, or I could have said at age 52 I’ll damn well decide for myself whether I’m going to listen to music or not while I'm walking alone. But I didn’t do any of those things, because on some level I agree with him. I think it’s a pity that so many people go through their days with things stuck in their ears listening to everything but the sounds of where they are: Parents walking babies in strollers talking on the phone to someone else rather than interacting with their child, people walking their dogs paying more attention to their smartphones than their pet, people alone on trains or buses closing themselves off from the rest of the world by listening to music so loud other people in the compartment have to hear it, too, at least the bass drum beat. Those of you living in the city, I can’t blame you for trying to dull the cacophonous roar that is big city noise – I mean those of us who live where it’s relatively quiet.

Near the scene of my crime is this beautifully artistic door
that I'm tempted to photograph in every season.
This is not an inhabited house, it's the back of a garage, I think.

Back to Bauer Mecke. So how did I respond? Rather than being annoyed or crabbing back in English, I said in German, “As soon as I’m in the forest, the earphones are gone.” He crossed his arms and stomped, and said, “Well, good.” Then I think he started to complain to the father about people who constantly wear earphones, but his words faded quickly enough as I trekked on and stuck the earphones back in.

Another common expat gripe is that Germans are rude, or at least not friendly. By US-American standards what he did was rude. You shouldn’t go around telling strangers how they should spend their time. I could have been listening to a book on tape, hearing questions and answers for the Jägerprüfung, or learning German. I have all those things on my very old-fashioned MP3 player, and listening to any of that gives me a break from my tinnitus. I was actually listening to Disney’s “Tarzan” in German, and I assure you listening to and learning music in a foreign language helps you learn it, including grammar!

I don't share many expat complaints about Germans (and I don't know any Dutch people). I'm just chalking this incident up to "Yeah, it's happened to me, too." I just find it interesting that I've seen this complaint quite a few times in expat groups, have questioned it (seriously, why would he make her business his when no one's life, safety, or property is in danger?), and then it happens to me. That serves as a reminder to me not to question or doubt others' experiences.

P.S. I was going to mention the German quirk involving drafts, but a British blogger in Bavaria I follow just wrote about this and saved me the time. Here's the link.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Reverence for Life

Not long after I moved to Germany during a visit in Wisconsin I was introduced to Dr. Hans-Udo Jüttner, who has since become a friend. He was on the brink of a project for which he needed some assistance, namely transcribing the nearly 400-page hand-written Tagebuch (diary) he wrote in 1962-1963 while working with Dr. Albert Schweitzer in his hospital in Lambarene, Gabon, Africa. He'd written this Tagebuch mainly in German, with occasional English and some French, French being the official language of the country. Gabon was occupied by France in 1885, became a French territory in 1910, and gained its independence in 1960, just two years before Udo arrived there.

Udo needed his Tagebuch in electronic form because he wanted to see about getting parts of it published. 

Through my years of teaching in Wisconsin I had come across many unique styles of handwriting, which I sometimes had to decipher in order to grade homework and tests. I expected the English and German would be no problem, but I do not know a word of French! Udo gave me a copy of the first pages of his Tagebuch, and on the way home in the airplane, I had a look. 

What an honor and a privilege to be trusted with this man's personal diary of a time and place I knew very little about. It did not take me long to decide I would like very much to be part of this project. 

I'd heard of Dr. Schweitzer of course, but I did not know much about him. During the next several months while I transcribed the Tagebuch, I also ordered and read some biographies about Dr. Schweitzer and explored the hospital's website. Schweitzer certainly led a fascinating life but was also a controversial figure in some respects, which didn't surprise me by this time.

Statue of Dr. Albert Schweitzer
in Gunsbach, France

I finished my part of the project in March of 2014, and I was giddy with excitement to hear from Udo in mid-July 2021 that his book has recently been published! After picking it up at our local bookshop, I opened and started reading it while walking back to my car, not being able to wait until I got home. It is available directly from the German publisher, at this point only in German. 

Udo's Tagebuch is a personal look behind the scenes of the work done in Schweitzer's hospital in Lambarene, not only the medical work of the hospital and the leprosy village, but especially the Alltag (everyday life) in a jungle setting. There was, among the responsibilities, the manual work of building and improving the structures, managing the various animals living in the complex, treating the patients and providing for them and their families' food. He also tells of the constant stream of visitors from all over the world arriving daily in the hospital, alone or in large groups - reporters, globetrotters, Nobel Prize winners, tourists, and famous as well as lesser-known donors and admirers. They were all welcome to share the daily meals with Schweitzer and his staff on the banks of the Ogowe river in Lambarene.

The medical care patients received was provided free-of-charge, but those and their family members who were able were required to help out with various tasks and chores around the complex. Udo was in charge of working with and managing these groups of workers for his first three months in Lambarene.

Udo also includes a letter he wrote to his former teacher at the Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium in Marl-Hüls, in which he describes life in general at the hospital and the organization and schedule of work days. This wasn't in the original diary I transcribed, and I poured over this like every other part that was new to me: the foreword, the final thoughts, the notes, the photos and captions.

What makes a Tagebuch most enjoyable are the personal observations and thoughts of the writer. Udo shares his joys and satisfaction of projects well done, frustrations, questions, hopes, and feelings about Dr. Schweitzer, who was a role model for Udo, though not infallible. He also explains how he came to spend those 16 months in Lambarene and how reading Schweitzer's biography when he was a teenager inspired him to pursue a medical career.

Udo has long been an active hobby-photographer, and the photos in the book were taken by or of him. Dr. Schweitzer did not like to pose for photos, so those of him tend to be candid shots, which I find wonderfully authentic. It was especially nice for me to see photographs of my friend back when he was the age my son is now!

Udo und ich in Esslingen

I feel truly fortunate to have been introduced to Udo and invited to participate in this transcription project! He did need to edit and cut parts because the original would have been too long for most readers (the final version is 172 pages), and I think I'm glad I wasn't involved in that part because I would have had a hard time cutting anything! 

One example of this involves birthdays. Dr. Schweitzer made the birthdays of his co-workers special by celebrating them at the evening meal with a speech, songs, gifts, togetherness and Gemütlichkeit. While transcribing, each time I came to the point where Udo said it was someone's birthday, I found myself thinking, "Oh good! What is he going to say this time?!" But these birthday celebrations weren't important for the purpose of Udo's book, and therefore it's understandable that he and his editor decided to cut most of them. The reader still gets a taste of how birthdays were celebrated in Lambarene when Udo briefly describes his own birthday on...well, read the Tagebuch and find out for yourself! 😊

I was truly sorry when I came to the end of his Tagebuch and wished there were a sequel. There is, of course, just not in published diary form. After his 16 months in Lambarene, Udo returned to Germany but then spent five years at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. for his medical training in radiology, met his dear wife Joan, and after a brief return to Germany decided to pursue his medical career in the U.S. His extensive travel adventures include climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for his 60th birthday, trekking to the Mt. Everest base camp when he turned 70, and returning to Nepal for his 80th birthday to the Rukmani Secondary School he helped found and continues to support in a remote Himalayan village. My dad (74 at the time) joined him on this trip, which also included a trek in the Himalayas in the direction of Gokyo-Ri.

Udo and Dad (Nepal, 2016)

I think when most of us come into the autumn years of our life, we want to look back to a life well lived. It's not the hours spent at work that come back to us for reflection, but the adventures we pursued, the people we encountered who made a lasting impression on us, the lives we hope we impacted, and the good we did. Albert Schweitzer's lifelong philosophy was "Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben" (reverence for life), and to me that encourages us to live our best life and do what we can to make this a better world despite our imperfections. I hope Udo knows the depth of the impression he has made on me, how much I have learned from him and from reading about his adventures and his time in Lambarene, and that I am glad to call him my friend.

Udo in Nepal (2016)