Why is it that every autumn seems to be more brilliant than the last? Or is the intensity I’m seeing in colours this year thanks to an effort to look at the world at a slower pace?
Taking off for a weekend just the two of us to a spot in the middle of a beech forest might have something to do with it. We boarded an ICE train in Hamburg late Friday afternoon bound for a weekend in Kaiserslautern, arriving at our hotel close to midnight after a short taxi ride. If the journey was merely a black tunnel slashed with fleeting smudges of white and grey as the train fled south through the German countryside, the sight which greeted us from our first-floor window the next morning made up for it: A woman walking four draught horses across a field, their breath puffing in the morning mist, splashes of yellow in the wet grass.
Out the door and down a path after breakfast, within minutes we were surrounded in the intense yellow of the beech forest.
The forest near Kaiserslautern is part of the Naturpark Pfälzer Wald, and forms the largest area of continuous forest in Germany. Though we were only minutes from the border of a small city and from the lookout tower could see a German Premier League and 2006 World Cup soccer stadium, we walked as if the still of the path had been reserved in advance for us alone.
Though every corner brought a new combination of colour as the beech gave way to larch, European and American oak and evergreen pine, what struck me the most was its clear floor and general uniformity. On the west coast of Canada the underbrush is so thick you can’t see to either side of the path, while in Eastern Canada the greens, yellows, browns and reds of the dying maple leaves turns the forest into a jumble of hue. Here the forest floor is a flat carpet of brown beech leaves, the sky above yellow.
We had to go into the city only once, and were glad we did, because its surprisingly unattractive, charmless streets made us want to return to the beauty of the forest that much sooner. We’d never have gone to Kaiserlautern had we not been invited to a friend’s birthday party, and it’s lucky for us she chose to hold it at Bremerhof, where we stayed. I can’t stay right now whether we’ll go there next fall to enjoy the forest all over over again, but it would sure be worth it.