A Fish out of Water

Photo taken in October, 2011, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

When I was a little girl in Denton, Texas, my brothers and I played with the Goetz boys, who lived around the corner. We were terribly excited when they arrived because they came from Germany. (Our experience of Germans up to that point had been World War II movies.) The boys soon became regular Americans, and Mrs. Goetz awed me a little because she was always so busy. It was Mr. Goetz who ultimately captured my imagination. In spite of the years that passed, he continued to seem exotic, romantic … and wistful.

Mr. Goetz was a Bavarian. I remember him as compact and stoop-shouldered, like the man in the photo. His German was soft, not at all like the harsh, gutteral German of our favorite war movies, and the adjective “gentle” could have been invented just to describe him. He was a woodcarver of beautiful, deeply Catholic pieces. He must have grown up enjoying the exuberant Bavarian style that falls somewhere between baroque art and rustic decoration.

Photo taken in October, 2011, in Garmish-Partenkirchen by Joseph R. Dunkle

But Denton, Texas had no beauty of this kind. Our church was modern. In fact, I remember no real beauty of any kind in the 1960’s ranch houses, wide asphalt streets, and sticker-covered landscapes of my childhood. Certainly it didn’t look like this:

Photo taken in October, 2011, by Joseph R. Dunkle

As I got older, Mr. Goetz would take out books and maps to show me the Bavaria he had left behind. He told me about walking in the mountains and smelling the chocolate flower. This Texas child couldn’t make her limited experience of the rough young Rockies match up with his descriptions of the beautiful Alps. He might as well have been describing the moon.

Photo taken in October, 2011, by Joseph R. Dunkle

I didn’t expect ever to see Germany, much less to live here. But when I did come to Bavaria, I had the vague idea that it wouldn’t look as colorful as Mr. Goetz’s books and memories. I was wrong. And as strong as the ties of Bavarian culture are, I can see why Mr. Goetz couldn’t let it go. If I were a Bavarian transplanted to the parched pastureland of north Texas, I think it would break my heart.


Photos taken in October, 2011, in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany. Text and photos copyright 2011 by Clare B. Dunkle and Joseph R. Dunkle.

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2 Responses to A Fish out of Water

  1. Great post. But it’s kind of sad. I hope he wasn’t unhappy.

  2. Clare B. Dunkle says:

    Me too. In Bavaria, surrounded by all that beauty, I felt so horrible for him. And I wish I could show him my pictures, too, so my missing him and his missing home *both* make that post a little sad.