Waiting For The Isenach
By: Edna Weisser
Imagine being a 36-kilometer stream that flows from a village called Carlsberg to a town named Frankenthal. Imagine hiding the natural flow of this stream inside huge pipes built underneath roads. Imagine a town named Bad Dürkheim who together with tax money, private donations and with the help of the European Union, brought the natural flow of this stream from the dark recesses of buried pipes to the sunburst of flower beds and a tree-lined park. The name of the stream is Isenach and we were there when it was hidden and when it was revealed.
A year ago, truckloads of earth, sand, pebbles and slabs of natural rocks were offloaded on the side of the Salinen near the parking area of the Saturday flea market. Then came bulldozers, wheelbarrows and digging equipment. We saw engineers wearing hard hats do measurements, landscape artists carrying blueprints surveyed the area, and water specialists visualized the stream‘s flow from the source near the Kurparkhotel. The Isenach flows parallel to our house doctor‘s clinic. It was easy to ignore. It was not a fabulous lake or a sensational river that would catch anyone‘s attention in a land-locked region of Germany. A filled and perfumed bath tub had more appeal.
During the last twelve months, the restoration work felt slow. During the past harsh winter, work stopped, if not lagged. The residents and guests of Bad Dürkheim tolerated the inconveniences: dust in the summer and sludge when it rained. Every weekend, Hans and I would look for signs of progress. Some trees were sacrificed to make way for bridges. A clump of bamboo shrubs (which is unusual for a region of frigid winters), gave way for a tiny semi-ampitheater. Earth was dug out and became a graceful canyon that flowed aesthetically from the park(the trees and meadow of which remind me of a cove in Central Park); from there the dug-out canyon cut through the flower beds. Huge slabs of rocks were placed between the flower beds. The first of the five bridges was built right after the flower beds. Then came the mini-golf place and the terrace café of the Fronmühle Restaurant. After this area, it gets busy: bon vivant, la dolce vita, ramba-zamba, the good life. There‘s a beer garden that has a fabulous view of the newly-built mill that scoops water up and down. On both sides of the Isenach, two levels of large slabs of stones were built, for sitting down, for sunbathing or for lazing around. Mothers sit with their babies on the stones while older children wade in the knee-high stream. The stream bed itself was inlaid with round pebbles. On some parts of the stream, it is all red pebbles; other parts are grey and still others are white which is my personal favorite.
The landscape artists‘ creativity were boundless. Imagine being given a free hand and generous finances to create a masterpiece. I would bounce up and down as well in sheer inspiration and absolute energy.
The Isenach was opened on April 20, 2013 when winter temperatures won once more over its mild sister named spring. It was cold, windy and rainy. Only resilient souls armed with umbrellas braved the weather and listened to the mayor‘s speech and witnessed the first drop of the Isenach. Hans and I parked ourselves at the Mercure Hotel where the Isenach would flow in front of the terrace. The terrace café was named River Side and I decided on that day that the café would become an extension of our living room. Hans, taking refuge from the cold, waited inside the hotel‘s restaurant while I coveted a terrace lounge chair and waited for the Isenach to flow. I ordered a dry rose wine, produced from the grapes that grow in Bad Dürkheim. Hans prefers his wine lieblich (sweet) so that‘s what I ordered for him plus Bratwurst (sausage) and Brötchen (kaiser roll). I had calamari. I would order the bruschetta for later.
In the meantime, the hotel staff started giving out blankets to us guests to keep the cold out. I got into an easy conversation with a couple huddled inside a Strandkorb. Beside me on the right were two women and a toddler. At the back, on the west side were hammocks and low lounge chairs. The River Side was filling up with guests, the mood was getting upbeat, the jazz singer/band were setting up but the Isenach was nowhere to be seen.
Just when I was about to leave my lounge chair and join Hans inside the warm restaurant, the head waiter received a phone call and announced that the Isenach is flowing and is headed downstream to pass by the River Side any minute now. Hans was at my side in a jiffy.
And then it was there…. first a trickle, like a summer rain drop on parched earth. Some of the kids jumped into the stream bed and welcomed the Isenach by wetting their feet. We clinked our glasses and proclaimed: We were there when the Isenach was brought up from its dark exile. It was a dateline.
A few days later, Hans and I went to see the Isenach again. This time we took the route where the landscaping ended, about one kilometer from our place. Between the stream‘s banks, huge square rocks were placed in regular intervals. The intent is interactive art, for guests to climb the rocks and balance their ways to the other side of the stream. When I have the right shoes on, I intend to cross those rocks.
Further on near the flea market place, an open arena was built with two levels of huge rocks. The lower level extended to a wooden terrace, looking like a spa. Three young girls were sprawled out, drinking lemonades, enjoying the pale sun. I wonder if sunbathing in bikinis would be tolerated here in summer? Not that I sunbathe nor wear bikinis, I just want to know how much freedom and tolerance would be socially acceptable without upsetting taxpayers‘ feelings. Democracy is a noisy matter.
Around the corner of the Salinen is the children‘s area, complete with playground equipment. The stream is at its shallowest in this part where toddlers and kids wade in the water under the watchful eyes of their parents. Again, when summer comes, can these kids bathe in the stream?
There is a hanging wooden bridge that I wanted to climb from the very beginning but it is always occupied by kids. Hans said that we should come here late at night so I could climb the bridge without competition. We also discovered that depending on how the stones and pebbles are placed, the Isenach either whispers, gurgles, or laughs. Or was that the laughter of happy guests minus the worries and cares along the Isenach?
It is early spring right now and the landscaped gardens are still seemingly spare except for the tulips, hyacinths, crocus, iris, snowdrops, anemones, coltsfoot and scilla. Come summer and autumn, when the flowering plants and trees are in full bloom, strong and intense, the park would be a kaleidoscope of colors and I intend to get high in its hues and perfumes. Come winter, it would quiet down and snow will even take over the park. But fresh snow is serene, pristine, innocent and pure. Its whiteness is like a blank screen before the poem, before the story, before the novel.
Art your life. Visit the Isenach.