1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I need (more) help on German farmhouses and hiking trails

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Catrin Lewis, Nov 28, 2019.

    Or farmhouses in der Schwarzwald (the Black Forest region), more specifically. If you're German or if you're familiar with the area, I need to hear from you.

    So. Let's say you're hiking in the Black Forest in late April/early May. As you come out of the trees you see below you, spread out on the mountainside, an ancient farmstead in reasonable repair, with its house, outbuildings, and all. No people are visible. What would you look for to decide if the place is occupied or not?

    Cars and animals, yes, but anything else? Would the inhabitants be running the stove(s) at that time of year (I'm making it a chilly spring in my novel)? Would it make any difference if the year is 1983?

    Next question: How do the hiking trails in Germany interface with private property? When I lived in Great Britain I got familiar with the ancient rights-of-way that ran along the perimeters of the farmers' fields. I learned to close gates behind me and hop over stiles. But does Germany have anything similar? Or, at least, anything an inexperienced foreigner would think was similar?

    Thanks for any help you can give. A major plot point is riding on the answer to these questions.
     
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  2. booksofkae

    booksofkae Member

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    I don't know much about what you're asking for, but I do know that British footpath system is distinctly British. The idea of crossing private property doesn't really appear in other countries as it does in the UK. Although hiking in Germany is big, and there are a ton of trails, they are not quite the 'through someone's garden' type, or wandering through a bunch of barns.

    I always hate the ones that go right next to people's houses and then there's the awkward 'good morning' as I feel like a trespasser.
     
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  3. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    Have you considered looking for travel blogs of individuals who have traveled to the black forest? I think that would be more productive then you asking a narrow audience here.
     
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  4. Martin Beerbom

    Martin Beerbom Senior Member

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    German here. Though I live a lot further north than the Schwarzwald – only was vacationing there as a kid.

    For the second part: There are no stiles, and gates are rare. There are few gates that are unlocked, then you are expected to open and close them again. Locked gates indicate serious private property, i.e. something the owner considers home area. Don't cross (yes, there have been sometimes neighborhood fights about such things, but far fewer than in the UK. Napoleonic written law as opposed to common law has something to do with it). The problem is avoided by having the trail go around the fields and pastures, in particular if it's a properly designated, mapped and registered long distance trail; woods and forests are expected to be publicly accessible, even if owned privately (most are).

    For the first, don't really know how to answer. Depends if you want to find the people living there and let them know you're there or not, I guess. Yes, looking for smoke at that time of year. There are lots of stoves still in use, and also wood fired central heating systems (the latter being supplied by sustainedly grown wood, as a more eco-friendly alternative to oil or coal). If you want to find the people, walk onto the place, call out, knock on doors. Peeping into windows is considered rude (except if it's in or near the main door); also entering buildings through closed (unlocked) doors, though permissible (if you have a valid reason) if it's obviously a barn or stable.
     
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  5. LazyBear

    LazyBear Senior Member

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    If there's a biergarten nearby, look there first. Old men gather to drink large beers outside in Germany.
     
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  6. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    I'd assume it was occupied because it was in repair, which means that someone takes care of the place and this is a fulltime job. Most likely a family, and even if a part of the family is away (church on Sunday, shopping, helping neighbours), it's pretty rare that everyone is gone.

    If smoke is visible, sure but I wouldn't depend on it. Or steaming dung. Or the sound of a generator. Or running water from the well. Or a chainsaw running (farmwork in progress). All of these might indicate that someone is just around the corner.
    As recently as three years gone I've visited the region for work and drove around some homesteads. Farmwork didn't change from what I remember as a kid.

    We have the right of way and trails are sometimes marked but often not in the lowlands. I am always wary if I encounter a gate, locked or not. Sometimes it indicates that the owner doesn't want people to enter, but often they put a sign up if that is the case. Trespassing property on open trails is pretty usual and I always greet the people should I encounter them. I might also play with the cats around ;)
     
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  7. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think maybe I was misleading with "reasonable repair." I meant no gaping holes in the walls or roof and the balconies on the front haven't fallen down into the valley.

    To be clear about this particular farmstead, as far as the neighbors are concerned (and the neighbors live at a good distance), the place is unoccupied. The owner lives (or did live) up in Bremen, and hasn't visited the property in quite awhile. The people squatting there now (my terrorist cell) are trying to minimize signs of occupancy.

    Now, the running water from the well might be something. They might choose to go Spartan and not run the stoves. Or they could steal electricity off the grid and use space heaters. But they have to have water.

    A lot of people where I live have well water. I'll have to ask how it sounds from the outside when a tap is turned on in the house.
     
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  8. guy9859

    guy9859 New Member

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    I suggest getting a good travel guide book with photos.
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think that's a great suggestion ...for somebody starting out and thinking about the setting of their story. But @Catrin Lewis is way beyond that point. She now needs the intimate details that only people who know and/or live there will be able to tell her.

    I know from my own research experience (including traveling to the location I'm writing about) that travel guides are good basic starters, but an accurate writer needs a LOT more. :)
     
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  10. NobodySpecial

    NobodySpecial Contributor Contributor

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    I know if I came upon a seemingly vacant farmstead on the edge of a wooded area I'd skip visiting and forget I ever saw it. But I've also seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre about 200 times.
     
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