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  • Writer's pictureArlette Ferber

A royal lunch

Thursday, 8.00 in the morning. On my way to my doctor in Frankenberg.

I always enjoy this ride. As far as you can see there are rolling hills, forests and meadows. The landscape is beautiful in every season. As always, my mind wanders to Charlemagne, who, according to a local legend, was born here in the region. What would everything have looked like then? I suspect dense forests where dark creatures used to ambush travelers and rob them of their possessions. Houses and farms are still sparsely scattered in the landscape. It is also possible that these villages and hamlets did not exist then.

The most beautiful part of the route starts now. On both sides of the road there are thick trees very close to each other. Their crowns reach together and light plays through them while the sunlight shining through the trunks has an almost hypnotic effect. At the end of this green tunnel comes a bend and it gets lighter again.

But not now! It is darker and pine trees are close together. Suddenly I notice that I am no longer in the car, my dog ​​was sleeping in the back seat and is now next to me. Slightly confused I look down. In front of me a dirt road meanders further into the forest. There are traces of cart wheels and hooves. My bare feet are dirty. I'm wearing a rough skirt with a grubby apron and my blouse is a different material. I touch my head and my brown hair falls loosely over my shoulders. In a way, that's vaguely reassuring. I wonder aloud what to do now. I suppress the urge to sit against a tree and wait. Ultimately, that doesn't seem like a good strategy to me, because of course I'll never get out of this forest that way. I take the apple from the pocket of my apron and begin to eat thoughtfully. The dog walks relaxed next to me as if everything is most normal.

As I gnaw, I become vaguely aware of a sound in the distance. I stop and quickly swallow a piece of apple so I can concentrate better. It is still too far away and I stand indecisive. What am I going to do? Hide quickly? But I've waited too long, the sound of horses and rattling wheels is looming behind me. They have already noticed me and the carriage halts next to me.

The coachman gets off and rushes to the coach door. My heart beats in my throat as I watch the elegant muscular man step out carefully. He has medium length light brown hair, large dark eyes and a neat beard. Judging by his clothes, he is a rich man, perhaps even a nobleman. He also looks at me from top to toe, then decides to greet me by taking off his hat. To my surprise, my legs automatically bend at the knees. So apparently I know how it should be done. In something which I vaguely recognize as old German, he asks my name. Unfortunately he does not introduce himself. Curious, he inquires where I am going. Maybe it's not wise, but I admit I'm a little lost and don't know it myself. Amused, he looks around and says with a laugh that I will have time to have lunch with him. I wonder where he thinks to get that. But the coachman is already busy removing a large supply of well-packaged food from the box at the back of the coach. Then he also conjures up a richly decorated plaid. My surprise seems to be a bit funny, because the nobleman is chuckling.

I am invited to sit on the carpet. Actually, I'm a bit ashamed of my dirty feet and shabby outfit. He doesn't seem to care and as the food is unpacked he starts firing questions at me. Where do you live? How old are you? What does your father do? Do you work? Are you going to school? The latter is especially interesting apparently. I don't really know what to answer to all of this, because I live my life in a different time. To save time I say that I can read and write, which seems to me a reasonable explanation. He nods in agreement and is silent for a while.

Then he starts a detailed explanation full of details and anecdotes. He is totally emerged in his story and forgets to eat. Slowly it dawns on me who he is.

He enthusiastically tells that he made vast conquests that brought him into contact with the cultures and learnings of other countries, especially Moorish Spain, Anglo-Saxon England, and Lombard Italy, and greatly increased the founding of monastic schools and his vast conquests brought him into contact with the cultures and learnings of other countries, especially Moorish Spain, Anglo-Saxon England, and Italy.He was adamant in his belief that education was strengthening his rule. He loves education and spents much of his time studying. He wants all leaders in his empire to be able to read and write. He built schools and encouraged the church to take the lead in education. He finds my surprise so amusing and goes the extra mile by noting that we live in the 700s AD.

Of course I know he is Charlemagne! King of the Frankish Empire and later on crowned emperor. I wondered how I got here, but now I'm really baffled. I know he was born in this area and had one of his many castles here. Then why am I so surprised? I'm picnicking on a rug with a king! Because apparently I just have to listen, I have eaten extensively from all the goodies in front of me. After a little hesitation, I also drank from the cup of wine that was handed to me. Actually, I also wanted to tell him what my school life had been like. That I had learned Latin, heard about him in history classes, that I also spoke French, even if I hadn't learned it at court. That it was still very important to be curious and learn about the world around us. That there were still countries where children, especially girls, who had limited access to education. That it still mattered where your crib was. That there are more countries than in his era, but significantly fewer kings. But how could I explain all that to him? With all his knowledge, he probably couldn't comprehend that I had just popped up in the 700's. I didn't understand it myself.

It turned into a long lunch where I was secretly feeding my dog scraps of meat, there was more than enough and Charlie didn’t notice as he just kept talking. Finally the coachman came to clean up everything. We walked up and down the path. I wondered if that poor man had eaten something too. I also wondered what would happen next. When everything was cleared up, I was invited to ride to the next village and perhaps it would then become clear where I was. Hesitantly I accepted the invitation, there were not many other solutions. I was surprised that it was very noisy in the carriage and that we were shaken like a bunch of potato sacks. Not inviting, therefore, to continue his monologue.

I don't know exactly how long that journey lasted, it remained noisy and bumpy for a long time. When it was already dark for a long time, I finally awoke from the past. Charlemagne was gone. A man with round glasses and a goatee stood bent over me in his white coat. With obvious relief, he said he was glad I had regained consciousness and asked if I could remember anything about the accident. A motorist had raised the alarm when he found me unconscious in my car that was bent around a tree. He said the dog was desperately liking my face and apparently hoping to revive me. The man was so touched by it that he offered to take care of the dog while I was recovering. How sweet is that.

Gone was the coach and coachman and my Frankish king. Although everything in my head was still very hazy, I knew it was smarter to keep silent about my encounter.

Every time I drive by here, I greet him.

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