A Life Engaged

A Helpful Exchange in Lychen, Germany

We awoke and made our way to Lychen where we would be embarking on our first HelpX quest! Lychen is a town about 2 hours north of Berlin in the quiet countryside surrounded by forests and lakes.

Starving upon arrival in Fürstenberg, we grabbed a bratwurst at the train station before taking the bus to Lychen. Let me tell you, that thing was superb. Probably top 5 brats of our lives.
DanSausage

When we first arrived in Lychen we were a little nervous. This was our first help exchange and we had read just as many horror stories as triumphs. We arrived at our host’s farmhouse and sat down for a cup of coffee to get to know each other. While we were chatting, Olivia, another member of the house, came in and immediately asked us about what we are looking for in life. This led a very deep conversation about contributing to society and our jobs and lives back home. Our reflection period started sooner than we anticipated and it was a great question to start off the week.

Henning's Farmhouse

Henning’s Farmhouse

The house we were staying at was very large and separated into two halves. Henning, our host, lived in one half with his family and the other half was rented to an older couple that had been living there for 30 years. The large yard was intentionally left uncut with trails winding to the woodshed, chicken coup and sheep den. Rike, Henning’s partner, has a pottery studio in the detached garage in which she makes beautiful mugs, plates and candleholders. The property is a playground of DIY projects separated by tall waving grass. There is a peaceful rural feeling that encapsulates the property, lending to your imagination all the ways to occupy yourself.

Chickens

Free-range chickens always looking to say hello as you passed by

Our first picture of Lychen and Templin came with a ride around town. Henning graciously treated us to some of the best ice cream we’ve had yet (talk about a good way to win over your helpers!). We immediately fell in love with the area driving through the forests and lakes that surround the roads. We picked up Henning’s daughter, Freya, from kindergarten. Jessie and Freya had fun in the backseat catching newspaper as it flew in from the trunk from the wind outside.

That evening, everyone got together to make homemade veggie pizzas. Rike made us delicious strawberry milkshakes while we worked! Jess won best pizza crust award and took over for the sauce…channeling her inner Italian. Dinner turned out great! We had a nice long enjoyable dinner with great conversation. Afterwards, Olivia took us out back to show us the sheep and to play on the slack line a bit. We’re going to need some practice this week!

LychenPizza

Milkshakes made from strawberries picked from the garden and fresh herbs used for our pizza

Early in the week, Jessie took a liking to Freya and spent time watching her while Dan worked on various projects with Henning. This first project was constructing a climbing wall in a century old mill. The mill is a community project of this small town where individual citizens are taking responsibility of rehabbing different sections. A new café that was set into the back of the mill was opening the week we were there. Dan watched as Henning, a professional arborist and tree climber, scaled the 35-foot mill wall several times in preparation. After several hours, the wall was finally ready and we were able to get some of the first climbs.

Climbing holds to be attached to the wall

Climbing holds to be attached to the wall

Jessie helping to secure a few climbing holds

Jessie helping to secure a few climbing holds

Dan taking his first climb on the final project

Dan taking his first climb on the final project

The next day was meant to be a relaxed non-working day. Henning’s friend Julia was visiting from Berlin, so we offered to watch after their kiddos while they did some climbing on his new wall. It was weird pushing a stroller, but Jess loved watching Dan interact and play with Freya. That afternoon, we headed out on a 3-hour hike exploring the nearby forests and lakes while dreaming of future endeavors. We gathered around that evening to watch a super-cool slacklining video.

Showing Freya a swan in the lake

Showing Freya a swan in the lake

Hiking through the fields

Hiking through the fields

Unreal scenery deep in the forest

Unreal scenery deep in the forest

The next day, Dan helped Henning place some tiles and renovate the upstairs bathroom. It was extremely dusty which required the use of facemasks. (There’s something sexy about your man covered in dirt from a day of handy work) We stayed up late enjoying the friendly rivalry between our countries as we watched USA dominate Germany 2-0 in the FIFA semi-finals with a few beers in hand.

Most days, Jess made lunch for all of us with whatever was in the house. Each lunch was followed by coffee over leisurely and sometimes pensive conversation. The atmosphere and timelines were very relaxed, yet we still had the pleasure of being challenged both intellectually and physically. The idea of needing a large city to feed our interests was slowly fading away.

We finished a few odds and ends projects around the house and found ourselves genuinely wanting to help improve the lovely old farmhouse. Towards the end of the week, perhaps fueled by a lack of our hard skills, Henning was determined to teach us new hobbies. The household chores took a back seat to long conversations, slacklining, stargazing, paddleboarding, kayak rolling, etc.

Checking out Venus & Jupiter

Checking out Venus & Jupiter

Henning and Rike killing it on the slackline

Henning and Rike killing it on the slackline

Jess trying her hand at kayak rolling

Jess trying her hand at kayak rolling

Finally, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends for our next adventure. The beer gardens and bratwurst of Bavaria were calling.