Continuing the new series of travel memories by my better half.
A small Medieval town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber was a stop on our first trip to Germany. Strolling along the cobblestone streets, you almost expect to see the characters from the old fairy tales come alive and join you. The town is full of charm with its half-timbered houses and artisan shops, intact city walls and towers, small gardens, and picturesque squares. According to the guidebooks, it is also one of the best shopping towns in all of Germany. I totally agree with that designation, as this was the place where I was first introduced to the beautiful, incredible, and eye-catching jewelry world of the Viennese designer Frey Wille.
Our hotel in Rothenburg was located a few steps away from the main shopping area, and we could not avoid browsing and stepping inside many of the quirky little shops and boutiques. I am one of those people who happily explores these types of attractions with nearly the same enthusiasm as museums or churches. Guilty as charged!
I spotted my Frei Wille ring almost by accident while looking for souvenirs for my then young daughters. I was eager to bring home something authentic, something interesting, and of course kid-appropriate. I looked through the books in neat stacks, silk headbands in a variety of gray and blue hues (I truly do not know why those were the only colors offered), and cute stationery. I finally found the most adorable doll for my youngest, and a writing journal for the elder one. My dear husband was certainly ready to leave the store and move on with our plans for the day.
We almost exited, when I glanced at a locked glass display with pieces of jewelry, and my eyes stopped on an unusual ring. It had colorful geometric patterns artfully mixed on ¼ of an inch gold application enamel. The ring looked as though it belonged in a museum, something from a different era representing the elegance and luxury of the past. I was immediately drawn to it, but at that point, it did not feel that we had time for another purchase, so we left the store.
During the dinner later that night, I casually mentioned that I would not mind going back to that store to try that ring to see how it would feel and look on my hand. I probably had that expression on my face that clearly said, CAN WE PLEASE GO AND SEE IT? Obviously, my understanding husband could not refuse. So, that is exactly what we did the next morning as soon as the store opened its doors. I can honestly say that I really just wanted to see the ring up close without any clear intention to buy. But – once I put it on I did not want to part with it. Little that I knew back then that it would soon become my “fancy” ring, and my “special occasion” ring, and my “feel good” ring.
Not only that, but Frey Wille became something of an institution for me. Nowadays, if I know that there is a boutique in the area that I am visiting, I most certainly put it on my itinerary. A few years ago, for instance, having only 40 minutes of a flight stopover in Vienna, I skillfully navigated the airport terminal to locate the Frey Wille shop. The salesman was rather in shock, surprised that I walked in, selected what I wanted, tried it on, made a decision, and paid in the space of just a few minutes. Of course, I knew exactly what I was looking for: a ring that I could also wear as a necklace. Plus, I happened to see that exact design the summer before in Italy, and the idea was firmly planted in my head. So, no guesswork – it was a strategically calculated purchase! I remember my husband telling me after the trip: “I knew you landed in Vienna on schedule since I saw the charges hit the credit card right about the arrival time.” Needless to say, I made my connecting flight with time to spare so that I could enjoy an espresso.
There are now a few other pieces from the Austrian designer that found their home in my jewelry box, each with their own tale. I may retell them later.
While these days it is very easy and even more practical to order pretty much anything online, for me, as a sentimental soul, bringing something special from a trip makes for a very enjoyable memento. Those items recreate the atmosphere of an enchanting Medieval town, or the astonished expression of a shop clerk, or the aroma of a coffee bar, anytime I wish to.