SHOW ON MAP
THE ADAPTABLE PROPRIETOR
Dolores Dirschauer's phone is ringing - in fact, it’s always ringing. One of her two sons is on the line because he needs the car to drive a neighbor to the dentist. People know each other and help each other out in the 450-strong district of Sonneberg. "That works for me," the operator of the inn ‘Am Rennsteig’ says half into one receiver, half into the other. "I've ordered bratwursts from the neighboring village, so he can pick them up at the same time. Then I save the half hour for other things." For Dirschauer, who is now 50 and the 5th generation of the family to run the inn and attached guest house, everything revolves around time management. "After all, I can't tell the guests when to come and go," Dirschauer says of her daily life in Spechtsbrunn, one of the oldest villages in the Rennsteig region - and quite a remote one. It wasn't always like that, as Dirschhauer, who was born and raised here, knows from her own experience. In GDR times, there were still all the local stores around, she recalls, but since then everything has gradually closed down. "A baker comes several times a week by car, but of course I have to plan quite differently. I am alone and therefore I organize everything in advance. You need a lot of time and nothing works without a car."
Later I thought, I didn’t even take a photo of all the border fences.
It was anything but planned that she would one day take over the house on the former Heer- und Handelsstraße, where there used to be a butcher's shop in addition to the restaurant. "No, I'm a real career changer," Dirschauer says with a laugh, recounting her former professional life as a branch manager at a bank and then at the currency union. She recounted turning points in her personal life too, including pregnancies and the fall of the Berlin Wall. "Later I thought, I didn't even take a photo of all the border fences," she reports. She was 20 years old at the time that the wall fell. "First we weren't allowed to take pictures, and then everything happened way too fast. Suddenly, huge numbers of people came from the old federal states, you could barely catch your breath." To that end, Dirschauer continues, you have to know that she doesn't deal well with large crowds. "I always need people to come up to me, at least that's what I thought before I took over the restaurant. I always preferred to be in the kitchen or the office, and suddenly I was hosting. Of course, I had some reservations about that."
But sometimes you learn more about yourself when you take a path you didn’t foresee.
Looking back, she says she has no regrets. To the contrary, the change in perspective has opened her up in many ways and made her reflect on her own insecurities. "Of course, I initially felt the decision was a step down. If you don't become anything, you become a host, you know what I mean?" she asks with a smile, in the middle of her 16-hour work day. "After all, people are entering a new and unfamiliar place which can sometimes make them feel uneasy. When I realized that, I thought, you have to make them feel as comfortable and cozy as possible here." "After all, I'm the lady of the house, why should I be shy?” Dirschauer says confidently. And the greatest thing is, there’s always some quick feedback, either in the form of a conversation or in the guest book." And then, there are the fall and winter months, when hardly any hikers pass through the place. "During this time, even more self-discipline is actually required," Dirschauer explains, "Because the daily structure is not set. Then I sing in the pop choir, go to the theater or concerts sometimes, am in nature a lot and travel from time to time. And best of all, in the winter, the locals in the village come in for family celebrations." Still, she says, she has to work extra hard in high seasonal months so that money doesn't run out in the end. "I know in this day and age, it's not the way to get rich. But sometimes you learn more about yourself when you take a path you didn't foresee."