The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Week That Was

Well, it has been a very busy week since Nikki and I returned from Paris last Sunday. That evening Bert, Nikki and I went with their friend, Nadja, to an outdoor beer garden to watch Germany play Turkey in the European semifinal soccer match. The restaurant had set up a big screen outside and the atmosphere was very festive. We ate, drank and cheered our team on to victory and a place in the final match. The walk home after the game was absolutely wild with excitement! People spilled into the streets to celebrate. Cars filled with exuberant fans waving flags and honking horns zoomed all through the town. It was a beautiful summer night and the celebrations lasted well into the wee hours of the morning.
The final Championship match was played last night between Germany and Spain. We watched the match with Nadja again, at the same biergarten. Alas, a victory for Germany was not in the cards. The final score was 1-0 in favor of Spain.

On Tuesday I went with Nikki to Heidelberg. She teaches classes in Business English at the Fachhochschule (a university of applied sciences) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Her time was committed from 9:30am until 2:30pm so I busied myself in the pedestrian shopping area with a bit of window shopping, a bite to eat and then a visit to the castle which is one of those must see venues to anyone playing tourist in this part of Germany. When I worked for the USO our tour to the Heidelberg Castle was one of our most popular. It's construction was begun in the early 13th century and it has a history of destruction and rebuilding over the next 500 years or so. The castle sits on a hill overlooking the town and it is a 262 ft. climb to get there. You can reach the castle by way of 3 different routes. You can walk a cobblestone path, climb the stairs or you can take the tram.
The castle hosts over 3,000,000 visitors a year, mostly from the U.S. and Japan and boasts the world's largest wine barrel. The barrel is over 27 ft long and 24 ft high and has a capacity of 55,345 gallons of wine! I took a one hour guided tour of the castle and then poked around a while on my own afterward until it was time to meet up with Nikki back down in the center of town. We chose one of the many outdoor cafes and enjoyed a late lunch before returning to Ludwigshafen on the train.

On Mondays and Wednesdays Nikki teaches English (at various levels) to employees of the chemical company BASF, which has its world headquarters here in Ludwighafen. One of her classes is comprised of only 2 students who knew very little English when she began with them. Nikki normally meets with Swen and Wolfgang in one of the classrooms on the BASF campus (it's huge!) but since it's summertime and the weather is so beautiful she and they decided to meet outdoors for lunch this week. Their goal is to become proficient at conversational English so chatting over lunch becomes not only instructional but a practical experience. And by having me along it gave them both the opportunity to speak English with someone unknown to them as well as their instructor. Swen and Wolfgang are friends outside of work and like to travel. On their agenda in the next couple of years is a trip to Scotland for a week of hiking! We had a very enjoyable lunch and it was fun to watch Nikki teach under the guise of conversation.

On Thursday afternoon Bert took off from work a couple of hours early and he and I went bike riding along the Neckar river. We biked about 10 miles and stopped in a little town called Ladenburg. The town was on the other side of the river so we crossed with our bikes by ferry. The ferry was big enough to carry 2 or 3 cars plus a number of people. We left our bikes in the middle of the town and spent about an hour exploring the medieval town by foot. Though the evidence is not concrete, Ladenburg claims to be one of the oldest towns in Germany. It was lovely and we took some wonderful pictures. After a while we stopped at a little outdoor cafe for something to drink and to just sit and enjoy the early evening. We boarded the train, with our bikes, a little after 8pm. Nikki had just finished up with a meeting in Mannheim so she hopped on our train when we pulled into the station and the three of us finished the ride to Ludwighafen together.
After returning home Nikki and I decided to go for a walk. We walked over the the Park Insel (island) and spent about an hour just strolling around the perimeter (a couple of miles) and talking (of course!). When we left the Park Insel we wandered back across the bridge and settled ourselves at an outdoor table of yet another cafe for some coffee and tea. When our waitress heard my accent she asked if I was from America. She told us her boyfriend is an American soldier from North Carolina. He is stationed here but has been deployed to Iraq since September. We had quite a long conversation with her in a mixture of English and German. Most of my conversations with anyone but Nikki and Bert tend to be a mish mash of the two languages.

Nik has no teaching obligations on Fridays. She usually uses the day to prepare lessons for the following week but this Friday was consumed with packing in preparation for the big move to their new apartment the next day. Bert had already packed most of the living room so I tackled the kitchen while Nikki concentrated on the bedroom and bathroom. This small one bedroom apt was quite sufficient for Bert when he lived alone but since Nikki moved in a year ago it has just gotten more and more crowded. Time for a bigger apt!

We were up early on Saturday and ready to get started by the time about half dozen of their friends arrived to help with the move. Moving day is always a lot of work but when there is a group of people helping it can also be a lot of fun. I really like Nikki and Bert's friends. We all worked hard and the English and German just sort of floated around amidst the laughter. Around noon Nikki and Nadja and I walked to the grocery store from the new apt and picked up picnic food to feed the troops. We laid out quite a spread and everyone took a break for lunch. Then it was back to work! Once everything had been transported and everyone had been thoroughly thanked, hugged and plied with beer before they departed, it was time to put the furniture back together. Martin stayed behind to help Bert with the bedroom wardrobe. German bedrooms don't have built in closets. So the closet is a free standing piece of furniture. And this one is enormous! It covers one entire wall with doors and drawers and hanging spaces and a full length mirror.

This apt is wonderful. Much bigger than the one they just left. It's a split floor plan with the master bedroom and bathroom on one side, a large living room, kitchen and dining area in the middle and the second bedroom and bathroom on the other side. The floors are a very nice light hardwood and Nikki chose very pretty warm paint colors for the walls. Since Nikki does so much work at home preparing for classes she is just giddy about having her own office where she can retreat and spread out. She feels a little guilty about claiming the extra room for herself since Bert doesn't get an equal space but Bert is already calling it 'Nik's office' and insists that it be so. It will, of course, double as a guest room when family and friends visit but its purpose is to give Nikki somewhere to work other than a corner in their bedroom.
They are on the second floor of the building and the living room and both bedrooms all have double glass doors that open onto a balcony which runs the full width of the apartment. The whole place is filled with natural light and has a very open and airy feel to it. The view from the balcony is very pretty and quite peaceful. It's also going to be a great place to entertain! Nikki and Bert are very excited about their new home and it's really sweet to watch them as they settle in and plan what they will do in this room and what they will buy for that room. I help when I can but also try to just stay out of the way sometimes and let the two of them build their nest together. It's wonderful to see Nikki so happy.


Michael said...

Oooh! That sounds great! Nikki now has a place with hardwood floors when just last year she was wondering how to get her head above water. Way to go Nik!

And you've been a busy bee there Mom! The more I read the more I want to go visit. :-) Hopefully soon. I'm glad you and Nik are able to spend time together, and that you're able to get back to all your favorite haunts. Can't wait to see you next week! Luv ya!

Michael said...

Oh yes... "I have a better idea! I have a better idea!"