The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Family Time Part I

The past couple of weeks have been busy, busy, busy! Michael was here from the 4th to the 13th . Shauna arrived two days after Michael got here and Steve flew in from Africa on the 10th (He just spent two months working on a linguistics project in Mali!).

Nikki put a lot of time and effort into creating and coordinating our group itinerary for the duration of Michael's visit (It was his first trip back to Germany since we left in '93). We took him to Neustadt the day he arrived. It's such a pretty little town and it made for an enjoyable but relaxing afternoon. It was really fun to watch Michael's excitement at being here and taking pictures of him with all the unique Neustadt-y stuff. We met Nik's friends, Linda and Clemens, for dinner that evening (Schnitzel und Pommes, naturlich!). We decided it was time to go home when poor Michael threatened to fall asleep in his beer. The next day the three of us made what we have affectionately dubbed 'the pilgrimage'. It's the trip back to Ramstein-Miesenbach and Kaiserslautern that we have each made as part of our first trip back to Germany. The twins did it when Nikki first moved back here in Sept. of '06 and I did it when I visited Nik in the summer of '07. So this time it was Michael's turn. It really is strange, the first time going back there, really like bringing a memory back to life. Some things have changed but some things are exactly the same as they were when we first moved to Miesenbach over 20 years ago.We even ran into Karin Nasshan while we were visiting Waldstrasse 3b and 3c! Her parents owned 3b when we lived there. Dave and Nena lived below us and Karin lived above us. She owns the house now and lives there with her husband and daughter.

Shauna arrived on Saturday and that evening the four of us had dinner at my apt. I had asked her to bring me a bottle of good tequila when she came (the tequila here is just crap) never dreaming that she would bring Herradura! But she did! If you're a tequila lover (as I am) and have never had Herradura then you are missing out on something wonderful. After dinner we met up with Linda and Clemens again; this time at Murphy's Law, an Irish pub here in Mannheim. They both know Nikki as 'just Nikki' and I know they were looking forward to meeting her identical twin, whom they had heard so much about. It's always a fun time at Murphy's but after a few beers it was time to bring Michael and Shauna home and put their poor little jet lagged selves to bed. I slept well that night with all three of my kids here. The girls in the extra bedroom and Michael on the couch in the living room. The next morning we had a big breakfast, yak, yak, yakked, played on the computer, listened to music and just generally bumped around in our jammies until mid afternoon when we all migrated over to Nikki's place.
That evening found the four of us sitting at Hemmingway's, a bar in Ludwigshafen, engrossed in conversation about Watergate and American presidential politics.

On Monday we employed trains, busses and our own 8 feet to get us to the very impressive Burg Berwartstein where we toured the castle, ate at the cafe, and picked up a few postcards before deciding to go to France for dinner....since we were so close. Shauna, still being so jet lagged, was lulled into peaceful slumber for most of the bus ride and missed the beautiful scenery along the way. After about an hour we arrived in Wissembourg. We poked around for a while and then settled ourselves at an outdoor cafe that one of Nikki's students happened to have previously recommended to her. Michael took the opportunity to venture into the rubbery world of escargo while the girls and I opted for wine, Irish coffee and cake. After that it was a lovely walk back through the town to the train station where we boarded our train for home.

Tuesday morning found us back on the Deutsche Bahn. This time headed north. First stop...Koeln (Cologne) to show Michael the Koelner Dom, one of the most impressive cathedrals in Germany. I used to take tour groups there on a fairly regular basis back in my USO days so I was excited to go back, this time with my kids. We took the guided tour in English and I tried not to roll my eyes when the guide began telling us about the magnificently adorned chest at the high alter which contained the bones of the Three Wise Men.....yes, THOSE three wise men! It seems like every important cathedral in Europe somehow manages to have some biblical relic or another. The cathedral in Trier claims to have the Holy Robe of Christ (the garment worn during the crucifixtion).

All of that aside, though, visiting the beautiful churches of Europe is one of my favorite things to do. I stand in awe of the vision of those long ago architects, stonemasons, and carpenters who gave decades and sometimes their entire lives to the building of these churches. The evidence of their dedication is in the beauty and grandeur of their craftsmanship. To wander through these magnificent structures that have endured through centuries of time is like reaching back and touching history, touching the lives of those ordinary people who knowingly or unknowingly gave us gifts beyond measure. To me the treasure is not in what these churches purportedly hold within their walls. The treasure is in the stories and the history of the people who built them.

From Koeln we headed to Bonn and the birthplace of Beethoven. I'm not really a fan of any kind of classical music but the kids were all exposed to Beethoven at a very young age and the love of his music is a gift from their father. The house where Ludwig was born is now a museum and holds an extensive and impressive array of Beethoven memorabilia and historical documents. I found it all very interesting but no more so than any other 'birth-house turned museum'. It wasn't the emotional experience for me that it was for the kids. I wish I could have exchanged myself for Wade for those few hours. It really should have been him going from room to room and display case to display case with them, listening to bits of music, seeing the pianos, reading the letters. I've enjoyed lots of wonderful travel experiences with my kids but this one rightfully belonged to their father. It would have made it so much more special to share it with Dad.

One of the things that we wanted to do while Michael was here was to take an afternoon cruise up the Rhine River but we just couldn't fit it in. So we were pleasantly surprised when the train ride home from Bonn followed right along the river for a good bit of time which included the route we would have taken had we been on a boat. So Michael still got to see the Lorelei Rock, the vineyards and all the cool castles along the river, albeit in a rather sped up fashion. And, as expected, he let out a loud guffaw as we passed the river town of Assmanshausen.

We got home pretty late that night and I was happy to kiss my kids goodnight as I got off the train in Mannheim and they continued on across the river to Ludwigshafen. We were all looking forward to Steve's arrival the next day coupled with the fact that Bert was going to be able to take a few days off from work as well. We had lots more fun stuff planned. To be continued......

1 comment:

Sarah said...

This sounds so wonderful -- enjoy!!