Diez, Eisenbach and a little Limburg on the side

Last week Andreas and I rode the trains to Diez, Germany to visit his brother Burkhard and our sister-in law Carina. Diez is a little town in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate about an hour north of Frankfurt. The town is in a beautiful valley along the Lahn river. A lot of the homes are on the hills surrounding the valley and the views are wonderful. Andreas’ brother lives in a house above the town and we stayed in a little hotel at the base of his hill. I think we were the only guests in the hotel, at least it felt that way. The hotel is one of the only affordable places to stay in town. Our room was small and the bathroom was at the foot of the bed with a see-through sliding door. We were happy to leave the room.

Each morning and night we walked up the stone stairs to the castle and then further up the hill to Burkhard and Carina’s. I wrote about the sad history of these stairs here. We spent most of our days in their apartment eating, talking and playing with their 8-month-old kittens. Their place was beautifully decorated for Christmas. I’m glad we were able to see them close to the holiday.

Burkhard restores old wooden windows for homes, castles and monasteries. One afternoon he showed us a few of his current projects. We drove across the valley to a new studio that he and his partner built in an old barn owned by a carpenter friend. The studio has an amazing view across the valley to the Lahn.

After that we went downtown to a house built over 300 years ago where he is restoring the windows. The current owners striped everything down to the original beams and walls. The original 17th century construction methods are fascinating to me. We were lucky enough to find the owner there working. She gave us a full tour explaining all her work and plans in German and, thankfully, English as well. On one adobe wall she had tubes of water placed to provide radiant heating. She invited us all for drinks next year to see the finished project. I am really looking forward to that.

Another day we drove into Limburg for Indian food: I was introduced to Pani Puri which is the weirdest, most amazing food thing I have tasted in a long time.

Pani Puri

This snack is one of the most common street foods on the Indian subcontinent. Ingredients include potato, onion, flour, chickpeas, mint, onion, coriander leaves, green chili, ginger, lemon, sugar, chaat masala powder, black salt, salt and cumin. Looking up the history, I found many different stories, recipes, and names such as Pani puri or fuchka fhuchka or gupchup or golgappa or pani ke patake. On days when I feel like there is nothing good in the world I want to remember that there are still experiences like eating Pani puri to be discovered.

Friday, we drove to visit Carina’s parents Marga and Bernd in Eisenbach. Marga always bakes amazing cakes and we sat together in the kitchen enjoying them with coffee. In Diez Burkhard had shared some baby photos of himself and Andreas so, I asked Carina if she had any to show. Her father brought her baby album to the table and we had fun looking through it. (She was a very cute baby.) He also showed us albums from the early sixties when he and Marga were traveling and partying with their friends. I love old photos. When we were leaving Bernd shared an apple that he harvested from his garden. We enjoyed the sour apple with slices of marzipan and chocolate in Diez. Marga passed us home-made red currant and elderberry blossom jam that we are now cherishing for breakfast and lunch here in Lübeck.

I have to say that a big part of our visit was the kittens. They are so cute and so bad. The black one is Herr Rossi and the silver, striped one is Cleo. Cleo is part Siamese and Maine Coon. It will be very interesting to see what she looks like in a few years. Someone is always yelling, “Herr Rossi, NEIN!” Ha ha, they are SO curious.

A few additions: We were happy to catch a painting show by Liv. Please follow her on Instagram. Her paintings are wonderful.

And this painting below was a surprise for Andreas to find in Burkhard and Carina’s living room. The painting always hung behind their grandparent’s sofa. No matter where they moved it was there. It was the only original artwork that Andreas remembers seeing during his childhood in a home.

The artist signature is Muller-Schlunz. Both “u” should have umlauts.

We are back in Lübeck now. The place with lots of fish food for my fishhead husband who is also a pain in the butt when it comes to editing these posts. (He wrote that, not me.)

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum, Andreas Muenchow and Carina Schmidt-Munchow

Lübeck and Neustadt Part 2

Happy New Year from Lübeck! Andreas and I returned to the city after our short stay in Magdeburg. We were able to book one of our favorite Airbnbs in the Stüwes Gang. The house is a historical landmark. I have written about this Airbnb and Lubeck before here, here and here. The house is very old has been renovated in creative ways showcasing much of the original architecture. It’s tiny, but very cool. We were able to get our favorite upstairs room and were happy to meet a friendly couple renting one of the rooms below us. Ciaran and Michele were traveling from Cologne where Ciaran, originally from Ireland, owns an Irish bar called Buskers. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak English with someone, especially someone with an Irish accent. He was also nice enough to leave me the book he was reading when he left.

We took it easy this week in the city. Andreas found the local library and we spent a few hours there following our interests and discovering new ideas.

We also revisited the Behnhaus Museum to see some local art, and for fun we made a point of trying new streets and different routes to and from the house.

While changing our route we also discovered some new artwork.

We have found a little bar that we are fond of called Kandinsky. If we happened to be in that part of the city in the afternoon, we would stop in for a glühwein. The bar is small, dark, mostly empty and a little smoky from the patrons and the candles. I like the atmosphere while Andreas likes the alcohol and local news papers and magazines. I think they are mostly known for their whiskey selection.

Andreas with his gluhwein and magazine.
My first view of Kandinsky through my rain covered, mask fogged glasses.

To celebrate on New Year’s Eve Andreas picked a fancy restaurant near us. The Schabbelhaus was originally a bakery, a museum and then hosted restaurants. It was destroyed in the war and rebuilt. His parents had celebrated the christening of his cousin Petra there in 1962. His mother remembers all of the details including the wine they bought and how much it cost. For dinner Andreas chose the full New Year’s Eve menu with four courses and dessert. I picked something smaller. The food, and ambience was perfect for the occasion. I wish we were able to dress a little nicer, but when you travel with only a backpack, extra fancy clothes are not an option.

At midnight we stood at the kitchen window in the Airbnb and watched the fireworks and drones in the sky while listening to the church bells ring.

Behold the worst photo I’ve ever taken of New Year’s Eve fireworks.

We began our new year with another visit to Andreas’ parents in Neustadt in Holstein. Christa prepared a lovely brunch for us. She also fixed the fraying straps of Andreas’ backpack while he and his father worked on Lothar’s old laptop. In the afternoon we met her younger brother Klaus and Andreas’ cousin Kirsten for coffee and cake. Andreas hadn’t seen them in 36 years. They are lovely people and I hope we are able to meet them again soon.

As I write this, we are in Diez (more about that soon) and we have learned that our flight home has been cancelled. We are working with Orbitz to figure something out and have been unable to reach our airline. We were scheduled to travel to Copenhagen next for Andreas’ work, but we have cancelled due to their crazy high Covid numbers. We will be traveling back to Lübeck to the apartment we stayed in at the beginning of our trip. We feel that it has the best work space for us and we do need to get back to work. Also, as far as Andreas can figure out with the numbers available to him, Covid cases are lower there than in the USA, Denmark and other areas in Germany.

All photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Hundertwasser in Magdeburg Germany

Two days after Christmas Andreas and I traveled to Magdeburg from Bad Wildungen. This involved a taxi, an hour long bus ride and three different trains. The temperature was 23F ( around -5C ) so, late trains at small stations without shelter were not appreciated. My little toes were very cold. Our first train was 25 minutes late which made us miss our second train. We, along with 20 passengers ran as fast as we could with heavy backpacks and bags to catch the second train only to see it pull out in front of us. It was a clumsy, comical sight that I wish I had videoed. Waiting for a new second train over a cup of train station coffee, we sat with a friendly cardiologist in a crowded, unheated café.

Magdeburg is located in the former East Germany or as our friend Siegfried corrected us, middle Germany. The city was destroyed twice. Once in 1631 and again in 1945. In 2005 it celebrated it’s 1200th anniversary and in 2013 it was flooded. So, why the hell would we want to visit there? Well, because my Christmas present from Andreas was ten minutes walking distance from the train station:

My favorite artist built a hotel here. “Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, (December 1928 – 19 February 2000) was an Austrian visual artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection. Hundertwasser stood out as an opponent of “a straight line” and any standardization, expressing this concept in the field of building design.” He’s a fascinating character and artist. If you are interested in knowing more about him read here.

Back in 2018 Andreas and I visited Hundertwasser’s museum in Vienna. Being inside one of his structures is an experience so different from seeing them on a computer or in a book. This hotel the Grüne Zitadelle has shops on the bottom floor with public courtyards, passageways and bathrooms. There were hotel rooms, apartments and offices above that. The building also hosts a kindergarten. There are meadow ramps up the building sides and green roofs and terraces.

Our room was small with a very high ceiling. All of the corners of the room and walls were curved. No plastic or tropical wood was used in creating the room. The bathroom was tiled in his style with primary colors. We had a very nice stay there. Every time we left the room, we discovered something new.

We stayed for two nights and had one day to explore the city. Unfortunately, we were there on a Monday and all of the museums were closed. It was very cold so we explored the area close to the hotel, returned to warm up and then ventured outside again. By chance we met the man in charge of the tourism bureau while he was throwing a ball for his dog. The dog was very pretty with a plaid bow tie. He had no interest in us. The nice man mentioned that he was an exchange student in Nevada while he was in high school so, his English was easy to understand.

The Archway to the right of the nice man and his dog in the photos above is significant because Martin Luther walked through it many days of his life.

The local Christmas market was still open and we were near a shopping district so we explored some book stores and a few churches. Magdeburg had many churches along the Elbe River. Most were bombed during World War 2 and several were razed by the communist regime took over the city. There are still a few left in various stages of ongoing restoration.

Luckily, we had some food with us in our room because on the evening of the second night when we were thinking about going out, we heard a lot of noise from the street. When we opened our window, we saw what turned out to be an illegal protest march of 5,000 people. They were protesting Covid related restrictions. There were also a lot of police men and women walking around and driving in vans. We ate our leftovers a few floors above them and watched the spectacle. None of the protesters were masked. Again, seeing something in real life as apposed to a screen is so different.

The next morning I said goodbye to my Christmas present experience and we took three trains back to Lübeck for New Years.

I love this photo. The marbles were so pretty.

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Christmas in Bad Wildungen 2021

Ok, first of all for the non-German readers, Bad Wildungen doesn’t mean that Wildungen is bad. Bad is the word for bath or spa, so this is a spa town. It was first mentioned near some hot springs around 800, its castle was built around 1200, they persecuted a bunch of witches between 1532 and the mid-1600s and received its recent name in 1906. At least according to Wikipedia.

Bad Wildungen from the Castle

We chose to travel there because Andreas’ parents were there for Christmas with a bus tour. I thought it would be nice to visit with them during the holiday. It was kind of a crazy idea made crazier by the topography and the temperatures. Okay, this might not have been my best idea. His parents were pretty booked with their tour. They made time for us both days to have coffee, but I feel a little bad that we pulled them away from their events. Our Airbnb was near the castle. If you know castles you know that they are likely built on the top of a hill. The town was at the bottom of said hill and Andreas’ parents were staying across town from there. One day Andreas logged over 16,000 steps on his phone.

We also chose our Airbnb because it was the cheapest one and the photos were nice. When we arrived, we found that it was built out of old stable in a barn. Kind of cool and Christmas story like. There were rabbits, cats, cows, chickens and a very shy, weird sheep. The owner had a dog, but sadly I didn’t get to meet it. There was a lovely garden outside our bedroom door. It was a sweet place, but very cold. It was in the 20’s F outside. The floor was so cold we kept pillows under our feet when we were sitting.

But then, Christmas morning SNOW! A white Christmas! It was awesome and beautiful. We slid down the hill by the castle through the woods. Andreas’ worn-out Birkenstocks had no tread on them. Yes, he wears sandals in the snow. We walked through the parks to his parent’s spa as the snow fell and then walked with them over slippery sidewalks and cobblestones to the old town for coffee and cake. I was worried about them falling, but they weren’t hearing my concerns, they were going out.

All in all, a beautiful few days in Bad Wildungen. We probably won’t be back there again, but if spas are your thing I recommend.

Covid Christmas eve church service in front of our Airbnb. The preacher is on the wagon behind the tractor with a Christmas tree.

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Lübeck and Neustadt in Holstein part one.

After much discussion and weighing Covid odds and restrictions, Andreas and I chose to travel. We wrapped up our Delaware commitments, packed our backpacks, masked up and flew out.

We arrived in Lübeck after a long, but fairly easy trip and went to our favorite pub for dinner. Andreas ordered “Sauerfleisch” (cold pork in sweet-sour jelly) that he can not find where we live. I ordered what I thought was a veggie burger that ended up being ewes’ cheese on bread. It was really nice to be back in Germany specifically in this town and at Christmas time.

We tried a new Airbnb on the other end of the island because our favorite was booked and this new one had a washer. It was a good choice.

In the kitchen at the first Airbnb.

The apartment had everything we needed including a fully stocked kitchen with teas, oil, sugar etc. left over from former tenants and or supplied by the owner. We found it really easy to cook a lot of our meals. Andreas was able to take advantage of the farmer’s market to stock up on his favorite fishes and cheese. Nice to feel like we were saving some money starting out.

Thankfully, we did not have any Christmas shopping to do and could spend our time walking around the city choosing less crowed coffee houses, shops and museums.

The Christmas markets were busy and you had to show an ID and vaccination status to be allowed in. The police were also monitoring the shoppers on the main streets to make sure everyone is masked. We feel that this is why the Covid cases are lower in this state than any other of the 15 states in Germany. Restaurants and shops are also checking vaccine status and identification before you can enter. It has not been an inconvenience but, the mask wearing outside is tedious for me, because my glasses fog up so much. Half the time I ca not see where I’m going and hold onto Andreas’ arm like a blind person while muttering, “Damnit, I can’t see shit.”

As soon as we settled into town, we took a day trip to visit Andreas’ parents in Neustadt. We had a nice coffee and dinner with them and invited them to Lübeck in the following days.

It is always fun to see Lübeck through Christa and Lothar’s eyes because they spent their formative years here. The stories are good and bad. Life was not easy here during and after WWII, but they still had some fun. We enjoyed one fancy dinner out at our favorite restaurant. Andreas ordered a mystery four course dinner that ended in a very cool dessert.

Andreas’ very cool dessert.

His parents were having so much fun in Lübeck that we found them an AirbBnB to stay the night and visit through the next day.

Two things have improved for me in regards to traveling over here. One, I have been walking a lot with my friends at home over the past two years and I am in much better shape to keep up with Andreas. Two, even though I am still terrible at it, I do understand more and can speak more German which makes life a little less frustrating.

Next stop: Bad Wildungen.

Quiet Quarantine Christmas

We’ve had a very quiet December. Thinking back over the month I feel sad about that. I miss Christmas parties and my friends, but it has also been a fairly stress-free holiday minus all of the usual obligations.

We celebrated our 2nd anniversary at home with take-out. We considered traveling to a bed and breakfast, but what’s the point, most things are closed and we don’t feel comfortable in the places that are opened.

Anniversary gift from Andreas, an Angelique Kidjo CD wrapped with the only blooming flower in the garden.
Cheers to two years!

Andreas’ class finished mid-month and my private art classes on the deck outside haven’t been meeting as often because of the weather.

Student finishing a watercolor painting on a sunny morning.
Self portrait. I’ll teach that again when we can stop wearing masks.

Andreas has been chopping up our wood piles and we’ve been enjoying fires on colder nights. We trash picked a nice wood rack from a neighbor so we can store some wood near the house to keep it dry.

Andreas keeping warm on a cold day.

He has also been trying more new recipes. This month he made a Christmas Stollen, granola and ham.

I was very happy that we had some snow and that it stayed on the ground for a few days. I hope we get a lot more this year. Snow makes everything prettier.

Catching snow flakes
The next day everything was covered in ice.
Bird seed eater.

My friend Sherri and I have been walking in the evenings taking turns between our neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights. That’s been really fun. Andreas hung lights on the deck and we have little candles in our windows.

Both Andreas and I took a day off on Christmas day. I caught up on the newspapers and he read a book. Andreas cooked a ham from our friend Trebs’ farm along with a lot of red cabbage.

Newspaper nest
Best seat in the house.

On Boxing Day, we hosted our Scottish friend Pablo and Andreas cooked Bubble and Squeak. I think it turned out really well. We felt uncomfortable distancing ourselves so far from Pablo and wearing masks when we weren’t eating. All worth it to enjoy good company and stay safe.

Pablo with his own dining table.

Thanks to everyone who sent cards and cookies! We are fat and happy and miss you all very much.

Family Zoom party

We wish you all a healthy, happy New Year!