Hello from America. We’ve had eleven days to re-adjust, re-decorate and re-dedicate ourselves to our old lives.
On the flight home we shared our row with a friar or monk (whatever you call the dudes in the long brown robes with rope belts) a talker, originally from South Jersey. He’s stationed in Jericho now and was coming home for a holiday at the shore. I caught up on a few movies that I hadn’t seen while we were in Germany on the plane. When we landed in Philadelphia, a half hour late, we were told that the computers in customs were down. Two hours later we happily greeted Andreas’ sister who patiently waited three hours to pick us up.
My in-laws watched our house for us using our place as a base while they build a new home. So, not only was the house clean and ready to live in when we arrived, but we had groceries and good company.
The first things we noticed in Delaware were the sounds of insects at night and the blood thirsty mosquitoes. Even though it’s hot we open the windows to hear the insects through the night and the birds in the morning. In Bremerhaven we heard drunks, sirens and seagulls. I’ll miss the seagulls.
During our first couple of days back we manically cleaned, re-organized and unpacked. Andreas spent three days in the garden untangling and cutting back a years’ worth of overgrowth.
He also spent some time editing and cleaning his office at work which hasn’t changed much in twenty years. Even though we felt tired and jet lagged, the excitement of being back and the desire to do the things we dreamed about in Germany overcame it.
My car wasn’t running well after sitting for a year, so I had it towed to the mechanics. Even though I’m home I haven’t had a car to run errands. That’s frustrating, but I think it helped me to stay focused on submitting a grant proposal before it’s deadline, and to unpack the studio prepare it for commissions and classes.
We had our kitchen remodeled when we were overseas. It turned out great and it’s been fun to unpack and thin out our combined kitchen utensils and gadgets. It’s so much brighter than the old kitchen!
Oh, and I turned 50 a few days ago and had an awesome dinner out with a few friends. It was wonderful to understand the conversations at the table, to understand the waitress and to be able to read everything on the menu. Also, super great to see my friends. I kept staring at my friend Sherri. I couldn’t believe she was actually sitting there in person, not just a video on the phone!
I miss our apartment in Germany a little bit because it became so familiar. All in all, though I am very happy to be HOME!
Never have I ever consumed so much Pilsner and Riesling. Not in copious amounts, it’s the only type of beer and wine Andreas likes to buy here.
Never have I ever had this much time to focus on my artwork. I’ve had a few months here and there in my life when I’ve attended workshops or been between jobs, but never a whole year to slow down and focus.
Never have I ever exhibited my paintings abroad! Wow, that was cool.
Never have I ever eaten gooseberry (Stachelbeere) or rhubarb (Rhabarber) pancakes.
Never have I ever traveled by train so much or been without a car for so long.
Never have I ever had a “destination wedding” back to my house.
Never have I ever spent hours in an immigration visa office. Thank God Andreas can speak German. I feel really bad for all of the others there who didn’t have a native speaker with them.
All in all, a wonderful experience. I accomplished most of the goals I set for myself and I think Andreas did too. We’re looking forward to visiting again soon.
Andreas and I were not back in Bremerhaven more than a couple of hours from our last trip when we realized this week’s early July weather was going to be very cool. We decided to take advantage and travel again before the next heat wave. We set out to my favorite city Lübeck to say goodbye to Andreas’ parents and Aunt; our third trip to Lübeck this year. (Last summer 2018) (Christmas 2018)
In two days, we visited all of the familiar places. We stayed at our usual Airbnb in the tiny passage or Gang. (I looked up these passages and learned that two scenes from Nosferatu were filmed in Lübeck), we ate at our favorite restaurants and walked around the beautiful, old city. Since we’ve recently become step-grandparents toy stores are newly interesting and as always, time and money were spent in bookstores.
Thankfully, Andreas’ parents, Aunt Annemarie and his mother’s friend from school, Sieglinde were able to join us for dinner with just a few days’ notice. It’s always fun to walk around the city with them because they have so many memories of being young there.
Our new find was the Europäisches Hansemuseum. The museum site was originally a castle built in 1100, which turned into a Friary, which turned into an almshouse, which turned into a law court and prison which became the museum. Thus.. a really cool collection of buildings with remnants of all of these periods can be viewed.
Just a couple of weeks are left in Andreas’ sabbatical, I hope this cool spell lasts and we can travel a little more.
Diez metamorphosed from a blah German caterpillar in the winter to a shining, sunny butterfly in summer. We’ve traveled there twice in the winter months, once in 2017 at Christmas and recently 2019 in February. We had a fun time with Andreas’ brother and sister-in-law, but the town itself was quiet. Come summertime it now lights up with al fresco eating and drinking, food trucks, a water feature following the street that I earlier mistook as a giant gutter, flowers everywhere and general feeling of gregariousness. Tourists are seen trying to drive the wrong way on tiny streets, and long-distance hikers and bicyclists pass through.
Burkhard and Carina picked us up from the train station and took us to a hidden beer garden in Diez where friends were holding a table for us. Our waiter, strangely enough, was from Germantown, Pennsylvania (the dodgy end) and was happy to speak English. I ordered my new favorite German restaurant food, Kartoffelpuffer mit lachs.
After dinner and drinks, we returned quickly to their home to transform ourselves into Aliens and then drove close to the Diez/ Limburg border for a punk rock, alien party complete with spaceship and burning alien on the fire pit.
The party was held at Kalkwerk which is a former lime/chalk? mine transformed into art studios, recording studios and band practice space, a concert venue with a stage and like Diez has metamorphosing capabilities. If this place had existed in my life as a young person I would have moved in and never left.
The next day found us busy preparing for a dinner with Burkhard and Carina’s friends. Carina and I did some shopping including a visit to the Turkish butcher while Andreas weeded part of the back yard and expressed for maybe the first time this year that he was homesick for his garden in Delaware. Burkhard readied the tables, chairs and grill. Carina made delicious salads that I’m hoping to get recipes for and Burkhard grilled lamb and chicken from the butchers. One of the best dinners I’ve had in Germany. Also, great company.
On Sunday Andreas was interested in a long hike in the Jammertal Valley (valley of misery) along the Lahn River.
The rest of us not so much. Burkhard and I walked with him for a while and then turned back and drove around the surrounding villages. We also visited the Schaumburg Castle that was closed for the day.
The castle site (not in the castle) is also where Mother Meera lives. “Mother Meera is the embodiment of the Divine Feminine, the Divine Mother on earth.”-from her website. Many people have visited her including a few of the Beatles. I hope to visit one day as well.
From the castle we returned to Diez for some ice cream and then back to Burkard’s home where Carina made me the Queen’s drink which was fancy and delicious and we waited for Andreas to return on the train.
He arrived an hour or so later after hiking nine miles through the woods happy and tired with blisters on his feet, (yes, he walked in his Birkenstocks) and wine and liverwurst in his belly.
We had a dinner of leftovers with the neighbor’s little boy who invited himself over, and later drinks with the neighbors who popped through the garden hedge.
When on earlier visits I had the Specials song Ghost Town in my head walking around town I now saw Diez with new eyes as a fun, vibrant neighborhood. Amazing what a little sun and warm weather can do.
A blind date over coffee in Newark, Delaware leads to birthday cake in Lübeck Germany 363 days later.
Lübeck is a pretty great place for birthday cake (and dates), let me tell you. I love the town. It’s on an island so I can’t get lost, the architecture is so different and full of history, the people are friendly and I feel very comfortable there.
We left on a Sunday morning and took trains to Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck and then chose to go a little farther to visit Andreas’ parents in Neustadt. After coffee with Christa and Lothar we returned to Lübeck in time to check into our Airbnb and then found Purgatory (Fegefeuer) Lane which led us to the Dom for a pipe organ concert that Andreas was curious about.
Caught editing photos in the Dom waiting for the organ concert. photo by Andreas MuenchowThe Dom
Our Airbnb was created in an old brewery built in 1290. The “room” we rented turned out to be a small apartment with a little kitchen. Along with our personal space there was a large indoor living room open to all guests and an outdoor garden. Our place was only as wide as our arm span with every convenience and was very clean and comfortable. The only thing missing from this American’s stay was a fan or air-conditioning. A luxury around here saved for grocery stores.
This is our Airbnb. Our room was the open window on the first floor.photo by Andreas MuenchowAndreas climbing the ladder to the tiny sleeping loft.
Northern Germany has been experiencing a heat wave this past week or so. Temperatures have been unusually high in the 90’s and there is no cooling in the houses, shops or restaurants. In Lübeck everyone was outside hoping to catch a breeze of any kind to cool down. Restaurants and cafés had their tables on the sidewalks and streets and people were out very late enjoying the slight drop in temperature after the sun went down.
Newer stained glass in the Dom. The original was lost during WWII.Our street.
My birthday was Monday and Andreas and I had a fun day revolving around food and family. We went out for a light breakfast then later met his parents and his mother’s middle school friend for coffee and cake mid-afternoon. After coffee we all had a nice walk through the city where the older folks, who are all locals, remembered bits of their shared youth 70 years ago walking past different buildings and streets. We gave the grand, short tour of our tiny digs and had drinks in the garden, then Andreas took us to a wonderful restaurant for a fancy birthday dinner. I couldn’t have wished for a better birthday. Actually, that’s not true, it would have been awesome if it was 20 degrees cooler. Ha-ha
Christa and Sieglinde enjoying the garden.
The next day Andreas and I explored Lübeck some more. There is always something new to find there. Mid-day, after just 13 or 14,000 steps the heat started to get to us and we joined the kids in the public fountain to cool off. Unlike the kids, we kept our clothes on.
Yesterday we celebrated the anniversary of our serendipitous meeting with dinner on a tall ship dating from 1919 in Bremerhaven’s old harbor. Here’s to many more steps and cups of coffee together.