My last blog ended with the cliff hanger, ”I hope my next blog will say I was worried about nothing and Lufthansa totally came through for us and that they flew us to Philadelphia.” Let’s continue from there, shall we?
After I wrote that blog post Andreas and I went out for a last dinner in Lübeck. We had a nice time even though we were anxious about traveling.
On the way back to our Airbnb we were passed on the street by a group of policemen in riot gear which is not a common sight. While we were commenting about that we heard chanting around the corner and found ourselves at the beginning of an anti-Covid restriction march. Andreas stayed to watch the march, I did not.
That night Andreas became very sick. We thought it was maybe food poisoning from dinner. He didn’t sleep all night and we needed to leave early the next morning for our trains to Copenhagen. He slept all day on the trains and was feeling terrible.
We arrived at the Copenhagen airport in the early evening and spoke in person with someone at the Lufthansa ticket counter. We discovered that no planes were flying from Frankfurt to the US on our day of departure, but we could go the day after. We said, we are here now, so what about tomorrow? We were able to do that, but it included a five-hour layover in Chicago to eventually arrive in Philadelphia.
It was good that we chose the next day, Wednesday, instead delaying until Friday because on Friday Philadelphia had a snowstorm. However, we didn’t think things through.
Our hotel was an hour from the airport, we needed another Covid test and our plane left at 6am the following morning. Also, Andreas was sick and feeling nauseous, weak and feverish. After finding and walking to and from our Covid test we were able to sleep around 9:30pm. We awoke at 3am to return by subway to the airport. Poor Andreas couldn’t eat and hadn’t eaten anything since our dinner the night before we left Lübeck. He slept every chance he had all the way home. Our travels from Lübeck to our home took 31 hours. Crazy, right? We were so happy and grateful to see our brother-in-law George when he picked us up in Philadelphia.
Our house has never been so appreciated. We also enjoyed the snowy weekend following to have an excuse to rest and recover.
We spent the beginning of February getting re-organized and back to work. I waited an extra two weeks before resuming my art classes because of the high Omicron numbers. It’s nice to have most of my students back now. I missed them.
I’m taking two classes this month. One is the continuing German class at the Saengerbund and the other is a photography class with my friend Ray. I want to learn how to use my digital camera. I’ve taken all of my photos over the last decade with my phone. That’s okay, but now I want to print and exhibit some of them and they can not print as large from the phone files. The Newark Arts Alliance has a show coming up featuring White Clay Creek State Park, so I have been shooting new photos there while enjoying the hikes and scenery. Ray is also showing me some editing tricks on the computer. It’s been an informative, fun class.
Before we traveled to Germany, I had begun a mural in our small bathroom of an arctic scene with icebergs. Now it is finished with the addition of Arctic animals.
I have also been creating new pieces for two Trashy Women shows. One for a Wine and Dine event in Maryland, and the other for a Gallery show that will open next month at the Oxford Arts Alliance in Oxford, PA. There was an extra challenge to incorporate donated musical instruments.
Now that people know we are home I am becoming booked again with commissions. I can’t wait to show you some of them soon.
As we excitedly wait for spring with its warm weather and flowers here, we are also saddened by the news from the Ukraine. Andreas has an acquaintance who is reporting from the front lines for the Washington Post (Whitney Shefte). He thinks much of her as a person who reports with integrity, empathy, and compassion. Andreas keeps up with the latest news reading the Washington Post, New York Times, Spiegel Online (German), and BBC while also watching news shows on the German Public TV channel ARD. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people. We hope for peace.
All photos and artwork, except for Bobby Hanson’s Duchamp sculpture (I just painted it), by Dragonfly Leathrum
We are supposed to be in Copenhagen right now. Thanks to Lufthansa’s greed or mismanagement or Covid or who knows what, those plans were changed. Lufthansa has cancelled our flight home twice. Andreas has spent hours and days on the phone with his booking agent Orbitz. Each time he is directed to a new person in India who can’t do anything to help him. I think they’ve tried. One got as far as sending and receiving emails from Lufthansa only to conclude that he couldn’t help us. Trying to contact Lufthansa in any way has proven futile.
We knew our original flight home was cancelled before we left the US. We figured we would be able to re-schedule it. We were hopeful about being able to do this until about three weeks ago.
Originally we were supposed to spend our last three weeks in Copenhagen for Andreas’ work, but then Copenhagen’s Covid numbers sky rocketed. We thought okay, we don’t have a flight home let’s stay in Germany and travel near Frankfurt and fly out of there. We should be able to change our ticket since we were originally planning to change planes in Frankfurt. Nope, no can do.
So, we made our way back to Lübeck because it’s sort of between Copenhagen and Frankfurt, we’re comfortable here and we thought we would just be working anyway. We’ve camped out in the Airbnb we started our vacation with in mid-December. The only thing we can figure out to do about getting home is to show up in the Copenhagen airport when we were originally supposed to leave and see what they can do for us. That will happen in a couple of days.
Andreas and I have spent the last two weeks feeling stressed out, anxious and maybe a little depressed. I’m a nervous traveler during the best of times even when everything is running smoothly, so this situation is making me pretty upset. Neither one of us has been able to do much work and we’ve been getting on each other’s nerves a little bit.
One particularly cold day we left the island and walked to Andreas’ mother’s old neighborhood where she lived until she was a young teen. We took photos of the house at the address she gave us and the air raid bunker that she and her family hid in during the war. She has not seen these photos yet. I can’t say if things look as she remembered them. Still, it was interesting to experience the neighborhood even if it’s been 70 odd years since she lived there. Her family of six lived on one floor of this house. (edit: Christa says that the facade of the house has changed since she lived there and it looks very modern now.)
On a happier note, we were able to visit with Andreas’ parents again in Neustadt on a rare sunny day. We enjoyed a nice walk and lunch out. Christa and Andreas rode bikes to the local Birkenstock outlet so Andreas could replace his shoes. That was a good idea because the price was less than half of what he paid online for a pair two years ago.
Andreas’ mother came to Lübeck for a day by herself and we had a wonderful coffee with her childhood friend Sieglinde. Sieglinde’s apartment is at the bottom of the island on the edge of a park with street and lake views. Very cool to watch swans fly by the window at eye level while you drink coffee and eat fancy cookies on delicate china. It was so nice to relax there and enjoy her company.
I’ve been keeping busy exploring museums that Andreas is not interested in, and parts of the city that I haven’t seen yet while he tries to concentrate on his work or calls the airline.
This is the Museum of Nature and the environment. (Museum für Natur und Umwelt) It’s a cute little place with tired taxidermy. Some of the exhibits are very nice. There’s a great view of the Dom (Cathedral) through the windows and some live snakes and fish. I had the museum to myself.
Museum Holstentor This museum is part of the former city wall. The sides facing away from the city have more of a battlement purpose while the back is more ornate with more windows. It has an interesting collection of weapons, kitchen implements and torture devices. I really enjoyed the scale model of medieval Lübeck and the model ships. It’s a fun museum to discover as you are always going up and down spiral steps in the two towers. What’s not apparent from the photos is how much the towers are leaning . Building something that big and heavy on swampy ground in the 1400’s wasn’t a great idea.
When I was walking back from this museum I cut through the Rathaus square and heard Andreas call my name. (Yelling DRAGONFLY! definitely rattled the two homeless guys sitting next to him.) I just happened to chose that way to walk home and he just happened to be in that square reading on a bench in the sun, so of course we had to get some coffee and cake.
I’ve picked up a few books that I’ve been meaning to read. Cheery ones like The Handmaid’s Tale and Where The Crawdads Sing.. ha ha. I feel like I’ve been wasting time or not enjoying being here to the fullest, I’ve let the stress get to me too much.
Today Andreas is hiking along the Baltic while I have some quiet time to paint. He returned home saying he walked 30,000 steps today and added a few photos below. He also went to Neustadt and surprised his parents with some cake. He and his mom went out for a beer while his dad watched his Sunday TV program.
I hope that in my next blog I will say I was worried about nothing and Lufthansa totally came through for us, that they flew us to Philadelphia and not Newark, NJ and I’m back home. I hope.
Have any of you experienced travel problems like this with Lufthansa lately?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
November was all about the hustle. Andreas and I have set a December 14th deadline to wrap up all 2021 classes, commissions and social engagements because we hope to travel overseas again.
The deadline has been good for me to focus on my commission list and not let distractions slow my routine down. I’m still learning how to be a full-time artist and am trying to push myself everyday to focus on studio work and marketing. I have hired a new studio assistant; a former student of mine, Julia Robinson has joined Dragonfly Art Studios. I taught Julia private art lessons through her junior high and high school years. She has recently graduated college with a degree in Studio Art. Her focus at the moment is in fabric arts and crafts. She is a huge help keeping the studio organized and keeping up with some production processes.
I’m participating in four shows this winter. The first show is at the Havre de Grace, Maryland Maritime Museum. The show is called, Up to Here and it addresses the issue of climate change through art. The opening of the show on the 19th was well attended. Andreas and I drove down with our friend Maggie and went out to dinner after the show.
On the 24th, Julia and Andreas met me at Sinclair’s Café on Main St. in Newark at 7am to help hang my solo show of photographs. The photos are macro images of plants, flowers, ice and cicadas from our garden. The show is titled Nottingham Forest 2020. During our Covid self-quarantine time I focused my camera on our garden and created a new body of work. This show will be on view until February 2022.
The third show that I prepared work for this month is The BIG Little and Little Little Art Show at the Talleyville Frame Shoppe and Gallery in Wilmington, Delaware. This is a group show where artists submit work that is 6”x 6” square. This year we were also able to submit work that was under 4” square for the Little Little show. The exhibit will be up through the month of December.
The fourth show that I’m preparing for will open in March at the Oxford Arts Alliance in Oxford, Pennsylvania. This is a Trashy Women group show.
In addition to preparing work for shows I’ve been filling commissions for clients. I painted a birdhouse with the characters from the P.D. Eastman book, The Best Nest for a family in Connecticut, made five polar bear stained glass windows for Delaware Special Olympics’ Polar Bear Plunge event and finished a logo design in stained glass for a new client. I have three more commissions on the table that I’m trying to finish for our December 14th deadline.
The artist collective Trashy Women that I belong to met up at the Cecil County Arts Council’s Gala on the 5th. The theme and dress code for the evening was black and white. Of course, none of us got the message so, we were our colorful selves sticking out of the crowd as usual. It was a very fun night. We met up again on the 26th for Treb’s mother’s birthday at Whimsical Farm for a bonfire potluck. It was a cold night, but Andreas, Julien and I had a good time.
Andreas turned 60 on the 9th. His sister Christina made him a special German cake and she, George and Julien sang him a happy birthday. We had a party with his friends on the 13th. Andreas grilled meat from Treb’s farm and we had a big potluck dinner. It was the first time we had seen a lot of these friends since summer.
I missed his dinner on the 9th with family because my German teacher at the Saengerbund recruited me to create and lead a craft project for St. Martin’s Day. I created templates for paper lanterns that my classmates put together. We had to learn the lantern song and paraded around the Saengerbund bar with our finished lanterns. I spent two days preparing that project. A little silly, but worth it.
On the 22nd my cousin Tom and his family were in town to visit cousin Erin. We met for lunch at Homegrown Café and then returned to the house to see the studio. Pictured is cousin Skylar’s significant other Lane, whom I got to meet for the first time. He made friends with a monster pillow right away.
I spent Thanksgiving morning at Sherri’s house watching her cook and playing with her cats.
Sadly, on Thanksgiving afternoon our family dinner was cancelled because my aunt wasn’t feeling well so, Andreas cooked a German dinner for Julien and I. We were able to have an American Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday thanks to Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Dave. They generously invited Julien as well so he could enjoy the whole experience.
The beautiful fall leaves have now fallen from the trees. My friend Terri and I enjoyed them when they were at their peak on our walks. I would normally say the weather is getting cooler, but it’s 55 degrees today. I had the Chimney repaired and cleaned so Andreas could have a fires in the fireplace. Hopefully we can use it soon.
A month ago we thought that the Delta variant numbers were going down we planned our December trip. Lately we are questioning whether we should travel. Andreas, Christina and I recently consulted with their brother Burkhard about traveling in Germany.
Now there is a new variant and the world is gearing up for changes. I can’t predict what my next message to you will be about. Will you see photos of Germany or somewhere in the USA? Time will tell.
Let’s not end the blog with Covid, let’s end with a craft. On the last day of the month my friend’s Mary and Marijke came to my kitchen to create gingerbread houses for the Newark Arts Alliance Gingerbread Bash. Marijke created Santa emerging from a chimney with a Christmas tree and Mary and I built the three little pigs story in gingerbread, candy, pretzels and cereal. The big, bad wolf has blown down the straw house and is headed for the stick house. The terrified pigs are running to their brother’s strong brick house. The brother is not amused. Ha ha, see you next month.
Annemarie, die Schwester meiner Mutter, hatte einen kleinen Garten recht nah am West-Ufer der Wakenitz. Eine kleine Hu¨tte hatte eine Ku¨che, Wohnzimmer, und Esszimmer alles in einem Raum. Das Wasser kam von einer Handpumpe draussen im Garten. Im Sommer lebte sie dort mit meinem Onkel Fritz, meinem Cousin Olaf, und meiner Cusine Petra etwa 2.5 km von ihrer Wohnung in der Paradiesgarten Strasse. Bei Besuchen im Sommer waren wir Kinder meist draussen um auch durch die umliegenden Naturschutzgebiete zu stromern. Dies sind meine ersten Erinnerungen an eine grossartige, selbstlose, und elegante Frau: Annemarie Gu¨smer starb vor 2 Wochen in Lu¨beck 86 Jahre nach ihrer Geburt.
Meine Grossmutter Luise Nagewitz gebar Annemarie als drittes von fu¨nf Kindern am 20. Ma¨rz 1935 in Lu¨beck. Annemarie’s 4-ja¨hrige Schwester Ingrid starb 4 Wochen vor ihrer Geburt. Dies war ein schwerer Anfang sowohl fu¨r die Eltern Luise und Hans als auch fu¨r das neugeborene Kind. Meine Mutter Christa folgte 1936, ein kleiner Bruder 1937, und der Zweite Weltkrieg begann 1939. Annemarie war 4 Jahre jung als Deutsche und Russische Armeen Polen angriffen, 9 Jahre als ihr grosser Bruder der Deutschen Wehrmacht bei-getreten wurde, und 10 Jahre alt als die Britisch Armee Lu¨beck von den Nazis befreite.
Die Feuerstu¨rme und Bomben des Luftangriffes am Palmsonntag 1942 brannten sich fru¨h in die Errinnerungen der zwei kleinen Ma¨dchen Anne (7) und Christa (5) ein. Anders als meine Mutter, welche bis heute jeden Donner, jeden Blitz, und jedes Feuer fu¨rchtet ohne richtig zu wissen warum, hat meine Tante Anne perso¨nliche Gefuehle, erlebte Geschichte, und gewu¨nschte Politik analytisch bedacht, gelesen, und ensprechend gewa¨hlt und gehandelt. Sehr fru¨h hat sie Verantwortung in der Familie u¨bernehmen mu¨ssen, was nicht immer ihrer eigenen Bildung half, obwohl sie bei weitem die Klu¨gste in der Familie war.
Sie graduierte 1949 von der Volksschule gleichzeitig mit der Gru¨ndung der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Das war ein unglu¨ckliches Jahr, in dem sie keinen Ausbildungsplatz fand, da die Arbeitslosigkeit in Lu¨beck 1949 bei 28.7% lag. Etwa 300 junge Frauen aus Lu¨beck und Schleswig-Holstein wanderten dieses Jahr nach Island aus, weil dort Frauenmangel herrschte. So begann Annemarie, 15 Jahren jung, in einer Fabrik zu arbeiten und teilte sich auch weiterhin ein Zimmer mit ihrer kleinen Schwester bei den Eltern erst in der Stitenstrasse und ab 1951 am Buniamshof, wo ihr Vater der Platzwart war. Zusammen sind wir dort in 2018 und 2019 auch am Kra¨henteich und in der Altstadt spazieren gegangen um spa¨ter im “Kartoffelspeicher” und bei “Schlumacher’s” zusammen zu Feiern und zu Essen.
Ein Jahr spa¨ter lernte sie als junge 17-ja¨hrige Frau den gelernten Schlosser Fritz Gu¨smer kennen: sie verlobten sich 2.5 Jahre spa¨ter und heirateten 1957. Das junge Ehepaar wohnte immer noch bei den Eltern, da Wohnraum und Geld in Lu¨beck auch 12 Jahre nach Kriegsende immer noch knapp war. Meine Mutter zog eine Woche nach der Hochzeit in die Schweiz, so dass Annemarie und ihr Ehemann ein eigenes Zimmer hatten. Nach zwei Jahren gebar sie Olaf 1959. Jetzt fand die junge Familie auch ihre erste Miet-Wohnung, bekam den Schrebergarten an der Wagnitz, und am 6. Januar 1962 gebar Annemarie Tochter Petra. Hier ist Annemarie’s Schrebergarten im Sommer 1962, wo ihr Vater einen seiner Enkel schaukelt:
Sowohl Olaf (1959), Petra (1962), als auch ich (1961) und meine zwei Geschwister Burkhard (1963) und Christina (1964) sind alle in Lu¨beck geboren. Meine Mutter bestand darauf, dass ihre Kinder nicht an ihrem Wohnort in Leck, Nordfriesland hinter dem Deich der Nordsee auf die Welt kommen; nein, Christa entschied, dass ihre Kinder in der grossen Stadt mit der Unterstu¨tzung ihrer Schwester Annemarie zur Welt kamen. Annemarie sorgte sich auch um ihre etwa 18 Monate junge Nichte Christina fu¨r 2-3 Wochen, damit ihre Schwester Christa mit Mann und So¨hnen in einen Urlaub fahren konnten. Hier ist Annemarie’s Tochter Petra bei uns in Nordfriesland 1965 zu Besuch. Das war der Kinder-Tisch separat von dem Erwachsenen-Tisch.
Und so ging es auch die na¨chsten 15 Jahre weiter. Wir Mu¨nchow’s aus Nordfriesland oder Hessen waren jedes Jahr bestimmt 3-4 mal auch bei Tante Anne zu Besuch. Zusammen verbrachten wir Kinder viel Zeit miteinander und hatten nicht una¨hnliche Probleme als Teenager mit Eltern, Musik, Sex, Drogen, Schule, und dem allgemeinen Zustand von Gesellschaft und Politik. Das hatte allerdings auch Vorteile, da wir Kinder uns bestens gegen unsere Eltern unterstu¨tzten. Diese erschienen uns sehr alt, konservativ, langweilig, und von Musik hatten die wirklich keine Ahnung. [Die Ironie hier ist, dass wir “Teenager” heute 10 Jahre a¨lter sind, als unser Eltern es in den spa¨ten 70er waren.]
Tante Anne sagte selten etwas – stille Wasser sind tief – aber wenn wir als rebellische Teenager zu weit gingen, dann bescha¨mte sie uns mit ihrer Ruhe und Toleranz, mit ihrer Logik und Wissen, und ganz besonders mit weisem Humor, welcher uns zum Lachen brachte. Da wir ihr oft vertrauten, folgten wir dann gerne ihrem Rat. Keiner in unser Familie besass Annemarie’s Emphatie und Einfu¨hlung fu¨r junge Leute. Sie war nicht nur der “Bu¨cherwurm” in unserer Familie sondern auch die “Weisheit” und der “gesunde Menschenverstand.” Aber sie war immer im Hintergrund, immer leise, immer am Arbeiten, und hat sich immer selbstlos um das Wohl anderer geku¨mmert. Diese Selbstlosigkeit kam dann spa¨ter auch ihren Enkelkinder Christoph (1982), Maya (1984), und Titus (1990) in grossem Masse zu Gute.
Etwa 4 Jahre nach der Geburt von Titus reiste Annemarie ohne Ehemann, Kinder, oder Enkelkinder aber mit meinen Eltern fu¨r 3-4 Wochen in die USA. Der Flug 1994 von Hamburg nach Denver in Colorado war wohl ihr erster. Sie besuchte ihre Nichte Christina, welche dort mit ihrer jungen Familie lebte. In einem Miet-Auto fuhren sie dann ganz “langsam” durch die Rocky Mountains und die Wu¨sten von New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona, um mich am Pazifischen Ozean in San Diego, Kalifornien zu besuchen. Das sind fast 2000 km. Diese Reise wurde sowohl von ihren Tochter Petra von Lu¨beck aus, als auch von meiner Schwester Christina und mir u¨ber einen Zeitraum von etwa 2 Jahren vorbereitet. Hier ist ein Photo, wo sie bei meiner Schwester in Boulder, Colorado ankommt:
Die Drei fuhren dann auf der Ku¨stenstrasse dem Pazifischen Ozean entlang nach San Francisco, gingen dort 2-3 Tage spazieren, essen, und trinken, und fuhren dann die 2000 km zuru¨ck nach Denver in einer no¨rdlichen Route. In den na¨chsten 20 Jahren habe ich dann den Kontakt nach Deutschland fast verloren: meine Grosseltern starben, es wurde geheiratet, Kinder wurden geboren oder adoptiert, Ehen wurden geschieden, neue Partnerschaften wurden gegru¨ndet, und aus Kindern wurden Erwachsene sowohl in Deutschland als auch in den USA.
Im Sommer 2015 lebte Tante Anne mit ihrem Ehemann bei ihrer Tochter Petra, Schwiegersohn Stefan, und deren Familie. Dort besuchte ich Annemarie und Petra an einem Samstag Nachmittag auf einem Arbeitsweg von den USA nach Schweden. Warum Petra auf der Wiese hinter dem Haus mit 4-5 Mo¨psen in einem Camper lebte, war mir nicht so ganz klar, aber Petra und ich haben gemein, dass wir uns oft etwas exentrische verhalten und uns meist spontan entscheiden was manchmal chaotische Konsquenzen hat. Meine Mutter hat diese Erbmasse auch, Annemarie allerdings nicht. Dafu¨r hat Annemarie aber die no¨tige Gedult, Ruhe, und Empathie um dieses andere Leben zu tolerieren. Hier ist Tante Anne mit Onkel Fritz und auch Petra etwa 2015 in ihrem Garten.
Ganz besonders mein in Deutschland verbliebener Bruder Burkhard hat immer den Kontakt zu Tante Anne und Onkel Fritz, ihren Kindern Olaf und Petra, und auch Enkelkindern Maya und Titus u¨ber all die Jahrzehnte behalten. Burkhard erza¨hlte mir von traurigen Beerdigungen, frohen Hochzeiten, und einsichtigen Geschichten von Annemarie und Fritz. Diese kurzen Einblicke, welche Annemarie Burkhard und spa¨ter auch mir im Privatem erkla¨rte, warfen neues Licht auf alter Ereignisse und Perso¨nlichkeiten in unserer Familie. Stille Wasser sind tief – und Annemarie’s Beobachtungen, Erinnerungen, und Analysen waren scharf und trafen wunde Punkte ohne zu verletzen.
Burkhard gab mir diese Bilder von Annemarie, Petra, und Fritz an der Ostsee, in Hameln, in Neustadt, in Kiel, und auch auf der Burg Runkel an der Lahn wo Tante Anne und Petra ihn und seine Frau Carina 2016 besuchten:
Meine Wissenschaft und Ozeanographie Forschungsreisen brachten mich jetzt jedes Jahr zur “Durchreise” nach Deutschland. Gerne flog ich u¨ber Kopenhagen nach Europa und dann per Zug und Ostsee-Fa¨hre nach Lu¨beck um sowohl meine Eltern als auch Tante Anne zu besuchen. Kurz vor Weihnachten 2017 lud ich mich zu Kaffee und Kuchen in ihre Wohnung ein. Hier ihre schnelle Antwort per e-mail:
Annemarie ging mit der Zeit und konnte mit digitalen Medien gut umgehen, was in Deutschland fu¨r Frauen u¨ber 80 ungewo¨hnlich ist. Ganz begeistert zeigte sie uns ein grosses Album von der Hochzeit ihrer Enkeltochter Maya auf ihrem iPad. So funktionierte dann auch die Kommunikation mit Dragonfly, welche noch wenig Deutsch sprach, aber von den Familienfotos – wie auch ich – ganz begeistert war. Auch Annemarie’s ju¨ngsten Enkel Titus traf ich ein erstes Mal als erwachsenen Menschen. Als ehemaliger Seemann spricht er ausgezeichnetes Englisch. Am Abend fuhren wir wohl gena¨hrt und gesta¨rkt die 30 Minuten Busfahrt zu unser AirBnB in der Lu¨bschen Altstadt im Malerwinkel zuru¨eck.
Ein Jahr spa¨ter kam Tante Anne uns in diesem AirBnB besuchen, nachdem wir lange in der Altstadt zu Fuss mit meinen Eltern unterwegs waren. Die zwei Schwestern und mein Vater erinnerten sich an vielen Ecken an Ereignisse und Geschichten welche 30 oder 50 oder 70 Jahre zuru¨ck lagen. Schulen, Friseure, Cafe’s, La¨den, Kneipen, Kinos, und auch Gescha¨ften. Annemarie arbeitete viel in der Altstadt im Schuhverkauf bei Salamander und im Kleiderverkauf bei Herder um ihrer Familie auch finanzielle zu unterstu¨tzen. Sie kommentierte in 2018, dass die 300-400 Jahre alten und malerischen (“picturesque”) Ha¨user der Lu¨becker Altstadt nicht immer so schick waren, wie sie es heute sind. Nach dem Wein vor unserem AirBnB hinter dem Dom an der Obertrave sind wir abends noch scho¨n und vornehm Essen gegangen. Das war der letzte Abend, welchen Tante Anne und ich zusammen verbrachten.
Ihr Leben war nicht ganz so lang, wie ich es mir gewu¨nscht ha¨tte. Covid-19 verhinderte den Plan sie letzten Sommer oder Weihnachten noch einmal zu besuchen. Annemarie’s Leben war sicher nicht immer einfach, aber sie hat anderen viel Freude, Mut, Stabilita¨t, Essen, Trinken, und auch viel Liebe gegeben. Sie war und ist fu¨r mich eine Person, welche all Das representiert, was Gut in Deutschland und in meiner Heimat ist und war.
Week seven of quarantine. Andreas just sent his parents a depressing email (and probably graphs) commenting on how poorly our country was handling Covid19 compared with Germany. He asked that I write something uplifting to balance him out. He is still a little obsessed with monitoring the news and creating virus death graphs, but is beginning to focus more on his own research. It’s good that he’s teaching this semester.
Busy is modus operandi. If we stay busy with work, school and projects we don’t feel as isolated and the weeks go faster. The tough days, at least for me, are when one project is finished and another has yet to begin. Luckily, we have an ongoing project of taking care of the garden and tending to our new vegetable plants. As of April 23rd, the Newark Garden Tour is still scheduled for June 13th and we are preparing for that. It may be cancelled later, we don’t know.
Our garden is looking a little torn up at the front because the City came and installed a new water main under the sidewalk.
After they finished in front of our house, I heard the sound of rushing water. It was so loud that we could hear it at the top floor. We checked all of our pipes and the computer data of our water usage online. Everything was OK. I called the City and they didn’t believe us saying it was probably our problem. I called back a few days later and spoke to someone in the water department. She didn’t believe me, but sent people out. Those people didn’t believe me and came into the house to check the meter. No masks or gloves!! When they finally checked the connection at the sidewalk they said, oh, it’s us. Four days later, the water is still leaking, they sent a crew to fix it.
One workman asked the others, “Ok, which one of you were drinking when you installed this?” He asked the man digging in the hole how it was going. Not so good the man replied, Its wet down here.
We had a nice Easter with George and Christina. They distanced themselves from us on our deck and we shared cake and coffee with at least six feet between us at all times. We Zoomed with our German family using two laptops, a phone and a security web-cam to accommodate all levels of computer skills. Later Easter evening, we Zoomed with my mother’s side of the family while we ate dinner. That was probably the only time we’ve all been “together” in over a decade.
Some fun things have happened in the neighborhood. One day people created chalk drawings on their sidewalks and they have been placing teddy bears in their windows so the kids can have a “bear hunt.”
I’ve been sewing masks and clothes, working on a commission and most recently painted the fireplace.
We have also used Zoom to teach (Andreas) and take a class (me.)
We try to keep in touch with family and friends.
We are grateful to have access to technology like this, grateful to have work that we can do from home and very grateful that we are well and the majority of our family, friends and acquaintances are still well. We realize that even though we are all experiencing the same virus, quarantine “storm” that we’re all not in the same boat and that this experience is worse for some.
I think we are still happy to be home but are definitely looking forward to warmer, drier weather so we can work outside.