Dark Days in Lübeck Germany

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.

Coffee at Sieglinde’s

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.

You can’t throw a stone in this town without hitting a cafe with little cakes. It’s all about the afternoon Kuchen und Kaffee around here.

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?

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

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.

85 Years Strong

Birthday sweet bread baked by Christa
Birthday sweet bread baked by Christa

Happy 85th Birthday to Andreas’ father (Vati) Lothar! We recently spent a wonderful weekend in Neustadt in Holstein by the Baltic Sea to visit Andreas’ parents and celebrate this big birthday.

Neustadt Harbor at sunset. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Neustadt Harbor at sunset. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Lothar was born in 1934 six weeks premature. He made it through some bad times during and after WWII in what is now north western Poland. At age 20 he was ready to work on electric utility grids in Venuezuela, but his father refused to sign the required permission as he was not yet 21. Two years later he joined the newly formed German Air Force instead where he served until his retirement some 30 years later. When Andreas was born, the young family was stationed in Leck, Nordfriesland near the Danish border. He, his wife Christa, and three children moved a few times with the Air Force and have been on a lot of vacations in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and later as retirees America.

Celebrating with champagne. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Celebrating with champagne. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

This past weekend we had a relaxing time walking along Neustadt Harbor, some wonderful meals and lots of long conversations piecing together the past.

There are a lot of swans in Neustadt. I love them. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
There are a lot of swans in Neustadt. I love them. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Christa helping me collect beach glass. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa helping me collect beach glass. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The Muenchow’s longtime neighbor and friend Hannelore joined us for coffee and marzipan birthday cake on Saturday. She has known Andreas since he was a little boy in Lederhosen living in Leck, Nordfriesland.

Hannelore and Lothar. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Hannelore and Lothar. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

When in or near Lubeck you must have Marzipan. This is Lothar's delicious birthday cake. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
When in or near Lubeck you must have Marzipan. This is Lothar’s delicious birthday cake. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Christa enjoying catching up with Hannelore. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa enjoying catching up with Hannelore. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Before we left on Sunday, we found old family slides and the slide projector to look at some images that haven’t been seen in twenty years. We are bringing a few home to the States to digitize and print.

Christa introducing us to the guests at their engagement party May 7th 1960. Nagewitz and Muenchow family. Christa is in the middle wearing the dress with the bow and Lothar is behind her in a dark suit with dark hair. Christa is commenting on the fact that she is now older than the grandparents sitting in the front.Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa introducing us to the guests at their engagement party May 7th 1960. Nagewitz and Muenchow family. Christa is in the middle wearing the dress with the bow and Lothar is behind her in a dark suit with dark hair. Christa is commenting on the fact that she is now older than the grandparents sitting in the front.Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Cuties at the kids table From left to right: Burkhard, Andreas, cousin Petra and baby Christina. Photo taken on Wikinger Str. in Leck, Germany early 1965. This photo taken from the slide projected on the wall.
Cuties at the kids table From left to right: Burkhard, Andreas, cousin Petra and baby Christina. Photo taken on Wikinger Str. in Leck, Germany early 1965. This photo taken from the slide projected on the wall.

Andreas points to a photo of himself and a neighbor taken in Leck in 1962.
Andreas points to a photo of himself and a neighbor taken in Leck in 1962.

When I wished Lothar a happy birthday, I said here’s to eighty-five more! He said, “Oh no, only wish for five more at a time.” So, here’s to five more. In guter Gesundheit!

Selfie with the birthday boy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Selfie with the birthday boy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

 

Family, surfing swans and a sad beach at Christmastime

Not a creature is stirring on a Saturday morning in Neustadt in Holstein. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Not a creature is stirring on a Saturday morning in Neustadt in Holstein. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The best time to visit a coastal town is in the winter: frosty cold, deserted streets, gray skies, sleepy shops, and empty beaches for miles. Neustadt in Holstein on the Baltic Sea in Germany did not disappoint as a beautiful, quiet getaway.

The beginning of our walk along the coast in Neustadt in Holstein Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The beginning of our walk along the coast in Neustadt in Holstein Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Andreas and I traveled there to visit his parents for a few days. We had a wonderful stay in a “French” shabby chic Airbnb in town. The rooms were full of knickknacks and EVERYTHING was painted white so it all sort of blended together. Not my thing and not Andreas’ thing either especially after he cut his finger and no band aid. Poor thing fell asleep with his hand wrapped in toilet paper hoping he would not bleed on any of the thousand white objects in the room. I’d love to share a photo but the proprietor asks that no photos of the establishment are shared.

Winkie the Viking display at the Christmas market. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Winkie the Viking display at the Christmas market. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We had a lovely visit with his parents sharing fancy coffees at their apartment and a nice dinner by the water. We also had a wonderful German breakfast and I ate my first soft-boiled egg after a sad, sloppy job of breaking the top of the shell, rookie mistake.

Coffee time by the sea with Lothar. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Coffee time by the sea with Lothar. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

First time for everything. Stop laughing at my egg. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
First time for everything. Stop laughing at my egg. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Christa is a wonderful quilter. This is a gift she made for her friend. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa is a wonderful quilter. This is a gift she made for her friend. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We took advantage of the gray, cold weather by walking a few miles along the Baltic following a sculpture trail towards the family campsite.

Christa's favorite sculpture along the path. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa’s favorite sculpture along the path. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Swans in the surf. I have never seen this in America. I thought this was so cool. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Swans in the surf. I have never seen this in America. I thought this was so cool. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Neustadt also has a horrifically sad story to tell from the end of WWII on this coast. The Neuengamme Concentration Camp near Hamburg was emptied and the prisoners were put on decommissioned ships in the Bay of Lübeck to prevent them from being liberated alive by rapidly advancing British troops the last days of the war. The prisoners were put below decks without food and water, and survival gear was replaced with dynamite charges to sink the ship. Barges of women and children from Stutthof and Mittelbau-Dora camps were also sent to the ships already holding 9000 prisoners, but they were turned away because the ships were full. Their SS guards sailed the barges to the beach where they shot women and children aboard with machine guns. The ships were then mistakenly bombed by the British Royal Air Force. The few survivors able to reach the beaches from the ships were shot on the beach. When the British Army arrived later in the day, they found empty camps, burning ships, and corpses of the murdered on the beach. We visited a mass grave and a marker along the path. There is, of course, much more to this story.

A sign that needs replacing
A sign that needs replacing

The stone for the mass grave. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The stone for the mass grave. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We kept walking quietly after this …

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Andreas wrote about this event in 2013 as well.