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.