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

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

Before and After

Before
Before

After a month and a half of painting and cleaning, the rental property we purchased is ready. I’m so TIRED!! I’m also feeling happy that I met my deadline, came in under budget and the house looks good.

After
After

Back of house
Back of house

The inside painting ended up being a little more complicated than I imagined. Most of the walls and ceiling are wallpapered under existing paint. That meant that all the walls needed to be primed before two coats of paint. The trim and windows also required a primer coat. I tape all of my edges when I paint, but soon learned that when I removed the tape it pulled off old paint and wallpaper. Then there were the walls with wallpaper that needed to be removed.

Before dining room.
Before dining room.

After dining room
After dining room

During painting the dining room. Do I look tired? I AM! The room was hand painted with a brush. Every color has two coats of paint.
During painting the dining room. Do I look tired? I AM! The room was hand painted with a brush. Every color has two coats of paint.

Before dining room
Before dining room

Dining room after
After dining room

It was a steep learning curve aided by the sage advice from Facebook friends who suffered before me. I hired a painter friend to come on the weekends to handle the more difficult spackling work, wallpaper removal, ladder work in the hall and some of the rooms. His professionalism, knowledge and tricks were invaluable. I learned a lot from him and he did a great job.

Before hallway
Before hallway

After hallway
After hallway

After hallway
After hallway

I invited the former owners over to see the changes I made and they liked them. They even changed the heater filter for me while they were there.

Before kitchen
Before kitchen

After kitchen
After kitchen

Andreas and I had concerns that finding renters would be difficult because the University has been uncertain about opening in the fall. I’m happy to report that we found three, none are students, I know their families and I’ve known all of them for over a decade. Today I collected leases and handed out keys. The first to spend the night is a pet rabbit named Benny. It felt really good to turn over the house to others and know that I can work in my studio again tomorrow.

Before and after basement stairs. Why would I want to change this? haha
Before and after basement stairs. Why would I want to change this? haha

While I’ve been working at the house Andreas was offered a summer research job with a colleague in Copenhagen. We are hoping to travel there this winter so they can also work in person, but the timing is unknown because of America’s handling or mis-handling of the pandemic.

Before yeast cake
Before yeast cake

After. Andreas has been baking every weekend.
After. Andreas has been baking every weekend.

We are still quarantining here, but not as strictly. I’ve expanded my shopping to include the hardware and paint store and once in a while we find ourselves social distancing with Christina and George in the house if the weather is too hot. The University decided to have classes online in the fall which makes me happy and Andreas sad. He was really looking forward to teaching an undergraduate class in person.

Before home haircut.
Before home haircut.

After home haircut.
After home haircut. Andreas won’t let me cut his hair lately. He’s trying to bring back the feathered mullet.

Daily gardening has stopped because of the heat and mosquitoes, but the tomato plants are still being well cared for. A few are as tall as me and are producing fruit. The smaller plants at the new property are doing well too.

The beginning of our future gardens. We need rain.
The beginning of our future vegetable garden. We need rain.

Yesterday was my birthday and we enjoyed a delicious socially-distanced dinner at Christina and George’s place. It’s strange to sit down to dinner, not across the table, but across the room from each other and to wear masks in passing.

My birthday cakes. on the left a rhubarb cake by Andreas. That's a German one. I'm not 57. On the right a cake by Christina. Both very delicious and German. Christina's cake was her mother's recipe.
My birthday cakes. On the left a rhubarb cake by Andreas. That’s a German one, I’m not 57. On the right a cake by Christina. Both very delicious and German. Christina’s cake was her mother’s recipe.

Distance dining. Fantastic dinner by Christina. Photo by Christina Parsons
Distance dining. Fantastic birthday dinner by Christina. Photo by Christina Parsons

Life is good here. We hope you are doing well too. Please wear your mask.