January can be a slow, dark month; this was not my experience. We started the month with a New Year’s Day hike in White Clay Creek State Park with friends. Every year I tell myself I will/ should exercise more. Since the middle of the month I’ve been walking three miles every morning with my friends Mary and Colin. I’m still having a hard time matching their speed, they’ve been walking together for the last two years.
The Trashy Women Artist Collective is busy. We took our show down at the Book Place in Oxford, PA at the beginning of the month and set up for a February opening at the Art Den in Rising Sun, MD last week. In the middle of the month we met for a meeting with a sewing project. We exchanged a lot of trash, but didn’t sew much. The meeting did inspire me to sew a new piece for our February show.
Also created in the studio this month were the stained glass award windows for the Delaware Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge. The participants who raise the most money for the organization are presented with a window.
I’m happy to say I sold a painting this month to a coffee shop. This is a broken skateboard I painted in acrylic from a former skateboard shop on Haines Street. (The blue building) I thought it would be nice to turn the street in front of the building into a garden and add goats. Recently the coffee shop, Little Goat moved into the building. I think the painting found a good home there.
My art car is getting older and starting to have some issues, so Andreas and I decided to purchase a more reliable car. We bought a hybrid from friends that I used to work with at a Saturn dealership over a decade ago who now work for Hyundai. We’ve had the car two weeks now and love the 55 mpg. Andreas has synced his phone and figured out the computer, I’m more concerned with driving. Together we’re figuring out new to us technology.
I won a contest at a local art supply store with this photo of the art car in front of the store’s mural.
Teaching is going well. One of my students decided last minute that she wanted to apply for the local art high school so we rushed a portfolio. That was a little stressful but we got through it.
At the end of the month I was invited to show the artwork I created in Germany at the Chapel Street Theater. The event was hosted by the Newark Partnership and was well attended.
January ended on a very happy note as we celebrated the marriage of my cousin Scott and his new wife Robin.
We arrived in Cochem as part of Andreas’ bucket list wish to explore wine growers on the Moselle River. I say part of because his initial wish was to bike along the river stopping in the small towns for wine as he wished. We compromised by staying in a central location with day trips. We chose a lovely hotel/ home run by the super bubbly Ute. She even picked us up from the train station.
The hotel was a few blocks from the Reichsburg Castle and we had a wonderful view of it lit up at night from our balcony.
2018’s summer heat wave wasn’t a fluke, we endured temperatures in the mid-nineties along the Moselle River last week (June 2019). Ninety plus degrees in the US is uncomfortable, but bearable with fans and A/C. Germany hasn’t had as much need for those things yet. Also, some here feel that air-conditioning will make you sick. We adapted following the local example of only opening the windows at night and blocking the sun with curtains. Like other traveler’s though, this was our week to explore the area. Our shared discomfort gave us something to small talk about and we met a lot of friendly people including other Americans.
Our first day started with lunch with wine (there’s a theme here) where we were seated with a nice couple from Germany and Thailand who slowly warmed up to us. Next, we hiked our tipsy selves up the hill to the castle for amazing views of Cochem. We didn’t see the inside of the castle this trip. We ended the day at a wine seller in the cellar. Not just a cellar, the back of the room was carved into the stone in the hillside. Very old, cool place with a wonderful selection of wine grown on the side of a mountain a few bends away in the river.
On the second day, with the temperature climbing, we took the train to Moselkern to hike to Burg Eltz castle tucked into the wooded mountains. It was an eight-mile hike in the heat, but most of it was shaded by trees.
The castle is one of the most interesting I’ve visited. It’s been in the same family for 800 years (33 generations) and the current generation still lives there. This means that it’s been kept up and a lot of the rooms are still decorated as they’ve been for hundreds of years.
There are also treasury rooms in the lower levels where you can see their finer trinkets, jewels and weapons. Thanks to Andreas’ brother Burkhard we knew to ask for a tour in English. It may be my favorite castle because I was able to learn more through the English tour..
Back in Cochem it was cold showers and a long nap then back to the cellar cave for Riesling and a small dinner. At the castle we met a nice couple from Berkeley, California and we recommended our wine find. We were happy to see them sitting in the cave when we arrived where they had befriended a young traveling German couple. We had a nice time comparing travel notes and complaining about the heat.
On our last day Andreas and I had blisters on our feet and my ankle was mysteriously swollen so, we opted for a boat to take us to our next destination along the river. A highlight of the trip for me. I loved seeing the towns along the water and the herons and swans.
We arrived in Beilstein on the Moselle which began around AD 800. In 1309 a Jewish community was founded and their graveyard still exists on the mountain above the city. Andreas found it on his hike past the castle. The last burial stone is dated 1938 which is the year of the Kristallnacht that marks the onset of what became the holocaust. Most people of the Jewish faith from this town perished on the killing fields of Poland and Ukraine. Very few escaped in time to America to remember Jewish life on the Moselle River for a history commissioned in 1996 by the local county government.
Andreas and I hiked up the hill to the ruined castle to see the views of the river and the town. It was pretty spectacular. I spent an hour there in the shade watching the ships come and go.
There was a little café in front of the church where Andreas tried another local Riesling, and we both had cake. Then the boat ride back to Cochem, cold showers and a nap until the heat abated a little.
We considered trying a different restaurant for dinner but didn’t get far, and returned to the cave. The young German couple that we met the night before returned as well. This night we had a nice conversation with the owner, Arthur. We bought four bottles of our favorite wines that, it turned out, all came from the same steep slope called Neefer Frauenberg.
We purposely didn’t explore too much in Cochem because we hope to return again. It’s a beautiful, friendly place. Have you been there?
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.
End of winter blues, my solitary studio routine, and homesickness were getting me down last week. I mentioned to Andreas that my routine was beginning to feel like Groundhog Day the movie in its predictability. So, Andreas suggested a weekend getaway to somewhere new. Goslar, slightly north of center in Germany was chosen. I like older German architecture and he likes hiking and geocaching thus Goslar, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the edge of the Harz Mountains was chosen. Goslar is one of the top 10 towns in Germany that wasn’t bombed during WWII.
We spent two days in the town mostly walking here and there looking for geocaches and cool things to photograph. It’s a wonderful place for a weekend getaway.
Traveling south and inland we were happy to see signs of spring arriving. Flowers, flowering trees and some sunshine. I’m looking forward to warmer weather.