(Music on/off)

I wanted to type a quick trip report on my unexpected June trip to Germany. Like many of us , I am booked for September for the Great Gathering in Urach. This was to be the family trip for the year.

However in May I received an email from my German friend Jurgen informing me of his impending marriage. Marriage? I didn't even know he had a girlfriend! Some of you may remember from my most recent report that Jurgen was the person I took my last trip with to Belgium & Luxembourg. I started thinking this could be a good excuse to shoot over to Germany for a week. I mean, Jurgen was my best man at our wedding 11 yrs ago, so what kind of a friend would I be if I didn't go to his wedding? So I mentioned to my wife that Jurgen is getting married, but I really didn't know if I should go or not. She said, "well he was at our wedding, so shouldn't you be at his?" Now I've got her! She is the one insisting I go, so she can't get angry at the cost or timing. Or so I thought.

Lufthansa recently started a new non-stop flight from Portland, Oregon to Frankfurt. Now I live just 45 minutes from Seattle airport, but they don't have a non-stop to Germany. So I found a fare of $775 including tax on Lufthansa and booked it. As soon as I told Monja I was to fly Lufthansa she started in with the grief. "Every time I fly I get the cheap flight through Dallas or Chicago and you get the non-stop on Lufthansa?" I tried to explain that it really wasn't that much more, but she wouldn't listen. She just made me promise that she gets to fly Lufthansa on her next flight over. Ouch!

I was to leave on the 4th of June and return on the 12th with the wedding being on the 6th. Since it was such a short trip I wanted to try and find a way to beat the Jetlag. I have never been able to sleep on the plane. So I met my mother in Olympia on my way to Portland airport. She had just returned from the Ukraine the day before and I hadn't seen her in a while. Well I mentioned my dilemma and she just grinned, reached in her purse and pulled out a few pills of valium. "just take one," she said. "Ya ya" I said.

So I arrive at the airport 2 hours early and within 15 minutes I have checked in and cleared security. Great, an hour and 45 minutes to kill in PDX.

After a few hours in the air I decide to try a valium and take a nap. I take one pill and 30 minutes later nothing. I figure I'm a big guy so maybe I need two. Pow, I'm out! 5 hours later I wake with a stewardess shaking me rather rudely I thought. I think they thought I died. The girl next to me said they couldn't wake me to prepare for landing. I made it through customs and got my rental car just fine, but once on the Autobahn I again felt really dizzy and ill. Maybe I should have just taken one pill. Or better yet, none.

Anyway, I follow the signs towards Mainz before heading south on the B40 for Kirchheimbolanden. I jump off just before Alzey and take a few back roads towards 'Kibo' (Kirchheimbolanden) just for fun and arrive at Tom & Petry's house around 5pm. As soon as I walk in the house I smell the strong scent of wursts. That's a good German hostess for you! After a few wurst I tell Petry I am really tired and would like a 2.5 hour nap, since the valium was still kicking my butt. So I lay down and I swear it was only 10 minutes later when I hear her knocking on my bedroom door telling me its been 2.5 hours. At this point I am cursing my mother for giving me those evil pills. Now that I'm up it's gift time. BTW, did you know gift means poison in German? It must be confusing when they visit America and see all the "poison" shops. lol Anyway, I brought a complete Spiderman birthday party set for their son Mikha. Table cloth, napkins, cups, toys, etc... Everything Spiderman. He was to have a big party the next day, so he was very excited. For Tom I had 3 pairs of Levi's and for Petry I had jellybeans.

Now the big surprise was to come later this evening when our good friend Fones & Ute, who had visited us last summer, came up for her birthday. They had no idea I was in Germany! So later that evening after they arrive I sneak into the kitchen where they are all talking and wish her a happy birthday. The look of surprise on their faces was priceless!

They new I would be there in September, but they kept asking why, how etc... So I told them I was there for Jurgens wedding. "Wedding, we didn't even know he had a girlfriend" was their response. Again, this should give you an idea of how quick the courtship was. Later Petry's parents joined us from next door and we had a nice little party.

June 6, 2003

Up at 6:30 and the sun is out and hot. I walk out onto the patio for what would become a daily ritual of breakfast on the patio. Nothing better than a German breakfast of German breads with jam or wursts.

Jurgens wedding is today, but first I had to run to the bank (Volksbank) and get a new passbook for Monja's and my account. Somehow we lost the last one and in Germany without a passbook you don't get money! Seems old fashioned, but it's their rules.

Tom and I then head to the local chamber to get Monja a window decal with the Kibo emblem on it for her Passat back home. While here we see a poster for a medieval fest in the nearby town of Obermoschel.

About noon our friend Heidi picks me up and we head to the courthouse for the wedding. It's about 90 out already and here I am in slacks and a blazer, sweating profusely. The wedding is a simple and formal affair, and after a few signatures and a kiss they're married.

We then all get in our cars and honk our horns as we convoy through town to Jurgens. First we have the formal dinner with way too much food. A few hours later the cakes come out and by that evening the party starts with again tons of food and 3 BBQ's cooking at full speed. The local brewery Bischoff provided the kegs, taps, glasses, tables, benches and 3 fridge's for all the bier, wine, cola, etc... I drank more than my share before heading home at 2:30 in the morning.

June 7, 2003

At breakfast on the patio we discuss what to do for the day. Tom and I mention the poster we saw about the
medieval fest in Obermoschel. Petry and the kids agree it sounds like fun. We drive the 30 minute drive NW along small windy roads through the forests and tiny villages. Being early June all the fields are green and all the houses are just covered in flowers, particularly red climbing roses which were everywhere. I hadn't been to Germany during the summer months in 5 years and forgot how beautiful Germany was this time of the year. Once in Obermoschel we we drive up to the castle, park in a field and then hike the short distance up to the castle.

Just under the castle is a large, flat field and its just covered with medieval tents. The people actually stayed in these tents over the 3-day weekend. And it wasn't just adults; there were young kids and pets as well. Everyone was dressed in the period garb and inside the tents were animal blankets, old wood beds, etc... just like you would expect to see back then.

There were many booths selling items from wood shields and swords to period clothing and other crafts. I later bought a sword and a shield for my son and a hairpiece for my daughter. I also bought a shirt for me with the torn leather around the neck. We hiked the circular route up the castle, and along the way there were people setting up shop in the old rooms or courtyards of the ruins. Once at the top they had lots of food, a stage with music and of course a beer tent. The music was just great except that I got dragged out to dance by one of the maidens. Must have been my shirt I just bought. This fest was really a highlight of the trip. One of those unique moments or times that you did not plan for but that you really enjoy and remember. In fact in my journal for that day, the first words are "What a great day!"

Later that day I went to Jurgens to watch the German national soccer team for a few hours. Still hard to get used to a women being around!

That evening I went to Heidi & Wolfgangs for a BBQ about 2 kilometers away in the tiny farming village of Orbis. Just on the outskirts of the village is a 1-acre plot that the locals are allowed to use for their gardens. There is a spring here with a small stream and quite a few fruit trees. That evening we walked to the orchard and pitched a few small table and chairs and had a BBQ with about 3 other couples from the village. It was really a magical night, sitting in the tall grass with the fire burning and the old fruit trees around us. As is usual, the schnapps came out after dark and we all stayed till around midnight drinking and telling jokes.

Really a great day all the way around.

June 8, 2003

After breakfast on the patio I head out to Orbis once again, but his time it's to visit Monja's aunt Hedwig. She is 60 going on 90, so every time I see her I worry it might be the last. I grab Heidi to translate for me and then spend an hour visiting with tante Hedwig.

I then head back to Kibo to help Jurgen clean up the after party mess. It's close to noon and I mention that I haven't had a Schnitzel since I arrived. Well Jurgens new wife runs down to the butcher and buys a few pieces of veal and makes one of the best schnitzels I have ever had. It's good to have a women around!

Back to Tom & Petry's. Earlier that morning we saw in the local paper a list of all the fests. Wachenheim, a village close by was having a wine fest on the berg, or at the castle. So we head East on 47 and then South on 271, the wine strasse. Again, a wonderful drive with the grape plants so full and the vines climbing the old buildings and over the street on the suspended wires. After 45 minutes we arrive just south of Bad Durkheim in Wachenheim. The fest is up at the castle overlooking the village. It's quite a walk, especially with a 6 & 3 yr old, but worth it. The view over the vineyards and villages from the top was great.

There was a stage with a live bank playing traditional German fold songs, which EVERYONE seemed to know. It's so nice to look around and see folks ranging from 25 to 75 all having a good time drinking and singing together. We spend a few hours here, have a nice meal of Bratwurst and lots of wine schorle. For those that don't know, a wine schorle is a mixture of sweet water and red or white wine. That's how they are able to drink such large glasses of wine at the fest, one third of it is water. Still packs quite a punch, especially when it's 90 degrees out.

We head back via the highway and take a short nap before heading to Monja's nieces birthday bash that night. Monja's niece's name is Sommer Eve. I always joke when she comes to visit we need to keep her out of the feminine hygiene isle or she might break down and cry when she sees what type of products she shares a name with. Usually we just call her Sommer when she visits. Anyway the party is in the yard between her boyfriend and his parents houses. About 100 people are here, including all the aunts, uncles, friends etc... Again people of all ages. There is every form of German salad, lots of BBQ wursts and steak and of course bread and beer. As darkness falls, which wasn't until 10:30 is seemed, the hard stuff came out. I sat with most of Monja's relatives until 1:00am drinking and telling stories. At one point in the evening Sommer's boyfriend brought me a drink of Jim Beam & Coke.

I asked Sommer if she told him that was my favorite drink and she said no, that he remembered from my last trip 2 yrs ago. Now that's a great guy! However, soon the Asbach and Jägermeister started to make the rounds and the Jim Beam got set aside. I love Asbach, but you can keep the Jägermeister. Yuck!

June 9, 2003

Today is Monday, but again it is a 3-day weekend. We walked downtown Kibo to my favorite restaurant,
Merano's. I have my usual, Tortellini alla panna, Tortellini with white sauce and lots of bread. As is now tradition I brought a bag of jellybeans for the little daughter of the lady who is the owner and waitress. We sit outside, enjoying the sun and heat at the umbrella covered tables. The little girl keeps peaking out the window and giggling, happy to have her bag of "bonbons" as she calls them.

After lunch we walk 10 feet across the town square to the ice cafe for some ice cream while the kids run around the square and splash their feet in the fountain. A perfect afternoon!

Later that evening we drove south to the tiny village of Altleiningen to visit Fones & Ute one last time. We had a nice BBQ in the back yard. The meal featured a local Rhineland Pfalz specialty called Saumagen. This is basically meat and potato's cooked in pigs stomach. When I called Monja that night and told her what we had for dinner she laughed and laughed. She then told me what I had eaten. I wasn't pleased needles to say. Anyway, after dinner we drove about 2 kilometers to a nearby castle called Burg Jugendherberge. What's so neat about this castle is there is a youth hostel and TWO swimming pools within it. Lots of families were there that evening staying at the hostel. There were ping pong tables, video rooms, restaurants, etc... Really a great place. I can't wait to take my family there when we return in September.

June 10, 2003

Feeling the effects of too much sun and not enough non-alcoholic beverages, I take a few aspirin and head for Heidelberg. Once there I follow the tight, windy one way road up the hill to the castle and follow the road around the schloss gardens to the free parking area. Just a few steps down the stone stairway and I'm right next to the statue/fountain of the man laying on his side in the gardens. I spend a good hour just walking the grounds, enjoying the greenery, the sounds and the smells. Again, I hadn't been to Germany during the summer in 5 years, so this was a real treat.

Since I wasn't feeling to well I decided to skip the old town and look for a place I had seen on the web a few months before, called the Thingstätte. I also wanted to find the lookout on the other side of the Neckar river that looked across towards the castle. So I drove in that direction, hoping I would get lucky. Soon I found a sign that simply said Burg. Figuring it must be up a hill and might have the view I was looking for I followed the way up a long and windy road. After about 1-2 miles I come to a few ruins and a small tower. I stop and get out to walk and what do you know, the nicest view you could ever want of Heidelberg and the castle. I take about 10 pics and continue up the road.

About ½ mile later is a small cafe and a lot of hiking trails. I ask one of the locals if they know of the Thingstätte and they motion its just up the trail. Please with my luck I hike about 400 yards and come to a huge old amphitheater made of stone dug into the hillside.

From what I read this was built by the Nazi's for rallys but never actually used. I climbed to the top of the stairs and saw a sign on one of the trees with a monk pointing up the hill. So I followed the sign and walked about 100 feet before coming to the ruins of an old monastery or Kloster.

Really a neat find with old walls and courtyards and one underground room you could go into and see the old support pillars. I then walked back down to the guesthouse and had an apple strudel with ice cream before heading back to Kibo.

Before driving back to Kibo I went a few miles farther on B40 to Winnweiler and the
Bischoff brewery to pick up a few collectibles. Then back to the house for a long nap. The heat and illness had really taken their toll on me. But when you only have 8 days you got to make the most of them.

That evening we had a BBQ at Monja's sister's apartment. My 4th BBQ of the trip, Ugh. Actually the food was great, I was just ready for something different at this point. Monja's sister, brother, niece and a few others were there, which just made Monja even more angry that she didn't get to come along. But I tried to have enough fun for the both of us. I know I drank and ate enough for the two of us!

June 11, 2003

The last full day was dedicated to visiting all the friends and relatives one more time before driving to Alzey and the huge market store for Gummi bears, Milka Schokolade, Duplo, Kinder Schokolade, Kinder eggs, etc...

Later that evening I take Tom & Petry out to the local Greek restaurant for a great Greek meal. After dinner Tom and I take my car to meet Jurgen one last time at a small pub where his dart team is practicing. A few last shots of Asbach and then back home to finish packing.

Later that evening and the next morning a steady stream of friends and relatives stop by to drop off gifts and candies for the kids. I don't know why I bother buying candy because as soon as my bags are packed everyone brings by a "little something" for the kids or Monja. It's really great, but hard on the luggage.

June 12, 2003

My flight leaves at 1pm, so I have time to stop by Jurgens one last time to say goodbye. Once at the airport I drop off my Spanish made
Seat. Not the best car I have driven! In fact, had I been on a vacation that required any long distance driving I would have turned the car back in.

The brake and clutch practically went through the floor every time you pushed them and a Yugo has more power than one of these. But for running around town or going to Heidelberg it was fine.

A smooth flight back on Lufthansa and I was home by 7pm that night. By 7:15 the kids were eating gummi bears and chocolates.

Now I can start looking forward to the family trip in September.

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