Visiting Dad’s friends in Germany – Jordan’s Blog

This week we took a trip to a place from the past for dad. Thirty years ago, my dad signedIMG_3971 up to go work on a farm in Germany. On our big drive north to Amsterdam he planned to stop by the farm for a visit. Dad sent an email (in German) to Joesef, the farm owner. After a great response it was final! We were to have lunch with them and their three kids (who had since grown considerably according to dad).

The first stop was at the actual farm house where dad had lived and worked. But when we pulled up we saw that it wasn’t a farm but a big house. We askedIMG_4031 dad if he was sure this was the place and he said he was. We went up to knock on the door, and right then we knew that this was the farm dad worked on. They had taped on the front door the Californian and American flags so there would be no doubt we would miss it. The man who came to the door was in his mid-thirties and spoke rapid German. His name was Bernd. Dad said he was five the last time he saw him. Bernd showed us around the house with his wife and then took us into the living room to haveIMG_4027 beer and Fanta. We talked each telling the other what had happened since dad came to the farm. It turned out that the family used the barn to extend their house and make a bigger living space. Bernd and his wife are the only ones living there now, the mother and father built a new house up the road and the other two brothers still lived inside the town very close by. After all the talk was done and all the drinks were drunk, it was time to meet the rest of the family

Before we could even get on the road, dad had a little trouble driving up the driveway. IMG_4045There was just enough snow coating on the ground that was unfriendly to our non-winter tires. At first dad tried to hook chains to the wheels, but he had forgotten how to do them and Bernd insisted they were not necessary. So, with the help of some rope and a lot of horsepower, dad’s friend towed us up the short, steep part of the driveway with his 4-wheel drive truck. We got back on the road and followed them to the house farther up the hill. At the top we received a warm welcome from Joesef, Maria and their two other sons. We stayed outside a little while talking before the cold finally forced us in. IMG_3981We gathered around the living room, drank champagne and coke, (a small upgrade from beer and Fanta) talked, and relaxed before the cake was ready. I played my guitar for them and received a great applause, although I admit I was a little nervous playing for people I had never met before. The cookies were great, but I didn’t try the cake because I am no fan of raspberries. I did hear though that the others loved it. After all the sweets were eaten, we went back outside to explore the farm space that had been built after dad had worked here. They still had a good dairy running with 30 cows and a bull and two new calves. Bernd let us drive the tractor around everyone. Justin and I had a snowball fight with Bernd, Christof and Reiner. I did not have my gloves and my hands were freezing. Mom got a lot pictures and we had a great time. Sadly, Joesef and Maria had an invitation IMG_4050to go to a friend’s house that evening, so we left a little early. Everyone said his or her goodbyes and we drove back to our hotel to get ready for the long drive to Amsterdam on the morning.

Neuschwanstein – Perfect Winter’s Day

Germany had never figured prominently in any of our oft-revised travel plans. In the end, IMG_2499we ended up spending only 3 nights in Germany and were treating the country as a transit route with Amsterdam as our goal. We had very little time to do any sightseeing. I thought the ‘Disneyland Small World’ castle of Neuschwanstein would be a good first stop for a few hours. Gigi nor I had ever visited this castle. It is uber-picturesque. Neuschwanstein is located in Bavaria at the base of the Alps right on the German border with Austria. It had snowed two days earlier and Bavaria was blanketed under several inches of fresh, powdery snow. The skies were blue. We arrived at noon with just enough time to get lunch in one of the tourist hotels before taking the 40-minute walk up the hill to the castle and arrive in time for the 1:50 PM tour in English. As we drove into the small town of Hohenschwangau, we could see the castle standing on the hill, but the road up to it fromIMG_2503 the town ran under dense tree cover. Snowflakes were blowing off the tree branches and snow bombs were dropping periodically as we made our way up. We were surprised to see so many other tourists on a cold Thursday in January, but this castle is a major tourist destination. On the way up, the boys really wanted to just play in the snow, and my role was that of the spoiler. ‘Stay out of the snow!’ ‘If you get wet, you will be miserable!’ ‘No one else is throwing snowballs!’ I’m such a buzz-kill. They would have been happier if Gigi and I had left them outside to play in the snow. After the 35 minute tour and the 20 IMG_2496minute hike back down the hill, we were back on the road heading north. The town of Fussen, close by Neuschwanstein, looked very pretty and would have been worth a stroll through, but it was getting late, it was cold, and the boys were done with strolling for the day, especially if they could not throw snowballs at each other.