June 29-30 - Flight to Frankfurt
July 1 - Koblenz
July 2 - Heidelberg
July 3 - Wiesbaden
July 4 - Igstadt, Wiesbaden, and the Rheingau
July 5-7 - Trier and Kröv, then the train from Metz to Paris
July 8-12 - Paris
July 9 - Versailles
July 10 - Chateaux on the Loire
July 13 - Train back to Frankfurt
July 14 - Flight back home to Detroit
I started keeping a diary by sending e-mail home at the end of each day. That lasted all of two days! Here are the e-mails I sent.
Monday, July 1
Greetings from Germany! We arrived yesterday after a relatively easy 9-hour non-stop flight from Detroit to Frankfurt. All 4 of the Berkels were there to pick us up, with a VW bus which was big enough for all of us and all our luggage. Rich, Alan, and I didn't bring much stuff, but we had 1.5 huge suitcases of Jan's things plus a bag of his skiis. The skiis caused a lot of comment in the airport. I could just hear the Germans thinking "Do those silly Americans think they can ski at this time of year?" One person asked us if we were on our way to Norway!
Remember the year we flew to Green Bay for the Super Bowl (which was being held somewhere in the south)? Well, this year we flew to Germany for the World Cup final between Germany and Brazil (which was being held in Japan)!! We all drove in to Wiesbaden to watch the game on a huge screen in the town square with many hundreds of Germans (and a few Brazilians brave enough to wave their flag during the game). It was really exciting to be part of all that enthusiasm and very disappointing when Germany lost.
Today we drove along the Rhine, which is beautiful, to Koblenz. The Rhine is about as wide as the Ohio River near Cincinnati. We could see across the Rhine to many charming half- timbered houses with steep wooded hills behind them. The houses in these villages are all close to the Rhine because of the hills. We had lunch at a pasta and pizza place where we ate at outdoor tables in the central plaza in Koblenz. After lunch, we visited a wonderful restored castle called Marksburg. This area is, of course, a center of wine making for Germany. On our way home, we stopped for dinner at a vineyard which serves their own wine and light meals. We again ate outdoors, this time under a grape vine arbor.
All of the Berkels speak excellent English, so we are able to discuss things in depth. We are having a wonderful time!
Mary, Rich, and Alan
Tuesday, July 2
First, I must explain the misspelling of Germany in the title of the e-mail I sent yesterday. The Z and Y are interchanged on the German keyboard. It's amazing how many words use those letters!
I forgot to mention that Sunday we took an hour- long walk around Igstadt, the village just outside Wiesbaden where the Berkels live. It's a village of about 2000 people, with their own bakery and butcher, and it is really darling. The Berkels live right next door to a sports club, which allows Jan and Philipp and their friends lots of room for all their sports and is also the place Philipp does his gun shooting.
The Berkels house is wonderful, and much larger than we had expected - 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and 2 offices as well as the kitchen, dining room, and living room. It is on many levels, with each bedroom on a different level - so there is lots of privacy for everyone. All the rooms have large windows with simple white curtains which admit the outdoors into the hosue. Most of the interior is painted white, with white tiles on the floor. This serves as a wonderful backdrop for all of the interesting art and furniture they have. Christiane is very interested in beautiful things which are also functional, so she has an Eames chair and other furniture designed decades ago which are still being made because their design is so classic. (Philistine that I am, I didn't recognize the other designers' names. Sorry, Janice.) She borrows large paintings from a local gallery for 6 months at a time, which is a wonderful way to change the look of a room. Some of her things are antiques, most from her family or Joseph's. Other things are very contemporary. The overall effect is very light and airy and welcoming.
Today we again started the day late because we are still adjusting to the time zone change. We had a wonderful breakfast of bröten (which means literally small bread but includes croissants and flaky rolls with chocolate as well as a variety of kinds of rolls), cheese, and wurst (which means cold meat such as salami and thinly sliced ham as well as sausages).
Our big activity for the day was our trip to Heidelburg, about an hour's drive away. The entire town is charming, with many of the roads for pedestrians and delivery trucks only so we could wander at will. We visited the student jail (where bored students have decorated every inch of the walls with their names and pictures) and a Gothic church build in the 14-16th centuries but which also has some fascinating modern stained glass windows. Then we walked up a steep hill to the palace, where we saw a wine barrell which holds 221,000 liters of wine. (We did the arithmetic for you. To drink that much wine in your lifetime, you would have to drink 7 liters every day of your life! They must have had amazing parties at that palace.) There was also an interesting pharmacy museum in the palace. And my favorite part was the wonderful view over all the red tiled roofs of Heidelburg and the Nekar River. At lunch, we stopped at a brewery where the restaurant was in a wonderful old building with dark wood walls and aged paintings on the ceiling.
We were all very tired when we got home, so we did carry-out pizza and pasta for dinner. Just like home!
Then tonight we looked at Jan's baby pictures! What a cutie he was, with his blond curls! It was fun to watch him grow up before our eyes, as well as seeing his friends and relatives - many of whom we will meet before the week is over.
I'm off to bed after a wonderful day.
Sunday, July 14
Just wanted to let you all know that we are home. Our visit with Jan and his family was wonderful, and our trip to Paris was great too. Now we will dig out from under 2 weeks of e-mail (I have 94 messages), paper mail (2' stack of paper), laundry (3 suitcases), etc. We'll try to get our photos posted along with more info about the trip next weekend.