Over the next three weeks, I will be staying with my cousins in Germany and Austria until my mom meets up with me in Austria, to bring me home.
31 May to 12 June 2012.
The train from Florence to Munich is always a relaxing yet stressful experience. For some reason I’m always afraid I got on the wrong train, but once the conductor checks my ticket, I can sit back and do… nothing. It’s great. Barb met me at the Ulm train station and we had a somewhat epic run down the platform into a warm embrace moment. It is always fun to have someone waiting for you at the station.
Since lunch is the main meal of the day in Germany, we enjoyed a light bread-meat-cheese dinner.
1-6 June. Friday to Wednesday. Staying with Cousin Barb.
Cousin Barb and her family live in the town of Laupheim, about 15 minutes from Ulm. That afternoon, Barb gave me a little tour of the town, while we did errands. The supermarket (I found an ice cream named after me–see picture), Pet’s school, the Bäckerei, and a subtle tribute to Laupheim’s most famous resident, Carl Laemmle. I never knew that the founder of the Universal Motion Picture Company was from the same town as some of my family! Who knew! Laemmle also owned a movie theater called Nickelodeon, which I assume the Universal owned TV channel is named after.
That afternoon, Barb showed me her vast recorder collection. I was quite impressed by how many sizes there are. and so large too?
Finally the weekend, and the family decided to take a drive down to the Bodensee aka. The Lake of Constance. The shore of the Bodensee is shared by three countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, but we stayed on the German side. After a short drive to the sea, we visited the church Birnau, a very decorative Rococco style church. The walls were dripping with carvings and little angels. This is also the location of the origional Honigschlecker (honey licker) statue that my Opa recreated.
After a picnic on the grass outside of Birnau, we visited the town of Meersburg. Here, we visited two beautiful castles, one old and the other very old. We put our feet in the sea and enjoyed the warm sun while we had it — rain was in the forecast for the rest of the week. Next, we took a boat to the Blumeninsel Mainau (The Flower Island of Mainau). With a castle at the top of the hill, the surrounding grounds were covered with flower gardens. Whenever a new rose is germinated, the creator has the honor of planting it in the Minau’s rose garden. The island also had a large green house filled with beautiful butterflies.
I joined the family for mass on Sunday morning. It was a nice change from the very stiff Italian mass because we got to actually sing worship. That afternoon, just as the weather had predicted, it rained; but Ber was brave and decided to do a barbecue anyways. I got to sample many German sausages. He told me to never tell a person from Munich that he put a weisswurst on the bbq.
Tante Git came for lunch today. yummy… Lasagna.
This afternoon, Barb took me to the Castle Sigmaringen. The tour was all in German, but I got an interesting booklet to read in English and I could actually understand a bit of what the guide was saying! At the end of the tour, we walked through the Armory which included a huge collection of medieval and foreign armor. It was pretty cool.
Pet is fascinated by rockets and outer space. He just lights up when we talk about it and he loves going to visit Laupheim’s planetarium. This morning, the planet of Venus was going to pass between the earth and the sun, a “Venus Transit,” so we got up very, very early to go see it just as the sun was rising.
Barb had to go to work that day, so I stayed behind to pack up my things before her sister, my cousin Mar, would come to pick me up.
6-12 June. Wednesday to Tuesday. Staying with Mar and Wolf.
Mar is a teacher for a university in Ulm that is built in an old abbey that has one of the most beautiful libraries. The University of Wiblingen is a school of medicine and the library is fantastic. The library is also rococo in style and has an amazing mural on the ceiling and many statues throughout.
It was a bavarian holiday making this weekend a four-day weekend! We slept in and took a slow drive down to the Alps. Barb and Wolf have a little hutte nestled in the mountains. We stopped at a ruined castle on the way down and then had an early dinner at a perfect outdoor restaurant. So relaxing.
The hike up to the hutte took about an hour and was tough work! With the aid of hiking sticks, I was able to push myself and my big travel backpack up the mountain. The hut is a simple one room cabin with an outhouse. It was rustic living that weekend for sure. No running water, no electricity. Just a small spring outside and a gas tank for the lamp and stove.
Friday, we went for a walk to a little farm and rest stop for hikers. We enjoyed fresh milk, cheese, and holunder (elderflower) water, along with an amazing view of the mountains. On the walk back to the hut, it started to sprinkle, slowly getting heavier and heavier. I had a little rain jacket on which was ok at first until, suddenly, it started to down pour! I think there was even some hail! I just stood there laughing. I was soaked through and I got to walk for an hour back to the hut to a fire and dry clothes. Even though I was cold and wet, I was so happy. Such a beautiful place. Most beautiful in the world.
Wolf was very proud of himself as he hung all of my clothes up over the little pot belly stove to dry. It was quite the contraption.
While walking through one of the villages near the hut, we stumbled upon a Kneipp Pool. This form of Hydrotherapy was developed by bavarian monk Sebastian Kneipp and involves submerging different parts of your body in ice water and then allowing them to return to room temperature. A Kneipp Pool had been installed along one of the hiking trails, so, we had to try it. Snow melt had come down from the peaks and was directed into this circular pool. As you walk through the mid-calf deep water, you must fully bring your foot out of the water before you take the next step. It was pretty funny looking, but it felt very good.
Wolf’s mother came over in the late morning to try and teach me how to make something that my Oma had made for me when I was little.. I asked for Semmelknoedel in Metzelsupp (bread dumplings in a Butcher’s broth) however, she had never heard of such a combination (maybe it’s an American combination). Semmelknoedel is made from day old bread, formed into balls and boiled. Usually, they are served as a side to meat with gravy. Metzelsupp is one of the best broths made from a left over bone. The marrow seeps out while cooking and really warms you up.
That afternoon, the town of Ulm was holding an open house of the fortress Bundesfestung. This 9 kilometer polygon fortress completely surrounds the cities of Ulm and Neu-Ulm and is one of the largest working fortresses in the world. Constructed in the 1850s, after the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte, it housed many armies throughout many wars, and still holds a small post of the German military. Tours were given through many subterranean bunkers used for defense and storing weapons. I really enjoyed touring the actual fort. One huge ramp wound its way around the pentagon shaped building and up to the roof. We passed huge rooms where soldiers had lived. We also learned that after WWII, these rooms were used as temporary housing for refugees. It was cramped living, but it also had an amazing view of the city of Ulm.
I went with Maria to work today and after lunch, Tante Git came to pick me up for the afternoon. We went to downtown Ulm to do a bit of last minute shopping before I was to leave Germany. Yet again, we got caught in the rain. Mar met us later for afternoon coffee. We all headed back to Mar’s house where Tante Git taught me to make Schupfnudeln (potato noodles).
I miss the food in Germany. Mar always wanted to make something special for me, but it was the typical food that my Oma cooked for me when I was little, that is special for me. I miss the home cooking, the bags of inexpensive marzipan, the honey (Germany has the best wild mountain honey), the schupfnudeln, dampfnudeln, semmelknoedel, pretzels, oh, how the list goes on. Some people rave about Italian and French food, which is excellent, don’t get me wrong. But for me, I choose German food.
Up early. A train to catch and lots of crying on the platform! I’m going to miss them. Next stop Austria.