Looking for answers to life's questions

I had originally thought to visit Friedrichshafen with my daughter as part of our journey. My grandparents lived there for a great portion of their lives after the war was over. I was able to visit them on occasion while we were living in Aschaffenburg.

Something pretty to look at.

My Opa sent me home in a variety of ways as mom had 3 more needing care. Once, I was packed into the cab of an 18 wheeled truck with a trusted driver. Another time they put me on the train with a tag as to where to get off. I got scared and got off too soon but someone put me back on the train and I ended up where I belonged. Oma took me to market and taught me to read German when I could visit.

My mother’s parents

Fear of the weather quickly overtook nostalgia. They were expecting snow. The Bodensee area gets darn cold so I convinced my daughter not to risk the rental car. We opted instead for a city I’ve never visited. Stuttgart. It put us back on track to make it to Frankfurt in time for our flight home. I tend to worry more than I should.

am Bodensee with a small tour vessel

2006 trip to Friedrichshafen

The saying goes if you can’t say anything nice about something or someone, don’t say anything. I’ll just say the shopping center right down the street from our hotel in Stuttgart was a godsend. We got our walks in and found lunch and dinner. Since my daughter worked into the night hours to coincide with her office hours in the states, I usually started my day with lunch. She ate what they brought her for breakfast. I was being contrary (I can get that way) and refused their choices, happy after seeing it, to forgo that meal. Even with our vaccine certificate they were the only place that refuse us entrance to the breakfast room.

They use a lot of paper bowls for their take away salads

We couldn’t go into any stores because we didn’t have the QR code on our vaccine certificate from the states. Without it we couldn’t be seated for a meal or go inside a store. We could pick up take away food and walk around the three levels all day, fully masked. We didn’t dawdle. Each day, we walked down the hill after a sweet young woman personally took us to find the hidden entrance to the shopping center. We made the circle of all three floors, got our food and mineral water supply, then headed back to our room.

I wish I’d had cards with this on it for some people. FB photo

We did try to do laundry there but there was no parking available. I found a tiny fabric shop that was mostly for home decor but since we had paid for parking, I purchased a 50-cent pack of needles for embroidery.

I usually like to comment on how helpful the staff is at a hotel in helping us find our way around a new city. I won’t be doing that here. I found the whole city uninviting. We took no photographs and we were not allowed to ride public transit according to the hotel manager.

Have you ever visited a new place you never want to see again?

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Aschaffenburg had us hoping for more real German delight. Right away I knew where we needed to go. My daughter found us a hotel right at the entrance to the fairy tale world of Rothenburg. It’s on the Romantic Highway. My sister and I visited here as well in 2006 during summer; falling in love with the town.  My daughter and I were able to park the rental car in a free lot and it never moved again till we left.

Entrance to the walled city

We were told after showing our vaccination documents and passports that we were getting an upgrade room. I wasn’t sure what that meant but our room was quite spacious and very old world looking. We had everything we needed there.

Breakfast was included and we were seated a safe distance apart from other diners. Disposable gloves were offered free to keep all utensils germ free and as long as you were near the food, masks remained on. Once you retrieved your food and sat to eat, masks could come off. Again, the hotel population was sparse. Was it covid or winter?

Lots of glitz in old hotel. No one else in there

Masks and gloves required.

After breakfast we walked into the old section of Rothenburg where the tourists are drawn in to shop. We did our fair share and of course had to check out all the bakeries along the streets. There were gift shops and luggage shops. My daughter bought another small suitcase to check since she had done a fair bit of shopping already in Köln so the suitcase was going to be necessary. Hard sided and bright so it would be easy to find in the crowd.

Stickers added in case we couldn’t see it.

There was a mini-Christmas market but all the shops welcomed you in, only if you had vaccination certificates. We found delicious pastries and then we located the Christmas shop.

We saved that for the next day as we knew the restaurant would stop serving at 2 pm and we would want linner. (That’s a late lunch, early dinner). The restaurant owned by the hotel was as old world as the town. The food there was indescribably delicious. I moaned as I failed to finish my first meal. Portions were substantial and perfectly cooked. The beer was perfect of course. The second day the  meal was equally as scrumptious and I refused to leave even a bite of it. We waddle out with grins that expressed extreme satisfaction in any language. Fortunately, language was no barrier here either.

Our hotel itself had such modern upgrades as motion sensor lighting everywhere and the room key tucked in its inside slot allowed the room lights to go on until we turned them off. On leaving the room and taking the ‘plastic card key’ all lights in the room turned off. Since we planned several days visit, we ask that our room not be serviced until we left, saving water and wear. We spent only three days and wished we had stayed longer. If I only had one place to visit in Germany, it would be here.

Put in your key card for lights. Take card, lights out

We were directed to a good-sized grocery store in walking distance for a few things like mineral water and found a very handy gas station for later. Then we walked the whole walled city and shopped at the Kathy Wolfart Christmas store. This was an expensive trip. My daughter had gifts shipped from there.

I wanted this guy to come home with me.

I don’t think this car ever moved.

The contrast in old and new was very apparent in this little town. I struggle with seeing the old disappear and the new swallow it all up. We need the modern but also the reminders of what was and the beauty of the old architecture. More on that later, I think.

How do you feel about the destruction of the old to be replaced by the new?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

 

A Little Twist

I’m going to the end of my trip, then later when I get more brain power, I’ll get back to the trip in all it’s glory.  I like to be efficient and answer the questions just once.

Too much luggage Then we added one more piece.

We made it back to the States. It was a bit nerve raking as in the last weeks of our trip, the U.S. government decided that anyone coming back into the country had to have a covid test the day before their flight. Then we had to wait until midnight of that day to get the results. The rapid results tests were not cheap and they came to our cell phones by email. It took until 2:00 a.m. to get ours, then my daughter had to go onto our flight carrier’s site to post the results. Hence, no sleep for either of us.

After our test at 8:00 a.m., which was done next door to the hotel by the train station, we collected our luggage and taxied to an airport hotel with shuttle service. We had a lovely breakfast on flight morning in the best hotel so far. The Steigenberger turned out to be where many of the pilots and crew stayed. That’s a good recommendation to me.

This gnome seemed to like the airline staff

There was an unexpected mix up about who we were flying with so there was a lot of shuffling around and long shuttles in the airport itself before settling in to a tightly packed 10 hour flight. No sleep to be had there either.

We changed planes in Denver where we had to retrieve our own bags and recheck them on the next flight, go through security again and customs. We only had 1½ hour between flights. Denver is a HUGE airport and again I was grateful for the wheelchair assistance. A tiny person pushed me all over that airport as my daughter and another young woman who had to go retrieve her knee scooter for an injured foot followed us through the maze. I did leave that sweet, helpful person a healthy tip as we made our connection, where on our own, we would not.

Borrowed from my favorite, Mary Engelbreit says it all.

That’s where our new acquaintance parted ways. We were headed for Phoenix, bleary eyed and past tired.

The twist here is that while I was visiting with my son prior to our trip, we took the time to check out a few independent living options close to him. I was not seriously impressed with them but then reality set in. There was nothing “available” in my area of Oregon. The cost would have been unsettling. The cost of one by my son was well below anything else. It was ground floor with a door opening to the courtyard as well as an inside hallway; available immediately. My gut said grab it so my son wrote the check I left behind, just in case. I am now ensconced in my own small, two-bedroom apartment. I have an old sofa bed for the moment that has been passed around the family for too many years but it’s a start. There are no fancy amenities but I’m 3 blocks from my son with everything I need close by. I’ll be in the Arizona mountains instead of Oregon. A move I never expected but now that it’s done, feels like the right choice.

I’m hooked on these words

Next comes the retrieval of my personal things from Oregon storage. My daughter is once again, getting to pursue her own trajectory in life with the same mixed emotions I’ve had. I’m the fourth senior my son and his wife have to look after. They have my apologies. This could get interesting once jet lag and altitude adjustments are made.

Happy New Year one and all. It’s going to be a doozy.

Have you ever made a decision that twisted your life around?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

We went from Cologne to the city of Aschaffenburg. Not on most travelers must see list but it seemed right to go back after 15 years and see what had changed.

This hasn’t changed.

The first night we found a place to eat our first authentic German meal that was proceeded by a loud musical and peaceful protest against vaccines around the long city block. It made me nervous but it was orderly with no disruption except to traffic which the police managed.

My sister and I visited here in 2006. This is the city most of the stories about Suzy Q took place. We spent three years here when we were children. I took a picture of the street sign in 2006 just in case I wanted to find it again. This is the city where at the age of seven, I remembered where I came from, fully stepping into my body and became awake. You don’t forget those kinds of moments.

We booked a hotel in Aschaffenburg that was inexpensive with free wifi and breakfast included. The Olive Inn was a big green building. Easy to spot from a long distance and GPS took us straight there. We found a free parking spot on the side of the building which was a bonus. My daughter walked up to the office/reception area and it was locked up tight; on a Saturday at 1:00 p.m. My daughter called. She was told since there were only three other guests, they were told to close the reception office and stay home. That meant no breakfast as well. The key to our room was under the mat and she gave us the room number.

Not quite olive but you couldn’t miss it.

To be honest, the room was stark with nothing that encouraged an extended stay. No mini fridge or microwave. No way to make coffee or tea. The best part of the room was the marshmallow mattresses. Best night’s sleep we’d had so far.

On Sunday’s almost everything is closed, but we headed out anyway to find sustenance again and to see if we could find the street I lived on from one photographed street sign.

The guiding sign photographed in 2006

We programmed it into GPS and as we pushed start navigation, the direction signal didn’t move. We drove down the street and it directed us back up. The street we were looking for was exactly one block up from that awful motel. One block on the other side of the street!!! Ironic? Synchronistic? Fate?

We parked the car and walked the entire block. It was barely recognizable but when I found the little church, there was no mistaking it was the same block with a very different look. The school looked quite different and the apartments we lived in had been bulldozed.

I had thought 15 years ago that it was sad those huge buildings had remained empty after the US Army moved out of there. I guess they have decided to start over from scratch. It was a little heartbreaking but that is life. Everything must change.

The apartments had all been bulldozed.

My daughter saw what was left of my one-time home. Mission accomplished. Time for the new. That included a different town and hotel. We cancelled the rest of our stay. The rental car needed an oil change so we took it back to Frankfurt. They gave us another one for the rest of our trip.  We did miss those soft mattresses.

Marshmallow mattresses

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ~ Terry Pratchett,  A Hat Full of Sky

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

I mentioned before that we had hoped over the last year or two that this would be a more international trip than it has been. While watching all the episodes of “I’ll have what Phil’s having” and “Somebody feed Phil” on Netflix we got caught up in Phil Rosenthal’s childlike wonder at every city and country he visited and the food he tasted. It was our happy place during the Pandemic. A hopefulness that enveloped us when the days seemed too grim to bear. Phil made us laugh and feel his joy.

A Phil mug for each of us.

It was not to be. Everywhere we wanted to go got tighter and tighter restrictions and we understood. So, we confined out trip to just memory lane with a little added bonus here and there.

My daughter-in-law was caught up in our wonder herself. She decided that a joint Christmas gift for my daughter and I would represent the idea of global travel. She did extensive research and pulled together foods from everywhere possible and labeled their origin, wrapped them beautifully and placed them in two baskets for my daughter and I. My son supplied encouragement.

Each package labeled where the food originated

I wanted to share just a bit of our fun at opening each and every one of these dozens of packages before we left on our trip. We all sampled a few and the rest are awaiting our return. I’m not expecting to do more traveling but never say never. I’m wishing you an adventurous heart to your Christmas and sending lots of love and hugs to each and everyone that has sent en-courage-ment as we trek through the country of my birth. We are celebrating a quiet thoughtful Christmas and New Year as we delve into the unknown future that awaits.

There is so much here

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each of you and thank you from the bottom of my heart for going on this journey with us.

My daughter’s water color for her brother.

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself.

Köln (Cologne)

Disappointment was not on the list at this destination. Our hotel was again in the industrial area of town but brought unforeseen bonuses. We were next to a metro line. As the helpful staff at the Mercure hotel pointed out we could buy a Köln card for that metro line for $9 each and go round trip all day. They had a bit of a struggle understanding what we were looking for in a room but in the end, everything worked out perfectly.

Who can see with masks on. All fogged up glasses

The room was comfortable and once settled, we took the metro for 11 stops to come to the Rhine River and the Chocolate Museum. Oh yes, they had one of those just for us and a couple of small Christmas markets along the way. The Köln card for the metro got us a little discount into the museum and on purchases we made there. We saw everything possible, then decided on a lunch break.

We found the secret stash of chocolate

I was really still full from our hotel breakfast which was lovely. It was an extra cost but we didn’t have to go out and hunt for it. No Denny’s or Pancake house on every corner here. Lunch was a cup of loaded hot chocolate. Mine was Grand Marnier, daughter’s was Bailey’s. We each had a crepe with banana’s that looked small but filled us to the top. The piece of chocolate cake we planned to get for dessert stayed behind as we waddled out.

There was plenty of chocolate shopping for gifts. Less for me than daughter. Trudging out with two bags of gifts, we amble through the Christmas market. The weather was once again kind. Then we walked some more to another Christmas market that was at the metro line. I was carrying my portable oxygen concentrator, purse and a very full body through the market. I didn’t want to add one more ounce to the weight. We bought cards and a few small things, finally dragging into our hotel to call it a day.

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The next day was as interesting in a very different way. We need a few things from the grocery store and were told it was directly across the street. Of course, we had to walk to the corner then back down. My daughter was impressed that they had 27 varieties of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. We rarely find more than three at home. We bought water and a beer along with chips and fixings. Four heavy bag loads had to be carried back to the hotel.

We would have loved a ride on this but I never saw it move.

The next day was laundry day. We have laundromats so handy but have found them almost nonexistent here. Hotel staff kindly directed us to the only one in the area. It was outdoors next to a super store much like a Walmart. Only the small washer was working so we had to do three small loads instead on one large one. At least the weather was good. I have never done my laundry outside in front of God and everyone.

 

It was a busy place and when the laundry was done, we had a look at the super store ourselves. It took great restraint to leave so much good stuff behind. Our last night we had dinner at the hotel and enjoyed a nice beer with it. Finding gas on the way out of town was another challenge. I’m am more than grateful that someone invented GPS or we might still be driving around in circles. The little flex fuel car had it onboard setting us straight. Too bad it didn’t explain how paying for the gas worked. Another lesson to be learned. I would easily go back here. Köln was new to both of us.

What’s new in your world?

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~ Marcel Proust

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

 

The Beginning

Coming to Germany was an exercise, in what? I’m not quite sure. My daughter had heard my stories of growing up in Germany for so many years that she really wanted to see for herself what I was talking about and get a little of the flavor of my life. It was quite different than most of my peers.

Me and Oma

We decided to go back to the beginning where I was born. I have only a few fragmented memories of that place. Small, maybe two rooms and austere. No color or warmth. No indoor plumbing.

 

Wolfgang Stein owns this photo. I borrowed it. Winter would make it look grim.

Down in the valley. My hometown.

When mom and I went back in 2000, we saw where our house had been located but already a massive two story stood instead. This time we couldn’t even find the road to it or the tavern in which my mother found old friends.

A couple of old friends who remembered her

We drove down the main road, got stopped on dead ends up on the hill and turned around not seeing even the tavern, and left. There was no market or anywhere to stay.

Just me somewhere in Germany

So back to our room at another version of German hospitality. The Pension. My daughter didn’t know it didn’t have an elevator but I made it up all those stairs with the kind owner helping with luggage. She ran to get bags up to the top of the second set of stairs and made every effort to make us comfortable. She even spoke a bit of English and probably understood more.

The room was small for American tastes but clean and very comfortable. Bad Endbach was a just slightly larger village than my own. Because of the health baths, there was  more available.

We found a place in Dillenburg to buy some take out for our Sunday dinner after we found a place to eat lunch. Breakfast was nonexistent. We could find only a Greek and Asian food place open that day. The tiny common eating area at the Pension had everything we needed. Even a tea kettle to make a cuppa. We put the dirty dishes in a pan and Yolanda came to collect and do them. It’s a spa town so they do attract regular guests.

Winter and Covid has left every business everywhere vulnerable to collapse and this lovely person tried so hard to meet our needs. The next day we even found a small grocery to get fixings to make our own sandwiches.

When I left the area, I felt like I was done there. Nothing left of my old life and it was time to keep moving on to a new one. I felt no attachment at all. It had definitely changed course without me and everything felt like it had nothing left to offer. On to the next adventure.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. ~ Heraclitus

 

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

The Best Way

Somehow, we made it. First to Arizona. then down to the Phoenix Airport to catch our flight to Germany. Until the moment we finally got on the plane, I fully expected someone to inform us of Germany’s lockdown. I was so afraid to get excited and jinx the trip.

Out our hotel window I saw a woman looking at the wall of books.

It didn’t happen and here we are. We spent two nights in Frankfurt to recover from jet lag. It took longer but we moved on anyway. The best thing we saw in Frankfort with the time and energy we had was the train station right across the street from our downtown hotel. My daughter didn’t realize when renting our car that we had to pick it up in Frankfurt proper rather than the airport. It goes back there too and turns out to be much less expensive that way. The taxi ride to pick it up wasn’t.

The Frankfurt Bahnhof (train station) was amazing. If you need anything, I think you can find it there. Every kind of food imaginable, a small grocery store, bars, bakeries, and humanity from all corners of the world. Germany is as much a melting pot as the US.

I’m going to admit something here. I had been struggling for air at my son’s place and was somewhat better when we arrived in Phoenix. It was the next morning, loading our exorbitant amount of luggage into the Phoenix Airport that I was absolutely grateful my daughter had ordered wheelchair service for me. I have a tendency to be very stubborn about my ability to be independent but decided not to be stupid about it and acquiesced. It turned out to be a lifesaver. We were whisked to security and through not so quickly as the RFID folders she had me use kept setting the alarm off.  I didn’t even realize it was in my pocket. They dropped us off way down a terminal that was so far, I’d still be trying to get there. Everyone along our route including changing to Lufthansa in Huston was extremely helpful and kind. I would not have made the connection to the second flight without all the help I received at both ends of that flight.

Getting through customs with the help of a German/English speaking airport staff member cut the time in half. I tipped generously to all the runners that got us where we needed to be before the flight left. The layover almost didn’t give us enough time. It was well worth it all the way around. The best way to travel is by wheelchair…sometimes.

My health issues aren’t obvious until the huffing and puffing starts so I wasn’t willing to ask for help. If you have health issues and avoid travel for that reason, remember there are people on airport staff just waiting to be helpful. A kind word and a nice tip go a LONG way. I also managed to make myself understood in German.

They had my favorite beer but I didn’t go in.

All the little hitches that could have been problems just smoothed themselves out very quickly. Our Lufthansa flight was piloted by two female pilots and their landing was smooth as glass. I slept not a wink though. On to our other adventures coming up.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”– St. Augustine

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

This is the first Thanksgiving I have spent at the home of my son and his wife in way too many years. We will also be celebrating his birthday while we are here on the mountain in Arizona. He’s still busy working though; even after knee replacement surgery. Obviously, it went very well.

It took a while to get here. First a day’s drive to Redding, CA. Hot, dry and windy we headed out the next morning for the San Fransisco Bay area to visit for a few hours with fellow blogger, Alys and family. We had a lovely dinner together with a lot of chatting. I was privileged to view her garden up close. I could be jealous but I am always grateful for all I learn from her. Getting there was no party though. It’s California traffic after all.

The next night was Bakersfield, CA. There was so much dust and pollutants in the air the it was in the unhealthful range. I did have the best Cobb salad I’ve ever had anywhere. Then a night in Flagstaff to get acclimated slowly to the altitude. Even with oxygen, it left me huffing and puffing as I still am where my son lives. Thanksgiving dinner will be another 1000 ft higher. I won’t need wine.

Right now, I’m very grateful we made it here for a unique celebration of gratitude with family and their friends. Only eight of us but lots of food and I hope friendly conversation. I’m making Watergate for a side dish/dessert. My son’s favorite German dinner is the order of the day for his birthday. I’ll be the chef of the day for that meal.

The day I found out escrow had closed and I had to go sign papers on my house, I was having a lovely soup and salad with my quilting friend, Patti. Her son lives close by with his partner in life. They were away so Patti had to check the mail and house while we were out. She had to show me how her son’s partner had already set the entire dining room for their version of Thanksgiving. She apparently has a flair for making things very festive as their dinner will be including several friends without family. I was in love with it so I took copious photos.

How will you do your Thanksgiving?

I wish you all things good and much for which to be grateful.

From my grateful heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

I’m sitting in the motel’s breakfast room writing this but can’t get it posted right away. It will have to wait for a secure internet connection later.

Good Ship Pumpkin. Too cute for words.

We just completed three days of intense packing of all the things we thought we couldn’t live without. Then we finally got the last of our things into storage with a great deal of help from my sister and a couple of my daughter’s friends. Lastly, we cleaned house for the buyer to move into without worry about putting things away. I wanted her experience to be different from mine moving into this home.

As we drove away to give the keys to my realtor, I fully expected a sad farewell. It didn’t come. I must have been too tired from all the details of the sale and the work but I was oddly somewhat relieved to pass the torch to the next younger owner.

Last view on a stormy day.

We listed the house September 10 and signed closing papers November 10. Wow! Apparently, I found the only realtor who really works for their client and goes the extra mile. I have had realtors while buying and selling other places that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. I think Debra and I would have been friends had we met before.

No path left

I dawdled and lollygagged with the packing earlier, thinking we had lots of time. Maybe till spring. Here we are, officially homeless with no permanent forwarding address. What 73-year-old woman with health issues does that? Yes, I have checked in with a professional that assures me I’m not crazy. Maybe a little slow in the brain department.

We have had a short night’s rest. I woke at 2:30 this morning. A loud voice in my dreams called my name and brought me straight up and out of slumber. Not wanting to turn on the lights in our room so my chauffeur could get quality sleep, I wandered in here to visit with you.

Mt Shasta I think

We won’t leave until past daybreak for a 7-hour drive to the next motel. The following day I get to visit my friend and fellow blogger, Alys at Gardening Nirvana, dropping off a fairy garden for her gentle care while my daughter and I travel on to Arizona to spend the rest of the month with my son and his family. After which we hope to board a flight for Germany and anywhere else that we can get to see.

This whole trip and experience took on a life of its own. We are traveling in winter during a pandemic with heavy outbreaks in many places. It’s a bit scary but if not now, when?

More bowl cozies

The hardest part was taking down my sewing room. I did manage to finish a few projects that were sitting there waiting. Bowl cozies half done and I couldn’t leave them that way. I’ve already sold four of them to my realtor who had never seen them before. Now I have to hope that I find a place that will allow me space to continue being creative.

Wine and cork cozies

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself