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Archive for December, 2021

Synchronicity at Work

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

Phil’s Christmas

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