Monthly Archives: January 2013

Goodbye Germany!

Goodbye Germany – it’s been wunderbar!

Tomorrow will be my last moment in Germany.  I leave in the morning for Arnhem, Holland. I’ll be picked up at the train station by Paul Boes, and will stay with him and his partner Dorry, until Sunday, and then I’ll leave for the town of Oss. More about that later.

First things first: my six weeks in Germany has fulfilled more of my dreams than I could ever imagine.

I got to renew my friendship with relatives that I claim as my own, whom I inherited from my husband, Will. Every single one of them treated me like I was something special. I love them and treasure them probably more than they know.

Then there was Berlin and a special time to explore the city with my friend Marilyn McCord from Colorado. We celebrated Christmas and New Years in Berlin…and I will always hold dear those three weeks with my friend.

Michael Madden, owner of Hotel Romerhof in Bingen on the Rhine

 

I have to hold up the city of Bingen as my favorite town in Germany. This is a special place, and even more special to me, as it brings back memories of the first time I saw the Rhine River all those years ago. Ever since then – 1985 – I have wanted to spend more time close to the river and I got to do that this past week.

It has helped that I found a hotel that will go down as one of my favorites in my ten month journey, so far.

Michael Madden owns and operates the award winning Hotel Romerhof at the young age of twenty-two. Every single person on the staff is friendly and very capable. It receives the most stars possible.

There are friendly people in Bingen, many of whom have helped me my find my way in the town, and especially Hildegard W.- the lady I met and who walked with me to the information center and Christiana – the lady who told me about Hildegard’s forum. (the Hildegard from the 1400s, not the lady I met while in Bingen.)  There are many references to Saint Hildegard in Bingen; from women given that name to businesses and streets.

Hildegard is a historical figure from the 1400s and is considered a saint.

Because of Christiana’s information, and backed up by Michael, I got on a small bus – more like a van – and found the forum and later the Klopp Castle where the Mayor of Bingen has his office. Imagine that!

Fancy door handle

Meet with the Mayor of Bingen in his Castle-office

The van driver was a smiling, happy guy, and wanted to be certain that I got delivered where I wanted to go, so when someone got on the bus who spoke English, she translated between us and it worked; I got to visit the forum and the castle, as well.

 

Archway to the castle in Bingen

While waiting for the van back to town from the forum, I saw a nun who was pushing something inside the convent gate. I asked if I could take her photo, and I didn’t know if she said yes or no. But she kept smiling so I thought it would be okay, and that’s the shot of her you see behind the gate.

Can I take a photo? Yes? No? Maybe?

 

Goodbye Bingen! Goodbye Rhine River! Goodbye Germany!

 

Taking a dry run in the rain

Taking a dry run in the rain this morning to the bahnhof (train station) so I’ll have no surprises on Friday morning.

It’s a good thing I walked to the station to get an idea of where I should stand to catch the train, because I followed where someone pointed out where to go and it was wrong.

That was Hildegard Willig. I mentioned her before a few pages back. She was heading again to the eye doctor. She showed me her new glasses in a case, and said they weren’t working out for her.

I explained what I was about to do and she pointed to the station. However, when I walked the way she pointed it was to the old station building that now looks like a haunted house.

But it didn’t matter, as time is no problem today, so I just continued on the road and up an old stairway that no longer connects to the bridge to the new bahnhof.

I walked back down the moss and rotting leaf, covered, stairway again and to the road where I had seen Hildegard, and then back down the correct road to the current station.

The abandoned staircase to the old station

 

Isn’t it strange what you can see the second time at a place that you missed the first time?

This time the station looked well used and there was a fleet of taxi’s waiting to pick people up from the arriving trains. Why I didn’t see the station and the taxi’s when I arrived is amazing, but then, we must remember it was in a total white-out that day.

After learning how to navigate my early morning leave taking on Friday, I walked again to town. This time I walked closer to the Rhine River which seemed to be moving faster as the wind was stronger today. Most of the snow that greeted me when I arrived has melted.

Another pretty door

Some of what I found today were more brass squares inserted in the sidewalk with the names of Jewish families who were removed from their homes and sent to camps during WWII. I feel sad every time I see one of those, and this time it was a whole family.

The spot that signifies where a Jewish family was taken away during WWII and never returned

I also saw a window on the third floor with a pulley that is used to lift furniture up to the apartment above. You see these more often in Holland.

 

 

 

A pulley to get furniture up on the top floor

Also saw a close up of another castle; this one right in town, and some more beautiful old and interesting doors.

I had lunch in a favorite restaurant. It was carrot and ginger soup with fried celery. The celery was stringed and fried. Really good.

problems with banking today/ and a donut to ease my mood

I don’t want to elaborate too much here, but just to say that I stayed close to the hotel to receive an important phone call regarding my bank and what they are doing to thwart my getting an apartment in March.

It seems that before my credit card is charged, an apartment hunting company puts it through by charging only $1 or $2 as a tentative test, and then after that goes through,the larger amount is then charged.

Well, a small charge as the tentative one is a red flag for fraud, according to the Bank of America. I have gone round and round with this, with emails and phone calls. It’s amazing how modern business is so more complicated than in the past.

Right when I expected a phone call from the apartment company, the hotel staff left for the afternoon, and I’m stuck in my room with no access to the reception area, where the phone call would come through.

It’s more complicated than what I’m reporting here, but I’ll get through it.

I waited all day for a phone call, and just found out in reception that there were no messages. So I called the apartment folks again, and the guy moaned, “Oh, yea, I didn’t get to that yet.”

Just when I was feeling sorry for myself,  the nice thirteen year old Daniel brought me a pot of coffee with a donut. He and his family lived in California and Texas, so he’s fluent in English. He’s helping his mom tonight…she’s in the reception office for the evening.

The folks in this hotel are the best I have come across on my nine months, nearly ten months of travel.

 

 

More photos of the Rhine area

Ferry business across the Rhine

The ferry picked me and one lady up at the Bingen port to cross the Rhine to the town of Rudesheim.

Picking me up for the return trip back to Bingen

Christiana was an unsmiling, and unfriendly looking person until I got her into conversation, and I then found her English perfect,  her smile fetching, and her knowledge about the area informative.

For the ten minute ride across the Rhine, she spoke about the many places I may like to see both in Bingen and in Rudesheim.

She mentioned Hildegarde, the benedict nun from nearly 900 years ago, has a serious following even today, and people go on pilgrimages in her memory. The chapel on a hill in Bingen is just a short walk away from the Forum of Hildegard and the garden that memorializes her.

She was 900 years ahead of her time, Christiana said. She had the ear of the king and other royalties, who sought out her advice and vast knowledge. She purchased property and had the second cloister built for the benedict nuns.

I like doors

 

To be honest, here, there wasn’t much to see in Rudesheim as most of the shops, museums and other attractions are closed during the winter. However, I did see a bus load of tourists get out and walk around as I did.

The old town is made up of narrow cobble stone alley ways, and streets, with both sides  lined with shops, restaurants and hotels. There are many hotels, and some are quite old, which makes a visit all the more fun and interesting. I like the window shutters, doors, the decor on top of doors, and window flower boxes.

Germany has a creative way of decorating small areas with flowers, leaves, simple twigs, pieces of wood and pinecones.

I always manage to pick up lots of ideas.

Life is good

One idea was the Black Forest Cake: it is layers of chocolate, vanilla cream, with one layer of cherries. Hmm delicious, and with a cup of cappuccino – life is good.

 

 

Sunday walk

It’s Sunday morning and I wanted to attend church. There are two beautiful churches near the hotel. One is across the street and the other is about one block down the street.

The church across from my hotel

The bells ring loud and long; you’d think they were calling people to church, however, when I attempted to get inside, both churches were closed. Guess the bells are just for the tradition; I don’t know the reason for the churches closing.

 

 

The church one block away. The red stone is the same as used throughout the city of Mainz

So I just made a walk around the neighborhood, which has become my traveling habit.

Everything is closed on Sundays in Germany, so walking is the best bet.

One interesting habit the German’s have when moving out of an apartment or business building, is to clear everything out and put it all on the street, which will be picked up by the city. However, there are some items left that people can use, and while walking around, I noticed cars and vans would stop and look at the mother lode on the street and take what they want.

filigree

I saw some items of interest: a large suitcase in perfect condition, sofa’s, chairs, tables and desks, pottery, cups and saucers. You name it…

The photos I am posting here, are those I took while on a Sunday walk. Hope you’ll enjoy them.

Hildegard got around!

Peeping Tom Cat

Germany history

Carnival times in Germany based on the Easter calendar, are From Feb. 11-13th, so watch out for silly people in costumes.

Clowns seem to  be the favorite object to celebrate carnival, as sites of them have been spotted in store windows and on private homes.

Clowns welcome Carnival in February

From what I have gathered, carnival time came to the Rhineland by way of France, which came there by way of Italy and other European countries. It is primary a Catholic festive season which occurs immediately before lent.

Carnival involves a public parade that combines elements of a circus, and a street party.

With all the clowns I’ve seen around Bingen, I can tell it’s a popular time for people to escape from everyday life.

Today, I learned more about the Rhineland saint, Hildegard Geburtsort. Hildegard was born the tenth child of nobles Hildebert and Mechthild of Ranconian high nobility in 1098.

“Say and write what is in your heart,” was God given advice she felt she had received.

Hildegard took that vision to heart and was considered a visionary, a writer of books, music and plays, and was sought throughout Europe for advice.

Hildegard on her death-bed

I finally got inside the museum and found the history of Hildegard posted on boards and written in English, as well German.

After viewing the museum, I went to a restaurant which served typical German food. I sat at a table in the front room, next to the smoking room. While it was reserved for smokers, I didn’t escape the smell of cigarette smoke that escaped from the room, and when I arrived back to my room, I had to hang up my coat near a window to get rid of the smell. Ugh!

A typical Rhine wine glass on a tablecloth in a typical restaurant

But the food and local wine was delicious, so I traded one dislike for an extreme like.

Speaking of exchanging dislikes for likes, reminds me of the conversation I had with Michael, the twenty-two year old owner of this hotel. He spent a good part of his childhood in Texas with an American father and German mother.

We talked about how World War II still holds modern Germany captive for the devastation it had on Germany and the rest of the world.

“When I was in school in America, people would call me such names as Hitler’s son.” Teachers, he thought, should have told them to stop calling him names and referring to the war, as though he had something to do with it. Instead the teachers used the comments as a teaching moment about WWII.

Michael said people should stop blaming present day Germany. “My generation didn’t cause the war. We are not responsible for it, and people should not blame us,” said Michael.

I have mixed feelings about this because part of me thinks we should teach children what happened so it doesn’t happen again, while I also agree that what is behind us is best left there.

I look around at what Germany has done since the war, and it makes me proud to see that contrition is on-going. There are countless ways Germany has paid for the crimes of WWII, even though, the war was over in the late 40s.

Right now, it is obvious, that Germany is one of the most successful European countries.

So, perhaps Michael and his generation has a point. They should not be held responsible for crimes of World War II. Look what they are doing now.

On a cloudy morning; this is what I see on my walk to the center of town.

 

Changed hotels

I’m in a different hotel, but still in Bingen, and closer to town. I got tired of trying to post photos and working with the slow internet at the other place and decided to make a move. So yesterday, late afternoon, I began the 20 minute walk back to town for the second time. I came upon a man helping an elderly woman into the car, and I stopped him to ask iif he knew of a hotel that was nice but not too expensive, and right away he said “yes, I do. It’s the Hotel Romerhof.” He sketched a little map for me and told me how to walk to it.

I met Michael inside the reception room, and he had a room for me,and told me the internet would work good and it was free. Michael speaks good English and German, as well. His father is an American. Michael was raised in Texas and attended high school there. His home now is Germany. A delightful young man.

So, I went back and the next morning I checked out of the hostel,  which no one seemed to care. I got a taxi to take me to the hotel. The taxi driver has spent time in the U.S. and seemed happy to speak some English to me.

I don’t have the same views as I did from the other place, but I can see out of one window, the vineyards, and in the other, a huge, very old stone church.

I took a walk down to the museum, but found it closed again. I thought today was Saturday, so I’ll try again tomorrow.

On the walk back to the hotel, I discovered some interesting neighborhoods: old stone houses, narrow cobble stone walkways, flower plants outside the windows and on one narrow street, on upstairs windows, I saw clowns looking down at me. I’ll take my camera next time and see if I can get a photo.

It still cold and grey; with threats of more snow, but it just adds to the atmosphere.

Before heading back to the hotel, I ate lunch at a restaurant that sits right on an old town plaza, and it was fun spending  almost an hour people watching.

Additional news: I had asked if I could buy a cup of coffee a few hours ago and Michael told me that a large crowd of people would be coming in at 3 p.m. and I could then go and get coffee for myself. I’m a bit shy (ha, ha!) and thought that it wouldn’t be right to crash a party just for coffee, so I just forgot it.
Then just awhile ago, a woman knocked on my door and brought in a pot of coffee, cream and two sweet items. Now…THAT IS CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!!!!

Photos to go with yesterday’s story

The Mauseturm as seen from my window

 

The Ehrenfels Castle and the Mauseturm with vineyards and the river Rhine

The beautiful Rhine

 

 

“How often have I greeted the waters of the Rhine with amazement. When, returning from  my dealings, I again drew closer to them! It always seemed great to me and quickened my mind and feelings.” A quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

A day to savor the surrounding beauty, I sit at a table in front of the window looking out and below. Over the Rhine River are miles of snowy vineyards that reach up to the top of the hills. Between a vineyard, and closer to the river, is a spot where the castle, Ehrenfels, sits among trees and bushes looking out majestically over the Rhine.

The former lookout tower, and former customs house, and more recently serving as a navigation signal station, the Mauseturm rests on an island in the Rhine and near the castle.

Across the Rhine, cars travel between the many towns along the river, and long trains carry passengers and freight.

Below where I’m staying, DieJugendgastehauser, a family owned hostel and restaurant opened to the guests, are quaint little houses and small gardens. This can be seen all over Europe. People rent or own these gardens and spend summer months carrying for the garden. Above those houses, and right below the hostel are larger, older houses that have smoke coming out of the chimneys, keeping the houses warm.

Also on this side of the river, other trains stop at the station, and the same one where I disembarked. You can see, not only the train station, but the boat slips that wait and ferry people over to the other town, Rudesheim.

To get from where I’m staying to the town of Bingen requires walking down a hill, over a bridge, through a tunnel and on to the street of the town. On this side of town, there are mostly houses and some churches and a castle ruin.

It is just plain awesome to experience something so different and out of my own ordinariness, that I don’t feel I’m wasting time just sitting and watching the day.

Planes occasionally pass overhead, and there are many birds flying low over the river and some small ones nearby where I sit.

It’s cold out, and many tourist places are closed, but that doesn’t keep me from what I want to do. You can ‘tourist yourself tired’ and still cannot say you experienced it.

So my aim is to get a ‘feel’ of the place, by walking through the town everyday, and when the museum is open I’ll go there, and also over to Rudesheim by ferry.

I cannot look at this place without imagining what it must have been like in the 1300-1400s on the same river, with the same purpose: to ship goods.

One story about the Mauseturm goes this way: It was built in the 13th century as a lookout tower, and the name came from mausen, which means to be on the lookout, the way a cat is on the lookout for a mouse. But another legend interprets the lookout from the hardhearted Bishop Hatto who is said to have sought refuge in the tower from a horde of mice; in vain, the mice swam after him and devoured him.

Before the mice got him, I wonder if he savored the beauty that surrounded him?