Monthly Archives: January 2013

Lorelei and Hildegard

The Legend of Lorelei – or – Loreley, as it is written in some Germany literature, lives on in the history of the Rhine (Rhein in German), and the section of the river that claims the folk story is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as named in June, 2002.

Lorelei is a feminine water spirit, who, as the romantic story goes, was the cause of death to the crew of ships and rafts to pass a narrow and dangerous path. A rock between Kaub and St. Goarshausen, called the Loreley was said to emit ghostly voices through a natural echo.

Most of the trouble for the sailors came from the lovely Loreley. Her enchanting good looks and beautiful voice bewitched the sailors and caused many boat accidents in the narrow curvature of the river.

I saw the rock a few years back and was enthralled with the folk story, and it means even more to me today, as I sit at the window and watch the barges glide down the river, steered by masterful sailors.

 

The story of Lorelei is a legend, but a real woman with importance to the Rhine was Hildegarde Von Bingen who lived from 1098 to 1179 and spent years in a nunnery from the time she was eight years old, but made a huge impact with her writings on subjects such as natural science and medicine, poetry, and hymns. She was considered a visionary, a shrewd politician, a prolific composer of music, and unlearned religious recluse whose correspondents included some of the most important politicians and minds of the Middle Ages, a sharp-eyed naturalist, a competing orator, and a highly competent farmer. I gleaned some of this information from “The Rhine” a guide from Mainz to Cologne.

 

And now I know why there are so many stores, streets and products with the name Hildegard. And today, while on my long walk to the center of Bingen, I met Hildegard Willig. Hildegard was standing at a red stop light talking with another woman, and I asked them for directions. Hildegard stepped right up to help me, and even walked all the way to the Information Center with me. She chattered away in English, the whole time telling me how awful her English was, but I understood everything she said.

She had thin red hair, and watery blue eyes, and because of some distress with her eyes, she was on her way to the eye doctor, but first, she had to show me the way. We went down the street, over the bridge, under a tunnel that had a mural painted by children, until we came out above again, on the other side of the river inlet.

Then, she began to tell me something about herself, and pulled off a stocking from her arm to show me she had just a stump of an arm.
“It was burned off,” she told me. I don’t know the story.

So she went all the way to the Information Center and told the woman I had some questions. She asked for a pen and wrote her name and address down so I could send her a card when I get back to California.

Now you know the story of the myth of Lorelei and the two Hildegards.

Today the weather continued to be almost a total white out. I don’t bother with the camera, because the day is just too dark. But I’ll be here for nine more nights and some sun must shine on at least one of those days.

I still love it here, however. It fascinates me.

 

Leaving and leaving again

I took one last walk around Echterdingen yesterday, and discovered a different street that I found by making tracks across fresh snow on a short-cut inside the courtyard of the church on the square. The square is where the town business is located and the weekly farmer’s market.

I heard the church bell chimes and sassy birds high up in the tree branches, and found a wet walkway through an arch of snow-laden bushes.

I’ll have to post photos later: it’s taking too long.

Then around a bend there was a very old house, among other old houses;  but this one put me in mind of the children’s tale, “Hansel and Gretel”.

This morning I woke up to a knock on the door. It was Andy telling me he would be leaving in twenty minutes. You know how I am with traveling transitions?  I imagined in my still slumbering mood, Andy was telling me I had to be ready to leave for the train depot in twenty minutes.

I began grabbing my clothing to put on, and looking around to see if I had packed everything, until… I realized he would be leaving in twenty minutes and that would be our time to say goodbye. I wouldn’t leave for almost another two hours.

I slowed down a bit and then it was time to say goodbye to Andy, who had stayed home from work for two days, due to an illness that everyone in the house came down with, but me.

Andy’s work takes him all over the world, and this week he will be in Russia. Oh, how I want to go there someday. But for now, I’m in my own personal heaven.

 

The train ticket had me going from Stuttgart to changing trains in Mannheim, then a change to Mainz and then a change to Bingen…my ultimate destination.

I was early at the platform when a train came in. I saw two women walking toward the train, not knowing they were conductors, and I asked one if that was the train to Mainz and then to Bingen. The tall, scary woman, I’ll call Meany, told me that yes this train went to Mainz. So I took her word for it and got on the train. I had previously synchronized my watch to make certain nothing could go wrong. I was about thirty minutes early getting on the train, and noticed that not many people were boarding.

Then, when it became about ten minutes before the schedule departure, the train was pulling out of the station, and I knew something wasn’t right, so I found Meany again and asked her if she was sure I was on the right train.  Now she looked at my ticket and said something like, ‘oh, you’re going that route’, I didn’t fully understand what she said, but she handed the ticket back to me and said, “We go to Mainz.”

“The train goes to Mainz? I don’t have to get off in Mannheim?”

“We go to Mainz. This train goes to Mainz,” Meany nearly shouted.

“Okay.” I said and sat down.

Soon we came to Mannheim station, and it was at the scheduled time where I would, if things were normal, get off. I asked myself, “should I get off here? Should I wait until we get to Mainz? Was she paying attention to what I needed to know?” My mind was in a dithers, but I decided to wait and see if Meany was right and the train would take me to Mainz.

It did, and before I got off, a nice young man, a  new conductor looked at my ticket, said everything would be all right, and that I should take the black and yellow bus to Bingen.

“The next stop is Mainz.” He told me.

After finding the stop in Mainz for Bingen, I barely had enough time to board that train, and after about one half an hour, we arrived in Bingen.

I got off the train and began pulling my luggage toward where I thought I saw a crossing road, but realized I wasn’t getting anywhere but making tracks in the snow, so I turned around and asked a man who looked like James Dean where I should go to get to the town.

James Dean said to go down those steps, and then up the steps to the town. “Down those steps?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you,” I said and walked to the steps wishing I would find an elevator. And just as I wished it, I saw one that looked as though it took people up to a walkway then across the walkway to another elevator to the street.

So off I went. Up the dirty, snowy, slushy elevator, that had a floor button that looked as though it was covered with blood, but I pushed it anyway and up I went. I was soon on the other side of the train station. Isolated. Where to go from here?

I pulled the bags through the snow, through water puddles, through slush and found a busy street, where I stopped a man and asked him if he knew of any coffee shops nearby.

“No, there are none here on this side of town. You have to go over there.” He pointed away.

“Are there any taxi’s around this town?”

“Yes, but you will need to go down there to the train station.”

“I just came from there and I didn’t see any taxi’s.”

He just shrugged his shoulders. I walked into a grocery store and asked if the lady at the pastry counter if she would call a taxi for me.

Soon, an unsmiling man put my suitcases in the trunk of the taxi and looked at the address I showed him. He didn’t say anything, but just drove up a hill, a winding road, up, up, up to a dead end where the hostel was located.

I thanked him, gave him a tip, and I got a teeny little smile out of him.

 

Now, I am in a hostel – the only customer in the place – which reminds me that traveling out of season is the best way to go. My bedroom window overlooks the Rhine River, a Castle and an old river lighthouse island which has been turned into a park.

Barges that look like snakes from a distance, power their goods down the river. Whole families make their lives on these barges. Right now, it’s getting dark out and across the river, snow blankets miles of vineyards, and two barges pass one another. A long train that travels across the river between Rhine towns glides between the snowy hillsides and the river.

 

I’m in the middle of my dream. I have always wanted to spend time along the Rhine River, as I’ve been in love with the folklore that surrounds this ancient river and the castles that have their own stories to tell. I can’t wait to get up in the morning, brave the cold weather, and do some exploring. I’ll have some folk stories to tell, such as the legend of Lorelei, but that will wait until next time.

 

Walter

I was so very touched to see my brother-in-law, 92 year old Walter Frederich. He is featured in my book, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII.

Andy and his grandfather, Walter

It was at his daughter’s home where Andy and I had dinner. Ingrid, Walter’s daughter, was born during the war.

Everyone is older now, and the story is history, but one that should be told over and over again so history doesn’t repeat.

Walter was a pilot for Germany, and my husband, Will (Wim), was in the resistance movement when he was a teenager.

Can you even imagine how dangerous it must have been for Walter and Poppy (my late sister-in-law) to fall in love? And complications arose, also, when Walter knew that Wim was in the resistance.

Walter and Poppy were always in love, until death parted them. Even a war cannot destroy an honest love.

The book is available on Amazon.

 

“To Market, to Market, to buy a fat pig.” Well, fruits, vegetables and bread, at least.

Farmer’s bring their goods every week in the town of Echterdingen. You would see trailers of all kinds and tents with plastic walls to keep out the rain, snow or sleet and where it is warm inside.

The road back home from the farmer's market

just one trailer in the Echterdingen farmer's market

I was there this morning with Andy. He carried a basket and a bag with him, as in farmer’s markets there are no plastic or paper bags. Everyone is expected to be prepared to bag their own purchases.

Andy waited in the bread-line…not the bread line we know for the hungry and homeless,  but the bread-line where German’s can purchase all kinds of bread, rolls and pretzels right from the baker. Hmmm, so fresh!

There were tents with vegetables straight from the farmer, and fruits, and canned products, too. One trailer had about twenty chickens on a rotisserie ready and hot for your table.

Chicken anyone?

We walked back home in the snow where Ilona had the table all set for breakfast. There we spread out the various types of cheese – some from Switzerland and some from Germany, and thin meat slices, jam, jelly and a variety of bread. Then there was that delicious cappuccino. Andy, handy with a frying pan, made to order, eggs, over easy or over hard. What a breakfast and oh, so typical for Germany.

Post script: I had a message from a friend in Monterey County, California where she said the county has abandoned the use of plastic bags. This is great news.

 

 

Pretty eggs

Learning to be a tourist

Andy and I attended the huge CMT (Caravan Motor Tourism) Stuttgart public exhibition for leisure and tourism.

It was held inside the 100,000 square meter space at the Stuttgart airport.

More than 1,900 exhibitors gave information, tips and anything you would want to know about how to plan the perfect trip or vacation.

Beautiful, expensive looking kiosks were set up with nearly every corner of the world  represented.

We picked up  many brochures, CD’s and spoke to people in the know in places such as Croatia and Turkey and many other places in a world, a world that continues to look smaller and smaller. The U.S. was represented showing the country and where to go to be a dime store cowboy for a time, for example.

There was a nice woman, an artist, showing her art work at the Serbia booth. She had hand painted book-markers and was trying to give me one. I didn’t understand at first. I thought she was trying to tell me to purchase some of her artwork.

Then I finally understood. It was a gift. Along with the bookmark, she handed me her brochure.

Zuzana Veresky was born in 1955 in Padina, and now lives in Kovacica. She has painted since her childhood. The first picture was painted on her mother’s petticoat.

She is an established “naive art” artist and shows her work in Slovakia, Spain, Israel, Cyprus, Belgium, Tunisia and Germany.

The main projects have her participating in Paris – UNESCO – Geneva – UNICEF – New York – United National,  Brussels, Strasbourg, European Union, Vienna – OSCE – Washington – IMF – Shanghai and the World Expo 2010.

Aside from meeting this lovely artist, I especially enjoyed the German booths. Here they had singers dressed in lederhosen and singing German folk music.

The Ireland kiosk when we walked by were getting ready for live Irish music.

I also enjoyed the Mongolia country booth. We spoke to a man and I mentioned the throat singers, and he immediately began to demonstrate his talent as a Mongolian throat singer.

All throughout the space there was ethnic food and drinks.

We made our way to the Stuttgart airport and the exhibition by train. It was one stop and there we were. Europeans have it over the U.S. with transportation that can take you anywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

Andy’s birthday with theater folk

It’s Andy’s birthday. Andy and I, and three of his friends met at a neighborhood restaurant for breakfast in honor of the birthday king.

Andy, Virginie Donnelly, Nicholas Donnelly and Sara Crouch celebrating Andy's birthday

Ilona had to stay home to take care of the sick girl, Rosalie. Lucy, the eldest daughter was first down with the illness, but is back in good form today.

Andy and I walked through the snow to the restaurant and met his friends, all of whom are professional entertainers.

Sara Crouch, originally from England is a dancer, Virginie Donnelly, originally from Holland, is a dancer and singer, and her husband Nicholas Donnelly, originally from Australia, plays the oboe in musicals.

All three have performed in many shows. Just to mention some of the musicals performed on the big SI-Zentrum stage theater in the Mohringen area of Stuttgart are,  “Mama Mia”, “Elizabeth” and “42nd Street”.

Actor's improv on the street.

When Will and I first began visiting his sister, Poppy and brother-in-law, Walter, back in 1985, the theater hadn’t been built yet. Now it sits across the road from where they once lived.

Yesterday Ingrid, Andy’s mother visited us here in Andy and Ilona’s home. It has been several years since Ingrid had visited me in Half Moon Bay. Ingrid is a key figure in my book, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII. She was born during the WWII conflict of a Dutch mother (Poppy) and a German father (Walter).

New and old ideas

 

A water fountain in the neighborhood of Echterdingen

Yesterday, on my daily walk around the Echterdingen neighborhood, I stopped and had a huge salad in an Italian restaurant. The building is a refurbished house that was born 450 years ago.

 

 

A typical lace covered window...so charming.

Some of the old beams join with new beams that provide modern fortification. On the walls were hanging brightly colored modern art. I love the mix of the old and new.

Today, the daily walk took me toward a different direction and a mission to find the post office. Whenever I get a pile of papers and a books or CD’s, I send them off to my son, Larry, who puts them inside my car. That process is easier that it would be for me to carry it all over the place. After finding an ATM and took more money out of the well, I mailed the package off.

Then, the second mission was to purchase a gift for Andy’s birthday tomorrow. Now here’s something I wish American’s would do. In most stores, when you purchase a gift, a wrapping table is available with paper, scissors, tape and ribbon…all free! Another item I’d like to see done in the states, at least in the City of Soledad: everyone who purchases something either puts it into their own bag, or if they don’t have one, they purchase a plastic one for, from ten to twenty cents.

Wouldn’t that be better than what you see on a field in Soledad? It is littered with plastic bags that glitter in the sunshine. Trash, just trash. And the freeways and highways are also littered with plastic. I have never seen one bag on a street or a freeway in Germany…or any European country.

One more note before I go, little Lucy, Andy and Ilona’s six year old daughter has been sick and in bed the four days I’ve been here. She has been to the doctor once and today one more time. If she isn’t better today, she’ll go to the hospital. I’m hoping we’ll all get the good news that she is recovering.

Before she got too ill, she made this picture for me. Children’s art is the best.

 

My portrait was painted by Lucy

 

Memories and making friends

Koningstrasse – Kings Street – is not the same as I first experienced it back in 1985 when I was invited by Will to visit his sister Poppy and his brother-in-law, Walter, in Stuttgart.

A memory from Stuttgart

Modern Germany is on a roll, with new high rise buildings with lots of glass and class.

However, there are still hints of happy memories that linger on in the old coffee shops, bakeries, specialty shops, the cathedral and the schloss – castle.

One memory was created back a few decades when Poppy would meet me for lunch at the Kaufhof Department stores’ top floor restaurant where you could, and still can, see the city below. I was there today.

Other memories were made when Will and I went to Germany to get married. in 1988. While were were there we spent time walking up and down the street searching for gifts to take back home to relatives and friends.

In 1998, my brother Jack, and sister-in-law, Carol, accompanied us to Europe and we took them to the Koningstrasse. We had a blast watching and listening to street musicians, and at least one of those made us laugh about his performance for years.

He was such a bad singer, that someone from a window in a business above poured water on his head.

Today, my mission was to purchase a new suitcase and to reminisce about those good times, by spending the entire day there, alone.

It was cold with snow on the ground, just as it was back in 1985.

I discovered a store called the American Apparel store, that sells all American casual clothing. None of it was made in China or Bangladesh.

American Apparel

Then I saw two huge window-walls that is completely covered with a video of ocean waves breaking and surfers catching the waves. You cannot pass by without looking, as it looks so real you have to stop and watch. On the window it says, Hollister California.

The surf is up in Hollister? Oh, really?

The surf is up in Hollister

After I purchased the suitcase, I found a flower kiosk and picked out some yellow roses and orange daisies  for Ilona.

A young man who works in the flower kiosk, and I tried to understand each other but with no common language skills. It turns out he is from Slovenia and didn’t speak German or English.

He took off his hat to show me his blond hair. Don’t know why, but that seemed an important message to get me to understand where he comes from. I smiled.

“I like you,” he said. I told him thanks and that I liked him, too. He handed me a rose. “For you.”

“For me? Well, thank you.”

Then the woman who arranged the flowers was finished with the bouquet and handed it to me.

“Wait” The young man motioned for me not to leave. He turned and wrote something on a piece of paper.

“Here is my phone number.” He handed me a little slip of paper with a name and a number.

When Andy picked me up as previously arranged, I showed him the paper and told him I made a friend.

“How old was the guy?” Andy asked.

“About 19 or 20..or maybe 30 at the most.”

Andy had a good laugh about that, but it wasn’t the only thing that made him laugh. I had asked a man who sells magazines, if I could borrow his phone to give Andy a call  to make certain I understood where I was to meet him. The man made the call for me and straightened it all out with Andy.

“You just asked him to call me?” Andy chuckled when he picked me up.

Hey, what can I say? I’m friendly. Can’t help it.

Nothing lasts forever

It’s time to throw away my suitcase. Not surprised, after all it has been dragged through mud and rain puddles, twelve countries, several islands and over twenty airplane flights. I can’t even count the cars, trams, trains and subways. So the suitcase has done its job and tomorrow I’ll go to the Schlottsplatz in Stuttgart to spring for another one. It’s a long, wide mall with shops and restaurants in proximity to the palace.

Think it's time to replace the suitcase? Nothing lasts forever.

I’m looking forward to that for the many memories.

Meanwhile, there is snow on the ground and grey skies in Echterdingen, a town close to Stuttgart, Germany and where I am right now.

Not to get spoiled by sitting in a brand new, warm house, I know a walk would do me good. So I put on my boots, my warm coat and walked towards the business part of town. It’s Sunday so the stores were closed, but the old town is splendid with century-old timbered houses.

Some of the houses lean and have need to be fortified in order to stay standing up, but because of the pride in European history, much effort is put into keeping the old.

The old houses do not stand alone, as all around them new housing makes inroads into the town.

Timbered houses in the town of Echterdingen

Andy and Ilona’s house is an example of a brand new house that even smells brand new. Wooden curved steps take you up to the third floor, past the bedrooms of the two girls, and up to the guest room and the master bedroom. Off of the master bedroom, a deck just waits for spring time, so Andy and Ilona can take their coffee up stairs and out on the deck.

Window shopping

On the walk, and some window shopping, I stopped inside a middle eastern restaurant for coffee and there I met a man from China who has lived in the town for forty years. He came for school and stayed. He had his cute little three year old son with him, and who wanted in the worst way to speak to me.

I didn’t have a clue what he was saying, but just nodded. His father told him he was telling me that he likes to talk to old people. Oh well, the news is out…I’m no longer young…just like the suitcase, nothing lasts forever.

Seen at an entrance to an old restaurant.

Handball and other action

What a day!

It started with my feeling better today.

Nathalie and I took Demsay to catch a ride to where his team would play handball. Demsay is the goal keeper. I think the goal keeper must be a contortionist to reach the ball, all the while not knowing where it’s going to wind up.

It was an exciting game and I understand it is one of the fastest sports. Really quick action is needed to succeed in the game.

Demsay, the goal keeper!

One of the parents on the team where I sat, beat a drum, and the other parents clapped in rhythm during the game. The other teams’ parents sat stoically in their seats.

Demsay’s team is ranked fourth in the section, while the team they played is ranked number one. Demsay’s team did remarkably well, especially during the second half, and the score ended in a tie. Not bad.

After the game, Nathalie was driving me to Echterdingin, where Andy, Ilona and their daughters Lucy and Rosalie would be ready to greet me. The address of Andy was not with us, we learned as we headed down the road, but I knew if we found McDonald’s and used their wifi system, I’d be able to find the address on my computer/address file.

“Where the heck is McDonald’s when you want them?” I said and I can’t believe I really meant this, as I find McDonald’s in the most obnoxious places: in front of parliament buildings,  museums, castles, palaces and many important sites…there is that annoying golden arch.

So when we saw one we both let out a cheer, until…we went inside and found that this McDonald’s doesn’t offer it. Nathalie asked some youngster if I could use his phone to access my email account. I got nervous trying to type my password into his tiny phone with my big fingers while four people watched. I quit!

Then we went to another restaurant, and with Pascal’s (Natalie’s oldest son – and a nice young man)  guidance on his phone to his mother, we managed to get the address, and then we were on the right road. Nathalie called Andy and he came walking out to where we stopped the car.

Pascal will someday discover a star and the star will be named after him.

 

I haven’t seen Andy and Ilona for six years and now they have two darling little girls.

The girls, six and three, speak only German, but they are learning English words, and appeared happy to meet me. I’m going to have a great time here with this family.

Andy is my  great nephew by marriage to my late husband, Will, and now, of course, he’s mine! He has no choice. We go back around twenty years when he first visited us in Colorado. At that time he had long blond ringlets and was a wild and funny guy.

Now and keeps his hair short. He’s a family man and shows how much he enjoys his role of daddy.