Germany 2022

2022-08-13 : Research

2022-08-14 : Fly to Germany
Our first flight today isn’t until 4:30pm. Nancy Nancy is coming by around noon to take us to the airport. It seems just so odd to be going to the airport at such a civilized time. I’m way to used to having to leave in the wee hours. This is nice.
Yesterday and today my brain just magically woke up at midnight, which is 8am in Germany, so I went with it. Getting up and staying up. Last night I managed to go to sleep a bit early… like maybe 8:00 or so. That’s not enough sleep but it’ll do for now until we get used to Germany.

2022-08-15 : Fly to Germany Day 2
Our flights are on two separate itineraries: WestJet to London then EasyJet to Berlin, so a little more complicated if something goes wrong.

Our first flight, out of Edmonton, was late arriving and then had a mechanical issue. I had visions of our whole journey going bad.

They decided that the plane was ok to go so they boarded us, only a little late.

On the tarmac, the plane was making some kind of ungodly howling sound as we herky jerkied our way to the runway. I thought for sure they were going to bail and make us switch planes, which would have made us miss Calgary to London, which would have made us miss London to Berlin.

To my utter amazement, they proceeded with the flight, pretending there was no ungodly howling or herky-jerky-ing at all. We learned later that their ground steering was the problem so they had to improvise how they steered on the ground only.

The connection in Calgary was seamless, but we had less than two hours in London to go through customs, collect our bags, te-check-in and get on the flight to Berlin. My bad. I should have planned a longer layover in London.

We landed on time in London, with no wiggle room for error, and thankfully we didn’t need any. Got our bags, found the EasyJet counters, dropped our bags, zoomed through security, had a quick bathroom break, bought some Galaxy chocolate and headed straight to our departure gate. Whew!

Annnnd… then we got delayed on the tarmac in London. Traffic congestion, thunderstorms and military activity. Oh my.
Brigitte and Dietmar were waiting for us at the airport and it was very easy to find them and get underway.

We drove to Spremberg, including a couple of really enthusiastic rain showers, which was nice given the horribly dry year.

They had a special ‘Rhonda and Brent’ Canadian flag, and ‘Family Meeting 2022´ t-shirts prepared for our arrival - how sweet!

As I had feared, my German skills leave a lot to be desired. Good thing they’re patient!

2022-08-16 : Lübbenau und Lehde
Today was another super special day in my life. We met Dietmar and his wife, Brigitte, yesterday, and today we spent the day with them. They took us to Lübbenau where we met Dietmar’s sister, Brigitte, and her husband, Georg.

Georg gave us a personal tour of the Spreewald canals in his boat. We stopped for lunch and then continued on to Lehde, which was on my list of the Moët beautiful places in Germany. Wow! What a special treat! We went through the Lehde museum with Dietmar and Georg.

In Lübbenau, we also met Brigitte and Georg’s children, Derk and Kerstin. Kerstin and I are almost the same age, and I have invited her to come visit in Canada. I hope she does someday!
About Lehde:

Built along narrow green-banked canals, little Lehde is one of the oldest and most charming villages of Brandenburg's Spreewald area. It's best discovered by boat – specifically on one of the region's traditional Spreewald boats. Or you could hire a kayak to make your own way along the wooden farmhouse-lined waterways, stopping to buy some of the area's famed pickles from farm shops. Glimpse what life was like in this rural community during the 19th century at the village’s captivating open-air museum.
We went to Brigitte’s son’s house for dinner tonight. He and his wife have a lovely home and three great kids. We had an awesome dinner outside and a lively conversation in German and English .

2022-08-17 : Eye Windows in Görlitz
Today, Dietmar and Brigitte took us on the train to Görlitz. It is a very interesting and beautiful city. Brent and I were particularly fond of the Ratsapoteke building (see below).

We took a bus tour of the city, but everything was only in German. Armed with printed info from Brigitte, and our brains, we managed to understand about 10% of the tour. For the rest we just made up our own stories.

After the tour, we walked over the bridge to Poland. It was our first time ever in Poland. Very cool.

After Poland, and before heading back to Spremberg, we visited/climbed Nikolai Tower, which was super interesting.
We have been planning to get the €9 special transit pass for our travels to the end of the month. Today, we got them - Dietmar bought them for us. Contrary to how the info read on the web, we did not have to buy a complete three-month pass for €27 - we were able to just get the August passes and away we went.

2022-08-18 : Rakotzbrücke and Bad Muskau
Quite a while before our actual visit I had asked Dietmar if we could go see Rakotsbrücke. His original plan was that we would ride there by bicycle, about a 20km hilly ride. It has been too hot for riding, so instead we took the car and also visited Bad Muskau, and a couple of sites in Spremberg itself: the Bismarck tower and the beautiful building that houses the music school and library.
About Rakotsbrücke:

This jaw-dropping 19th-century bridge uses its reflection to form what appears to be a perfect circle.

NESTLED AMONG THE VERDANT FOLIAGE in Kromlau, Germany’s Kromlauer Park, is a delicately arched devil’s bridge known as the Rakotzbrücke, which was specifically built to create a circle when it is reflected in the waters beneath it.

Commissioned in 1860 by the knight of the local town, the thin arch stretching over the waters of the Rakotzsee is roughly built out of varied local stone. Like many similarly precarious spans across Europe, the Rakotzbrücke is known as a “devil’s bridge,” due to the colloquialism that such bridges were so dangerous or miraculous that they must have been built by Satan. While the bridge (as with all the others) was created by mortal hands, its builders did seem to hold the aesthetics of the bridge in higher regard than its utility.

Either end of the Rakotzbrücke is decorated with thin rock spires created to look like natural basalt columns, which occur in many places in Germany. In addition, the curvature of the bridge is designed to be one half of a perfect circle, so that when the waters are still and the light is right, it creates the illusion of a complete stone circle.

Today, the bridge can still be viewed in the park, but crossing the aging relic is prohibited in order to preserve it.

2022-08-19 : Drive to Oberndorf
We traveled by car today with Dietmar and Brigitte, from Spremberg in the northeast to Oberndorf am Neckar in the southwest, a drive of about eight hours including one small stop. Most of our journey was on the autobahn, which was a completely different experience for us. When we’ve been in Germany before we’ve always traveled (1) very slowly by bicycle from idyllic small town to idyllic small town, or (2) by train from town/city Centre to town/city Centre. It’s so similar to traveling in North America from this perspective.
I am so very grateful to the internet rando who, just before we left for Germany, recommended data plans from KeepGo. I got the Pisces plan because it included not only Germany, but also the other countries we’re planning to visit next year (Spain, France and Switzerland).

My data plan so far has worked great just about everywhere we’ve been, and if my usage stays about the same, this whole trip should cost me only about $10 or $15. A pleasant change from Rogers’ ‘Roam Like Home’ which costs $15 (or more) per day!!
When we got close to Oberndorf, we stopped to put on our Family Meeting T-shirts and then continued to Guido’s house where we were met by the whole family… also wearing Family Meeting T-shirts. They played the Canadian National anthem while they re-hung the Brent and Rhonda flag. Even Erik was wearing one, and he introduced himself in English and told us that he is now four years old.

Ira was taking her mom out for a special birthday dinner tonight so the rest of us had a beer and then proceeded off to a beer festival, then back to Guido’s house where we had a special Bavarian dinner prepared entirely by Guido who is a professional cook.

Brent and I are completely blown away by how friendly and wonderful everyone is. Dietmar and Brigitte have been so welcoming and enthusiastic to have us, and now that we’re with the rest of the family, it is more of the same. Completely wonderful and amazing. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found these folks - the long-lost relatives of my dad’s maternal grandmother.

I just wish I could tell my grandma all about it. She would be astonished. After her family left Germany for Russia in the early 1800s and then fled to Canada in the early 1900’s, then tried to go back because my great-grandma was so homesick but they couldn’t because WW 1 had started, then lost most of their German heritage due to persecution of Germans in Canada during WW 2, then completely lost touch with family in Germany, all the way to us finding each other again due to some great genealogy, a unique last name, and a DNA test… well, it’s almost miraculous.

Guido and Claudia’s family is Catholic and never left Germany. Dietmar’s family (and mine), Protestants, left Germany for Crimea. When the Germans started fleeing Russia, our family left, but Dietmar’s side went to East Germany while mine continued on to Canada. And yet, here we are, all together, because we share the last name Laggai.

2022-08-20 : Thyssenkrupp Turm, Crystals and Rottweil
Today Guido took us all out for a tour in the general area of Oberndorf.

We started with a visit to the Thyssenkrupp Testturm - a tower for testing elevator technology.

We then waited out a rain storm at the Welt der Kristalle.

Then we visited Rottweil, thé town where Guido, Claudia and Gertrudis grew up. We climbed the hochturm (high tower), the oldest building in Rottweil, and Guido took us into a Chinese restaurant which is the only building in town with original construction that you can see. Claudia told us all about the local Carnival, which sounds amazing. Ira had also told us about Carnival and the masks and costumes, including the very heavy bells that the people wear. Claudia has a costume and participates in the parade. She says she’s going to send us a link so we can watch it live next year.

We came back to Guido and Gertrudis’ house for afternoon coffee and then Claudia, Guido and Brent went for a little bike ride while Gertrudis filled me in on her improved plan for us to get to Marburg. We didn’t know about the terrible problems with the Stuttgart train station so we will avoid that on Monday, and I’m also going to change our trip plan for next year to also avoid flying home from Stuttgart, which is my current plan.

Later we went back to the Bochingen Biergarten Fest for dinner.

Then back to the house where I saw Elon Musk’s satellite train go by. I hollered for Brent and he got here on time to see it (and tell me what it was). We both hollered for Dietmar but he didn’t make it on time to see it.

2022-08-21 : Black Forest and Lake Constance
Today, Guido took us on a cross-country sight-seeing tour from Oberndorf to Bodensee (Lake Constance). We saw some beautiful places and enjoyed revisiting the Donau from a different perspective. We had a long break at Bodensee, which is very busy and touristy, and I think we will avoid Bodensee when we cycle tour next year. After Bodensee we visited the spring for the river Aach. Long ago people didn’t know exactly where the water came from, and they put salt in the Donau upstream and confirmed that some of the water comes from it.
Tonight Guido made Schwabishe Pizza for dinner and we had a great last visit with everyone here. Tomorrow, Brent and I will move on, Dietmar and Brigitte will return to Spremberg, and life here in Oberndorf will go back to normal. What an amazing time we’ve had. Hopefully some of my new family will come visit in Canada. Either way we will be back in the south of Germany next year, and hopefully back in the north in five years or so.
Tonight we sleep in the tent. The last couple of nights we’ve slept in the spare room downstairs, which has been mostly good, but every day I get a little more Bodo-Krank (Bodo is the dog). Rather than further injure my lungs we’ve decided to sleep in the tent.

2022-08-22 : To Marburg
I had originally hoped that Dietmar and Brigitte would drop us off in Stuttgart today when they were on their way home. Dietmar suggested a train from Oberndorf instead - handy for us and doesn’t require them to leave the highway to go into the city with us. We told Guido and Gertrudis about the new plan and they had more info for us - the Stuttgart hbf is being remodeled and it is not going well. There are many problems with trains in and out of Stuttgart. Instead, they suggested that we drive together to Freudenstadt, then take the train together to Karlsruhe. At Karlsruhe, Brent and I would carry on to Frankfurt then Marburg, and they would take Erik to the zoo in Karlsruhe, which was something they had already planned to do.
The rest of our journey to Marburg was uneventful, albeit a little long. The walk from the station to the campground was only about 1km. There was lots of room left in the zeltplatz for us so we set up and then went for a quick dinner and walk-around in town. We miss the Laggais already, and setting up a tent in Germany felt very odd without Laura here to share the fun.
We haven’t seen tons of Marburg yet, but so far it is definitely living up to the hype of it being one of the most beautiful places to see in Germany. About Marburg:

The small university town of Marburg is a labyrinth of higgledy streets with its well-preserved half-timbered houses rising up the hill on the west bank of the Lahn river. Its Elisabethkirche is Germany's oldest pure Gothic cathedral. Perched on the highest point, the imposing 13th-century castle Landgrafenschloss looms over the pretty town. For more wonderful views, hike up to the Spiegelslustturm (Kaiser Wilhelm Tower), or to soak in the river scenery take a pedal boat trip.

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