Mark, Kai and I took a fairly early train to Cologne and took the classic sightseeing tour we’ve taken many times before, so we could show Mark the highlights: we went to the cathedral (although we only spend a few minutes inside it) and on to the end of the downtown pedestrian mall, where the lego shop is.
We found a cafe there so that we could sit and eat, while Kai kept shuttling back and forth to the lego shop to decide what to buy–he ended up buying a Lego Mindcraft kit that’s really meant as a joke for grown-ups, but he was happy with that. We then went down to the Rhine and back up to the cathedral, and spent about an hour in the Roman-Germanic museum.
Then it was time to go on to Aachen, where we were picked up by Ralph and then had a lovely Danish cake with our coffee and tea.
The girls had dinner / night-out plans and were gone by 6:30 for Sushi and a night on the town (sort of), with directions to catch the bus back home before midnight. Ralph and Mark and I went for a lovely walk out of town and back around through Brand (their neighborhood), and then Ingrid made us a wonderful meal with Nuernberger Rostbratwuerstchen and Spaetzle, and we sat and talked until about 11 (it was great to catch up with them after 2 years; Nora is about to go to Argentina for 2 months, so that’s a great adventure), but that’s as long as I could make it last. We were pretty tired (had been up since 6:30 am) so we fell asleep right away.
We had a leisurely breakfast with Ingrid and Ralph and then had a fairly standard Aachen program: We went to the Lindt chocolate factory outlet to buy chocolate (Kati and Kai more than we did), and then went downtown to go see the sights: the now fully restored Elisenbrunnen, the downtown area, and the cathedral, which continues to strike me as truly different because of the octagonal center piece (built during Charlemagne’s reign), decorated with an elaborate, freshly renovated mosaic that seems very Byzantian and at times Persian, with lots of abstract pattern decorations.
We had a good time, apart from a somewhat whiny Kai, and then went home via the incredible ice cream place (Delpzich?), and had ice cream and some mediterranean antipasti for a late lunch. We left by train at around 4 pm, and were home around 7:30. Kai was able to find an outlet on the train and was perfectly content, but Kati was an impossible diva for some reason, and not really fun to be with. We came home around 8 on the bus, and Imke and Hermann had waited for us and had potato salad and Vienna sausages ready for us — very nice!
This was our first truly miserably rainy day, but the rain didn’t stop Mark and me from taking a long walk from Imke’s house downtown to climb up the bell tower of the Marienkirche, check again on the Uhus at the Dom, and walk around the old city wall and the Vitischanze, which I hadn’t shown Mark yet.
Mostly, we went so that we could go for a nice walk all by ourselves, and although we got a bit wet, the rain didn’t really turn vile until later in the day, when the whole family walked to the restaurant on the edge of the woods (Kampmeyer) for a late lunch. This was Hermann’s special treat and meant that I could finally have my coveted Spargel mit Fruehkartoffeln (asparagus, which is currently in season), without having to force it on the kids, or on Mark, all of whom had something they really liked. We went home for a special dessert Imke had made for us, and then just putzed about on the computer (organizing photos, playing soduko, etc.) for the rest of the day. We also packed our stuff for the Baltic, and Kai had his friend Guener over, finally, although they played mostly Mindcraft on the computer while he was here.
We got up after a very nice night’s sleep at around 8 am and got ready for our trip to the Baltic–Imke and Hermann took the car and all of our major luggage, so that we could very easily get on the bus & train trip to Boltenhagen, a resort town on the Baltic. It wasn’t raining, just overcast and coolish. We left the house around 9:30 and were on buses and trains for most of the day until we got to Boltenhagen around 3:30 pm. Imke and Hermann were already there, and we quickly set up our rooms and Mark and I went down to the beach to check out the Baltic and the center of the little resort town. Later, we all went back together; it was a little breezy and not warm (definitely not beach weather) but occasionally sunny. Kai loved running and playing around in the sand, and actually preferred to stay down at the beach when we went back up on the promenade. We had the usual Abendbrot for dinner, and then went for another walk after dinner.
We got up around 8:30 yesterday morning to (momentarily bright blue skies and a cuckoo that startled Mark because “it sounded like a darn cuckoo clock”). We got up and ventured out to find a bakery and got rolls for breakfast. Afterwards, we went for our first of several walks in various constellations. We went out for lunch (sans Kai, who wasn’t hungry) and had lots of lovely fish (pork for Mark), and then had a much-needed long afternoon nap, before we all of us went for more walks. My favorite walk is away from the resort (which is actually a bit blah and doesn’t have the charms of Usedom for me) towards a sandy cliff to the west of the village. After our last walk on our own (always my favorite; Kati continues to want to buys stuff, to which I have increasingly allergic reactions, and Kai wants to talk about nothing but Minecraft with me), we came home around 6 with yet more rolls, to greet Dorothee and Judith, who had arrived a half hour earlier from Judith’s home in Schoenboeken. We had a good time–Abendbrot for eight on the baland then another walk to show Dorothee and Judith around. Again, we had some sun and some clouds, but at least no rain. We sat and had wine and chocolate until almost 11 pm and then went to bed, finally.
We had breakfast for eight in the apartment, which was interesting in terms of food logistics, but we seem to be doing quite well. Hermann took off to fetch Imke’s sister Ute and husband Alfred from Hamburg; they were joining us in Boltenhagen but they’ll be on their own in a little pension, and we didn’t see them until the next day. Judith, Dorothee and I went shopping for groceries, and then we all went for a walk, with Kai staying on the beach and Kati steering towards the boutiques etc., for which trend she found a better audience in Judith, Dorothee and Imke than in me.
We then separated, and Mark and I tracked down Kai and then went home to start on lunch. Imke joined me and helped, and we had a very pleasant meal for seven. Judith, Mark and I went for another walk to the sandy cliff and then up the cliffs where we found a path; however, after about an hour, it started to rain, and we went back home, scooping up Kai on the way–he now goes to the beach on his own accord with some frequency before he goes back to the computer. Judith and I went to get some (rather blah) cake and we had coffee and sweets around 5 pm. We were then trapped at home by the rain for the rest of the day, and the usual rainy-day routine for vacations, with card games, soduko and scrabble (but also some crabbing on the kids’ part) kicked in. Kati in particular was rather annoyed by not having anything to do.
This was a rather different day from the previous! We had marvelous weather all day. Mark and I were up rather early and actually read for quite a while (Anansi Boys by Neil Gayman) and then got up and met up with Judith, who had already gotten in a walk at the beach. We went to get ‘don’t call them rolls’ Broetchen, and then tried to make a very quiet cup of tea, but only managed to blow a fuse since the electric water heater malfunctioned (the frequency with which things fail or are otherwise turn out to be inadequate in the vacation rental is rather ridiculous). So we went to a nearby supermarket with a mini cafe to sit for a while, and then joined the others at the breakfast. Mark, Kai, and I took advantage of the sunny weather and went all the way to the end of the beach where the natural preserve begins, while the others went clothes shopping. We all met up for a sit-down dinner in the main area of town, but had dessert at home, after Mark, Dorothee and I had bought some ice cream and cookies/chocolate sticks to go with the strawberries that Judith had already bought. Everyone had a great time, and then Mark and I said good bye to Judith, who was leaving for home, and went to the beach by ourselves to just lie around and enjoy the sunshine and the solitude. We then hung out at home for a bit, and bought a few more things before Abendbrot time in order to feed all nine of us. After dinner, Kati, who was in a much better mood and was full of love and affection, took off with Mark to get Kai, who was spending the fourth or fifth time of the day jumping around on the beach. But they called me and told me to come join them, because there were fantastic waves to watch. We had a wonderful time and stayed out until at least nine, and then hung out with Dorothee, Imke and Hermann for a while longer before we went to bed. This was definitely a 10 kind of day!
This was another really beautiful day, but not expectedly so. We woke up around 8 to pouring rain and cancelled our plans for running away to have breakfast alone together. Instead, we got rolls around the corner at a little bakery stand and had breakfast with Imke, Hermann, and Dorothee, who was leaving this morning for home. While Imke and Hermann took her back to the train station, Mark and I went shopping at the Aldi, while it was still gray but not even drizzly. But by 11 it had cleared up and we made plans to go for a longer walk/hike. Kati joined us and Kai stayed at the beach and Imke and Hermann promised to check in on him, since they were staying near the town center to meet Ute and Alfred for lunch. We walked on the cliffs that we’d explored the other day with Judith, except that we only walked up on top, in a big semicircle, and then back on a road that went across the peninsula–all in gorgeous sunshine. We actually ended up at an old GDR watch tower, since the Baltic was always carefully monitored for refugees. We walked about 10 k — 2 hours — and had a wonderful time, all three of us. Then we found a restaurant that we hadn’t tried yet and had a good lunch (Kati had dessert as well). We were home around 3, and although the weather was still nice, we were pretty shot and stayed home; I dealt with laundry in the basement and with cooking prep while Imke and Hermann went for a short hike as well and everyone else napped or played with computers. We had dinner around 7 (I had made pasta for all; I’m getting a bit burned out on the daily rounds of Abendbrot, and I know Mark is, too), and then Mark and I went back out for another walk on the beach (although it had threatened to thunderstorm around 6:30, it never did and was still beautiful) and ended up listening to a live band playing old pop songs from East and West Germany and the States, and I was surprised that I knew several of the songs from East Germany they played–not just the Sandmaennchen tune that wrapped up the show. I was especially surprised that I remembered the lyrics from some of those songs–especially of ‘Ueber 7 Bruecken musst du gehen,’ a song I hadn’t thought about for probably 30 years. We came home shortly after 9 and dealt with the tail end of the laundry etc. before we called it a night. I need to note the historic fact that I skipped a stone (one) with Mark’s instructions and it skipped THREE times.
I woke up rather early Saturday morning and only let Mark sleep until about 7:30–since it was actually sunny out, I was not going to waste time in bed! We went out to have a little cake and tea/coffee for breakfast and then went for a longish walk (total: 8 miles/ 12 km) through the entire tow and across the peninsula at the end of the bay until we got to the Weisse Wiek, a big new hotel / vacation rental complex plus Marina that looks, in the pre-season, rather deserted and very impersonal, with basically no charm at all. But it was a good destination since we hadn’t walked to that end of the town at all. It was nice to be able to just walk and enjoy the scenery and the conversation on the way. On the way back, we stopped in the center of town again for some food and trinkets, and then hung out at home, a good bit tired, and just played soduko and journaled etc. Imke and Hermann went out and I made lunch for the four of us with various leftovers. Uschi and Wolfgang showed up between three and four, having settled in their apartment in the next village over, and we all went to the beach for a while, some of us for a long walk, while others who can’t walk well (Wolfgang and then Alfred) stayed around the entrance area. Everyone had a good time, and we all had Abendbrot at home, buffet-style. Kai went back to the beach (he has been spending hours there on his own, running back and forth, over the last few days, which is wonderful) and Mark and I went for a walk, checked in on him and on the live band playing this evening, and came back home at around 10, when the six older adults were wrapping up their wine drinking. Very nice day again, no rain and wonderful, peaceful time with Mark, while the kids were also very happy all in all.
Mark and I again got up relatively early and went for another walk on the cliffs, this time looping around the other way. It was really beautiful, even though we could feel the walks of the last few days and were a good bit slower for some reason. My favorite spot on the cliffs is where this amazing old oak stands, now rather close to the cliffs, which are steadily eroding. It is climbable, and the view out to the ocean with the wheat fields behind us is gorgeous. We came home around 10, after about 5 miles of walking, and then Uschi showed up around noon; we all had lunch after Uschi, Kati and I went to the Aldi for some extra supplies, and then Uschi took the four of us to Wismar, the nearby town, which was a total surprise in terms of its absolute beauty–it’s famous for its three brick Gothic churches, one of them the fourth-largest cathedral in Germany, but all made out of brick, the other in various states of being restored / preserved, but I had never been, and none of us expected the basically intact 17th-18th century downtown with these totally charming houses that have by now almost all been restored / renovated. Cobblestone streets, a few beautiful art deco houses as well as the older town houses with neoclassicist gables of all shapes and forms, and then quite a bit of that amazing brick architecture. Even the kids were quite impressed, although the fact that Murnau’s Nosferatu was filmed here didn’t mean anything to them.:) We took a slight detour through the harbor and to the nearby Insel Poel, connected by only one road/bridge to the land, but otherwise rather boring (we didn’t get out of the car), and then Uschi dropped us off at home. We had a very pleasant Abendbrot and Kai, Mark and I did another round of beach walk/watching the evening sun from the pier (no live music Sunday night) and we went home about 10 to showers and bedtime.