May 21-22nd, 2012

 

These were our travel days — left Hastings at 7:45 to pick up Mark in Lincoln and then went on to the Omaha airport. There were weather-related delays in Newark, so we couldn’t take off for quite a while and we thought we had absolutely no chance to get our connecting flight to Amsterdam. The kids were already beleaguering us about a day in New York if we couldn’t get out until the next night, and I was pretty stressed about it (but not compared to earlier trips). But when we got to Newark, they let us off the plane first and told us to catch a bus across the airport to the right terminal/gate, and we ran for it–only to find the gates already closed. The United guy was still there but didn’t think there was much of a chance of the plane getting opened back up, but apparently the captain saw Mark and the kids waiting and “looking jolly,” and insisted on letting us on board. We were scattered all over the airplane, so I couldn’t snuggle up to Mark, but otherwise, it was a good flight. I watched three movies, and Kai watched a couple too –thank heaven for the individual in-flight entertainment so it could be entirely different movies!

We got into Amsterdam with about an hour’s delay (chickenfeed by our standards) and were, of course, sure that there was no way our luggage could have made it onto the Amsterdam flight. But it did — Kati spotted our lime green suitcase right away, and all three pieces were there. That was really amazing. We had a light breakfast at the airport and waited for our 10:50 train to Osnabrueck. The train ride was very pleasant, the train almost empty and the kids kept dozing off, which kept things nice and quiet.

 

We got to the OS train station at about 2 pm and Hermann picked up our luggage with the Kia, but we took the bus. We had a lovely late lunch and then went for a walk to the Botanischen Garten with Imke. The weather was fabulous — warm and sunny and apparently the most summery it has been all year. We were truly tired by the end of the day, though, and Mark and I fell asleep in Imke’s garden chair holding hands. 🙂

 

We did rouse ourselves for Abendbrot with everyone, but we were in bed by 8 pm. We’re sleeping in Frau Kuhlmann’s guest room (formerly Kai’s room) and so we’re a bit away from everyone, which is wonderful and very relaxing.

 

May 23rd, 2012

 

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We were up for a little bit during the night (from about 2 am to 4 am), but since that involved some very nice snuggling and equally chatting and reminiscing and generally emitting sounds of happiness, it didn’t feel that long and we slept until after 7 after that and seem to be almost over the jet lag. We went downtown with the kids after a breakfast with frische Broetchen, and that was partly fun, but the kids were partly being a pain in the butt, very demanding and acting like spoiled brats. But we showed Mark the Dom and the Marienkirche, and the Dom visit was very special, because there are big barn owls (Uhus) nesting near the cloister walks, and we got some photos of their young and of the Uhu dad, who likes to hang out on the big outside cross in the cloister walks.

We had gelato at Fontanella and then walked through the Heger Tor to take the bus. Kati caused a bit of an extra stir because she forgot her newly-bought clothes at the bus stop and we had to get back out of the bus two stops further on. The kids ran all the way back to the bus stop to get it, while Mark talked me out of a towering rage. Thankfully, she DID find the clothes, and then we headed home to some Abendbrot with Imke and Hermann and another early bedtime, after I’d made some phone calls to friends.

 

May 24th, 2012

 

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Slept well, but woke up early to very early bright morning light (Northern Europe in late May — bright daylight at 5:30) and read for a bit until Mark was ready to get up as well. We went to get Broetchen, and then at 9:30, Maya came and Imke and Maya, Mark and I all went for a walk to the Botanische Garten. Then we hung out until Lane Sorensen, who is currently in Muenster for a 3-week vacation, showed up, having come in by train & bus.

We sat in the garden (still fantastic weather) and had a late lunch Imke threw together out of leftovers; then, we went for a walk that eventually took us by Brinkhege, the bakery that we love so much, where we bought cake for all 7 of us to have at home with I & H. The kids had come on the walk with us and were very good company, as we talked about making diamonds and German dialects and Marilyn Monroe and all kinds of stuff. After coffee & cake, Lane, Mark and I took off for a little city tour of the usual favorites (although the Uhus were nowhere in sight today), and then walked to the train station to see Lane off and purchase Mark’s Bahn Card 25 for three months.

We went home and had Abendbrot with the kids and it looks like we’re making it an early, but not another super early night.

 

May 25th, 2012

 

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We left the house early-ish (8:15?) and sat at the corner bakery with our coffee and tea until our bus came and took us to the train station for our “running away from the kids” adventure of a weekend in Hamburg with Andrea and Peter. We had a very pleasant train ride and subway ride to Wandsbek Markt, where they picked us up. We had lunch at their apartment and then took off for a lovely afternoon of exploring the harbor, specifically the former warehouse section (Speicherstadt) where ritzy apartments for 40,000 people have been stomped out of the ground in the past 15 years. I only remembered the old part of the Speicherstadt (still gorgeous) but this was quite surprising.

We took a Ferris Wheel ride and got to see it all from above as well.

We had coffee in a cafe right outside the Speicherstadt and then took a bus to the downtown shopping district. The weather was gorgeous all day and so we decided to walk around the Innenalster, looking out at the sailboats on the Aussenalster and just having a wonderful time.

Then we went back home, had Abendbrot at Andrea’s and watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris on their big projection screen to wrap up the day. I slept like a baby after all the walking and a nice hot shower, so that was wonderful, too.

 

May 26th, 2012

 

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This was our day by ourselves in Hamburg. We had breakfast with Andrea and Peter, and then took off for the harbor area again, this time to take the boat to Finkenwerder (where I briefly showed Mark where I lived the last year I was in Hamburg) and then on to Teufelsbrueck, from where we walked along the Elbe to Blankenese, with absolutely fantastic weather and with lots of stuff to watch, including a big container ship going by and sail boats etc.

We walked up to the top of Blankenese (although I couldn’t find the park with the peak where I’d been before with Steve all those years ago) and then had a Doener in a little park before taking the S-Bahn back into town and to the area by the city park where I used to live in the dorms. I showed Mark my dorm room from below, and then found my way back to the city park without remembering any visuals of how it worked; it was odd, I was on sort of an autopilot of knowing how to get there without having any images of the shortcut through the gardens etc. The city park main meadow was absolutely packed with people grilling and hanging out, and the side pathways were just gorgeous with all the rhododendron in bloom. We took some pictures of the planetarium and then found our way to a beer garden where we’d said we would meet Karsten and his sons (eventually his wife came to join us, too).

We spent a couple of hours chatting partly in German, partly in English, and had a very good time. We took the subway back alongside Karsten and his kids (15 and 13, and both with beautiful long hair), and then took a quick turn through campus and through the gardens at Planten und Blomen, where we saw more beautiful greenery and had some Italian gelato to round off a perfect excursion day. It’s wonderful that this much happiness is possible!

We made our way back to Andrea’s and Peter’s apartment, had lovely pasta for dinner, and then sat around for a bit, chatting and watching part of the impossible Grandprix d’Eurovision song contest, just to show Mark what an absurdity it is. But I was very tired, so we headed to bed very soon after that, and I fell asleep before Mark was even out of the shower!

May 27th, 2012

 

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We all slept in a bit more than yesterday and then had a lovely breakfast on Andrea and Peter’s balcony again. We then left for the city to have our “art day” — we first went to the Deichtorhallen, two former covered market halls for wholesale trade that are now a contemporary art exhibit and a contemporary photo exhibit. The photo exhibit didn’t do much for me, but the art exhibit was one huge installation that was definitely memorable. At about 7 meters off the ground, the artist had installed a huge walkaround surface–a wooden platform covered with black resin to create an almost mirror-like effect, suspended from steel cables. It seemed like that would hold our (and everyone else’s) attention for 2 minutes, but walking around and sitting and lying on this big mirror that vibrates and swings as people walk around on it, hop, roll, and play music under it is just really, really intriguing.

So we had a very good time with that. We also loved the cafe there, where we had Flammkuchen, and then we went on to the Kunsthalle, Hamburg’s main museum. The permanent exhibit was a bit much for us–a little bit of everything, so we could hardly take it in, and I had of course seen it before — I liked to revisit the Emil Nolde paintings, a Degas pastel, the Christian Schad painting of Egon Erwin Kisch and a handful of other, interesting pieces. But the special exhibit was the last 15 years of Louise Bourgeois’ work, and that was quite a lot of fun — especially the gigantic bronze spider outside.

After we decided we’d had enough, we went through the nearby St. Georg quarter and had dinner there–I had a buckwheat pancake with mushrooms and a very nice sour cream-based sauce, and Mark had a lovely salad. We said good bye to Andrea and Peter at the train station after a lovely weekend, had an uneventful train ride home and even caught the bus right away, so we were home before 10 pm.

We were tired though, and only briefly said hi to everyone and goodnight.

 

May 28th, 2012

 

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We took care of some of our train trip stuff in the morning after breakfast (or rather, I did), and then Swen, his wife Ilka (of one month and a couple of weeks) and his youngest son, whom I had not met, arrived from Hanover. We went for a walk through the Botanical Gardens (including Kati and Kai, who only wanted to talk to Mark and was shy around Nick because ‘it’s awkward to talk to strangers’), and then had a lovely Sunday dinner with roasted vegetables and a feta-based sauce that Imke made for all of us. We hung out in the garden after our meal, and Kai and Nick played on the computer; Mark and I actually wandering in and out because I was dealing with laundry and the conversation also got a bit exhausting in terms of translating back and forth. Mark eventually started messing with some of the many photos he took, while I sat with Hermann, Swen and Ilka but kept dozing off (the day had started somewhat early but very pleasantly at 6:30 🙂 ). Then we all had coffee and a big torte that Ilka had brought, and around 4:45 everyone took off — Imke, Hermann and the kids for a musical theater event in Tecklenburg, and Ilka, Swen and Nick to go back to Hanover. Mark and I got a very pleasant evening off, with time for e-mails and journaling and sitting in the back yard still in absolutely fantastic weather.

 

May 29th, 2012

We took off fairly early in the day to take the train from OS to Cloppenburg and meet up with Uschi. With her, we went through the Museumsdorf in Cloppenburg and looked at the old farm houses, wind mills, and artisan shops — we had another sunny day, so it was a very nice walk (with the kids in tow) with interesting interruptions for the various buildings and their style.

We ran into a group of kindergarteners who had just each baked their own bread loaf, and some of them insisted that Mark take a picture of their bread–that was very cute.

After about 1 1/2 hour walk, we went to Uschi’s friend Gisela for a very nice lunch, and then on to Uschi’s and Wolfgang’s apartments in Oldenburg. We stopped a couple of times on the way, once in Sandkrug, where Kati got to say hi to Lena (Laura was away). The new/added apartment is very nice and rather large; the kids were able to crawl into various corners with their electronics while we had time to talk; we had coffee and cheesecake and, after a brief excursion to DM and a grocery store, a dinner of pasta and meat sauce. We didn’t take the train back until 9:30, so we had a very nice, leisurely day with Uschi, and after lots of walking on the previous days, taking it a little slower wasn’t all bad. We got home around 11:30 with two very tired kids, though.

 

May 30th, 2012

 

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We had a nice Osnabrueck day with some time at home in the morning to do laundry and a little shopping and whatnot, and then, after a lunch of leftovers, Mark and I walked downtown through the Katharinenviertel and met up with Kati. The Kati time was a bit frustrating, because she was all about the shopping and I had 0 motivation for that. But we had coffee at Bar Celona, which made for nice people watching, and then she took the bus back, while we walked back alongside the botanical gardens and through the Caprivikaserne/University of Applied Sciences. So that was a nice walk all the way around. We had a very quiet evening as well, and Hermann, Mark and I sat at the kitchen table together, all three working on the same very hard soduko puzzle.

 

May 31st, 2012

 

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We got up early to walk Kati to her much-awaited hair appointment and walk back through the very pretty back streets behind Lieneschweg. Then she took off for Aachen on the train while Imke took us to Fuerstenau by car. It was raining off and on (our first rainy day), but we had a very nice day, anyway. Syelle fed us a lovely quiche for lunch, and then she and Imke hung out while we walked all around Fuerstenau, looking at my old school, the downtown area, the playground, the castle, etc., and then met Imke back up at Sabine and Dieter’s place.

That was very pleasant (we even got to see the new, 8-month-old grandbaby who now lives across the street in Klutes’ old house) and we saw a pretty spectacular downpour before we took off again. Kai thought that walking through my old school was very strange and embarassing, but Mark and I enjoyed it. In Osnabrueck, we took care of some e-mail and photo stuff, and went to bed relatively early, around 10ish.