Sunday, July 1 (Osnabrück)

Coffee on Wolfgang and Maya’s balcony
Coffee with Ingrid and Ralph from Aachen in Imke’s garden
Today, we had basically a friends day. After breakfast, Mark and I walked with Imke to family friends I‘ve known since elementary school days, Wolfgang and Maya, who have been on vacation for most of June, so that we didn‘t get a chance to see them before. We had coffee on their balcony and talked about our respective trips, mostly in German, so that Mark‘s contribution to the conversation was mostly showing the photos from our trip on the iPad mini. We had a good time, and it was great to see them again and hear about their 5 grandchildren.
We then walked back home and rested a bit (I reread a children’s book that I recently re-purchased—I must have read it hundreds of times as a kid, since I remembered individual phrases and minute details, but I also know that the last couple of pages were alway missing and you had to imagine the finale! Now I have the complete novel and could finally finish it all the way!) Then we got ready for our afternoon visit—more long-time friends, this time a friend of mine from my high-school days and her husband, stopped by for the afternoon. We’ve always managed to see Ingrid and Ralph on our German trips, but typically we come to see them in Aachen. This time, it worked out that they were coming back from a weekend with her parents, who live near my hometown of Fürstenau, and took the slight detour to stop with us for almost 3 hours. We had coffee and brownies (a la mode!) in Imke’s little walled garden in the shade, and talked about travels, politics, and their awesome daughter, Kati’s childhood friend Nora, who is now studying political science and will be spending 3 months on an internship with the prestigious Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in DC this fall. Again, we had a good time but spoke limited amounts of English, so I think Mark was a little bored. But I am so glad we got to see them!
After they left, Imke made us a lovely dinner of vegetarian stuffed peppers (I made the salad), and Mark and I went on another walk, with a new destination and some new nooks and crannies of Osnabrück we hadn’t explored before—we walked to a historic apartment block in the Liebigstraße and looked at the architecture / design of various early 20th-century townhouses, and then walked along the river Hase back to the cathedral and then home. It was nice to just get some exercise, and with the weather having been just fantastic not-a-cloud-in-the-sky summer weather, it was really nice to say good bye to Osnabrück that way.


Monday, July 2 (from Osnabrück to Düsseldorf)

The (very much restored) castle ruins at Kaiserswerth, Düsseldorf
The Rhine near Kaiserswerth / Lohausen (where our hotel was)
Surprise find of the outbuilding of a working farm that was clearly once a church
We got up at a fairly normal time (8ish) and got our last round of fresh Brötchen/croissants for our last breakfast with Imke. We packed and then went downtown for last purchases. Kai went to Osnabrück’s oldest instrument store (the only one remaining, as far as I am concerned), Rohlfing, where I went as a kid for the occasional guitar string and to watch my then-boyfriend drool over e-pianos and keyboards (the store is actually 200 years old). He bought a melodica and a kazoo for Cayte and some musical notation paper for himself. Then he and Mark had to exercise some patience while I got some clothes for Jupiter at a great discount store that I know Kati would have shopped at, and also some last-minute toiletries. We also went to the comic store (not quite as old as Rohlfing, but old enough that it WAS there when I was a kid, and one of Kai’s most-frequented places in Osnabrück when we were living here for a year and he was collecting Yu-Gi-Oh cards. (The owner/guy who runs the shop is still the same, but he finally doesn’t look like a scrawny college student anymore.) Kai bought some Magic Cards, and then we took off for home. There is a flower shop less than a minute from my mom’s, and I got her a big bouquet—so when we got home, we presented her with that and with a book that I thought she’d really enjoy (Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See). Then we had our last coffee & yummies at her bouse (left-over brownie, Lithuanian chocolate from Uschi, and a ‘Bobbes’ from the bakery), and got ready to get on the bus, then the train. We had one train change, and then had to find our way through the airport to a bus that would go by our hotel. That all worked fairly well, and the hotel, while boring in a blah-looking suburb, was certainly in a convenient spot. We had extremely mediocre sort-of Greek food at a nearby restaurant, and Kai, who has been trying various wines and beers while it’s legal tried a rose wine.
After dinner, Mark and I went exploring (Kai wanted some time to himself). We had gotten a tip from our friend Ingrid that a very cute part of Düsseldorf, Kaiserswerth, was not far from us, and it turned out that a city bus could get us there in 12 minutes. Our train ticket included unlimited free bus rides, so we took advantage of that and then walked through the Main Street at Kaiserswerth, which was lovely but I think we are by this time overloaded with lovely small towns in Germany. What was actually fun is that this Main Street led directly to the banks of the Rhine, and that we could then walk along the Rhine—first by the ruins of a castle, then by a busy cafe, and then out of the city limits, where it got very peaceful. There was a pier for a ferry (after hours), with people having picnics on the banks of the river, and then biking/hiking paths all the way along. So we walked back along the Rhine until we had to turn towards our town, and around sunset walked back to the hotel. I think we walked about 6 miles total—and it was so nice to have a non-urban finish to the day.

Tuesday, July 3 (Düsseldorf to Lincoln)

Back home–visiting with Kati & friend
Jupiter discovered that throwing balls to Kai is a blast. Even he had fun hearing her giggles.
This was a fairly typical travel day. We had to get up early, had hotel breakfast at 6:30 and took a taxi to the airport at 7:15. Everything was on time—the plane to Munich, and then the plane from Munich to Chicago. We even landed in Chicago a little bit early, but we still almost missed our connection because the lines at immigration/customs and then even at the “get your bags checked back in” point were so long. If the guy at the bag check in hadn’t been kind and just taken our luggage and said “run” we would have not made it through the endless wilderness that is Chicago O’Hare and the additional security check point. As it was, we were the last people to get on the plane—and then they sat on the ground saying that they were waiting for international bags, presumably ours! Nonetheless, we were in Lincoln on time, and Mark’s friend James, who had brought our car to the airport, was actually still there and greeted us. We got to the apartment at about 6:30, and Kati, Krynn, Jupiter, and their friend Alex came over and hung out for a while. Jupiter was very excited to see us! They had to leave before the fireworks, but Kati stayed long enough to sing with Kai, which was a wonderful welcome home. We just barely lasted long enough to watch the city fireworks from the roof garden, and I am sure I was fast asleep well before 11. The days with the extra 7 hours added in are always rough on the way back to the States!