Andrea’s 30th birthday party

 

 

Tuesday, November7, 2000

           

            It all started with a phone call from Germany from my German daughter, Andrea.  She happened to mention that her 30th birthday was coming up and it was too bad that I couldn’t be there to party hardy.  As soon as I hung up the phone I dialed up my daughters, Wendy and Jonette, and asked if they wanted to go to a party, which just happened to be in Germany.  After a brief nanosecond they both answered yes and the trip was born.  My son Jared couldn’t go because of work, my girlfriend, Anne, couldn’t go because she has a “real” job and had to teach school, and my other daughter, Nikki, was somewhere, doing something, for or to somebody so she was unavailable.

            I logged on the internet to cheap tickets or somebody and found a really reasonable fare of $469.00 round trip to Frankfurt which I booked immediately and then sat back and waited for the tickets to come in the mail.  Wendy and I had made a few shopping excursions to get some small gifts for the family and outfits for my German grandson, Jon Cedrick Richter. How I love that Wal-Mart!  Jonette flew in from Salt Lake City on Monday night so we would all be together.   Monday night was also packing night and once again I took too many clothes but at least I had the luxury of many combinations to choose from each day.  The good news is that jeans and a golf shirt were usually good enough.

            Tuesday morning dawned and we had to get to the flyaway around 8:30am to arrive at LAX in time to catch our flight.  You know how it is when you leave for two weeks, trying to remember all those things that have to be done so you can sleep well at night while you’re gone.  Well, I thought I had them all taken care of and just by chance I was reeling off the list in my mind as I started the car to leave.  PASSPORT!!??  I made a quick trip back into the house to get it and then we were finally on our way.  It could have been very upsetting to get there and not be able to leave the country.  We picked up Wendy at her house and drove to the flyaway just in time to miss the 8:30 am bus so we had a half hour wait for the next one.  The beauty was that there were actually parking spaces available at the Flyaway unlike the previous spring when Jared and I left for Europe on Memorial Day Friday and were supposed to leave the car for Jonette to pick up that evening when she flew down to stay at my house for the weekend.  The lot was packed but the guard took pity on us and let us park in the 30-minute zone.

            Our timing was great and we had just a short wait to board our US Airways jet for the first leg of the trip, a four and one half hour flight to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Being the cheapskate that I am I refused to pay $5.00 for the loan of a pair of earphones to listen to the movie (The Crew) so I did the usual reading/sleeping things for the flight.  Those in-flight magazines are soooo interesting.  I think I still suffer from lividity from sitting so long it’s just that I’m not flexible enough to check the backside of me to see if it’s purple or not.  (Lividity, for those of you who are not EMTs, is when the blood settles to the bottom of the body after death, creating a purple line at the lowest points)

 

 

            The flight from Charlotte to Frankfurt got off on time after we loaded up with the requested Cinn-a-bon rolls for Andrea.  Fortunately the plane was only half full so Wendy and Jonette each grabbed a center row of three empty seats while I relaxed in the two on the side.  The earphones were free on international flights so I could listen to the movie this time…. Unfortunately!  The movie was a total waste of film called “Big Momma” so I tried to sleep some more during the nine and a half hour flight.  It didn’t work.  By the clock we traveled for almost 24 hours even though Germany is only nine hours behind us.

 

 

Wednesday, November 8  (rainy and cold)

 

            We arrived in Frankfurt just after 10:00am and went to the Avis rental car counter where we had a car reserved.  It turned out to be an Opel station wagon diesel, which smelled like yesterday’s ashtray.  It held all of our luggage as well as the three of us so it had to be good enough.  I aired it out on the Autobahn up to about 100 mph (just to keep up with the flow of traffic) and it held together so the next thing we knew we were in Staufenberg and knocking on Andrea’s front door on her birthday.  I guess she was happy to see us because her face lit up like the Las Vegas strip when we walked in.  She was holding Jon, my 18 month old grandson, and we all went into the living room and visited.  Their daughter, Julie, came home from school around 2:00pm and we had cheesecake and cold Pepsi.  Our body clocks were just rolling on to 5:00am and sleep was out of the question.

            About 6:00pm we were called to dinner.  Andrea had prepared a delicious dinner of “Rinderbraten” (beef roast), Rot Kohl (sweet red cabbage), and potato dumplings.  After fighting the urge to sleep and basically losing the battle I retired to my basement suite about 10:00pm and crashed.  It was about 1:00pm in the afternoon to my system and I was wide-awake by 2:00am after only four hours of sleep.  Fortunately I had a TV at my disposal and so I had a chance to view the all night adds for the German 900 numbers.  One big difference I noticed right off was that the women in these ads showed the “Full Monty” along with the phone numbers.  I eventually got back to sleep around 5:00am and got another six hours of blissful rest.

 

Thursday, November 9  (rainy and cold)

 

            We finally woke up around 11:30 am and after a quick shower, went upstairs to breakfast.  One thing that wasn’t normal for a German house is that the heat and hot water was supplied by a boiler, which allowed for long showers with plenty of pressure.  The usual set up is a demand water heater that dribbles hot water just fast enough to get you soapy and half warm.  It was a treat to have an American type of shower.  Breakfast was the typical European meal of fresh rolls, cheese, sliced meat, jams, etc.  It’s really delicious and the freshness of the foods gives a wonderful taste that we miss in America.  The milk was irradiated to kill the bugs so it didn’t have to be refrigerated.  You buy milk off the shelf just like canned soup and it tastes just the same as refrigerated, only warm.

 

            Around 3:00pm we jumped into the car and drove to Giessen, the closest big city, to do some Christmas shopping and go to the famous “Gummi Bear” store with its shelves of different flavors and colors of sweet, chewy goodness.  Lugging around 40 pounds of fresh Gummi Bears got to be a chore so we made little Jon walk and we filled his stroller with the sweet loot.  We had to stop for a quick “Currywurst” at one of the little stands in town so we would have the strength to continue our quest for authentic German decorations that didn’t take electricity, since Germany uses 220 volts at 50 cycles and in America we have 110 volts at 60 cycles.

 

Bratwurst in Giessen

 

            Back at Andrea’s I went to the computer room and brought up my email and answered it as best I could since there were almost 30 messages already.  It always amazes me that I can be in close contact with anyone, anywhere in the world through the computer network.  It worked out great for me because I could email my neighbor across the street and ask her to collect my mail and water my front lawn.  (You might remember a short reference to a mental list before leaving home)  Bedtime rolled around about 10:00pm and I woke up again at 3:00am and flipped on the TV to see the same old ads and American soaps in German.

 

 

Stephan Richter "The Hippie"

 

Friday, November 10  (sunny and cold)

 

            We made it up for breakfast at about 9:00am and then Jonette, Wendy and I went to the nearby town of Marburg to see the sights and visit the castle, as well as do a little shopping.  Marburg is 1000 years old and the downtown area is built on the hill below the castle and has narrow cobblestone streets with gingerbread buildings.  It’s also a University town so the streets were filled with young students scurrying somewhere or another with their air of self-importance.  The castle has been restored to a degree so it has lost some of its charm because of the white painted walls.  The University maintains a museum in part of it and it’s interesting to speculate just how short those people were after seeing the beds that they slept in.  We stopped in at the castle café to grab a soda and rest from the long climb up the hill and then slowly made our way through the quaint streets and shops until we finally found our car again.

            The relatives, Stephan’s parents, were there when we got back to Andrea’s and they were glad to see us, or at least see me since Jared and I had stayed with them last year when we made our tour of the fatherland.  Helga, Stephan’s mother, is a whirling dervish kind of person who just can’t sit down, much like my own sister Marlene.  The good side of that is that she is a dynamite cook and fixed us a dinner to die for.  (Spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic bread)  George, her husband, is an Englishman who used to drive trucks of equipment from Europe to Saudi Arabia and back until fate brought them together.  They have been happily married now for 15 years.  It was sort of strange talking to George in German when both of us could speak English.  It just becomes hard to think in English when in the company of others who don’t.  Jonette was happy because she could talk and listen and understand most of what was going on as we jumped back and forth between the two languages.

 

 

 Jonette, Julie & Wendy

 

            Julie, the 14-year-old daughter, was showing Jonette and Wendy how to make some plastic window decorations that Andrea had all over the house.  Pretty cool!  We ordered a bunch of colors and will give it a try when they get here.  Finally made it to bed about the usual time after watching the German news broadcast and its slant on the American elections and the Florida situation.  They thought it was extremely comical that lawyers were involved in democracy – the will of the people!?   Only watched TV from 3:00am to 3:30am before falling back to sleep.  My body clock is screwed up!!

 

Saturday. November 11  “The Party”  (Cloudy and cold)

 

            Finally made it up at 8:30am for breakfast just like normal but the house was quickly filling up with people.  The morning was spent rearranging the furniture and getting the room ready for the party.  Stephan and I jumped into his BMW and made a quick trip to Giessen for some Wine and snacks.  Talk about an “E” ticket ride.  Stephan likes to run his Beemer up over 200+ KPH (115+ MPH) on the autobahn IN TRAFFIC.  By the time we returned the cul-de-sac was full of cars from all over Germany.  The afternoon cake and Pepsi was a time for everyone to sit around the table and talk in both English and German.  Andrea’s parents and sister from northern Germany were there, as well as Stephan’s family from the southern part of the country.  The party was a 70’s theme and bell-bottom pants were in abundance.  The music was loud and there was dancing, a delicious catered dinner, hot young chicks rocking and rolling (Julie and Anika) and lively conversation around the table for the English speakers.  I finally got up and danced with Julie (a Samba) and eventually got the music turned down a bit so we could talk without yelling.  It was a cool party and everyone seemed to have a great time.  Being an old guy I retired about midnight to the nearby hotel room that had been rented for me for the night.  Jonette and Wendy were not as lucky and had to sneak up to their room around 2:00am but didn’t get much sleep because the party raged on until almost dawn. 

 

 

The Party

 

Sunday, November 12  (cloudy and cold)

 

            After the typical continental breakfast at the Hotel we (me and the grandparents) wandered back to Andrea’s house about 9:00am and visited as the party animals slowly awakened and staggered into the living room.  Andrea had about 20 people sleep over because it was too far for them to drive home.  They were stacked like cordwood in all the rooms.  Slowly they all came to the living room/dining area and ate some breakfast and left for home.  Since Germany is about the size of California and Staufenberg sits close to the middle, it wasn’t more than a four-hour drive for anyone to get back home.  Stephan’s parents, Helga and George, stayed because they were going to baby-sit little Jon for the week while Andrea and Stephan flew to MY HOUSE.  Talk about irony.  Stephan had wanted to surprise Andrea for her birthday with a trip to California so he booked a flight before he knew we were coming.  As it turned out, he didn’t cancel the trip because they both needed a rest in the sunshine.  So, as Andrea and Stephan packed to fly to California, Jonette, Wendy and I packed to travel around Germany.  We visited until around 11:00pm when it seemed that Andrea was about ready to collapse from lack of sleep.  So, while the girls and I said our goodbyes and went to bed, Stephan stayed up and cleaned the house until about 3:00am so his mother wouldn’t have to do it after they were gone.

 

Wendy & Andrea (The birthday girl)

 

Monday, November 13  (clear and cold)

 

            George got up and drove the two of them to the airport in Frankfurt and was arriving back home just about the time we woke up.  They are such a cute couple that we hated to leave but we took what we needed for the trip, leaving suitcases full of gummi bears behind to pick up later, and headed south toward warmer weather.  Our first stop was Giessen and breakfast at McDonalds with a monetary resupply at the ATM machine.  It always amazes me that my little card gets me money all over the world.  It started to drizzle as we approached Heidelberg on the Neckar.  The castle at Heidelberg is one of those that seems to make all the calendars even though it is in ruins.  It stands picturesque overlooking the river and old city and this was my third visit, the first coming during a lunch stop during my missionary days while returning from Bern, Switzerland.  Jared and I had been there the previous spring during our trip around the continent.  I parked the car in the parking structure and we started climbing the stairs to the castle, about 2,000 of them before we reached the top.  It was only the drizzle that kept us cool.

            The castle’s claim to fame is the 55,000 gallon wine cask in the cellar.  Maybe that’s why the castle is in ruins now, everyone was too drunk to take care of it.  We didn’t stay long and took the funicular railway back down the mountain to our car.  The same kind of tram in Austria had just caught fire and killed 62 people so as we descended the tunnel it was somewhat spooky.  As we were walking back to the car Wendy spotted some old clocks in the window of a nearby shop so we went in and ended up buying a couple.  Well, at least they look old even though they’re made of plastic.

 

The Party

 

            On the road again we continued south toward the Alps.  Our goal was the castle Neuschwanstein at Hohenschwangau.  The little Opel diesel just chugged along so nice that I didn’t even check the gas gauge until I found it blinking and we were nowhere near any place.  With no choice but to go forward we finally stopped at a small village in Austria and tanked up…..just in time.  The countryside in southern Germany is so beautiful that it defies description other than it makes you keep a sharp eye out for Heidi.  We made it to the village of Hohenschwangau around 7:00pm and checked into a 4-star hotel, “Hotel Mueller”, which was right where the horse drawn carriages left for the castle every morning.  Our rooms were small suites with balconies that had a view of one of the two castles which were home to the Kings of Bavaria at one time.  We dined in the Hotel restaurant and the food was delicious and the Italian waiter was classic, plus he had the hots for Jonette.  The full moon was rising over the fairytale castle and a warm wind had made it a wonderful night so I took my camera and tried to get a couple of pictures, but they didn’t turn out.  The rooms went for $120 for the girls and $90 for mine, with dinner a cool $50.  It sure felt good to be one of the rich people, if only for one night.

  

 

Tuesday, November 14    (foggy and mild)

 

            When we checked into the Hotel the clerk asked if we wanted tickets to the Castle tour the next morning and volunteered to get them for us.  The tickets were for 10:25am so we got an early start, ate our complementary continental breakfast, which as one could imagine was quite good and extensive, sort of like the breakfast buffets in Las Vegas, packed our bags in the car and walked out the front door to the waiting horse drawn carriages.  Jared and I had walked up the hill last spring and it’s a good hike for a nice warm spring day but in the cold fog riding sounded much nicer.  Jonette and Wendy didn’t mind so we entered the first waiting carriage, paid our $4.00 each and enjoyed the ambience of sitting in the covered carriage with a blanket over our laps as the drizzle moistened the air and ground around us.  Ahh, such atmosphere…..until the 10 polish people climbed in and crowded the room.  Polish, German, English, the languages just swirled around like mixing a cake batter with a spoon.  It was still an experience that’s unforgettable and we soon arrived at the foot of the Castle and unloaded.  The clouds hung low around the Castle making picture taking useless so we went inside to await our tour.

Neuschwanstein Castle was to be the home of Ludwig II, King of Bavaria.  It was one of four that he built in his reign as King and he only stayed in it for a few weeks because it was never finished.  It was the model for the Castle in Walt Disney’s Fantasyland at Disneyland.  The one thing that you learn in touring castles is that our modern homes are much more comfortable and warm which is probably why we live longer and healthier.  The tour only lasted half an hour or so and we ended up at the Gift Shop where I bought a CD in 3D of the Castle tour, which is fantastic and available to those who might be interested.  As we started back down the hill with the intention of walking the downhill leg, one of the carriage drivers kept trying to get us to ride with him and when the price got to $2.00 we jumped in and rode back to the Hotel.  Nothing like wet horses’ rumps to provide atmosphere to a carriage ride.

We started off in the direction of East Germany but made a wrong turn in Austria and spent an hour getting back on track.  We stopped briefly at the “Zugspitze” tram that Jared and I took to the top of the Alps last spring but the cables just disappeared into the clouds and the ride was closed for the winter.  Down the road a piece is the quaint little town of Garmish-Partenkirchen, one of the official “Rest and Relaxation” centers for GIs stationed in Germany.  We stopped to see if we could find some real Italian Gelato Ice Cream.  We did find a real Italian Restaurant and had a hard time communicating our desires but in a short while they brought us 3 of the most delicious Ice Cream creations I’ve ever had the pleasure to see, let alone taste.  Across the street was the Christmas Store so we had to stop in and see the beautiful decorations.  They were pricey but we held our ground and didn’t buy anything.

It started to rain heavier as we left the foot of the Alps and headed north.  It was already late afternoon and getting dark so we zipped right past Munich and headed toward Dresden in the East.  The Autobahn moved at its usual torrid pace despite the pouring rain and it’s really something to be doing 100mph, in the dark, in the rain and being passed by screaming Mercedes and BMWs.  After three hours of this torture my neck was killing me so we pulled off at Nuremberg to find a Hotel room.  What we found was Toys-R-Us and we did some fun shopping.  The Hotels were full and too expensive because of a convention in town so we left and kept heading north.

After another hour we pulled into one of the many rest stops that are found along the Autobahn.  There is usually a Café, Gas Station, and sometimes a Hotel to serve the highway travelers.  We lucked out in stopping at the ‘Rasthaus Frankische-Schweiz Ost” which had a nice, new, and very clean Hotel with non-smoking rooms.  A nice hot shower smoothed out the kinks in my neck from driving and the three of us drifted off into blissful sleep, or at least I did.  The girls stayed up listening to me snore through the brick walls of the Hotel.

 

Wednesday, November 15  (drizzle and mild)

 

            The buffet breakfast was included in the price of the rooms and was tasty.  Off we went in the direction of Dresden, a city that was universally praised as one of the most beautiful and artistic cities in the world before the bombs wiped it out in the War.  We were now in the area of the former East Germany and I pulled off in Chemnitz to show the girls how the cities looked that hadn’t been rebuilt after the War as they were in the West.  We cruised down some side streets with rows of apartment houses, some still soot covered and drab, some still with bullet holes in the plaster, and others freshly painted and cute.  The architecture is late 1800s with lots of gingerbread in the trim and quite lovely when fixed up.  Since most of the really motivated people fled to western Germany, the work of fixing up is taking longer than it did in a lot of cities that were damaged during the War.  The contrast between the look of the cities of the western half and the drabness of the eastern areas is something that should be seen by everyone sympathetic with socialism.

            Approaching Dresden I had no idea what to expect because I have read several accounts of the terrible destruction that rained down on the city near the end of the War and thought that piles of rubble would still be visible everywhere.  To some extent that was true in that remains of buildings partially destroyed were in evidence as we entered the downtown area which suffered the most damage.  The castle, cathedral, and city hall have been mostly restored but the work is continuing to bring it all back to its former glory.  We were lucky enough to find a parking place in front of the Opera House and just across the street from the “Zwinger” complex, a beautiful fountain filled courtyard surrounded by Baroque styled buildings built by “Augustus the Strong” in the early 1700s to house his paintings and porcelain collections.  Restoration work was continuing on parts that were damaged by the bombing.  We wandered around the old part of the city for a while, stopped in a bookstore to get some picture books of the destruction, returned to the car and started driving around the city, following the McDonalds signs.  We passed a theater complex where they were screening Wendy’s new movie, “Search for El Dorado”, so we stopped.  It was Jonette’s and my first time viewing it and even though it was all dubbed in German, Jonette still had a good time.

            After the show we had to wait for the credits to roll down the screen so we could cheer Wendy and then we went next door to Pizza Hut for dinner.  I resupplied my wallet at a nearby bank and since it was already dark at 5:00pm we headed out of town in the direction of Prague, Czechoslovakia to find a place to sleep.  Just out of town in a little suburb called “Bannewitz”  we stopped at the only Hotel we could find and got a couple of rooms.  The girls actually had a large suite which was very nice, the only drawback being the almost foot thick feather comforter that kept sliding off the side of the bed during the night so Jonette was both toasted and frozen at the same time.  We watched  Jay Leno on cable and then retired for the night.

 

George

 

Thursday, November 16  (cool and sunny)

 

            The morning dawned bright and beautiful and after our complementary continental breakfast we started off to do some Christmas shopping in Prague.  After almost an hour of winding around through the picturesque countryside on a two-lane highway with lots of truck traffic we reached the border and stopped at the guard shack on the German side.  “Let me see your papers!” came the cry from within the booth.  I had to dig my passport out of my bag in the back as the cars started stacking up behind us.  The guard called me to the window to point out that our contract with the rental company didn’t allow us to drive into eastern block countries including Czechoslovakia.  Bummers!  As we turned the car around the other guard apologized but wished us well on our journey.  So being totally flexible….we headed for Berlin.

            The one thing that struck me about the German countryside as we headed north toward Berlin is the fact that from south to north it’s all beautiful.  The autobahn is well marked so getting from town to town is never a problem; it’s in the towns that getting lost can become a nightmare.  Entering Berlin we stopped alongside the road to take pictures of a section of the famous “Wall” that has been left standing as a reminder of what it used to be like.  Further down the road we found a parking place and walked to the “Brandenburg Gate” that marks the center of activity in the city.  The girls had never been there before so we walked around for a while before taking a taxi to “Checkpoint Charlie” which was the main crossing point between East and West Berlin before the Wall was taken down in 1989.  As a young man of 23 I had actually crossed over into East Berlin through this checkpoint and it was really scary at the time because of all the police flashing their submachine guns without cracking a smile.  I was too young and dumb to take it as serious as it really was.  We visited the museum there at the checkpoint that chronicles the many escape attempts and successes while the Wall was up.  It’s quite moving to see the great lengths people would go to just to get to the West.  From Checkpoint Charlie we walked the route that I took in 1964 to see the main street of East Berlin, “Karl Marx Allee”, which has been renamed Leipziger Strasse.  The high-rise apartments have been refurbished but the shoddy workmanship is still evident.  A little grocery shopping along the way and then we took the U-bahn or subway back to the Brandenburg gate and walked to our car and left this great city about 5:30pm headed for the West.

            About dinner time we found ourselves in the neighborhood of Magdeburg, another former East German city that has special significance for me because I was riding the train into Berlin in 1964 when I decided to take a picture of the “Vopos” or Volkspolizie (peoples police) guarding the train so nobody could jump on or off.  Unfortunately the guard saw me and came into the car and demanded my camera.  I tried to play the dumb American but he was having none of it and pointed his Schmeiser submachine gun at me and I quickly gave him the camera.  He opened the back and took the film and stripped it out and gave me back the camera with the stern admonishment, “No pictures!”  Fortunately, I had just inserted a new roll of film otherwise I would have lost all my pictures of Sweden.  So, with all that behind me, we stopped for dinner at a place called “Chicago’s.  An American style restaurant with attached bowling alley.  The food was decent and afterwards we bowled for an hour in the “Disco Bowl” with flashing lights and loud music.  It was lots of fun with the computer scoring and graphics and after a ten-year layoff I bowled my average.  I just can’t seem to get away from that “Master Race” thing when it comes to sports.

            It was late by the time we got back on the road and we were 20 miles from nowhere when I looked down at the gas gauge flashing at me that we were going to stop shortly whither we wanted to or not.  I looked out into the dark countryside and saw absolutely nothing!  Since it’s my life style to live on the edge I slowed down to about 90mph and kept going forward.  Just about the time I was afraid we were going to spend a cold night alongside the highway, we rounded a curve and there was one of those rest stops with a Shell station.  God must love me!  Unfortunately there was no Hotel at this rest stop so we trucked on down the road until the next one.  It was almost 11:00pm when we finally did find a couple of rooms and they were really stinky with that old ashtray smell so I hurried to sleep with the window wide open.

 

 

Jon & Jon Cedrick

 

Friday, November 17  (cool and drizzly)

 

            Breakfast was extra and the Hotel was kind of sleazy so we headed on down the Autobahn toward Hannover with the intention of visiting Andrea’s parents before going back to Staufenberg.  When we got to Hannover we realized that we didn’t know how to find Renate’s house so we just went downtown to do some shopping.  It was the first time that Wendy had been back since she went to High School there in the 11th grade.  It would have been fun to go back and visit all the old sites that she was familiar with but she didn’t remember where any of them were.  We parked across from the Opera house and walked to the main square in a drizzly rain.  There was a booth set up that was selling hot chocolate and fried cookies (Schmalz Kuchen) so we treated ourselves.  The downtown area is like a giant outdoor mall with lots of big-ticket chain stores.  We strolled around and looked for Christmas decorations and gifts and the girls bought some cute little displays to take home.  We headed for the autobahn just after lunch and promptly got lost but found an “OBI” store so we had to stop and look.  An OBI is like 5-6 home depots side-by-side and well lit with wide aisles.  It has absolutely anything you can imagine from building supplies to waterfalls, bunny rabbits to flesh eating plants, lava lamps to skylights, etc.  It also had a big Christmas section so the girls loaded up again.  When we got to the checkout……they didn’t take VISA!  We had to leave our baskets by the check stand and go find a bank to get cash.  A Post Office ATM was where we ended up, about 2 miles down the road.  We normally wouldn’t have bothered but the deals were so good it was worth it.

            By now the car was loaded top to bottom with suitcases and bags of Christmas stuff so we headed out toward Andrea’s house for our last night in Germany.  We stopped in Kassel at our friendly McDonald’s for dinner, not thinking that Helga would have Cake and Pepsi waiting for us as well as dinner all prepared.  Back at Andrea’s I checked my email, ate dinner and sat down to watch a neat show about dinosaurs.  We visited with Helga and George for a while and then turned in around 11:00pm.

           

Saturday, November 18  (partly cloudy)

 

            Our flight didn’t leave until 2:30pm so we took the opportunity to sleep in a little bit, shower, eat breakfast, and still have plenty of time.  Hugs all around was the sign it was time to leave old Staufenberg and head home.  We made a short detour to the market to buy “Milchreis” for Jared, “Kirschwasser” for Bob, and chocolate for everyone else and then headed the little diesel in the direction of Frankfurt and home.  Our plane was brand new and had individual TV screens in the backs of all the seats so you could watch whatever you wanted without disturbing your neighbor.  It was all controlled by computers and DVDs and was fascinating.  I watched 3 different movies, “Shanghi Noon”, “28 days”, and “Gladiator” as well as several TV shows.  It sure made the time pass quickly on the long flight.  We arrived in Philadelphia around midnight and made connection to Los Angeles, where we arrived around 10:30pm.  Upon arriving home we were met by Andrea and Stephan who had just arrived themselves a few minutes earlier from San Diego.  We visited for an hour or so and then dragged ourselves off to a well-deserved rest in familiar territory.

  

The Samba with Julie

 

          It was a great trip and made all the more special by having Jonette and Wendy with me.  We saw some things and experienced some things and came away wishing to return quickly.  Who knows?  My Russian daughter is getting married in May in Warsaw and I surely won’t miss that one.  Till next time…….. Luv,  Jon

  

       

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