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A Slow Drive Home
September 11, 2010
Written September 28
Friends and Families ,
This diary started out as simply a record of a nice drive from my Offenbach "home" to our real home in Pommersfelden, Bavaria. Note some impressions. Post a few pictures. Something to do on a quiet day or two. Now, a couple of weeks later, I am still trying to find some quiet time for writing and posting. Explanation later.
Marianne had joined me for a couple of days while I worked in Offenbach, near Frankfurt. She does this from time to time and it makes my business travel MUCH more enjoyable. To get home this time, we chose Saturday morning over Friday afternoon because the freeway becomes a huge parking lot at the end of the work week.
Even on Saturday, the quick way home came be discouragingly slow, so we decided to make a pleasant day of it by taking side roads. There are in fact several side routes between Offenbach and home, but our current favorite is down the Tauber River valley to where it intersects with our own valley, the Aisch River valley. Neither of these "rivers" is much more than a country stream, but each has its own chain of villages and feel.
To reach the Tauber, we drove east on the infamous A3 Autobahn for just a few miles before turning south, initially along a part of the Main River. The Main is a real river, with long distance shipping as it forms part of the water link between the Atlantic and the Black Sea. This day the skies were blue and the landscape its late summer mix of green and plowed-field brown. The road followed along the Main.
Eventually we picked up the Tauber valley. I say "eventually" because we could not really tell when we left one river valley for another, except that at some point we noted that the waterway we were following could hardly carry a canoe, in contrast to the ocean barges we had been seeing before. Along the Tauber, everything was smaller. The hills were shorter, the farm fields tiny, and the communities were villages, not towns.
We pulled off the road at Burg Gamburg, because we were tired of sitting and it looked like an interesting little place. Honestly, it wasn't, at least as much as we managed to see. The 12th Century fortress, the "Burg", formed a looming presence over the village, but we ran out of steam half way up the hill so we never got to see it up close. We tried to visit a hillside church, but it was locked, somewhat unusual in our German travels. Oh well, not all picturesque Germany villages live up to expectations.
At least we had gotten in a walk before we got back on our twisty country road. There's not much to report for this section. The road was almost empty, the sun kept shining, the fields were green or brown, and the gentle hills seemed to isolate us from the bigger world. It was great.
Eventually, we reached the junction with the Aisch valley, a place we know well since this is almost our backyard. We stopped at a very typical brewery/restaurant for lunch. We had eaten here a few times before and it was generally OK. Today, however, was an off day. The fish was old, the server just a bit surly (or was it the server was a bit old and the fish was surly?) No matter, we ate and hit the road.
We only went about 50 meters. There was a "fascinating" model train exhibit. We knew it was fascinating because the sign on the building said so. Ever since our visit to a truly amazing model train exhibit in Hamburg, we have had an interest in this very German interest in "toy" trains. If this were to prove "fascinating", we would add it to our touring visitor routes, because it's just on the way between home and the can't-miss Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
We paid our five euro fee, plus 50 cents for taking pictures, and had a look. It was ... interesting, but probably not fascinating. It was essentially the work-in-progress of an ardent hobbyist. He had spent the last several years recreating buildings, bridges and tunnels from part of Switzerland and he said he felt he had another three years to go. His wife said at least four. I think we will wait for the completion before we add it to a standard itinerary.
From the train station, it was a short hour drive home. In total, we'd taken six hours to cover what can be done in two, but as that old saying goes: " It's the journey, not the destination". And so it was.
ps on Sept 11: It is hard to let the 11th of September pass without a comment. Nine years ago, we were in Ukraine, looking forward to an adventure - a drive all over Europe in our new car. Although we were sobered by events back home, we kept with our plans, maybe in part because our vulnerability was even more present than it had been when the Big Trip was initially conceived. It was seize the moment before the moment seizes you.
Now, comfortable in Germany, we still wonder what to do, "when we grow up". Should I keep working? Even if I keep working, should I keep pushing for change that I believe in? Or should I just coast to some milestone when it will become clear that I have worked enough. Or, should I just stop work and join Marianne in having fun while we can? Do we wait for an event or not? A personal event, or a world event?
pps back home: It was particularly nice to be back home. On Sunday we did chores, including Marianne's latest batch of jam. We started getting the lawn and yard cleaned up for ...winter. (Not my favorite season, but it makes the rest of the year look better.) I started this diary, but ran out of steam before finishing. And I didn't even have to pack for a return to Offenbach on Monday. We are definitely getting used to small pleasures.
ppps brunch (Sept 19): A week later, another yard-Saturday, and no more progress on the diary. Oh well, it's voluntary after all. The highlight of the weekend was Sunday brunch with friends. We now have a group we have started dining with and we had invited them to the neighboring "Kellerhaus Kafe" to enjoy the Sunday brunch, overlooking our other neighbor's palace. It was great! We all told stories, many of them new. We laughed and learned a bit more about each other. And when I remember to ask him for copies, I'll even share some brunch pictures Peter took with his new camera.
pppps sudden departure: After brunch, Marianne and I continued our pattern of quiet Sundays. Nothing special, just enjoying the peacefulness of our country living. As the sun was going down, we walked in the fields behind the house.
But when we got home, we were greeted with emails and voicemails with very sad news. Marianne's step-dad Elemer, who the day before had complained of not feeling well, had suddenly passed away. It was his 94th birthday. Within a day, Marianne was on the plane to San Francisco.
My memories of Elemer will remain that of an Old European. He spoke (and had taught) many languages, a skill I desperately envy. He had opinions. A trait I value, even if the opinions are not my own. He had an array of stories, some repeated and some told once. I like story tellers. He provided for his family, in the single-wage-earner traditions of an earlier age.
He will be missed.
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