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Neustadt an der Weinstraße

August 4-6
Written August 5

Dear Friends and Family,

We left Epernay Saturday morning, still choosing side roads where we could keep the top down. That remained a good choice as we had time to develop a feel for the countryside, flat farmlands for the most part.  Our last drive in France proceeded without a hitch and toward the end of the farmland, we put the top up, switched to the freeway, and sped to the German border.
Notre Dame De L'Epine, started in 1406 -- our last French church

The final roads were flat and straight.  The last village "as usual".
At the border, it did feel like home.  The language was understandable, mostly.  The drivers were German-disciplined, mostly.  The autobahn speeds were fast, mostly.

Our goal was Neustadt an der Weinstraße and a visit with Theresa and Helmut, friends who had moved from our Pommersfelden neighborhood to the Rhineland-Pfals ("Palatinate" in English.  Why?).  This is yet another wine region, perhaps the best in Germany, so it fell right in with the theme of our trip.

We arrived at 5:00 pm, as planned.  We were indeed back on German time.  Helmut & Theresa offered snacks and drinks on their patio, with a great view out over the vineyards and village.  It was great chatting and catching up in the peaceful surroundings, although we were interrupted a bit by a circling helicopter and a noisy siren.

Once we'd gotten the required chatting out of the way, we walked over to a wine fest that was underway about a block away.  We had planned to listen to choirs sing at the annual Weinstrasse event, but by the time we got to the fest grounds the singers were already leaving.  At first we thought we had just spent too long chatting on the patio, but we learned that one of the choir directors had suffered a fatal heart attack, explaining the helicopter, siren, and the general quiet at the fest tables.  A sobering note for sure, but a reminder that everyone's time is limited.  We'll continue to do the most we can.

On Sunday we explored Neustadt.  Of course with all the businesses closed, the town was very quiet, but we could see that it had been rebuilt and maintained to a degree we had not seen in restored French villages.

The old city center was filled with perfectly restored "fachwork" (half-timbered) buildings and narrow streets.  Helmut noted that on most days, these narrow passageways would be filled, but not today.

My favorite town landmark was this fountain by Elwedritsche (XX??).  Apparently each figure has meaning in the local lore, but the only scenario we could understand were the two birds spitting at each other, symbols of right and left politicians engaging in dialog.  Symbolic of many countries.


Monday morning we left for Pommersfelden and home while Theresa and Helmut left for Berlin to visit family.  We thanked them for a very nice visit and promised to get together soon, somewhere.

Next: Home, and the inevitable garden growth.  Another story.

John and Marianne

d120805_90_oldSign.jpgps: Neustadt an der Weinstraße has a history in German politics and government.  In the early 1800's, locals marched to the castle of the local prince and demanded democracy.  He agreed.  This marked the beginning of democracy in the country.  However, on a darker note, Neustadt was also home to strong support for the National Socialist Party from the 1920s through the war.  Reportedly, the village was the first in Germany to declare itself "Jewish-free" and there were even reports of Hitler himself visiting.  Helmut and Theresa's daughter bought an old house in the neighborhood and discovered an old sign in the cellar touting Neustadt as a resort with healthy air and the absence of Jews.  This was a sobering reminder of a different Germany.

pps: Maps
To Neustadt and walks around town - 8km!


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