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Moving, Step by Step
*** UNDER CONSTRUCTION ***
November 23 - December 4
written November 24 and later, day by day
Dear Friends and Families,
This is the move week. By now, we have sold what we can, packed a bit, and separated junk from treasures. We have had a going away party or two. We have signed all kinds of paperwork for exporting and importing a car and all our household goods. We've planned our first activities in The States. We think we are ahead of the game, but that may all change in the face of real moving.
Here's our plan-of-the-week, which we will transform into a diary-of-the-week.
Saturday, November 23.
We started the day with our last Saturday breakfast at Burkhard's Bakery, a tradition we will miss. We thought of possible replacements in Fresno, but came up empty so far. After that, we cleaned and rolled up rugs acquired over the years from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and who-knows-stan. We look forward to unrolling them on our nice wood floors in Fresno, a first step to making the Cambridge Ave house our own.
Four foresters came in and packed up the huge pine tree in our back yard. We joked that we would bring it over to America for Christmas. The change to our back yard is dramatic, as the sun can now reach places that have been shaded for years. I'm sure our fruit trees will appreciate the light, as well as the absence of a continuing source of fungus that moves from pine to fruit trees. We need to ask the new homeowners to take orchard pictures next spring and summer to see if it made a difference. We will miss our orchard.
Sunday went according to plan. We did a bit of sorting, although the everything-has-to-be-organized day is creeping up quickly. The trouble is that, at some point in the next few days, we need to be 100% prepared for packers to come in and ONLY take what we mean for them to take. That means, among other things, that we need to have our airplane luggage ready to go a week before the flight, since we will be staying locally for almost that long. We are not there yet.
I also changed our flight reservations to remove the post-Christmas return flight to Germany. It's another sign that our lives are changing after 15 seasons of returning to Europe for the new year.
The highlight of the day was the scavenger hunt. We had gone through all the food, liquor and whatnot we will not take with us and piled it on the kitchen table. We invited friends over to take what they wanted and it was fun to watch Marilyn, Dieter, Winnie, and Knut paw through our treasures. They managed to walk away with two carloads of finds. Afterwards, we had a pleasant chili dinner and an evening of chatting. We will miss our friends (but not our "treasures"!)
Another day mostly according to plan. I gave the cleaners our last bit, to be picked up Wednesday. Frau Tuschel has been one of the regulars on our list of shop keepers and it will be another "disturbance" to shift to someone new.
The check with the movers was half OK. The car people want to come a day later and this makes me nervous, since we can not delay the flight. One day later is OK, but more isn't doable. I would be a nervous wreck if we held our car until the last minute and, besides, it casts $30 per day to park in Nuremberg.
Dinner at Bei Ginos with Ushi and Georg was fun. I think they are the only people with whom we socialize where there is no English spoken and it works mostly due to their patience with our German limits. Nice folks and we are counting on them to visit us in Fresno next fall. For that, we will need to keep up on our German, not a bad thing I suppose.
(I have to remember to take pictures to illustrate these daily entries.)
The plan-of-the-day worked again. Despite that, Marianne and I both are nervous that we have forgotten something very important. Until we discover what it is, we will just keep on.
Our self-packing proceeds. Rugs are all vacuumed and rolled up. I filled four boxes with office things and will let the professionals finish the rest. We have set out the clothes we will use for the next two months, just like on one of our road trips, except the 747 will hold bigger bags than the Boxster did.
Meanwhile, Marianne was having fun at Friseur Scharf, where Matthias did a final cut. Looks good. And, from the pictures I have seen, it was another pleasant last-event.
The morning started out frosty and we could not resist a few last yard pictures. Fresno won't have this.
While I was supervising packers, Marianne had a string of errands to run. She visited Christiane one more time to settle debts, share a bit of gossip, and remind Christiane that she needs to visit us next year. From there it was off to Kathy's to deliver the printer and to the charity organization to deliver excess office and travel stuff. We still have lots of excess stuff.
The next errand was a nail appointment at Annalie's., another long-standing friend. (Ooops, no picture!) With this, Marianne was properly prepared for the Christmas socializing.
By then it was late, so we worked in one more social visit rather than prepare dinner. We stopped for Chinese food at "Bamboo", the restaurant run by the family whose two daughters were Marianne's English after-school students for a few years. Their mom, Mai, was working, as always, and greeted us cheerfully as she does. When we left, she got our contact information, just in case she or the kids happen to go to California. Could happen.
Then, it was collapse at home. I built my last fire in the kachelofen. We looked around and knew tomorrow our home would no longer be livable. Sad.
Thanksgiving in America, but a regular work day here in Bavaria, so that meant more packing. The Navtrans guys invaded the house with a vengeance. From attic to living room our belongings were packed or wrapped or both. Our own plastic boxes got another layer of bubble wrap, protecting the plastic I guess. They didn't finish everything, but they have another day. Overall, the job looks very professional and we have hope our things will arrive in good shape.
After watching the last of the day's packing, we had dinner at a local restaurant, Dorn's, across from Schloss Weissenstein. It was another nice meal and the family gave us yet another good-bye. It really has been nice living in a very welcoming village.
Our last stop was check-in at the Grüner Baum, again friend's establishment. Rosey gave us room #34, the same one I had spent a year in while the house was being renovated in 2005 and 2006. It felt a bit like going home.
We are almost out of our village and it seems more and more melancholy. Just a few more goodbyes and we will be on to our new life.
A very quick update. Pictures mostly. Story later?
This was by far our busiest and most stressful day. We started out with a 6am swing by the house to start cleaning. That's OK, because sleeping late was out of the question - far too much to think and worry about. At 7:30, we went back to the Grüner Baum for breakfast. We will miss good German breakfast buffets and we will specifically miss our home town Gasthaus ("guest house" - small German family hotels).
By 8:30, we were back at work cleaning, and I do mean WORK. We always prided ourselves at having a very clean house, but once furniture is gone, there's lots of accumulated dust and spider webs. Our goal was to turn over a house to the new owners in a condition we would appreciate were we on that side of the transition. (here is a slide show of the final condition, mostly for the Fischer family to see what they are getting.)
After eight hours of cleaning, it was time for the hard part, saying our goodbyes. Neighbors Marion and Harald provided a round of coffee and cake, our first food since breakfast. We enjoyed jabbering in Germlish, occasionally losing track of just what we were talking about! A fun couple and we will keep them to their promise of a visit to Fresno in a year or two.
From there, it was around the corner to Annegreth and her family, young Vanessa and husband Reinhardt. Annegreth has been Marianne's friend for years, giving her most thorough lessons in hearing and understanding Frankish. Marianne swears she can understand 60%, but for me it's closer to 30%. No matter, Annegreth's good cheer is always understandable.
The last farewell was the hardest. Gretel, our 85-year-old neighbor, has been my garden consultant and Marianne's dear friend for our entire stay here is Pommersfelden. Her decades of farmer life gave her knowledge that helped us grow our garden and her wisdom of eight-and-a-half decades in this little valley taught us about our adopted neighborhood. Marianne and Gretel cried, and I'll admit I joined them a bit.
Then, we drove out of our valley for the last time, taking with us years of memories, repeating Dr. Seuss' advice over and over to ourselves: Don't cry because it's over; Smile because it happened. It was a quiet half-hour drive down to Nuremberg, where we would spend our last few German days.
We stayed at Scott and Malinda's apartment, just next to the Pegnitz River, in one of the prettiest parts of the old city. Pictures just jumped from the camera! After crossing the walking bridge, we made our way to the giant Christmas Market, reportedly the largest in Germany. We had a bratwurst, as required, but could not get excited about Glühwein, the hot, spiced wine that is most traditional. We will save that for another part of our time here.
For what seems like the first time in weeks, we have nothing to pack or clean or arrange and, besides, it is a German Sunday, when activity options are limited. Mostly, other than church, the tradition is to walk a bit and eat a lot. We followed tradition and walked ten minutes up to Hüttn, a restaurant specializing in local, Frankish, food. Our short walk earned us each a Scheuferla (sp?) dinner, roughly a kilo (two pounds) of pork shoulder, complete with the flavorful and fattening skin -- "cracklings" in the American South. It really was good and would end up being our only meal of the day.
Elsewhere, the food and trinkets stalls were already starting. Like yesterday, we looked, but could not find anything appropriate to buy. Maybe one more run and we will get into the holiday buying spirit.
Marianne and I also had our first disagreement in quite a long time. We had been invited by Axel to a concert up in Bamberg, and I wanted to beg out. She insisted, mostly to live up to a commitment to our friend of many years. In hindsight, I think I was (and am) just worried about activities that put us at risk of "something" going wrong at the last minute, and the hour-long drive up to Bamberg had become threatening to me. Saturday-evening German autobahns offer plenty of opportunities for problems. Fortunately, right and reason won out. We did it her way. Because it was indeed the right thing to do and, in the end, my ghosts never made an appearance.
Axel's invitation was to an AIDS Benefit Concert, a traditional December First event around the world. I must admit that the show was exceptional, with Axel's choir and a half-dozen very professional performances by musicians, comedians, and singers. The German comedy, especially that given in strong Frankish dialect, went passed us, but we appreciated the music and singing. Thanks Axel! At the end, it was another good-bye and one more person to hold to his promise to visit us in California.
Step by step we are proceeding toward our new home in America. The day started with a coffee at Starbucks, just to get us used to again using this world invader of the hot beverage world. Actually, I look forward to this chain, unlike most "fast food" places. The Seattle company has managed to provide a good service, albeit a bit pricey perhaps.
From there it was a meeting with Frank Heitzer, our real estate agent. That meeting took almost two hours, although business was only a relatively small part of it. We ended up chatting about his life and ours and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, partly because we do not need to use German or "special English" with him, but more because he is just a nice, friendly guy, as well as a thoroughly professional agent. A good experience for us and we hope to see him in a visit to California. (Once again, we forgot to get a souvenir picture, but we have others of Frank.)
Marianne needed a bit of shopping, and we walked through the Christmas market to see if daylight made us more seasonally inspired. It didn't. However, a lunch stop in the basement of Karstadt department store did improve our attitude. We ordered 150 grams each of American fillet, two glasses each of Argentinian Malbec, and pleasantly killed another two hours. We will miss the Karstadt eatery, but at least we can get American beef in our new life.
Throughout this whole afternoon, I had been emailing the car-shipping company to straighten out the mess that whole process had become. They could no longer pick up our car on Tuesday, only on Thursday, long after we have flown away. After twenty emails back and forth and a phone call or two, we arranged a place south of town to park the car before they pick it up in a couple of days, I hope. We'll see. Unlike the furniture movers, I have not been impressed with our choice of car shipment folks.
We rested in the afternoon and then worked to get into the Christmas spirit. An evening walk along the Pegnitz River made that possible, as did a cup of spiced wine. This is a tradition we will miss and it was enough to get us into the mood for successful market shopping. The river walk afterwards was as nice as at the start, so we made it "home" in a positive, holiday mood.
One more day of "auf Wiedersehen"; see you later. After a late breakfast at Starbucks, we retrieved our car and headed to the designated ADAC drop-off place, about 10 km southeast of downtown. We are unfamiliar with most of Nuremberg, so we had little idea where we were going, until it finally dawned on us that our goal was right next to Bösner's, Marianne's favorite art supply store. Anyway, we told the ADAC people the story and they seemed to have a process for it. They filled out a little paperwork, took our key, and that was that. Now we hope the Rinkens trucker really picks up the car on Thursday so it can meet us in mid-January in Fresno. We'll see.
Meanwhile, we got word from the furniture shipper that our container (#HDMU6777155) would leave Bremerhaven on the MOL Endurance at 2am on December 12. The ship schedule shows a New York stop on December 29 and a New Year's Eve passage through the Panama Canal, before it arrives in Oakland on January 8. We should see it in a few days or a week after that. The company even gave us a website where we can track progress. I hope the car-shipper does the same. (Update: Car is scheduled to leave December 20th Bremmerhaven on the APL Melbourne, bound for New York on the 29th. Trains after that.)
After car drop-off, Marianne's friend Christiane called and wanted one more goodbye. She made the drive into town and the artists went out for a small lunch and last gossip, I'm sure. It was a nice effort by a special friend.
Wednesday, December 4th
Since our first plane leaves only at 2:30, we enjoyed a slow schedule for flight day. We drank coffee, did our bit to clean Malinda and Scott's apartment, finished packing, and were ready in plenty of time for the 10:30 taxi. We squeezed in four big bags and two large carry-ons into the smallish car and took a couple of final pictures.
Out at the airport, things were very quiet, with no check-in lines, no security lines, and hardly anyone in the lounge. Nuremberg really is a nice little airport from which to start flying. We noshed a light buffet lunch and then settled down to normal reading, email, diaries, "zentangle" and just killing time. We didn't really need to be at the airport so early, but waiting in the lounge seemed more promising than hanging around the apartment, worrying if the taxi would show up, if there would be airport lines, if baggage would be acceptable, etc.
The plan was for a half-hour flight up to Frankfurt, a leisurely 90-minute connection, and then an 8- to 9-hour trip over to Washington. Just to make sure we would recognize what we do and do not have control over, Lufthansa delayed the Nuremberg to Frankfurt leg for an hour or so. This extended our airport-lounge stay but made it a bit worrisome flying over the clouds, trying to remember the path we would need to take at the sprawling Frankfort terminal. I kept trying to tell myself, that we really had little to worry about, but that's easier said ...
We did make the plane at Gate Z15 in plenty of time to settle in for our longish flight. At 17:15 (5:15pm), the wheels came up and we both realized we were no longer residents of Europe. Germany gave us a nice sunset for the send-off. Somebody cried.
The flight United itself was actually pleasant; plenty of room, quiet, a wide selection of movies and TV, and even the meals seemed upgraded from our last trips. Nine hours is a long time to sit in a metal shell, but it's better than the normal 12-hour trip to SFO and in Washington, the arrival went smoothly. There were not even lines at Customs and Immigration and the bags appeared almost as soon as we reached the baggage carousel. This must be the effect of traveling in the first week of December, a slow travel week.
Friend Steve was there to meet us, a special service for sure. He drove us home, where Nancy was waiting with drinks, snacks, soup, and lots and lots of catching up. We will continue the reconnecting process for a few days, but that is another story.
That's all from Trotter's Grand European Adventure
John and Marianne
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