Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
We started the last week or so of our GERT with a return to Franconia to check in with friends who were not available in our visit almost two months ago.
The drive from Neustadt an der Weinstrasse across much of southern Germany was easy enough. Two-thirds of the road was autobahn, efficient but not too interesting. (One bridge excepted.) Rain came and went, adding to the dullness of the drive.
After autobahns, we downshifted to two-lane highways, starting with a brand new Tesla Supercharger that came with its own automated coffee and snack building. We stayed long enough to make sure we had plenty to reach our destination and have power for a few days of puttering around.
The rest of the drive was through quaint villages and colorful Fall foliage. Our navigator (me) got us lost a couple of times, but the trees made the extra minutes worthwhile.
Our destination was the home of Dale and Peter Fitz in Niederndorf, right next to Herzogenaurach, not far from Erlangen, just up the road from Nuremberg. This area is filled with smallish villages that serve as both bases for small and large companies, and housing for their folks. For example, Adidas and Puma were founded and are headquartered in quaint-sounding Herzogenaurach. The large Siemens campus where I worked for several years is in Erlangen.
The Fitz's met us with open arms, coffee, and cake. Very German. We spent the next couple of hours talking and catching up, followed by unpacking (us) and dinner preparation (D and P). Staying in their home for five nights, we hoped we could avoid the guests-like-fish-spoil-after-three-days difficulty. Our goal is always to add to hosts' lives, not distract them from what they really want to do.
We would see how successful we were.
This was a pretty quiet Monday: a couple meals, a couple walks, and conversation (with nine holes of golf for Peter).
Dale, Marianne, and I went into Herzogenaurach for a morning excursion. The home of both Adidas and Puma was a very quiet place since the garment activity, especially outlet shops, have moved to the northern edge of town. We were told that the town is struggling to become more than it is, without losing the character of an 800-year-old city. Tough balance.
A 13th Century tower, originally part of the city walls.
And St. Magdalena's church. Of course, we thought of Mamo.
An old factory building (Puma?). A look up.
And our last stop, a bakery of course.
Back home, we all settled into "our own things". Some napped. Most watched screens. That seems to be the default activity for everyone nowadays. We may criticize young people for spending too much time looking at phones and tablets, but I think our own generation is just as hooked.
After an hour, I decided I needed a walk to earn my 8,500 steps. The Fall colors outside were the biggest attraction.
Schloss Weissestein, our old Pommersfelden neighbor, was advertising their latest festival.
Too Bad we will miss it.
In the evening we all regrouped for a Frankish dinner at "Landgasthaus Popp". The place is out in the middle of nearby farms, but had a reasonable crowd for a Monday evening. No tourists, except Marianne and me. We ordered schnitzel or scheufele, a big chunk of pork shoulder, complete with bone and a layer of crispy fat. Not for diets.
On Tuesday morning, Marianne and Dale met with friends Kathy and Marilyn for morning coffee and conversation. The women have been friends for two decades now, so they always have plenty to talk about.
While Peter did Fall yard work, I took an 11,000-step walk into Herzogenaurach. I passed the herd of the local deer rancher and was later told these cute fellows are actually used by a local butcher to make sausage. Yikes.
Industry: Schaeffer, a bearing maker, employs 10,000 people in "Herzo"
Nearby is the original Adidas building.
Dinner was another Dale-prepared meal, tasty and accompanied with more stories.
From time to time, local kids would ring the door bell and cry" Trick or Treat", or the German equivalent. As was the case when we lived in Ukraine, it is a day of free candy that has become universal, not religious. It's not such a bad custom for Americans to be spreading around the world.
Wednesday may have been our quietest day yet. Only two "photo opportunities", but plenty of pleasant, unrecorded hours. The first set of pictures was from a house tour Dale gave us of the 1:12 scale Cape Dutch house she keeps upstairs. The detail of the miniature furnishings was amazing and we learned that there is a large community of artists and collectors working in this genre. Some, like Dale, are both.
Our other photo opportunity came from a walk in the fields and forest behind our friends' house. Yet more time to talk.
There is a local effort to put a highway bypass through these same fields.
Some are for it, some against, but neat and tidy protest signs are hung by both sides.
Thursday, our last full day in Herzo, started with a beautiful sunrise, almost all the sun we would get that day. Overall, we have enjoyed great weather in our two-month Fall visit, so a little rain is more than due. We were lucky even now though because northern Italy, western France, and the UK have just been drowned by a storm passing through in the last few days. We'll take a little soft German damp.
Marianne had a breakfast date with her friend Christiane and I had Uber-duty, so we were off by 9:30. After I dropped her off, I drove over to Burkhard's Bakery in our old Pommersfelden home town. It was fun to sit and enjoy a bakery breakfast like Marianne and I had often done more than a decade ago. I ran into our friend Uschi Weikert and we chatted, her in German and me in a rough mix of Gerlish. I reminded her that they have an invitation for a Fresno visit next Spring. Maybe.
Meanwhile, Marianne and Christiane enjoyed a few hours together and promised to stay in touch with WhatsApp video-calls at least monthly. We also extended an invitation for her and husband Thomas to visit in 2024, but he seemed more set on New Zealand. We'll see.
After the friend visit, we returned to Herzogenaurach, with a stop at the Puma and Adidas factory outlet stores. I don't believe the companies have many factories left in Germany, but their headquarters and flagship outlet stores remain. All we bought was a baby outfit for the newest Gabby and Mamal nephew, probably all we had room for in our swelling suitcases.
The last event of the day was dinner at Konrad Süß ("Suess" in translated spelling). The very authentic gasthaus is in neighboring Buch, not to be confused with a restaurant of the same name a few kilometers away in Weisendorf. The food was good and plentiful and the atmosphere was noisey b,ut friendly. Even the lobby gold fishes were friendly and blew kisses on our way out.
Back home, we spent another hour or two chatting. The Fitzes have been most gracious and we will miss their hospitality and stories.
Tomorrow, we would drive north to Maastricht and our last friend-visit.
John and Marianne