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Category: Family Travels

(Originally posted on Saturday, September 17, 2005)

We awoke up about 8 a.m. and got ready for the day. Rudi was due to pick up about 10 a.m. in the morning. We went down and had a light breakfast so we would not be ‘starved’ when we meet the group.

It was raining this morning. From our table in the restaurant, we could look out the window onto a broad, green lawn at the medicinal spa that was the focal point of that little village, hence the name ‘Bad Enstal’. What an idyllic experience; it was extremely restful and pleasant. We may just want to return here in the future…

Before leaving, we selected a few postcards from the rack and Grace fell in love with a couple of ‘Hummel’-like figurines on display. They were only about €9 each, which is considerably less than the real things. They look great on the mantle over our fireplace.

Ten o’clock came and went. We finally called AnaMarie and Rudi to see what was happening with our ride. They were still asleep since they didn’t get home from the reception until about 5 a.m.! I guess those Germans are really party animals… Anyway, Rudi came over to pick up about 20 minutes later; he loaded up our things and we bid farewell to this beautiful little inn and a pleasant stay.

We went over to the lodge (‘pension’) where the rest of the group stayed the night, or what remained of it when they finished partying. The group was gathered in a long room and everyone was eating breakfast; I was glad that I had already had breakfast, since there was not much here for me to eat. But I enjoyed the coffee and the conversation.

After a while, I went outside to get some fresh air since the rain had let up. I was sitting at a table that was right by the exit of the breakfast room. This allowed me to thank everyone for coming and helping to celebrate Tasha’s wedding with us. I had several very pleasant conversations with different couples. I had an especially enjoyable conversation with Lars, ‘little’ Maria’s husband. (‘Little’ Maria is Isti’s sister and is called as such because her mother is also named Maria; the mother is known as ‘big’ Maria!) This conversation would continue at dinner in the evening…

I was also able to speak with other of Tasha and Isti’s friends from Munich. I had an enjoyable time meeting them in the more informal atmosphere of this setting; the previous evening, at the reception, I did not have much chance to speak with guests other than those at our table and the head table. This was both informative and relaxing. It was the type of thing that Grace had talked of after her previous visit to Berlin.

Eventually, we all got our acts together and made our separate ways. Rudi drove us back to Kassel; Heather also joined us. We went to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel where we would be staying that evening. It was located on the back side of the Hauptbahnhof, but was somewhat hard to find. We checked in and Grace, Heather and Rudi went to get our suitcases at the Mövenpick while I went up to our room.

We were to have a room with a king sized bed. The room that we were assigned to was furnished with TWO king-sized beds and not enough room for me to maneuver my walker! That wouldn’t do, so I called the desk and they assigned us to a different room. About the same time that the desk clerk arrived with the new set of keys, Grace and Heather arrived with the suitcases. Then we made our way to a different floor and were given a strangely-shaped room with a king-sized bed. We accepted it, since it had more room, and we would be there only for one night. We had completed our second relocation in Kassel and were in our third hotel; I’ll try to avoid that in the future!

Well, this would be our final evening in Kassel. More on that in the next posting…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Saturday, September 17, 2005) 

Tasha worked long and hard on the reception. She selected the caterer, the menu, setup the seating arrangements and generally managed the whole thing. She was quite the ‘wedding planner’! She approached it like it was a project on her job. She deserves many accolades for the job that she did on this celebration. It would have been an enormous task for anyone, especially living in Munich which is many hours away from Kassel.

But this was HER wedding, not someone else’s! She made it happen. I was very proud of her organizational skills and attention to detail.

The site she selected for the reception was nestled in an isolated wooded area between the wedding site in Naumburg and Bad Emstal, where everyone was staying the night. The building itself was a large hall with a stage, a dance floor and a large seating area. She used natural accents (branches, potted plants, etc.) to transform a rather sterile hall into an attractive eating and dancing area.

As a gift for joining the celebration, each guest received a pair of jars filled with two different types of honey. This honey was specially produced for her and reflected her affectionate name for Isti… Honey! Apparently, this designation is American and ‘foreign’ to the Germans. She capitalized on this fact to commemorate their marriage. On Thursday, Grace, Heather, AnaMarie, and some of the Hungarians had spent time wrapping the jars in netting and ties. Each jar was labeled ‘Honey for my Honey’; very cute and creative. It was a gift appreciated by all…

Anyway, after the ceremony at the church, people were transported to this reception hall for Champaign and snacks. Following the picture taking at the church, a caravan of minis (driven by members of Isti’s mini club) coursed their way through the little village of Naumburg to the hall, with Tasha and Isti riding in the specially decorated mini (see picture).

This was quite a caravan and the newly married couple made a grand entrance to the reception area. Tasha continued to sparkle as the beautiful bride in her lovely dress. Isti looked dapper in his suit. They were both quite stunning, and very much in love…

Unfortunately, Lars, Maria and their daughter, Leah, were not yet present. They had taken part in another wedding of a close friend of Lars that was held in Spain. Their flight from Spain was delayed due to the British Airways strike. They returned to Kassel, and the reception at about 9 p.m. It sounds like Lars sometimes overscheduled like me sometimes, with a wedding on Friday in Spain and another one in Kassel (Naumburg) on Saturday!

Grace, Heather and I were seated at a table with the mother, father and twin brother of Lars, little Maria’s husband. Also at our table was a high school teacher of theology and his wife. They all spoke fair English, so we were able to communicate well with them.

The theology teacher was interesting. We discussed several books, especially the ‘Da Vinci Code’ which is one of my favorites. We exchanged ideas and some lively discussion was sparked by the ‘mother earth’ concept embedded in the book. Lars’ brother, Jens, was a newspaper writer and very interested in technology. Grace carried on a lively conversation with him after dinner. Heather was drawn to Lars’ and Jens’ parents since she had been staying in their house in Kassel since she arrived the previous weekend. Again, Tasha had done an outstanding job of matching people to each other for the table assignments.

I shared with Jens some of my gadgets and he was fascinated. But what really got the attention at our table (and those around us) was my IPAQ. When I pulled the memory card out of the digital camera and showed them the pictures of the civil ceremony, the wedding, and other sites, they were ‘blown away’ by the clarity of the pictures. You could zoom in on details much more efficiently than with the camera’s digital display. Jens was also fascinated by the Photo Disc that allowed me to transfer images from the SD Flash Memory card to the hard disk without a computer! We became immediate ‘compadres’…

Since I had virtually the only pictures of the civil ceremony, everyone wanted to see them. I also had many pictures of the pre- and post-wedding groupings for immediate viewing.

[Note: I didn’t have any photos of the actual ceremony, but learned later that Heike had taken some photos of me escorting Tasha down the aisle. We will hopefully receive copies of the photo CD so we can retrieve these photos for our album, including the church itself.]

Dinner was quite good. Tasha had arranged for a specially-prepared dish for me that was cooked without salt. It was quite delicious! With everything else that she had to take care of, I truly appreciated this gesture of her love. She made me feel very special, on this, HER special day…

As the crowd sat down for the dinner, my time had come to make my father’s ‘Welcome’ speech. I had taken care in writing it and attempted to keep it short. Lars had helped translating it to German; we didn’t have any Hungarian translation, unfortunately. The original plan was to have me do the speech in English and Lars would then read it in German. But Lars was not there! I assumed my position at the front of the hall, was handed a microphone by AnaMarie, and Heather ‘clanged’ her water glass to get everyone’s attention… I was ‘on’…

Using the microphone, I started. I read the English version first, and then prefaced by reading of the German version with ‘Ich spache Deutsch nichts so gut…’ (I speak German not so good). This brought about a reaction of the audience. I went on to read the German version pretty well, only making a few pronunciation mistakes. I had been practicing it… It went over great and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I received many compliments on it and my attempt to communicate with the German-speakers in the crowd.

I felt bad that I didn’t have a Hungarian version, but it was not only a matter of translating it to Hungarian, but having a phonetic translation so that I could pronounce the words. Hungarian is a very different language and much more foreign to our speech patterns than any western language…

Following the dinner, the dancing commenced. It was now the time for my third performance, one that I had not practiced… The Father’s dance with the Bride! Following the first dance of the new Bride and Groom, Tasha and I took the floor and we gave it a good effort. It has been a long time since I have danced very much and we had not practiced at all. But I did OK!

Heather took some photos of this dance with the digital camera, but the pictures didn’t come out too well. [We later found out that Heike had captured some good pictures of this dance which we hope to get soon. She also captured some good shots of Grace and me dancing.] Everyone was having a great time dancing, especially Heather. I danced as much as my knees would allow, but Grace got a chance to dance with Jens and others.

The evening progressed smoothly. At one point a commotion started when Lars, little Maria, and Leah arrived, tired but enthused; they had finally made it to the reception after their ordeal with their return trip to Kassel from Spain. I finally had a chance to meet Lars (with whom I had corresponded via email) and Maria. We engaged in lively conversations and found that we were very much ‘kindred’ spirits. He invited us to visit them the next afternoon. We also had an open invitation to stay with them (also received from his parents) anytime we returned to visit Kassel. What a nice feeling of ‘connectedness’ with our new extended family!

One of the highlights of the evening was an unexpected (and unplanned) treat. Heike and her friend, Juan, put on an incredible salsa dance exhibition. The lights came up and the music started. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any warning and didn’t have my DV Camcorder handy to record it for Tasha… They put on a great show.
The evening progressed as a series of conversations, dances, and coffee. Around midnight, Tasha called all the single women together for the bouquet toss. As it happened, it was caught by Heather! (I don’t think that I can handle another wedding too soon, however. But we’ll see what happens.)

A little after that, it was time for the men to adjourn for brandy and cigars. The men adjourned outside and enjoyed the treat. What a nice thought!

By that time (about 1 a.m.), Grace and I were tired and ready to call it a night. Rudi drove us to our little pension inn in the village so we could retire. We went up to the room, readied ourselves for bed, and fell fast asleep.

We had survived one week of preparation for the wedding and the two days of ceremonies and receptions. We were happy that it was over and grateful for being able to be part of it. The sleep was welcomed and tomorrow would be another day…

More on the breakfast and final day in Kassel in the next posting…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Saturday, September 17, 2005)

The setting was elegant… A twelfth century church was nestled into a rolling countryside in a little, quaint town that could have come from any picture book of the German countryside. It was an artist’s epiphany. It was a place to remember, and look back upon for a lifetime. Tasha made an excellent choice…

The church had functioned as a hospital for the area for year, if not centuries. It was the final resting place for the members of the local aristocracy for that same period of time. The graveyard was a historical archive of this northern Hessian land. What tales it might have told. What intrigues it might have experienced. Then there was the pride the locals held for the ONE gypsy grave that was inside the graveyard, not in a separate plot in a nearby field; that gypsy must have been given the grace of the local pastor for some deed rendered to the town. Who knows?

But now it was to be the location where my eldest daughter, that apple of my eye, would be given to Istvan in marriage.

She made a wonderful choice. Not that it was her first choice. Initially, she had selected, possibly in deference to Isti’s family, to be married in Maria’s local church. But as previously said, the Saturday afternoon ceremony would conflict with the weekly celebration of mass; this was not revealed to her until about two months ago! She then started to search for an alternative church, one with more character. This she found in another village, but Maria objected to that location because it was in a protestant center, not a catholic village. (I would have thought the battle over the reformation would have been over a long time ago, in the distant past, if you will!) So the search went on. Finally, she located this little village of Naumburg and this church. It was magnificent. It was acceptable to Maria. It was available!

Tasha has always idealized how things should be and getting married in a church with ‘character’ and charm were important to her. When she found out that her plans were not going to happen as she anticipated, she nearly panicked! But things worked out.

Tasha put an incredible effort into the ceremony. While the ceremony, per se, was to be in German, many parts included summaries in both English and Hungarian (Magyar). In addition, the primary ministers, a husband and wife team of protestant clergy, would be the principle clerics officiating over the service, a Catholic priest was also involved (to satisfy Isti and Maria). While this had all the potential of being a very disjointed ceremony, with all the switching back and forth, it ended up being brilliantly orchestrated by Tasha. (Similar precision as that involved in the planning of the gold heist in the movie, ‘The Italian Job’.)

Tasha was an incredibly beautiful bride. I remember so well how beautiful her mother, Grace, was when she walked down the aisle at our wedding, escorted by her father. This was to be my time to do the same. I treasured this moment and decided that I would forego the cane or the walker and escort this beautiful young lady down the aisle unassisted. I waited outside the church for her to appear. The church bells had been ringing to signal the time for the ceremony was now… But Tasha didn’t appear.

Apparently, there was some problem with too many buttons for the number of button holes on her little jacket. This was soon solved and the bride appeared, delivered to the church in AnaMarie’s little Mini Cooper. I swelled with pride and humility at this moment. We proceeded to enter the church, with her arm in mine, her beaming smile showing through her bridal veil, and started down the central aisle of this classic church. Step by step, we approached the altar and her husband (remember, they were already legally married!). When we arrived at the front, I lifted her veil and gave her a kiss on the cheek. I handed her hand to Isti and took my seat be Grace; this was the official point at which I had changed from being the male figure in her life to a supporter of her new life with her husband. It was all I could do not to cry on the spot. As I sat, I worked hard to hold back the tears of joy arising from my deepest soul.

[I remember just sixteen months ago, I lay in my hospital bed in the Coronary Care Unit of the Kaiser Hospital in Riverside, near death. The previous Christmas Tasha and Isti had come to California for the holidays. At that time, Isti formally asked for Tasha’s hand in marriage, to which I was proud to give. From my deathbed, I vowed that I would fight on so that I would be able to walk this precious daughter of mine down the aisle at her wedding. It took long months of hard work and therapy to bring me back to where I could be standing in the position that I now was in: giving my daughter in marriage. I thank the Lord for His help in restoring my health. I especially thank Grace for her endless hours of support as well. I received excellent care and support from Kaiser, Dr. Lim, and the others. For this I will be eternally grateful.]

I must say that one of the highlights was the sermon delivered by the husband and wife team of ministers… They did an outstanding job and made what might have been a low point of the ceremony into a high point. They alternated in their speaking, taking on, more or less, the role of the husband or wife. Even though the sermon was in German, the pace and presentation was incredibly well done. Grace and Maria were responsible for reading English and Hungarian (Magyar) summaries, respectively. Grace, despite all of her apprehension over the process, delivered such a heart-felt reading that reflected all of her emotion at the moment and could have been a mother talking to her daughter in private. It was incredibly moving. I only wish that I had brought my little digital voice recorder to capture that reading!

Heather and Judith (Isti’s younger sister) did the scripture readings in English and Hungarian; little Maria was to have done the Hungarian, but she had not been able to get back to Germany from Spain.

Next time we will look at the Reception that was held at a ‘Sommerhalle’…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Saturday, September 17, 2005)

Saturday morning arrived and we needed to pack up and get ready to change lodging to a little place in the countryside on the way to the church and reception hall. What a hassle!

The previous evening we almost had a blowup with Tasha over this… A little background will help. After the informal reception that was sponsored by the Hungarian contingent on Friday afternoon, I rode back to Kassel with Rudi. Grace, Heather and Tasha went with AnaMarie to see the church and the reception hall. It had started to rain and Tasha took them on a route that coursed through the rural countryside. They encountered slow-moving farm machinery and it was a miserable time, according to Grace. The reception hall had not yet been decorated and Grace thought it looked depressing. (Fortunately, it was to be transformed into a very warm, attractive locale by the next afternoon).

Then it was on to the church. This was an incredible sight, according to Grace. The altar and tabernacle was from about the fifteenth century. A statue of Mary from the twelfth century graced one of the columns near the altar. The church as amazing; it had been rebuilt in the thirteenth century and the graveyard in back traced the history of the local nobility through the years; it even included one gypsy grave that was the source of much town pride…

This church was initially a Catholic Church built in the twelfth century. When the Reformation swept through this part of Germany, it became a Lutheran Church in the 1500’s. It was an awesome sight for those of us with a US mindset that an ‘old’ church is one that was built in the latter 1800’s or early to middle 1900’s! The antiquity and grandeur of a village church with this amount of beauty was amazing.

The only problem, this church was extremely out of the way. Even out of the way from the lodge where most of the guests would be housed! The village’s roads were very narrow and winding, with little space to pass when filled with parked cars. This would probably see more traffic in the next 24 hours than it had for weeks. This made Grace very uncomfortable, even if Grace were not driving. The whole village was isolated in the rolling farmlands.

The reception hall was even more isolated than the church. Located in the middle of a stand of trees on the hilltop, it was accessible only by a dirt road. (Remember, it was raining on Friday; that road would not handle the traffic that the guests would cause… Thank goodness Tasha was providing shuttle bus transportation between the lodge and the reception hall for most guests.) When they arrived at the hall, the windows were still boarded up and the whole place looked deserted!

The logistics of moving the luggage out to the country for one evening was onerous. We suggested that we just stay in Kassel, but Tasha threatened to leave us out of the Sunday morning breakfast for the group if we did that, which we were not happy about. But we didn’t want to force Rudi to drive us back, especially after he would have had several drinks at the reception. So we implemented a different plan.

Consequently, the thought of leaving the comfort of the Mövenpick and moving to an unknown country inn was not appealing, especially since we had to pack everything up. The previous night we had had a ‘lively’ discussion with Tasha about staying at the Mövenpick and just driving back from the reception. She had a fit… We would probably have to make two trips even with the little station wagon; we proceeded with plan ‘B’ and it all worked out. We averted a total meltdown by moving to plan ‘B’, leaving the suitcases at the Mövenpick and taking only what we needed to the inn where Tasha had made arrangements for us. This seemed to solve the immediate problem.

After we got the suitcases packed and downstairs, we checked the two big ones and waited for Rudi to pick up us… Rudi was great! He picked us up about 1 p.m. and we loaded the car up with the walker and smaller bags (too many small bags, at that). We proceeded to the country.

Rudi followed a route that avoided the hectic farm vehicular traffic that Grace had encountered the previous afternoon. When we got to the inn, it was quaint and wonderful. Instead of being housed in an apartment across the street from the main inn, we were able to get a small suite in the main building. They had an elevator and it included a buffet breakfast. The price was right and Rudi moved our stuff into the room. We then adjourned to the restaurant for a late lunch. It was great…

[We do appreciate Tasha’s concern with our housing for the reception. She selected an apartment since she thought that the kitchen would allow us to prepare meals in accordance with my dietary needs more easily. However, having an apartment for only one night would not permit us time to do any cooking, especially since we didn’t have any condiments! So much for good intensions.]

The room at the inn was incredible… It was on the second floor (three floors up) and the walls and floor were knotty pine finished with a natural stain; it would be cozy if not fancy. It would be more than adequate since we would be sleeping in it for about six hours and be gone again. Once we returned from the reception (which ended up being about 1 a.m.), we slept soundly.

More on the ‘Morning After’ in the next posting…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Saturday, September 17, 2005)

After the civil ceremony, which took place in the home village of Isti’s parents, Ahnatal, those present adjourned to the home church of Isti’s mother. A number of Isti’s relatives from Hungary were present for both the civil ceremony and a small reception for the new couple. The Hungarians had made a special soup and a luncheon meal was catered.

This was my first time to meet and mingle with these relatives. We were faced by a dilemma: they only spoke Hungarian (Magyar) and Grace, Heather and I spoke English! This made any conversation difficult. Any dialog with them needed to be through appropriate facial or body language or via either Isti or his mother who would go from Hungarian to German to English. Consequently, two basic groups were isolated during this get together… Those who spoke English and those who spoke Hungarian!
But the luncheon food was great. I was provided an excellent offering of fish, chicken, vegetables, and pasta that had been fixed without salt, so I could partake of the celebration within the bounds of my diet. Tasha was extremely considerate on this point and watched over me like a ‘mother hen’ to make sure that I was cared for…

After the meal, many of us meandered out to the front of the church for conversation and fresh air. At least until it started to drizzle! The weather had been nice during the civil ceremony with the sun shining nicely for the event, but then the showers came…

This reception had not been initially planned by Tasha, but was added by Isti’s mother. This made it a somewhat awkward event; it seemed that it emerged as an event to focus on Isti’s side of the family, but it did give us an opportunity to meet them all before the church ceremony the following day. However, this event placed additional stress on Tasha, which was almost too much for her… She handled it pretty well.

After the luncheon, Isti’s mom had everyone gather in the small church’s sanctuary for a brief time of prayer; this was unplanned, but a nice touch. The church was a very modern building, very much like the small Catholic Church (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) in Riverside where Grace and I had attended a wedding of one of her co-workers several years ago… It almost seemed out of place in Germany, however! In this land of historic, awe-inspiring churches, this modern church seemed out of place.

Tasha had initially planned to have her religious service in this church, but found out very late in the planning that the regular service of this church was on Saturday afternoon! I had not seen the church where she would be getting married yet, but from what I had been told it was quite a historic church, first built in the twelfth century. After this informal reception, Grace & Heather would go with Tasha and AnaMarie to visit both the church and the reception hall. I would hear more about it later in the day…

After the reception, Rudi drove me back to the Mövenpick to rest. He also needed to rest before the evening’s festivities for family and close friends at a little Brauhaus ‘Zum Rammelsberg’ in Kassel. In the meantime, Grace accompanied Tasha to see the church and reception hall, as indicated above. Grace shared her experiences with me after returning. She had been very impressed with the church, but seemed somewhat less than impressed with the reception hall, Sommerhalle ‘Am Burghain’ in Naumburg/Hessen.

That evening, we took a cab to the Brauhaus for the evening’s get-together. It was a ‘real’ German eatery and we dined on good German food and sampled the local German wines and ‘Bier’. In addition to the family, many of Tasha & Isti’s friends joined the celebration. This included some of Tasha’s friends from school and Haike and her companion from Berlin…

I finally had an opportunity to meet Heike who had been Grace’s host when she went to Germany for Christmas in 2002 to visit Tasha in Berlin. Grace had always gone on about how beautiful she was, but I believe that Grace was not overshadowed one bit by Heike. My Gracie is both beautiful and elegant!

Anyway, we had a free-flowing interaction with many of the guests. Fortunately, we avoided any major confrontations with Tasha, although one almost arose over changing hotels for the reception the next night. Grace’s experience in traveling the narrow, country roads on the way to the church and reception hall had made her think twice about staying out in the ‘boonies’…

After all, we had two very large suitcases, my walker, and other things to move. The little car we had rented would have required two trips to take everything there and then bring it back. That would have detracted from the joy of the day. We finally worked out a plan to leave our suitcases at our present hotel for the one night that we would be out of Kassel, and just take what we needed for the wedding. Disaster averted!

In the next installment we will share our move to the countryside and go on to the beautiful church wedding ceremony itself…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Saturday, September 17, 2005)

European countries have several customs and procedures that are quite ‘foreign’ (or at least unfamiliar) to us Americans. One of the chief of these is the civil wedding ceremony that is part of the German (and other continental) traditions.

Essentially, the civil ceremony, as I understand it, is the legal and binding element of the marriage. In Germany, you must establish, or reference, a ‘Family Book’ that delineates the family tree. The ceremony itself is performed by a magistrate (or other governmental official). It is conducted in an office at the city hall (‘Rathaus’) and generally includes the bride, the groom, their witnesses (generally the maid/matron of honor as well as the best man). The parents and other family members may or may not be present.

The ceremony walks the couple through the legalities and obligations of the marriage partners to the state. The marriage relationship, citizenship of each party, and the parentage are detailed. The magistrate will often give a short admonition to clearly delineate the responsibilities of each party has when entering the marriage contract. The bride and groom each must sign documents and exchange their rings. [Note: This would appear to be part of the German emphasis on maintaining ‘orderliness’ in society.)

The entire ceremony took between 30-45 minutes and represents the ‘real’, ceremony that marries a couple. The religious ceremony can occur anytime thereafter, if desired. But this is the ceremony that is necessary to be officially married in Germany in the eye of the state.

I am attaching a couple of photos of Tasha and Istvan taken at this civil ceremony for you benefit. Tasha made a beautiful bride and I was so proud of her. She wore a flattering dress and Isti looked great in his new suit. [Grace may add more fashion comments later…]

The next posting will focus on the celebrations that took place after the ceremony and other events of the afternoon…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 21, 2005)

Well, we had two days until the civil ceremony and had rented a car so we could explore the surrounding area in central Germany… But, the best laid plans do go astray!

We woke up on Wednesday morning to rainy whether… We went down and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant; I had many options that kept me on my diet, fortunately. The restaurant was actually located outside the hotel, the Mövenpick, was located on one side of a local shopping mall, a small one, with a much larger mall across the street… The restaurant was actually off the mall, not within the hotel, per se… After breakfast, we went up to the room and got ready to go to Weimar…

We got in the car and started to leave the parking garage when we discovered that we needed to put our parking ticket into a machine on the mall and pay for the time we had been parked, €8 for the overnight stay from 19:00 to 11:00 the next day… So Heather went up, talked to someone who helped her put the money into the machine, and brought back the validated ticket… In the meantime, I was sitting at the exit gate unable to go forward or backward, and basically ‘stuck’…

Once out of the garage, we headed to the A7 autobahn that lead to Weimar. The trip to Weimar, the home of Goethe and Schiller, was about a two hour drive. It was still raining! Now I had always pictured the autobahn as this wide smooth road that permitted speeds of up to 150 kilometers per hour… Well, guess again!

The way to the actual autobahn required me to traverse at least one roundabout. When I encountered this roundabout, I didn’t see that the traffic signal had turn red for me, since my eye level was such that the top of the car roof cut off any view of the signal… I almost had an accident within ten minutes of driving in Germany! Fortunately, I didn’t since I was able to brake in time and finally got onto the correct leg of the roundabout…

This leg, while it would turn into the autobahn, was undergoing extensive repairs, even in the rain. I was trying to get used to the six speed transmission and diesel engine… I was trying to watch my way on an unfamiliar road… I was trying NOT to attend to Grace who was actively signaling with her hands to break, be careful, and otherwise nervous as could be! Poor Gracie, she was very uneasy with this, especially in light of her accident.

Anyway, as we proceeded, the rain got heavier and there were periodic sections of the autobahn closed (the left lane of course) for repair… Heather and Grace were both extolling me to drive carefully; NOT TOO FAST… About 10-15 kilometers outside of Kassel I decided that I did not to endanger either myself or my family by continuing this drive in an increasingly intense storm… I put all pride aside and turned around and returned to Kassel…

We got back to the hotel and I went back to the room while Heather and Grace went window shopping in the two malls… Weather the next day was not much better and I decided not to go to the little cities north of Kassel (on the ‘Fairy Tale Road’) or to the university town of Göttingen…

Grace and Heather went to the place where Tasha was staying to help with wrapping honey jars. I stayed at the hotel reading and working on the computer… At least the hotel had wireless that allowed me to connect my IPAQ with the net to check email and complete a number of other tasks. Grace and Heather returned in the mid-afternoon and we went down to the mall to have a coffee.

We got a call from Tasha’s good grad school friend, Ana Marie, who said that she and Rudi, her German husband, would like to take us to dinner that evening. We agreed and were to meet in the hotel lobby and then proceed to the restaurant for dinner. When the time came, we went down to dinner and had a delightful time.

A little about Rudi… He is a web designer and he, Grace and I had much to talk about… I showed him some of my toys and he was fascinated. We talked with Ana Marie, the matron of honor at the wedding about all the plans. About 21:30, Tasha and Isti showed up unexpectedly and we went through a series of photo shoots and captured much on film (both real and digital)…

We departed late with good feelings all around and looking forward to the civil ceremony the next day. We arranged for Rudi to come by the hotel and drive us out to the location of the civil ceremony, since he was familiar with the area, at least much more familiar with the driving habits of the Germans!

More on the civil ceremony in the next installment…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 21, 2005)

Not having seen the movie “Meet the Folkers” myself, but hearing about it from Grace (who had seen it), I went into the evening dinner with Isti’s parents with some misgivings… How do we address them? What can we talk about? Will we need every sentence need to be translated, or will my basic German and Isti’s mother’s basic English be enough to carry on basic conversations? Many, many questions and few answers…

Well, things went well… After initial greetings, handshakes, polite kisses, and hugs were exchanged, we sat down to a leisurely dinner that lasted for about three and one half hours. We had a chance to get to know each other, exchange well wishes with the bride and groom, and talking generally about the week’s events.

The big events were going to be the civil ceremony on Friday (13:00) in Isti’s home town Rathaus (City Hall) and the religious ceremony on Saturday afternoon in a 1000 year old church in a town nearby to Isti’s parents… We discussed general itineraries, the family reception planned by the Hungarian relatives on Friday after the civil ceremony, the reception in a quaint little place near the church on Saturday afternoon (which lasted until 5:00 on Sunday morning, and the breakfast planned for Sunday morning… Interspersed in these conversations was the details of when and where we would stay on the day of the wedding and transportation issues…

What an agenda for the first meeting of families! We ordered dinner, took photos, told stories about both the bride and groom… Isti’s younger sister, Judith, was there as well as Heather, our youngest daughter… All in all, we had a very enjoyable time and ended the evening on a relatively high note… Tasha was Tasha and we had very good exchanges with her even though the stress of planning all aspects of the wedding were taking their toll on her; she is quite a remarkable young lady.

We briefly discussed the activities of the week, which did not really include any more get together of families until Friday. Tasha still didn’t like the idea of us going to Weimar the next day (Wednesday, or Mittag) with Heather, but said that she was glad that we had something to do, since she had work for one of her jobs to finish up… On Thursday (or, Donnerstag), Grace and Heather were to help Tasha package the honey and do other tasks in preparation for the wedding…

All ended well and we did not encounter the disaster that the movie portrayed… In the next posting, I’ll talk more about our activities on Wednesday and Thursday…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 21, 2005)

It seems that we have been walking forever! Up one elevator and then down another… Will there be an end? Finally, we must choose between the S-bahn local trains to the Main Frankfurt Bahnhof (in the city) or the Distance Frankfurt Bahnhof (in the airport)… We pick the latter so we would not need to change trains, if possible…

We had purchased a DB RailPass before coming to Europe, but it needed to be validated. In addition, since we did not know for sure how long it would take to get through passport control, customs, and pick up our baggage, we had not make train reservations ahead of time for this first trip… So we needed to find the correct office.

We headed down a long corridor to the Bahnhof(Fuhr) to catch a long distance train. When we got almost to the end of the corridor, we found a ‘Travel’ office; I inquired about if this were the correct one and was told Nein! (No!) I needed to find the ReiseZentrum to validate our pass and make the necessary reservations. When we cleared the corridor, we saw that office and stood in line for our turn…
Grace attended the trolley with our luggage on it while I waited in line to take care of our business. Since I spoke at least a little German, Grace felt uncomfortable doing this task… I finally got to a window, got the pass validated; then we needed seat reservations.

There was two ways of getting to Kassel. The first was to catch a transfer train from this Bahnhof to the Main Bahnhof where we would need to move our baggage to another train. There were three problems we needed to consider… First of all, we had two large suitcases that were heavy and a number of carryon bags. Second, the German trains were noted for their punctuality; the ‘shuttle’ train would leave in five minutes and the long distance train from the Main Bahnhof was scheduled to leave in twenty minutes… Not a good prospect! The third problem was that we needed to move all luggage and stuff to a new platform and then get on the second train in time. Being unfamiliar with the station, this seemed like an unduly difficult task.

Therefore, we decided to take the second option, which meant that we would have about an hour and one half wait for the 16:42 train from this Bahnhof that would take us straight to Kassel’s Bahnhof Wilhemshöhe… This would not only give us time to get to the platform, but would also give us a chance to eat some lunch… We opted for this option and made the reservations.

We then went to the Service Desk and requested assistance due to my mobility problems. Once this was arranged, we proceeded to the correct platform, found a seat and waited for the train. Once situated, Grace went and found lunch, which consisted of a sausage sandwich and diet cola (actually, CocaCola Light)… We enjoyed the sandwich and sat back and relaxed until our train was due in at 16:38 (giving only five minutes to get ourselves and everything aboard)… Shortly before its arrival, we saw which station we needed to be at to get on the correct train and proceeded to that point.

Just as the train was about to arrive, a porter can around to help us get things aboard… In the meantime, I got a couple of photos of the station; one of these is posted with this entry…

This was a train that made a brief stop at the Main Bahnhof and then proceeded directly to Kassel. We got aboard and settled and enjoyed the hour and one half trip to Kassel. We were in the first class coach and the seats were comfortable and we enjoyed the trip and the beautiful countryside. We were scheduled to arrive in Kassel at 18:20; Tasha said that she would be waiting at the INFO area when we arrived. But she was expecting us to be on an earlier train!

When we got in, there was a cart waiting to take us to the entrance and help us off with our baggage. We got off and there were Tasha, Heather and Isti! How good it was to see all of them again. They helped us get our baggage to the AVIS counter (across the parking lot) and I completed the paperwork on the rental car reserved for our stay in Kassel…

I had requested an ‘A’ Class Mercedes, but was given instead an Opal Wagon, a Diesel at that… Once I had loaded up the luggage, my walker, and figured how to get the car in reverse with its six speed transmission!

We followed Tasha and Isti to the downtown Mövenpick Hotel… We got there, checked in and moved our luggage up to the room with Heather’s and Isti’s help. Our room was comfortable and spacious, but not fancy. We freshened up and went down to the restaurant where Tasha, Isti, Heather were already seated with Isti’s parents and sister.

We had an enjoyable evening with them… More on that in the next posting…

Jerry

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 21, 2005)

Tuesday, 9 August 2005, marked a very significant day in my life: I returned to my Heimat… I was finally getting to go to Germany, the home of my family on both sides!

In the mid-1870’s, my father’s family, the Börner’s, had emigrated to the United States and settled in a small farming community in western Minnesota… Herman, Minnesota, to be precise. I have a book that details the history of that region given to me by my father; it talks about my great-great-great-grandfather traveling with his family to that community. It documents the marriage of the children and the presence there of the Boerner (the ö being transliterated to oe) family band. They were farmers and fairly well-to-do; their journey from Germany had apparently taken place about the time that Bismark created a united German state in 1872… I don’t know additional history related to these events, but I do know that my father’s family had moved to the St. Louis Park suburb of St. Paul so that he and his brother’s could attend high school. During the depression, they moved to California.

On my mother’s side, my grand parents had emigrated to the United States in 1911, just before World War I. They emigrated separately. My maternal grandfather apparently lived in the northern region of Germany near the Dutch border, hence the name Inderbieten. My maternal grandmother emigrated from the then eastern part of Prussia where her maiden name had been Radowsky (unsure of the exact spelling)… They both moved to Southern California were they met and married. My mother and her brothers did not speak English until they started school at the age of 5.

Hence, my roots ran deep! This was the land of my forefathers and this was all enabled by the pending marriage of our oldest daughter Tasha. We were going to Kassel in northern Hesse for her wedding. And we were to meet our future in-laws as well for the first time.
We departed from Heathrow on British Airways without much fanfare. Our Airbus 319 make the one hour fifteen minute flight was anything special and we arrived at Frankfurt Airport about 1:15 p.m. The airline provided a wheelchair at both Heathrow and Frankfort airports and we got through passport checks and the minimal customs screening without incident.

At Frankfurt am Main airport, we needed to take tram from Terminal 2 (where we landed) to Terminal 1 (where we were to make the connection with the ICE (Fast) train to Kassel. Not having made seat reservations before, we needed to do that now, get to the departure track platform, and board the train.

The process was relatively straight-forward. More on this in the next installment…

Jerry