Sunday, October 28, 2012

Catch-up Part Two - Germany with the Fam

 In mid-October we took a trip to Germany. Geoffrey has been to Germany several times. The rest of us - not so much. This month found Geoffrey again traveling to Germany for his Occupational Medicine boards and then again a week later for a water survival refresher training course. So he took the week in between off and planned for us to come and join him.
     To do so, the kids and I had to travel Space A ( the 'A' stand for available for you civilians) by ourselves. Something I've never done before. But after getting the right paperwork and advice from more experienced Space A'ers, we made the attempt. And got on the flight the first try with no problems. We even had seats together! Whew!
      Geoffrey was there to meet us with a rented 8 passenger van and our good friend/relative Frank Kleiner.  Frank and Crystal are pictured above. That shot was actually the last night we were in Germany but it's the only picture I have with both of them.  They are family although not by blood or marriage either at this point. But family all the same. My older brother married Sonya Kleiner, a lovely girl from Germany. Frank and Crystal are her parents. And although my brother is no longer married to Sonya, she is still very close to our family. Every time Geoffrey has been through Germany they have taken good care of him and been very kind. They were especially so this time and the trip wouldn't have been nearly as wonderful as it was without them.
      In my last trip I made a few comments about being an American. Here's another thing about the good ole' US of A - there is a stunning lack of castles! Not so with Deutschland. On the way from Ramstein to Idar-Oberstein Frank took us to our first castle. They kids were all enthralled. We were barely out of the van before they all decided that our next assignment should be in Germany. Here are a few fun shots of that castle.
         We got to Idar-Oberstein just in time to have Crystal's fabulous soup and bread in their tiny little apartment. She is the cutest lady and the best cook ever! The whole visit Frank kept encouraging her to speak to us in English but she doesn't like to. So although she understands most of what we say, we had to guess a lot when she spoke. Rory thought she was a grandma and gave her lots of grandma hugs, which she loved as most of her grandkids are far away in Utah.
        Sunday we went to church in their branch. It was all in German of course but afterward we did find two different families from Chile, both of whom wanted to speak to me in Spanish and talk about my parents' mission time in Chile. My Spanish is not great but its better than my German so we managed. They were having a testimony bearing meeting that day and Carson got up to speak, which surprised us all. Frank got up next to him to translate, which surprised Carson. So between the two of them, Carson bore a simple but sweet testimony of his faith. I was impressed that he would have that much courage. He said to me afterward, "I just kept thinking that I would never get a chance like this again."
        After church we visited the gem cutting museum. Idar-Oberstein is known for gem-cutting through-out the world so a lot of the tourist sites center around its gem cutting history. The museum had some amazing pieces. Huge Geodes along with quartz replicas of all the famous diamonds in the world.  We began to get a feel for how gem cutting had shaped this area. Later, we would visit the mines and a gem-cutter.
Here is the before shot of the stone he cut for us.
This is all of us watching him cut the stone.

Here is the after shot. Its super shiny and beautiful and guess who got to keep it?  ME!!!!

This is his masterpiece. It took 5 years to cut and has hundreds of facets on it.

This thing is gorgeous!

Frank took us to visit Crystal's cousin - Ralph Ditmar. Crystal family is from that area and are gem cutters from way back. Her cousin still cuts gems for a living out of his home. So we got to watch him take a clear quartz from a rough hewn cut with a basic shape to a super shiny, gorgeous three-sided pyramid - called a mirror cut. He gave it to me when he was done. I'm going to have it set into a necklace.
      I'm getting out of order here but that's okay. Monday we went to another castle! Burg Eltz, which is still a residence for Count Eltz and his very lucky family.  Part of the castle is open to tours and houses all the old furniture and treasures from the middle ages. We took the tour while Frank waited for us outside on a bench. One funny thing about Frank - he was always disappearing and then just as we would say, "Where's Frank?" he would turn up. So the kids started calling him Ninja Frank. He protested that he didn't have a svelte enough figure to be a ninja but they insisted. So Ninja Frank it was - the rest of the visit.
Here's the castle. We had a lovely hike down to the castle and back up. The kids didn't think the back up part was so lovely.

How would you like to live there?
    We also went to Trier, twice actually as the first time we got there to late to tour the cathedrals. Near Trier we drove through the Mosul River Valley, the same valley of which a certain J. Caesar said, "Veni, Vedi, Vici."  HOW COOL IS THAT?????
I know I'm not looking too happy in the shot. I think I was trying to get Rory to stand still.
            This is us in front of the Black Gate, which sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings but was actually made by  - THE ROMANS. Again, very high coolness factor.  Trier was great. The churches were a little more adult interesting than kid interesting but our crew made the best of it. Several times they sat in the pews and played quiet games of 'I Spy' while waiting for the grown-ups to be finished.
             On the way home we stopped in a lovely little town called Bernkastel-Kues and dropped in on the Kempers - some friends of Frank's that had put Geoffrey up for the night while he was in Frankfurt taking his boards. They were in town visiting their grandma in her 100 year old house and happily invited us in for juice and cake and then took us on a walking tour of this charming town.

       Doesn't that just make you want to eat a strudel or something?  Speaking of which, we did eat strudel and schnitzel (Crystal made it for us - YUM) and spiessbraten - the local speciality.  I had eaten Sonya's version of the grilled meat before and it was good. But the real thing was so much better. The meat was so flavorful that I didn't care that it was blood red inside and if you know me at all, you know that is saying something.  Geoffrey and I went out once by ourselves and got some and then on our last night we took the whole family out to partake.
Marinated in onions, salt and pepper - cooked over an open fire on a rotating grill = magic in your mouth.
       Well, those are the highlights of our trip. We left Geoffrey there to do his water survival training and go on to Ohio for the next week.  The kids and I waited for and made it on the rotator home. I won't lie- there were times that I questioned my sanity bringing five children with me (much like the man sharing an airline seat row on our way home). But all in all, we had a fantastic time. Frank was so patient with my kiddos and so wonderful in his tour guiding. And Crystal was so sweet to cook for our big bunch. And Germany is just so indescribably beautiful. I'm glad we went.


  1. Well, it reads like you are having just a normal assignment in Turkey. With lots of fun thrown in.

  2. Your writing talents make reading your adventures just like a well-written novel! Cements my desire to spend time in Germany when we fly to Turkey to visit. Mom

  3. I LOVE the pictures! That is so great that you could spend time with Sonja's parents and they could give you the REAL tour of Germany!!