(continued from previous post…)
Helga had given us a fantastic look inside German lifestyle, but the Heldusers were just about to add to that. We took a train from Neustadt to Marburg, where Jürgen would pick us up. Before arriving, we stopped in Manheim and Frankfurt. The train view was outstanding, with green crops and bloomed wildflowers along the way. A small layover in Frankfurt allowed me to get out of the station to see the large city, soon to be the location of the Women’s FIFA World Cup final.. I had never met the Heldusers before. Unlike Helga, they had not visited us in the U.S. because they recently found out we existed. My parents, aunt and uncle, and grandparents though did stop by their homes in 2008.
Once arriving in Marburg, Chelsie and I exited the station looking for Jürgen. Having no idea what he looked like, we looked for someone who was looking for visitors. I spoke his name loud enough to be recognized and then we met. He seemed excited to meet us and take us around the country. He suggested that we see a bit of Marburg first, so we loaded into his car and winded up on the hill of the city where we would see nothing other than a Schloss! From my previous post, you would know that Schloss means ‘castle’ in German. Jürgen spoke decent English, and we were able to communicate our thoughts for the most part. At the top of Marburg was Marburger Schloss, the castle where the two main religions split into a new reformed faith. We took several photos overlooking the city and of the castle, and our host showed us the area where his wife Ingrid works as a gynaecologist. We sat down at a restaurant on the hill for a beer (Paulaner and Veltins) and then headed off to the small village of Bromskirchen. Another winding car ride it was, but we arrived in the village, noted by a small sign like my hometown.
Bromskirchen has about 2,000 inhabitants, several which include my family. The city looked like a master hand had dropped a handful of houses on the top of a hill and they settled in the valley. Red roofs and white houses dominated the town. Only about three streets into the city and we turned left up a hill, and we were there. The house looked familiar from old photos, as my ancestors from Germany had lived in the home centuries ago. The home of course had been modernized, but the outside aesthetic looked similar to the photo. The first house we went to was home of Heinz and Helga Helduser (yes, another Helga!) They welcomed us in, and we immediately went to the back porch where the host served us coffee. We quickly met Thomas, a quite comical character, who was headed off to work at a nearby sawmill. He constructs pretty much anything with wood in a modern technique. He discussed how Germans like American music, but none of the lyrics make sense. I’d have to agree! Manuel and Thomas are brothers and the sons of the house. Manuel volunteers as a firefighter for the village. Daniel, the son of Jürgen, came roaring in on his motorcycle. He and the other young boys spoke decent English, but Heinz and Helga did not. Daniel tried to translate as much as possible.
Three desserts stared us in the eye. All were wonderful, especially with a cuppa coffee. We visited for a while, then Heinz and Helga gave a tour of the home. They had recently added onto the side of the house with a new dining room and space for more furniture. The basement is still in old-fashioned condition, but it seemed like Heinz’s “man cave” as Americans might say. A garage connects to the side of the building and a shed holds a tractor and farm tools. Around the side of the house is Heinz’s pride of a garden. He picked sweet cherries from his cherry tree, and carefully crafted rows of vegetables and herbs lined the back yard. Later we would see how the garden provides most of the basis for the organic meals.
We then left for a special behind-the-scenes tour from Daniel and Manuel while the family prepared for an evening barbecue. The BMW SUV started down the countryside through meadows with sheep and farm buildings. We got near the bottom of a valley where couple of random small buildings appeared. A semi-steep slope was green, but it is where Bromskirchen’s Ski Club performs in the winter. They both enjoy the winter months in the village. We weaved through the countryside as if it were a bus tour. A large pond at the bottom of bluffs lies near an old saw mill. A cabin-like house sits on the lake, where natives hold parties and functions. Two horses greeted us at the top of the city, and we could see the red roofs in the valley. We petted the horses and snapped some computer wallpaper-like photos and headed back to the village. The Bromskirchen church bell still powers at the hour at the very old building. Daniel showed us his tractor project, where he was painting and replacing parts much like my grandpa Marvin does. At the home, Jürgen was out grilling the meat, and Daniel invited us to help feed his five goats. Four of them were more than eager to eat, but the baby goat was not excited about the company and stayed her distance. Three of the names included Yoshi, Mo and Thor. In the house, the ladies prepared one of the best meals I think I’ve ever had. We sat down for an organic feat. The meat was barbecued on the grill, the salad greens were unique and decadent, a pasta salad with pine nuts was a personal favorite, and grilled tomatoes with goat cheese topped it off. The potatoes were native of the family farm, and it’s admirable that they use no chemicals when farming to keep produce more natural and fresh. German beer and fine Austrian wine lined the table. We had a great visit with the whole family, half the table in English and the other half in German. Heinz gave me heck for being so tall, while Jürgen told me I needed to eat more. Believe me, I was being fed well but was getting no shorter! We said goodbye to most of the family, as Jürgen was taking us to the train station early the next day.
Chelsie and I got a good night’s rest and woke up to another good breakfast with coffee. We traveled quite a way through winding forest roads to Cologne (Köln), a large city in western Germany. We arrived and bought our train tickets to the airport. Jürgen took us to the Cologne Cathedral (Dom). It’s a large gothic-style church that took more than 600 years to complete. It still looked like some construction was going on. The height of the church was amazing, almost as if it was touching God. After that, we said goodbye to the host and grabbed a quick meal to eat before the train departed.
We crossed the Rhine River on the way to the airport and arrived within 20 minutes. Chelsie and I had some trouble going through security, as we had to check the wine bottles as a bag instead of part of carry-on. When we arrived to the men who checked the passports, we also had to stop longer than usual. When we took the train from Paris to Germany, we didn’t have to go through immigration, therefore, we didn’t have a stamp on our passport. They understood our situation and stamped us there so we could get through when we arrived in Britain.
The plane ride was quick into Gatwick airport. and we took the train home.
It was the highlight of a trip within a trip, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to see my family and the country of Germany. I hope to go back someday, but for now, I’d like to bring back some of the lifestyles and practices of the German people.
To sum it up, live simply.