Sunday, July 28, 2013

Chapter 27: A visit from home and a birthday in Freiburg

Last weekend, Lawna and I drove up to Frankfurt in a rented black VW van to pick up our son Michael and his girlfriend, Victoria, at the city bus terminal where they arrived from a stay in Berlin. Michael is working on his doctorate in German at Columbia University and is making an annual visit to brush up on the language in country. After waiting for some time, a bit anxiously since they do not have cell phone service during their stay in Europe, I finally caught sight of a fully bearded Michael and then Victoria in a long yellow dress, both wheeling their bikes from the bus they had deboarded. It was wonderful to see them! Michael studied at Goethe University in Frankfurt a few years ago and knows the town. We stowed the bikes and their backpacks in the rented van, and then Michael guided us through the city metro system to the picturesque historic center of an otherwise modern high rise city, and, after walking around the town square and taking some pictures, we found an Italian restaurant and enjoyed a leisurely meal with good conversation. I think we helped to close the restaurant, and, as we still had a two hour drive back to Spesbach, we hopped back onto the metro, made our way back to the van which was safely parked by the bahnhof (train station), and started off home.
Together in Frankfurt
It has been just Lawna and I these last months since we arrived in Germany, and it is good to have the company now of our son and Victoria. Lawna grew up with two brothers and later had two sons. In other words, she has lived her life in a high testosterone environment, and I think the extended company of Victoria has been a real joy for her. They have gone clothes shopping together, and walked out into the nearby fields to pick summer flowers and make arrangements for the apartment. Victoria is like the daughter or sister she never had. It has been fun just to watch movies together in the evening, passing a bowl of popcorn around.
Michael atop Homburg Schloss

Michael and I have biked around the Spesbach and Landstuhl area together, and the four of us have climbed up to the castle ruins of Homburg, and then enjoyed beers together down at the base of the hill. Later in the week we drove to Strasbourg to see the cathedral and wander around the shops and cafés. Finally, this last weekend, we drove south to Freiburg, where Michael first lived in Germany on his study abroad program. I booked hotel rooms so that we could make a full weekend of the visit, and, again, Michael, visibly happy to be back in his first German city,  showed us around his old hood. We saw the great Münster cathedral, a vast Teutonic gothic structure full of bizarre medieval carvings. Michael and Victoria climbed the tower stairs to the viewing area while Lawna and I rested our feet below in the cooler vault of the church (the temperature had reached the humid nineties, and Germany has almost no air conditioning). Now I kind of wish I had made the climb. Maybe next cathedral--they're everywhere here.
in Strasbourg
Staying cool in Freiburg
Freiburg bikes
Freiburg türm
Market flower stand
Münster tower
Münster Tannhäuserish  interior
Freiburg street clown
On Thursday night, Lawna and I went out to celebrate her birthday at the Greiffenegg Schlössle restaurant that overlooks Freiburg from atop a high hill. Michael wanted to show Victoria some of his favorite night spots in town (maybe not for parental consumption), and that freed us for a special dinner, just the two of us (which, though ever sweeter, is no longer such a novelty). Again, we closed down the place, along with a Chinese student and German software developer that we met at the next table. Both spoke excellent English, and we ended up conversing over glasses of wine into the night. We returned by foot to the hotel after Michael and Victoria. We had out partied them!
The restaurant where we celebrated Lawna's birthday
The view of the Münster from the restaurant
It's good to have Michael and Victoria's presence in our house. We wish that Brian could be here, too. We will have him with us, we hope, after he graduates from UTSA next fall. Germany is a wonderful place, and we are enjoying a great adventure that we never expected to have at this point in our lives, but we do miss our families. Fortunately, modern technology makes it possible to keep in close communication through media such as this blog, email, Skype and a good long distance phone package. When I was a child, living in Japan and, later, in Hawaii with my parents and sister, we could only access the US mainland by slow mail. Even television news had to be flown to Honolulu, so that with the time difference, we received it a day late. Of course, satellites changed everything, and now the World Wide Web makes communication instant and simple.

But, still we miss our families. It's a blessing when we receive a flesh and blood visit. For Lawna, the visit from her boy had to be the best birthday present possible.

Enjoy the following Freiburg music video, accompanied by two street musicians, the Münster bells and yours truly on mandolin, guitar and bouzouki. The tune is a German traditional song, "Die Gedanken sind Frei" (My Thoughts are Free).


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