Noch in Düsseldorf

The memorial words of JFK “Ich bin ein Berliner” were laughed at by the Germans. The above photo shows you a Berliner. It is a jelly-filled doughnut. Don’t worry, Betsy, I bought only one, just to say I had a Berliner. JFK should have said “Ich bin Berliner”.

Last week, I returned to Krefeld and spent the weekend with Herbert. I had a wonderful time practicing German, and Herbert had a not-so-wonderful time listening to the most horrid butchered German one could generate. I am finding that I know more German than I thought but far less than I’d really like to have. Conversations are becoming easier, and I’m constantly learning more abstract words, and daily phrases, to allow for better rapport on the street. I am amazed at how many people speak English. Virtually all the students from Japan are fluent in English, the student from Iran, the student from Turkey, the student from Italy, and the students from Russia all are quite fluent, and will often ask me to explain a German word or phrase in English to them. I am also overwhelmed by the extreme kindness that others from foreign lands are to others. I’ve never felt the sense of “hating” the dirty American. The German people also have been outstandingly kind to me, so I just haven’t seen the Prussian Militarist type sentiment yet in Germany.

While with Herbert, we went to Venlo, which is an ancient town on the Maas River in Holland. It was a little strange having to contend with yet another language. Dutch is sort of a form of bastardized German. All you need to do is either say the word in English (Street vs. Straße), or add a “j” here or there, and double some of the vowels. Then you have Dutch. My apologies to my Dutch-speaking friends. Venlo was nice, and we went to the Altstadt, where it is now many shops on several streets. Here are some photogs.  One building had the most grotesque door header. I have no idea what it was meant to symbolize.

Other street scenes showed many shops and old buildings.

This last week, no Stammtisch. It occurs too late at night. I wouldn’t get home until about midnight or later. So, you probably won’t get any reports about Stammtisch. The snow is now mostly melted, and the only thing that makes one uncomfortable is that it is a little windy. It is now much easier to walk the streets. Classes are going well, and I am doing nothing but speaking, reading, and even thinking and dreaming in German.
This weekend, I had the most wonderful time with an old friend Debbie (Gasser) Fuchs, and her husband Heinz. Heinz had moved to Portland soon after Betsy and I moved to Chicago for residency. During that time, they had gotten married and moved to Germany. So, I knew Debbie quite well as a young girl but had never met Heinz. It was a most unusual meeting. I took the train from Düsseldorf to Stuttgart and then transferred to the train going to Benningen, where Heinz and Debbie live.

I should mention that train travel is incredibly easy in Europe. You can easily go just about anywhere, and at a very low cost, if you purchase Eurail passes in the US. The trains and busses run unbelievably on time, even on the day when there was a horrible snowfall. It should be the envy of Americans, though even our best city transportation is horrid compared to the transportation system in Germany. While visiting Heinz and Debbie, besides the wonderful fellowship I had with them and their family, I did four things.

  1. 1.Visited the Schloss Ludwigsburg. This is the largest palace in Europe outside of Versaille, and the magnificence was breathtaking. It was not damaged during the war, so has been kept intact. Some of the many scenes follow…There was a full theatre with orchestra pit for opera, a large chapel, hunting lodge, enormous gardens, etc., making the splendor beyond imagination.
  2. 2.Finsterott – Heinz offered to take me to Finsterott, about 30 km away, which was where my grandfather came from. By the time we arrived, it was fairly late at night, so I couldn’t take the best photos. It is a very small village, up on a plateau that was quite hilly, mostly used for wine growing. Just north of Finsterott was the Evangelical Taufer Gemeinde Kirche, which is almost indubitably the church that grandfather and great-grandfather attended. There is a connected Altenheim (old folks retirement center) where I wish I could have asked the folk about our grandparents.  Here are photos.
  3. 3.I went to church with Heinz and Debbie at the Ludwigsburg ETG church. What a delight! It was absolutely wonderful hearing Zion’s Harp songs (from our old church Hymnal) being sung, except auf Deutsch, and other songs, such as “How Great Thou Art” being sung entirely in German. Fortunately, I was able to understand over 90% of the sermon. They serve lunch in the church immediately after the service, and I was able to talk to a number of folk and eat traditional Wurttemburger food. Just awesome! The church had a wonderful mix of young and old, with many children. I felt totally at home.
  4. 4.Stuttgart. Heinz and Debbie took me to this hill overlooking Stuttgart, I don’t remember the name, but it is where the WWII rubble was stacked as a remembrance of the war.The last photo is overlooking Stuttgart.

I’m back in Düsseldorf now, and ready for another week of study. Stay in touch. Viele Grüße auf Düsseldorf!