First a plane, then another plane. Then a train. Then a bus. Then another train, and one more train. A little more than 24 hours after leaving Minneapolis, we finally found our way to the smiling faces of our dear friends who live in Bonn, Germany. Sausages from the Metzgerei (butcher) downstairs , German beer, and lots of hugs and conversation finished us off and we finally tumbled into bed.
The von Gohren European Tour 2010 is mainly about hanging out with people we love. Any charming places and incidental beauty we happen upon is icing on the cake. Of course, Bonn was no exception. Here is the perfect-sized city: you can walk pretty much everywhere (and pedestrians actually have the right of way there - no cars nearly plowing down 80-year-old grandmother types, like you sometimes see in Paris). It is the birthplace of Beethoven and Haribo candies, and sits right next to the romantic Rhein river. What more could you want? Meat, of course! Well, there's plenty of that. Beer? You got it. Fresh market? Right around the corner. We cooked and ate our hears out, which was a boon for our friends, who were navigating the last weeks of pregnancy before their second son arrived. (He came the day after we left!) Something about carrying a child full term while caring for a toddler somehow puts the damper on the creative juices for meal prep, so Karl and I were more than happy to jump in as surrogate chefs. Spargel (German white asparagus) and Strawberries were in all their glory when we wen to the market, and our funny half-German, half-English conversations with the merchants were a constant source of entertainment. (I'm sure they thought we were REALLY funny!)
Oh, how good and pleasant it is when brothers (and sisters) dwell together in unity. This couldn't have been more the case as we spent our days cooking, cleaning, eating, visiting the town, and just being together. What better reason to travel 4,000 miles? I can't think of one. The best was re-meeting our friend's nearly-two-year-old, who is a joyful and sharp little boy and took to us as Tante Abbey and Onkel Karl without the slightest hesitation.
In addition, we basically fell in love with everything German to the point that Karl said when we boarded the train six days later to return to Paris: I don't wanna leave! Frankly, I didn't either. France is near and dear to our hearts, but there's something about the way that EVERYTHING WORKS in Germany, from trains, to recycling, to the friendliness of people - that is SO wonderful.
Among our favorite experiences: running alongside the Rhein, hearing an organist practicing in the church where Beethoven played early mass at the age of ten, watching a castle in the nearby town of Bad Godesburg turn 800 years old, the Republic of Germany museum, Bier and Bretzel at the Biergarten alongside the river in the sun, watching Germany win their first World Cup match and joining the ensuing madness in the streets with a local Weisse in hand, and learning German words from a 23-month-old.
France, equally rich, will have to wait for the next installment!