How easy it is to become ensconced somewhere. Some creature comforts, steady access to a seemly endless supply of cheese, meats and bread, not to mention beer and wine and I was ready to settle in. Sort of. Not speaking the language is a major liability and in spite of my dedicated efforts, online learning is not the same as conversation. Our situation began to crack at the seams when the little work there was, dried up.
Miraculously or so it seemed at the time, we received an invitation to come support, teach and participate in an Eco Village Permaculture Work camp in Cameroon. I had to look in the atlas to find it, google informed me it was French and English speaking with 200 local indigenous languages. In the Northwest region we will be visiting they speak English.
All that we'll deal with in due course. Wrenching ourselves out of the suite in Sachsen we rented a car and spent most of the afternoon packing it and cleaning up, gracefully exiting south and west towards the ancestral home of my mothers' people.
Amazingly we managed to get everything ( I thought we were traveling light?) into or onto the car. I had quickly thrown together a roof rack ... the bicycles would not fit inside.
The autobahn's are quite efficient even in the slow lane at 120kph so we allowed serendipity to determine our resting place that night, turning off onto a secondary road driving through potential National Park and deep forest till almost dark. We made a right, drove through an old stone gate and there it was, an ancient Monastery converted to prison and a hotel beside. Slightly richer than we had planned for, we took a room above the entrance and fell asleep to the sounds of Italian tourists telling stories and laughing into the wee hours.
After a wander through the town of Erbrach and an extended visit with the hotel owner (she reduced our bill!) we were off, lunch included.
After driving for an hour or so we were finally in the neighbourhood of my ancestors.
I had a few place names which we investigated as only one can do sitting in a car, but unsurprisingly no traces remained. I did get a feeling for the place, as much as one can 400 years later.
We visited a nearby castle where stopping in the weeds at the side of the road I inadvertently picked up a hitchhiker.
Staying as long as possible on the secondary roads we eventually joined the autobahn, into Frankfurt and the challenge of parking with two tempting bicycles on the roof. Reassembled they spent the night in the backyard locked.
I woke in the morning scratching like crazy from a bite on my leg. Only later did we figure out, I'd picked up a tick....Lyme disease...
Then following the Rhine to our next stop Cologne or as they say it in Deutschland, Köln. An amazing city with some interesting architecture, less worry about the bikes, we locked them to the car and spent two nights in the company of good friends.
Of course we visited the Cathedral, had beer in typical (small) glasses and took the gondola across the river and autobahn.
I couldn't help noticing as we drifted over the once Roman spa now modernized a few unclothed sunbathers below.
I love how bicycles are an important mode of transport here, dedicated bike paths beside the sidewalks, everywhere.
Münster especially, thousands of bicyclists nearly dominating the traffic scene.
In Bonn we reconnected with a long time friend of Elke's, walked along beside the river and had the universal male ritual of bonding over BBQ in the backyard.
Driving can be hypnotic, but relentless on the autobahn, the lines of trucks on the outside, the fast drivers on the inside and us weaving back and forth between the three lanes between. So back onto a secondary and past the historic home of my partner, the family name prominently displayed. Her school still stands, although memory made it hard to locate at first. A short visit with an auntie and a hotel in Bremen for the night.
Morning found us wandering through her old haunts, reconditioned and spiffed up for the tourist trade. Not far away we stopped at her younger sister's, where we stored the bikes. A late afternoon run into Ahrensburg and then Hamburg, the final stop for the car, returning it in the morning with 10 minutes to spare.
It's amazing to have all that responsibility, and then to let it go.....
Our resting place at the moment a flat landscape excellent for bicycle riding to the trains... to Stade or Hamburg, or Cuxhaven.