Visiting the former East Germany, part 3 & finale

Day 3

We agreed the day before that I would cook that day. We initially considered cooking in J.’s and G.'s place and having R. and troops come over for lunch. However, we figured that it would be more convenient for the kids if we had everything done in R.'s and T.' place. So, we decided to proceed with the latter plan and invited J. and G. over to R.'s and T.'s place instead. However, when we met J. and G. for breakfast, we received some bad news - one of J.'s church members had passed away the night before. They told us that it was unlikely that they would be able to join us for lunch since they would be busy helping to notify the family and making necessary preparations for the funeral and such.

We left for R.'s and T.'s place after breakfast. Just as we were about to reach, Jessi popped a question, "Did you bring along the spices?" Almost immediately, smoke started coming out of my nostrils. I harnessed every ounce of patience in me and calmly responded, "Were they not in the bag of food that you asked me to take along?" "No, but I should have had put them in there last night," she responded. I almost hit the brakes, jumped out of the car and yelled on the top of my lungs. Fortunately, over the years, I've learned to take a more civilized approach to vent my anger - I just keep quiet.

Schloss OranienbaumJessi came out with a great idea. T. was at a flea market not far away from J.'s and G.'s place and she could pick the spices up on her way back. Somehow, that idea simply sounded too good to be true. As it always happens in such dramatic times, the recipient's (T.'s) phone was not reachable. I tried so hard to smile the catastrophe away but the smoke just kept building up. It was about 15 km back to J.'s and G.'s place from where we were and I wasn't about to turn around and drive back there. So, we decided that we would drive to R.'s and T.'s place and try calling another mobile phone of hers (we didn’t have the number with us).

When we arrived, we rushed up to their apartment and tried calling her on the other number. The phone was unreachable as well. That was it for the great idea. We decided that we had to make do and make the most of the situation. Jessi and I drove to a nearby supermarket to buy some ingredients for the dishes I wanted to prepare and hoped that we would be able to find similar spices there as well. Honestly, I wasn't very hopeful about that. But lo and behold, when we got there, we did indeed find the spices and all the ingredients we needed. Now my smile was starting to look authentic and I began warming up to my wife again.

Schloss OranienbaumWe started preparing lunch as soon as we got back from the supermarket. El. helped a lot too. I cooked some plain rice, fried some noodles and made Chop Suey. At about noon, we all had lunch together. I don't mean to be blowing my trumpet, but I think they all enjoyed the meal. We packed some food for J. and G. as well.

We spent the afternoon there. El. and Al. had their naps while we lazed around the living room. At around 4 pm, T. took El. to his friend's birthday party. The rest of us decided to take a stroll in the park of a nearby castle, Schloss Oranienbaum (first picture in this post). It was a little wet and we had to take shelter every now and then when it started to drizzle but we managed. In fact, I took the second picture in this post while we were stuck in the souvenir store. Equipped with my camera, I took quite a few shots as we were walking about. The park is big and well-maintained. The castle itself is pretty run down but restoration works is currently ongoing. I expect that in a few years the castle will be restored to its former glory. I don't really know anything about the castle other than the fact that it was previously the residence of a Dutch princess. I found a German website though with more information about the castle - click here.

After our walk, we went back to R.'s and T.' place. Shortly after that, T. and El. arrived as well. They both had a good time at the party. Paraphrasing El.'s description of the party, he said that there were equal number of boys and girls, and there were a few blond chicks that were nice to him. *sigh* They start young here in Germany. We had dinner together and then Jessi and I went back to J.'s and G.'s place. We still had time to chat with them both and see some photos of theirs when we got there. After that, we all went to bed.

Day 4 / Finale

We got up pretty early that day. J. and G. needed to leave their house by 8:15 am and we said our goodbyes before they left. After that, we loaded our car with our things and drove over to R.'s and T.'s place for breakfast. We had a good time with them in the morning but soon had to be on our way. We had a 5- to 6-hour journey ahead of us and we were both working the next day. As soon as we finished bidding them farewell, we hopped into our car and drove off. The trip back took us about 6 hours in total, including a stopover for lunch at one of the rest spots along the highway.

Overall, we had a splendid weekend in the east of Germany. It was a little exhausting at times but worth every bit of it.

Thanks to J., G., R., T., El. and Al..

Visiting the former East Germany, part 2

The next day, Jessi and I got up around our usual time - 7 am. We had a very comfortable room but unfortunately couldn't sleep as long as we would have wanted to. We are both pretty light and sensitive sleepers. However, looking at the bright side, we had an early start to the day.

After washing up, we had breakfast with Jessi's godmom, G., in the garden. It was already starting to get chilly then, signaling the approaching end of summer. Nonetheless, we were well-cladded enough to withstand the cool autumn wind. After breakfast, we went over to Jessi's brother's place again. R., Jessi's brother, was still at work when we got there and we spent our time chatting with his wife, T., and playing with their adorable kids, El.and Al.. We had a great time with them and I got some really good photos again. The kids are photogenic and they enjoy being photographed, which made my job a whole lot easier.

It wasn't too long before it was nap time for the kids and we decided to go back to G.'s place for lunch and our own nap time too. G.made us some world-famous meatballs for lunch! Could I have asked for more?

They really have a beautiful house with a huge garden. While everyone was busying themselves, I decided to use the time to photograph their garden as well. They have a little fish pond. When J., G.'s husband, noticed that I was photographing his garden, he jumped in to help me get the best shot of his fishes. They were a little shy that day, but I still managed to catch them in the act - see the first picture in this post.

Lunch was so good and as expected, we had our nap after that. When we got up, G., Jessi and I went over to the zoo to meet R., T. and the kids. The picture above was taken there. El. was so excited to get into the red truck and Jessi was more than generous to pay for the ride with my money. After driving the truck, El. decided that he should try a cabriolet next. Once again, his ever so generous aunt paid for the ride with his uncle's money.

We were in the zoo with them for just over an hour when R., T. and the kids needed to leave - it was almost bed time. The three of us however, stayed on a little longer in the zoo. The zoo is pretty small but well landscaped, very informational and simply pleasant. As if the zoo wasn't enough wildlife for one day, G. took us to see some beavers in the nearby forest after that. Well, she tried to anyway. The beavers didn't show up but we had a good and refreshing walk. Then, we went home for dinner.

That was day two.

Visiting the former East Germany

I took two days off from work last weekend, on the 3rd and 4th of September. My wife, Jessi, and I decided to visit her brother and his family, and her godparents in the former East Germany. So, we rented a car and went on our way. (Ok, we were actually a lot less spontaneous than it sounds and this weekend trip took us weeks of planning, but you get the picture.) We left Munich at about 10 am. The drive itself took us less than we expected. We managed almost 500km in less than 5 hours. Let me guess, 100 km per hour doesn’t really fit the description of Germany’s Autobahns (highways). There were indeed many stretches where we could easily do 130 – 140 km/h (although we were allowed to do much more) but there were also several stretches where road works were underway and we were restricted to 60 -100 km/h. Besides, we didn’t rent a BMW M6, but a more down-to-earth Skodo Fabia.

We drove directly to my brother-in-law’s place and were warmly greeted by him and his family. They have two beautiful kids – a boy (El.) and a girl (Al.). After taking a drink, I quickly grabbed my camera and started snapping away. Some of the shots I got were truly priceless, as you can see from the two pictures in this post.

After dinner, we made our way to Jessi’s godparents’ place. Thank God, we have a GPS. Our electronic friend faithfully and successfully guided us to their place. Our GPS has indeed been such a great help to us here in Germany. We use it every time we drive and for the most part, it has successfully guided us to our intended destination. There have been a few exceptions, especially when some roads were closed due to repair works or so, but it has always been a great help in any case.

Anyway, back to our trip. We got to Jessi’s godparents’ place just past 7 pm. We arrived a little later than expected and they were already on their way out when we got there. So, we quickly said, “Hi!” and got out of their way. We then unloaded our things from the car and rested a little bit. They got back home about an hour later and we spent the evening chit-chatting, feasting and laughing. It was really good to see them after all this time and we had a great time together. At about 11, we all went to bed.

Next day, next post.