Monday, May 30, 2016

Some things that make us smile

Apparently witches are fast at delivering packages in their minivans
We could do an entire post on advertising. Some things just strike an American as humorous. Some of the advertising is puzzling (a couple in a bathtub filled with suds that advertises cigarettes, for example - we don't get it). Some of it is embarrassing. We wonder what parents tell their children about some of the posters they see. Let's just say that the standard for what is acceptable for public display is considerably more liberal than in the U. S.
It was cool but sunny at this lunch time cafe.
We love eating outdoors at these cafes. What a pleasant way to have lunch with someone wonderful.
Giant poppy

Looks like an azalea, but not quite
Flowers are everywhere. Living in a large, busy city, it is amazing how much greenery and flowering plants there are. Bushes and trees all bloom. The smell of lavender is everywhere. Beautiful roses are growing in lots of gardens. Peonies (which we can't grow in Texas) are spectacular.
Add in the bank covers every life situation
Jeff goes to the bank to make deposits or replenish our petty cash fund periodically. This stack of brochures explains how Commerzbank can serve you in every situation - living together (noteworthy that there is no brochure for marriage - sadly, marriage is waning as an institution here, too), having children, inheritance, retirement, career growth, changing jobs, divorce or separation, etc. They also offer premiums for opening an account like soccer shirts, grills, etc. Nevertheless, the banking system is superb. We have to admit that online banking here is ahead of the US. The clerk Jeff usually deals with is a Tabernacle Choir fan and has visited Salt Lake City. He is working on him.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

In no particular order - Oppenheim and Bacharach with the Jarrards

We aren't often in a picture together, so we had to post this one
Elder and Sister Newman had family here, so the weekend of May 14 we drove down to Hahnheim to the Jarrard's apartment. We went with them to Oppenheim, a remarkable little place just over some hills from their apartment in Hahnheim. Hahnheim is a true village with about 1500 residents. It is farming country. The valley below is wide and fertile, and the wheat and other crops are green and beautiful this time of year. The hillside above their home is a grape vineyard. The vines are just now leafing out. The hill above their home is pretty steep, and there are two large windmills at the top. Germany has "drunk the Kool-aid," as Elder Jarrard says, and is advertising that they will be using 100% renewable energy sources in no time. As an ExxonMobil retiree, I am not too concerned. They still drive lots of cars and trucks, all of which still run on gasoline and diesel fuel.

Oppenheim was a really great little place. It's history extends at least back to 765. There was an imperial castle there (Charlemagne) and a beautiful church. Spain occupied the town for 12 years during the 30 years War. In 1689 the castle and the town were completely destroyed by the French. That's a common story in this part of Germany. The French invaded and destroyed lots of town completely. In the process, they trashed some really amazing pieces of history. Of course, Americans and the Allies did the same thing in World War II. Germany has been burnt to the ground multiple times over the centuries.

The church in Oppenheim has magnificent stained glass. It also has an ossuary (a place where human skeletal remains are stored) that contains the bones of more than 20,000 people, many of them victims of the 30-years War. There is a small information center and "store" outside the church, and we met a really nice man who is a retired English teacher and volunteers there and for the city giving tours of the underground labyrinth under the city. We talked for a while, shared a pass along card, and agreed to come back with a group for a tour of the underground tunnels.

The city has this unique system of tunnels under it. They estimate only 3% of the passages are open and explored, but you can tour those. We definitely want to come back and do that.

After a walk up to the castle ruins, we came back down and walked through a cemetery on the way back to the car. Jeff stopped to talk to a woman who was tending a gravesite. Her name was Mrs. Colaci. She is a widow and her only son is living in San Francisco with her only grandchild. We talked to her for more than half an hour. Jeff testified that death is not the end. We hope that we relieved her loneliness a little, and we left her with a pass along card. She especially warmed to Elder Jarrard who speaks Italian.

We also drove down the Rhine a little way to Bacharach and walked around town a little. It was a cold day. Bacharach is a quaint town with a wall along the west bank of the Rhine. We found a small shop that was open. An older man was making some wood burnings that he paints. The walls of his shop were covered with watercolors that he had done. He had an old upright piano, and Jeff asked him if he plays. He found some sheet music for an American spiritual and played a one-piece concert. We shared what we are doing in Germany with him, too.

Katharinenkirche. You notice that it is actually two church put together end to end at different times.
Some of the colorful stained glass

Skulls and femors in the Totenkapelle Gebeinhaus (ossuary)
The Jarrards
Walking up to Burg und Schloss Ruine Landkron. We aren't good at selfies, but Janet at least has a Rachel face.
Landkron Castle and Fortress was built in the first quarter of the 13th century - 1210-1235

These places result in contemplation. They have fallen to ruin but are maintained as monuments to the past.
From the vineyards on the walk down
A nice Italian lunch at the Hotel Golden Crown. The proprietor and waiter both spoke Italian, so Elder Jarrard got some additional practice. He was having a great time.
On to Bacharach

Bacharach is a picturesque city on the Rhine, downstream from Oppenheim. It is a tourist stop on the Rhine River boat trip that we haven't done yet. It really only has one street in the old city, but many of the old city gates and a good portion of the wall is still intact.
Imagine driving a car through that gate at the end of the street. You probably have to fold the mirrors in.

The green is a beautiful clear stream that runs under the village and peaks out here.

That Mini squeezed through the gate.

There were a few pedestrians, but it was late in the day and most stores were closed.

The "Eis Cafe" in the background is an ice cream store. It looks like ice cream weather, doesn't it? 

Neat looking hotel on the main square

We like this little guy on the sign for the Electoral Palatinate Coin - the English translation sounds ridiculous.
Looking down on Bacharach and the Rhine Valley
This bit of Gothic church ruin dates to the 1200's. It is maintained as a reminder of the persecution of the Jews - not during the holocaust, but during the middle ages when Jews were blamed for everything bad, like the black death. In the 1400's they were murdered, forcefully baptized, and otherwise persecuted. It didn't start in the 1930's.

If you are up for some translation, or can read German, this explains the history of the persecution and the reasons for this church ruin as a memorial.

Elder and Sister Jarrard live here. Janet says she would be happy to wake up to this view every morning.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

P-day in Braunfels - 21 May 2016

Credit where credit is due:
We were with 4 other couples just an hour from our apartment in Frankfurt to visit the old city of Braunfels. We felt a special connection to this place because the prince they refer to as "Texas Charlie." Prince Carl (Karl) of Solms-Braunfels (1812 – 1875), was a German prince and military officer in both the Austrian army and in the cavalry of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. He spearheaded the establishment of colonies of German immigrants in Texas. Prince Solms named New Braunfels, Texas in honor of his homeland. This guy was pretty interesting. He was originally landless, but he was well educated and a military officer. He read books about Texas, and he was eager to develop a New Germany there. In anticipation of his second marriage to Maria Josephine Sophie, Prince Solms formed plans to build "Sophie's Castle", and layed the cornerstone in New Braunfels in 1845. Sophie refused to leave Germany, and Carl never returned to Texas after his marriage to her on 3 December 1845.

The Solms family has owned this castle for 800 years and has occupied it for almost all of that time (they were displaced by Spaniard, then Swede and then Spaniard occupiers again during the 30-years War). Elder Jarrard made sure that the tour group knew that we are Texans and have a connection to New Braunfels. The tour guide was telling the group that virtually every tour they have someone with a connection to New Braunfels who comes to find out about the origin of the settlers there.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle, but it was full of artwork, antique furnishings, and armor. The guide had everyone slip on felt overshoes to keep from marring the beautiful wood floors in the areas we were allowed to visit. Part of the castle is still a residence for the owner.

Jeff overheard two young women being asked by the tour guide if they were sisters. They were clearly Americans, and Jeff looked for a missionary opportunity. He asked them if they spoke German, and one of them said that she did. When he explained the tour guide's question, they said, "Oh no, we are girlfriends." They were from San Francisco and knew that we were missionaries from our tags. Jeff let it go when they made it clear that they were gay, but he thought later that he should have talked with them some more.
From the south at Phillipstein

Wish we had had a better camera for a close up
From just below the castle walls
Towers, towers everywhere

From inside the outer walls
Imposing stone walls. Portions of the castle date from the 13th century.
One of the main entrances to the castle grounds

Multiple gates must have made the castle easier to defend

Series of gates leading to the old city. A house was built between the gates in the 1600s, and someone lives there today.

That's actually an apartment above the gate

Elder and Sister Snapp trudging up to the castle

Leaving the castle inner courts for the old city

That's an ivy covered carriage house

First gate as you walk down to the old city

Guarding the gate
A door in the inner courtyard (to the residence - we didn't go in there.

This narrow courtyard was the assembly point for tours

Leaving the interior part of the castle at the end of the tour

Love this old door and the ivy covered steps

The date on the brass cannon is 1538. It apparently was not too useful. The guide said that the barrel had to be cooled for about an hour between firings. 

This tower is inside and is part of the family residence. It was a 19th century addition. 

Waiting for our group to assemble for the tour
We love the lilacs

In German they are called Flieder
A few pictures from the castle wall looking down at the newer part of Braunfels

The old city

The old city was incredibly charming, too. We had a very nice lunch on the open market plaza. There was some kind of road rally underway and antique cars, trucks, and motorcycles of all kinds kept rolling through the plaza for a brief check in, so it was like watching a parade. Elder Snapp and Elder Newman are car enthusiasts, so they loved it.

An old well house that was sunk in the basalt. It was complete with a sign warning parents to keep their children from falling in, among other things.

This street was barely wide enough for a car, but there were none moving in this part of the town.

Last gate (or first depending on your direction) going down into the old market square.

The center of the old city is always the market square

The first (or last) gate of the castle looking up from the lower end of the market square.

Beautiful old building is now the tourist information office.
The side of the same building

The distinctive blue lion is a mark of the Solms family
There was even time for a little shopping. The men found a nice bench in a park, but after they had been sitting there for a while, Elder Newman asked, "Do you guys smell dog poop?" Notice what he is sitting next to.

Snapps and Jarrards walking down to the old city

A sad war memorial

The Gasthaus where we had lunch

Hotel Solms

The bench was a great sunny spot in the park - except for the bin Elder Newman sat next to

What a beautiful spring day

Notice the German lady with the walker didn't need a sweater. Sister Kirk needs to toughen up

The drive home was spectacular as we wound through the woods of the Taunus mountains. We stopped just south of Braunfels at Phillipstein. This tiny settlement grew up below a fortress built on a high spot by a competing duchy to protect their border from the Solms family's expansion. It fell into ruin in the 1600s, but it is a great place to look out over the valley and take a picture of Schloss Braunfels to the north. It was also apparently the local teen hangout - not much else to do in this tiny village. Also, rap music seems to be a universal language - sadly.

It was steep climb through the woods to the fortress ruins

This tower and a bit of wall are all that is left. You can see the restoration work on the upper part of the tower.

This ornate manhole cover from 1904 was mounted to a wall for some reason

The view was worth the short climb