Published: December 11th 2010December 11th 2010
The screeching of the tires touching the runway told us that we had now reached Berlin
. We gazed out at the cloudy city and could feel the history which seemed to be radiating out from its core. We boarded the metro and traveled to our hostel where we planned to stay for just one night.
We celebrated our first night by going to a charming restaurant and trying the local cuisine. Our dinner consisted of bratwursts, potatoes and some great beer. We noticed one of the owners chatting and drinking beer with one of his frequent costumers. We enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere for a while and then headed back to our hostel. The next day we went shopping at a local food market and then walked to the campground where we had planned to stay.
The next day we went on a 3 hour walking tour of Berlin. Our guide was so passionate about the history there. We could tell that he really loved what he was doing. 90% of Berlin was bombed to the ground during WWII. However, one would not know this by the way the city looks today, as they have done an excellent job rebuilding
The next day we walked through a museum which was full of information about the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.
The next day we traveled by train to Munich
. It was a beautiful ride through the country side of Bavaria. After departing the train we walked to a nice campsite located next to a river. After setting up our tent we made dinner and watched the starry sky before turning in for the night.
The following day was spent using the internet and restocking our supplies at the local supermarket. The next morning we took the metro to the city’s center. As we ascended from the metro tunnel, we found ourselves in the middle of a crowd of tourists. We made our way through the shopping gauntlet to a nice open air food market. There we purchased our lunch and tried our first 1L. stein of German beer. Waitresses dressed in traditional Bavarian attire were running around serving what seemed like an endless supply of beer. After lunch we walked into one the most famous beer gardens during Oktoberfest, called “Hofbrauhaus”. They had a live polka band and the ceiling was full of beautiful
murals. For those who don’t know, Oktoberfest is a 16-18 day festival held each year in Munich. It is the most famous event in Germany and is regarded as one of the world’s largest fairs with more than 5 million visitors every year.
The next day we walked around our campsite, fed the swans that were in the river and watched some of the locals surf. That afternoon we visited Englishser Park, which is a massive park located close to the center of Munich. There were several people sunbathing, riding in boats on the lake, playing soccer and having picnics. We noticed music coming from some tents nearby so we walked over to check it out. As we drew closer we realized that we had found a wine festival. There was a polka band, good food, good wine and steins of beer. Shortly after finding a place to sit, we started talking to a woman that was seated next to us. She spoke very little English, so Xiomara was able to practice her German. She told us about her life in Germany and that she had came from Croatia. She then explained to us that the wine was very
good, so we bought a couple of glasses as a nice gesture and then she returned the favor. All was going well, we were laughing and talking with our new friend. Then another couple sat down at our table and they joined in our conversation. Although we soon discovered that these were the equivalent of professional athletes to the drinking world. They kept bringing bottle after bottle of wine to the table and filling up our glasses relentlessly.
The next day we felt terrible… We realized that we were experiencing our first hangovers in several months. We said the usual “Why would anyone do this to themselves” and we just kind of wished the day away.
The next day we took a train to Fussen
which is tucked into the edge of the German/Austrian Alps. It was absolutely beautiful. At the train station we figured out which bus would take us to the campground. Shortly after we were seated on the bus an elderly German man started asking us about our travels. After exchanging stories we discovered that he had traveled twice around the world and that New Zealand was also his favorite place out of what he
had seen. He was very friendly and offered us some great advice. After reaching our desired stop we walked along the lake and admired the beautiful Austrian Alps that filled in the backdrop. Upon reaching the simple campsite we chose our spot and began setting up our tent. As the sun began to set a deer went running through our campsite. We just sat and soaked it all in, what a wonderful feeling it was to be surrounded by nature again.
The next day we toured the Neuschwanstein Castle which was started in 1869 but was left unfinished. We toured the inside and it was really something. There was so much detail everywhere you looked. I was able to take some photos of postcards to let you all see a few rooms of the inside, as we were not allowed to take photos inside the castle. What a beautiful mountainous setting, complete with forests, waterfalls and a clear water lake. The castle has appeared in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
The next day we just enjoyed the scenery and used the internet a little. The next day we traveled by train to Cologne[b/] to meet Cornelia Sculte. She is a descendant of the Fus family. For those of you who don’t know, Rustin’s great grandfather left Germany in 1907 at age 13 and traveled to the U.S.A. with some of his cousins and an aunt. He was only supposed to be gone for one year, but when the ship was returning back to Germany he had a high fever. Therefore, he was unable to make the journey. His father and family were very sad that he was not able to return home to Germany. Shortly after this, WWI broke out and he was unable to get back home. He then met Marie and started a life and a family in South Dakota. Somewhere along the line there was an error on the paperwork and Fus became Fuss.
We met Cornelia at the train station and she looked just as Rustin had remembered her. It had been 20 years since they first met when Cornelia and her mother Inge visited Denver. After stopping by Corelia’s flat and dropping off our bags. She gave us a wonderful tour of Cologne. We toured the Cathedral which was jaw dropping. It was so massive that Rustin had to walk nearly a block away just to take a picture of it. We walked inside and admired the beautiful stone architecture. It had stunning stain glass windows, tile mosaics and a golden chest that is said to hold the bones of the 3 wise men.
After leaving we walked around and saw some of the old Roman ruins, as this city was built more than two thousand years ago by the Romans. We crossed the Rhine River and ascended to the top of tall building for a 360 degree view of the city. Cornelia then took us to nice pub where we tried a Kolsch beer, which is only made in Cologne. Then we went to a typical German restaurant and tried the local cuisine. It was loud and everyone sat very close to one another as there was no separation between tables. It was a very fun dining experience.
The next day we awoke to a wonderful breakfast that Cornelia had prepared for us. After breakfast Cornelia took us out again and showed us some more churches, some of which had Roman tombs. As well as some interesting/weird art made out of human bones.
Then we had some ice cream before we left for the train station to visit Inge in Werdohl (pronounced Verdol). When we opened the door to Inge’s home she was so happy and made us feel like we had come home after a long journey! After setting down our bags we sat and visited for a while before sitting down to a wonderful meal. During dinner Inge told us so many interesting stories about our family. We then read our family’s history and the family tree. We were both so impressed!! We felt like we were at a museum with our own personal guide. She even showed us photographs from the late 1800’s and postcard from Deadwood, South Dakota dated 1910!
The next day we had a delicious breakfast and then Cornelia led us on a beautiful hike. Inge wanted to join us but she had recently undergone knee surgery and the trail was too rough. Cornelia showed us the hill where her and her brother would go sledding in the wintertime. Then the trail led us through a heavily forested area before reemerging among cattle and green pastures. In the distance we spotted a small cluster of homes. This was the village where Rustin’s great grandfather lived before taking off on his North American adventure. Cornelia even showed us the house where he lived. Of course it has been remodeled and additions have been built on, but it was very special to see. As we walked around the homes we were stopped by the village sheriff. He let out several barks and then calmed down when he sensed that we met no harm.
After returning to Inge’s we left with Rainer (Inge’s son) and Bridgett (Rainer’s wife) to a kind of kind of museum where they show how things were made in the olden times. Rainer took us on our first German highway, this one had a limit of 120k (75mph) and he was going about 140-150 (87-93mph) and people were passing us as if we were parked. Xiomara could not believe her eyes when cars would fly past us at more than 200k (125mph)
Unfortunately, it began raining as soon as we arrived so we had a round of tea/coffee and pie. Afterwards the rain subsided and we toured the area. Our first stop was a man making pressed brass. He made a lion’s head and gave it to us as a souvenir. We then walked around and saw a blacksmith and a rope maker.
We then all went to visit Karl (Inge’s brother). He invited us inside his home and offered us some excellent German beer, which we happily accepted. He showed us around his nice house and then gave us a booklet that he had put together which had some old photographs of our relatives in it. After a few stories and a few laughs we were on our way to meet his daughter Katrine. We arrived at a very cool restaurant where they served up some excellent traditional dishes. We all really enjoyed ourselves! Xiomara and Rustin always felt so welcomed by all of our German relatives.
The next morning we enjoyed another excellent breakfast with Inge and Cornelia. Then we met Oliver as he arrived to take Xiomara and I to meet Tom and his girlfriend Madeleine. They took us around the old town (some of the homes were built in the 1600’s) and then took us to a cave. We were unable to take photos inside, but it was the kind of stuff you would see in a National Geographic magazine. Stalagmites and stalactites that were millions of years old and crystal clear pools, it was very impressive.
Then we had lunch at the restaurant near the cave. It was fairly cold, as you can see Xiomara used blankets that the restaurant was offering. We then went to a BBQ at Tom’s mother’s house (Inge David). Were we met Oliver’s father Peter, Inge’s sister Martina, Udo (Martia’s husband) and Robin (Martina & Udo’s son). We enjoyed wonderful food and had a great time.
The next day after another wonderful breakfast by Inge, (Sorry to keep repeating this, but they were all so good!!) Inge, Inge David, Martina, Xiomara and I went to Schlossburg castle. We walked throughout the castle which had all kinds of antique weapons and armor on display. There were other rooms that were set up to show you how things were done in those times. There was even a pharmacy which strongly resembled the one that Inge David and Inge remembered seeing when they were young.
After touring the castle we stopped by the café nearby and enjoyed some nice tea and some tasty desserts. We then drove the Wuppertal Schwebebahn, which is the oldest monorail system in the world. Built in 1900 and operational in 1901, this system transports more than 25 million passengers every year.
We then met the entire family at a brewery restaurant that was converted from an old swimming pool. The same one that Cornelia had swimming lessons when she was a child. After looking at the menu, Tom kept insisting that I order the XXL schnitzel, as he said that is what he was getting. When the barrage of plates arrived, potatoes, salad and the largest schnitzel the world had ever seen!
The next morning we looked at some more old photographs, letters and food marks that were from WWII. Inge also told us some impressive stories about her father sneaking food across the border to give to his family. Then Inge David arrived to take us to the train station. On our way we stopped and met Madeleine where she was waiting to bid us farewell. Then Tom called to say good bye as well. We then stopped by the hospital to say goodbye to Martina who is a nurse there. She gave us a tour and then hugged us goodbye. Inge and Inge David walked us to the train stop. Then Inge David gave us a box of chocolates we hugged them and thanked them for a wonderful time. They waved to us as our train pulled away. Our experience with them was a grand one! We were welcomed; we made bonds that will last for a lifetime with our German relatives. Our train stopped in Cologne and we met Cornelia for dinner and stayed at her nice flat before we departed for Switzerland.
We would like to say Danke Schon!!! (Thank you very much) To all of our German relatives, we really appreciate all of the hospitality and love that were shown to us. We hope to see all of you again sometime soon.
There are more photos below