Germany - Sailauf - Act 1, Scene 2

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October 8th 2009
Published: October 15th 2009
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Day 34
Monday 13th July
Arriving in Sailauf

We had a great sleep in until the school bell woke us all up at 9am on the dot. Any hope of then getting back to sleep was of course out of the question, with hundreds of screaming children, without volume control, running around above us.

After packing up camp, we headed over to the pool to spend the morning there doing some itinerary planning for the rest of the trip as we weren’t due at Sailauf until 3pm. The Schollkrippen pool was gorgeous, with a massive main pool and diving board, plus a waterfall, all in a really nice green setting. That, combined with mainly clear blue skies, made for a great place to spend the morning.

After the planning was done, and some lunch and another few swims, we headed into the township of Scholkrippen to buy some flowers for Katja and Liz, before arriving at Katja’s house at 3pm as planned.

Background… When Peter (Dav’s dad) was training and competing heavily with gymnastics, he met a man called Werner, an ex-gymnast himself who was then training the extremely successful gymnastics team from the small German village called Sailauf. This friendship then led to Peter moving to Sailauf where he lived and trained leading up to the Montreal Olympics. Peter returned to Australia but a few years later he ended up once again in Sailauf with Helen (Dav’s mum) where they lived and worked for a couple of years, before once again returning to Aust. Both times, Peter lived with Werner and his wife Lis, and obviously got to know a lot of their family and friends, with Sailauf being a small and personal village. Three years ago Peter returned to Sailuaf for a visit for the first time since he left, introducing Lucretia and Dav to these people who were such an important part of his life. They really are such amazing people, enveloping Dav and Lucretia into their family fold as they had done with their parents. And so when both Dav and Lucretia planned a European visit, they all insisted that we visit and stay with them in Sailauf.

During our visit we stayed with Werner’s niece, Katja, and her husband, Rudi.

I hope I got all of this right.. ;o)

After quick introductions for Craig and I, meeting both Katja and her 17-year-old daughter Hanna, we then sat out on their patio area next to the pool, enjoying ginger tea and delicious homemade mandarin and peach pie, as well as the relaxing rural views over the nearby fields. Katja and Rudi’s house is absolutely massive, with four levels and six bedrooms - meaning we even had our own rooms downstairs. Luxury, especially compared to our normal form of accommodation.

We also got to meet the whirlwind that is Ben, Katja’s seven year old son, when he got home, as well as Hanna’s boyfriend, Paul.

With afternoon tea satisfying our bellies (including some real champagne!), and our belongings transferred into the house, we piled into the car and set off for the two minute journey down the road to Werner and Lis’s house. There it was more introductions as Craig and I met both Werner and Lis, as well as their son Berndt and his family who also live on the same block - wife Katja (there are two of them - makes it easy to remember!), sons Phillip and Paul, aged 15 and four respectively, and twin one year old daughters Marie and Anna. Rudi, Katja’s husband, also joined us after work, so there were quite a few of us chatting and drinking and eating. Everyone speaks fantastic English, which was very helpful as our German ist nicht se gut. Delicious pizzas of dinner from a shop around the corner just completed the picture - although I also got my introduction to the extreme German hospitality… I foolishly insisted that we pay for the pizza for everyone and was shouted down! When guests stay, they are not expected to pay for anything nor help out with chores in any way, quite different to the hospitality we are used to back home where everyone helps out. It’s lovely but it takes a bit of getting used to!

Back to the party, it was so fantastic to meet these people I have heard so much about and to finally be able to put faces to familiar names. It is also great to hear stories about Peter and Helen’s time there, and to be able to picture how their lives here would have been like living there.
Anji and AnnaAnji and AnnaAnji and Anna

- Day 34 -

The house block is in the middle of town, with both Werner and Lis, and Berndt and Katja and family, all living there. We got a tour through Berndt and Katja’s section of the house, admiring their renovations. Berndt is an architect and Werner is a master carpenter, and so with their fantastic combination, the house is a working display of their masterpieces, from bookshelves which double as a discreet set of staircases up to an attic bedroom, to a revolving bathroom mirror.

We also got a tour through the pub/restaurant on the block, which is closed at the moment unfortunately due to lack of staff. It is a lovely building and again it was nice to see the place I have heard so many stories about.

It was back to Katja and Rudi’s place at about 9pm and after a few drinks out on the patio, it was off to bed, our first night’s sleep in a real bed for a while!

Day 35
Tuesday 14th July

A great sleep, especially as it rained last night - and it didn’t matter to us!

Upstairs Katja had laid out a spectacular breakfast for us - all different types of breads and cheeses, a variety of local meats, fruit, yoghurt, home-made marmalade… the list goes on! We are definitely getting spoilt!

After breakfast we headed into Aschuffenburg, the nearest main city to Sailauf. Our first stop was Pompejanum, a grand building that was based on one built in Pompei, which gave spectacular views of the Main River and the Achuffenburg Castle, which we walked to next. It too was a grand building that took a fair beating in the Second World War and had since been predominantly rebuilt. That was really interesting as it was the first time I can think of that I have seen the effects of war that ‘our side’ ie the Allies were responsible for.

From there we met up with Hannah who had finished school for the day and together we enjoyed a drink at a café, all of us still way too full from breakfast to even consider eating yet.

After a short walk around town, we stopped at another restaurant at about 3pm for some lunch. We got some great seats outside and had just ordered our meals when an ominous cloud rolled in and the heavens opened. The restaurant had a large awning which rolled out mechanically though, and so we remained where we were, safe from the downpour. Next thing, the awning started rolling back, exposing us to the pelting rain - and so with a mild panic as the realisation dawned on us, we, and the thirty-odd other people, grabbed our belongings and rushed inside, the small restaurant then crammed with soggy people shoulder to shoulder. We later found out that the awning is very sensitive and that it was too windy to remain extended… although it sure would have been nice if someone had told us before they just pushed the button!

Somehow Katja managed to find us a seat in the now overcrowded restaurant, bribing a group of three guys with free beer to let us join them at their table. After all the drama, lunch was delicious, and very German - knoodle and schnitzel - and the atmosphere was great. (Knoodle is like a mashed potato ball they then boil - delicious with gravy from the schnitzel!)

Back at Katja’s house, we had a few hours pit stop, before walking down to meet Werner, our companion for the evening. The plan was to walk to a nearby village where we were to have some wine and nibbles for dinner at a winery. On the way, we stopped off at the gymnasium where Peter spent many an hour training. It was great to see it all, and imagine just how many times Peter would have run up the very same stairs on his way in and out the building that would have seemed like his second home during his time there I imagine.

From the gym, it was on to the winery, winding our way through woods and beside maize fields. The winery restaurant was really nice, with a lovely cosy atmosphere. Werner ordered us a massive platter of different cheeses and hams with bread, and some delicious white wine. It really was a lovely way to spend the evening, with lots of eating and talking. The resident hund, Gordon, a big old golden lab, completed the night, constantly at our feet, ever hopeful for a morsel of food.

Our walk home was a bit damp, with the umbrellas we brought along coming in handy. We got back to Katja’s at about 11pm, embarrassingly exhausted compared to spritely Werner, who walked us home and then continued on to his own home, with plans to collect us tomorrow morning for another big day. After a quick drink with Katja and Rudi on the patio, it was off to bed.

Day 36
Wednesday 15th July

After yet another massive spread for breakfast, Werner collected us and we set off for Frankfurt, a half hour’s drive away. There we had a good look around the city before having some lunch at Werner’s favourite Italian restaurant. Delicious!

From there it was back in the car and on to Bingley, on the Rhine River, to meet up with Petra, Werner and Lis’ daughter. We met her at about 3.30pm and caught a ferry over to the other side of the Rhine River to the small touristy town of Rudesheim. There we had a wander through the lovely old streets before stopping at a beer garden for a spot of wine tasting. The wine was delicious, although the band had a lot to answer for, sounding terrible and slightly too ‘karaoke-like’.

It was then back across the river and off to Petra’s house for a late afternoon tea, consisting of delicious cake, tea, champagne, and many detailed discussions on the making of champagne and how it differs from sparkling wine - the important things you learn when travelling!

We left Petra’s house at 9pm, Werner driving us home and so we were able to experience what it is like on the Autobarn with a German behind the wheel… While we have been able to get our old lump of a car up to about 140km per hour (any higher and she puts up a bit of a struggle), Werner, with his lovely new BMW was sitting in the left middle lane on 160km/hr... and still cars were flying past him!

Back at Katja’s, it was again a few drinks on the patio, as is becoming the normal nightly routine, and then bed at about midnight.

Day 37
Thursday 16th July

BBQ dinner with the Sailauf crew!

We had a fantastic sleep-in until 10am. The house has fantastic blinds you can roll down which completely shut out the light - fantastic for a sleep-in, although the waking part is tough!

Day of chores today while we had unlimited access to the internet and electricity, and a washing machine and drier. Dav and Lucretia cooked a delicious spinach and feta pie for lunch as a bit of a thank-you to Katja for her ridiculously generous hospitality - and even that we had to insist on!

Katja’s parents, Manfred and Anita, were the first of the dinner party to arrive, turning up at about 7.30pm. (Anita is Werner’s sister.) They are extremely sweet, lovable people, with Anita even bringing some jewellery she had made as a present for Lucretia and I.

Rudi was home not long after them, and he was followed by Werner and Lis, and lastly Phillip, Katja and Berndt’s son. We had a fabulous night - a BBQ dinner, masterly attended to by Rudi, so much delicious food and wonderful conversation. After dinner, Rudi set up a projector and we were able to show them all a little impromptu slide-show presentation of some photos from home and our travels, plus Lucretia and Craig’s wedding video. They really seemed to enjoy it, seeing our lives and especially what Peter and Helen look like now. All in all - a great night!

They all left at midnight and after a few more quiet drinks on the patio, we took our exhausted bodies back downstairs and called it a night.

Day 38
Friday 17th July
Trip to the doctor…

We awoke at 9am and Dav was in a considerable amount of pain. He has a pretty high pain tolerance and so when he complains, I listen! His neck started to seize up yesterday, and even with some heat packs and gently massage, it continued on a downwards slide, with him hardly managing to move without pain in the morning.

So all plans of a game of golf with Rudi were scrapped, Rudi instead getting on the phone and booking Dav into a physiotherapist. Unfortunately, the earliest appointment he could get was at 4pm, and given the amount of pain Dav was in, Rudi then also rung up and got him into the doctor who was able to see him straight away. The doctor was actually pretty great, taking an X-ray to get a clearer picture of what was going on, before giving Dav an injection of an anti-inflammatory and a steroid to help reduce the swelling.

Back at home, Dav was still in a fair amount of pain but his neck stopped seizing up on him which was a definite step in the right direction. The physio later that day was also fantastic, being able to stretch it out and give Dav some stretches to help prevent it happening again in the future. Exactly the help and advice what you want.

Later that night, the sickies (Dav and little Ben who was coming down with something) stayed at home while the rest of us headed off to Ben’s soccer break-up party. BBQ dinner and a slide-show of photos of the kids during the season, then back home and off to bed.

Day 39
Saturday 18th July
Leaving Sailauf

First thing in the morning, we were all off to Werner and Lis’ house for breakfast to say goodbye and thank-you to the family before we continued on our journey. Another fantastic spread was laid out before us, including salmon, meat, bread, cheese, fruit, tea, coffee… So much food again - how can we go back to cereal?

After some impromptu singing of the Australian and German national anthems that was surprisingly moving, Werner dragged out some pics of Peter which was great as I haven’t seen too many - Peter is too humble to show them off!

Lucretia then presented Werner and Lis, and Katja and Rudi with a small gift of appreciation each from the four of us for our wonderful time spent in Sailauf - a photograph taken of all of us at the BBQ a few nights earlier that we had printed out and framed. Werner then did a little speech thanking us for coming which was really sweet and emotional - I don’t want to say goodbye! I hope very much to see them again!

Back at Katja and Rudi’s house, we finished packing up our goods and carefully loaded it all back into the car again. Before we left, Katja gave a little present to each of us - a shirt each for Dav and Craig, some body wash each for Lucretia and I, as well as a scarf for me and a pair of pants for Creash. Plus a gorgeous card, written in their sweet imperfect English. So lovely, and crazy considering all that they have already done for us by letting us stay with them for the last week and treating us to all sorts of culinary delights. They are such lovely people, embracing us all like family. We really really hope that they will make good of their promises to come out to Australian and let us return the favour!

And it was back on the road, and into our real life again - tents and thin barely-there self-inflating mats and two-pot meals done on gas cookers… Terrible start too - a few missed turns, two hours of driving and we ended up calling it a night in a small town called Werheim - which we then found out was only about 40km from Sailauf…whoops! And

- Day 35 -
to top it off, it rained on and off all day - suddenly more relevant now that we are back at the mercy of the weather. So after setting up one tent and a tarp, we headed over to the camp common area as we were lucky enough to be staying there the night they were putting on a big BBQ and some music for everyone. We couldn’t say no to a steak, bread and potato salad for only E3.50 each - bargain! We also got talking to a lovely Danish couple, Ilse and Jan, and as the beers flowed, a very embarrassed Craig somehow getting roped into a stint on the dance floor with Ilse. We ended up heading back to Ilse and Jan’s campervan for a cup of tea and dessert, before calling it a night and retiring to our flash accommodation for the night.

Reflections on our time in Sailauf: Wow. Sailauf and the exceptional people we met definitely have a special place in my heart. Even in the short time that we were there, I feel like I have gained not only very dear friends, but also another arm to our extended family.

It was fantastic to be able to put faces to names I have heard so much about, and to hear stories of Peter and Helen’s time there. Our only regret of the visit was that we couldn’t stay longer, perhaps even have lived there instead of time in the UK as we did, so that we could have got to know them a little better and really have experienced life in Germany. We can only hope that Katja and Rudi and family make good on their promises to come to Australia so that we both see them again and also return the exceptional hospitality they showed us. And we hope to one day return to visit them all again in Sailauf, perhaps with the next generation of Lloyds in tow for them to meet.

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