I loved Germany and wish I’d had longer than 5 days there. We didn’t really sightsee much or do any shopping. I would have liked to see more of the surrounding area but there simply wasn’t time. All we did was visit people. The purpose of the trip was really to visit my 92 year old great uncle. My grandfather’s brother, the last alive in his generation, is in pretty good shape. When we arrived at his house he was pulling a braided raisin bread out of the oven. His garden looked fabulous, too. I was delighted when he loaned me some papers that will help me fill in some missing details in the family tree and identified some old photos I had as being his parents.
My mother got reacquainted with all of her first cousins at a family reunion picnic. My grandfather had four siblings who each had several children. Many of them were in attendance with their children and grandchildren. It was quite the party. Most of my second cousins spoke English fairly well so it was a relief that I didn’t have to sit around all day and listen to old people speak German. What a snooze that was… smile, nod, pretend to be interested even though you have no clue whatsoever what is being said.
We stayed with one of the first cousins. The cousin, a (nearly) retired butcher and property owner, had done very well for himself over the years. He and his wife have a large, beautiful, brand new three-story house. It had four or five bedrooms, at least four bathrooms, a sauna, an enormous walk-in shower, three dining/sitting areas, several living room areas. The place was well organized and spotless; it’s obvious the lady of the house works her ass off.
But, never in my life have I seen such stuff in terms of decor. It was endless… knick-knacks, toys, dolls, books, collectors plates, austrian crystal in a display case, framed scenic pictures done in needlepoint lining both sides of the stairways. A mind-boggling amount of what I consider to be kitsch crap, not that any of it was cheap. Every available inch of space seems to have been filled. We even ate on a different set of plates (with color matched handles on the silverware) every day we were there. Finally, late in the third day I saw the plates we’d used on the first day again and realized that my cousin’s wife rotates the three sets she has.
The house was on the same property as one of the two butcher shops they own. My second cousin and his wife are both master butchers and run the two shops. Both of their fathers were butchers and each owned a shop. When my second cousin married, the businesses merged. The two elder butchers are just delighted over this arrangement… they can be retired but still have a hand in things. The rest of the time they and their wives are babysitting the grandchildren while the kids run the shops.
Obviously, we had all kinds of fabulous meats and sausages. I never saw a vegetable the entire time I was there other than tomatoes. There was a bakery around the corner, so we ate meat and bread. Every day. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. I couldn’t even begin to name the different sliced meats and sausages we had, there were at least 8 different ones on the table every day. These meats reappeared at every meal until they were gone and something similar took its place. One evening, we had meat salad (julienned sausage meat with onions and vinaigrette dressing) for dinner. The meat salad then reappeared at every meal after until it was finally finished three nights later.
Only when we ate out or were guests at someone else’s home did we have anything different. Mind you, I’m not complaining because it was all very good stuff that I rarely get at home. Eventually, it does get to be too much though. One thing we had a few times while visiting with other cousins was maultaschen. I don’t ever remember having this before and I absolutely loved it. I’m going to have to try to make it. My cousins sold it as a ready made item in their shops.
The only remotely touristy-type thing we did was visit the town that was the birthplace of Johannes Kepler. More cousins lived there, so after a walk around town they served lunch. If it sounds to you like the Germany portion of my trip revolved around eating, you’re starting to get the picture!
I made a number of observations about their ‘way of life’ that I’ll include in my next post.