Thursday, June 12, 2014

All good things

June 9th and 10th,

I don’t agree with the saying “all good things must come to an end.” Yes we will be heading home, but the good things remain; memories and warm friendship with family and friends.

I just want to thank all of Blanka’s relatives who welcomed us into their homes, showed us many wonderful sights, and meaningful discussions. Especially Rebecca, Wilmar, Sanne-Joy and Lois that made us feel very much at home.

No, Sanne-Joy and Lois are not saluting me, they just are trying to keep the sun from their eyes.

We made one last train ride into Amsterdam to have dinner with Benjamin and Carla at one of their favorite restaurants and then to Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream. I suppose the Ben and Jerry’s will help us transition back to being Americans.


In one of our earliest blogs we talked about the number of bikes in Holland. Well this is the ultimate in bike parking.
A three story bike parking lot adjacent to the train station in Amserdam!
The Dutch sure like their bikes, even on this rainy afternoon.
And the Dutch also like their football (soccer).

Not sure how much press the World Soccer matches get in the USA, but in Holland and Germany everything was soccer madness.
June 11th,
Beautiful blue skies greeted us on our last day in Europe and we had the chance to tour the Dutch coast, rolling English country side and Irish villages. Well sort of … we were a few thousand feet in the air looking out of our plane’s window. But nevertheless a great way to put an exclamation point on a marvelous seven weeks roaming around Europe.

Thanks for joining us on the adventure.

Monday, June 9, 2014

minnows, cakes and surprise birthday parties

June 6th,
We arrived in Ede just in time to go with Sanne-Joy and Lois to their swimming lessons. They first learned to swim at our home in Phoenix and now they swim like little minnows.

Lois is not the fastest but she gets high scores for form.
Sinking is not an option.
Sanne-Joy is quite accomplished, one of the best in her class. 

The swim center is just down the road in a near by town.
Rebecca is a terrific baker, making cakes of all sorts, but especially children's birthday cakes. 
This cake is for Fenne, the little girl in the middle. Her parents stopped by to pick it up and Sanne-Joy and Lois wanted to see it one last time before it was gone. 

June 8th,
Rebecca's family planned a surprise birthday party for her brother Hans for Sunday afternoon. It worked out really neat for Blanka and I to get to see everyone one more time before returning to the US. We were busy most of Saturday getting everything ready. Cake baking, grocery shopping, yard clean up and setting up the grill and chairs etc.
As we set off for church Sunday morning it was raining. That did not bode well for our surprise birthday party but by the time we got back home the sun was shining and cooperated for the rest of the day.
Following along the cake theme above, Rebecca baked this delicious carrot cake for all of us. Yes, a total of 13 of us for the surprise birthday party.  
From left to right: Hans (the birthday boy), Jonathan, Anne, Wilmar, Carla, Lois, Rebecca, Benjamin, Jenny, Henk, Sanne-Joy and Blanka. Only Rebecca's brother, Benjamin and his friend Carla, both from Amsterdam are not included in earlier blog posts. 
Anne and Hans
Lois is using Carla's thumbs as a steering wheel as they travel fast down the highway.
A toast to the birthday boy, who was totally surprised.
How do you toast involving 13 people, "clinking" glasses with everyone without crashing into one another?
You do it with a smile.
Rebecca and Wilmar have been wonderful hosts. This extra reunion with our Dutch/Belgian family was the frosting on the cake.

Now we have to figure out how to get all our stuff back into suitcases in preparation for our return to the US.

here comes trouble

June 7th,
Little did we know that the most important event of our entire vacation would take place, not in Europe, not even while we were awake, but in a hospital in San Jose. Phil and Mia's baby wasn't due until June 17th so we figured we would have plenty of time to return to the US and be ready to be in San Jose when the baby was born. Not to happen. Massimo Bastien Luedtke decided that he wanted to come early, 10 days early. The fact that we were in Europe was of no consequence to him.

Snug as a bug in a rug!

Not fair! Christy gets to hold Massimo before we do.
A tired but very content Mama Mia.
Philip reports that all is well. He is still floating about two feet off the floor. He may come down to earth sometime in the next few months.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Luedenscheid Part 3 Water and wind equals power!

June 4th,
Now for some history and some honest hard work. Not us working, that wouldn't do, but watching and imagining hard work, that we can do. Actually I did get roped into doing some work. More about that later.
Steep valleys and fast running streams translate into power - water power. And on the hill tops, wind power. This region of Germany, the Maerkischerkreiss, is well known in the middle ages through the last century for crafting all types of metal; from handmade nails to brass embossed sheets to large kettles to weapons. The metal ores are here as is plenty of hard wood forests, and importantly water mills to drive the machines.

Reliving this history and getting a perspective of what it would be like to live and work in this era is today's outing.

Not far from Luedenscheid is this open air museum that shows how they took advantage of the narrow valley and the swift flowing river.

Most of these structures are manufacturing on the first and second floors and homes above. The road is on the front of the houses, the river is behind with water being channeled off to power the water mills that power the tools.
Every hundred meters or so the river is dammed to better control the water flow to the water mills.

Big water wheel driving the metal working tools inside.
These giant hammers were used to shape large metal bowls. 

Most other crafts necessary for the village to survive were also shown and in this case demonstrated. 
The rope maker recruited me to turn the handle as he threaded and wove the threads together to form the rope. Turning the handle was within my skill range.

Not as cute as the windmills of Holland, but nevertheless really cool.
Seeing the inside gears and wheels plus the shear size of it all makes me wonder how they figured it all out and put it all together.

Another facination for me was the wood timber construction, mostly without metal nails or braces; just wood dowels and mortices. And they have remained standing for hundreds of years where as most of our current day houses fall apart  in a generation of two.

What goes between the timbers? In earlier blogs we saw lots of brick used to fill the holes. Here they use straw mixed with mud to form blocks, then use mortal to stick them together. The poor man's walls.

And the inside: nice and cozy as seen here in the little restaurant that really was 90% museum with tables tucked in and around.
Smoked bacon and ham hang from the ceiling - not sure from what century they come.
Blanka didn't miss any of the critters that roam around the village.

Flowers also are a constant attraction.
These two flowers were a pleasure to be with. They were quite patient with all the "architectural" details that entertain me.
And on to another town near by for a very fine meal!

The meal was superb and the company too. Phillip, Magdelene's son, joined us for the evening.
Blanka knows how to pick the best meals. Wild boar and deer goulash with potato croquettes in the shape of pears and an apple/cranberry sauce. 
Next stop is Ede, the Netherlands for a few days with Rebecca, Wilmar, Sonne-Joy and Lois! And then home!!!