Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mona Duck from Duckomenta
May 29, 2013 –  Day 58      Stolzenau, Germany – May 24 - 27
It’s amazing what happens when you open yourself to the world.  Three years ago I began studying languages through – a free language learning website out of Madrid. It’s a great site and some of its elements are similar to Facebook and e-mail.  One day I got a message from a woman who identified herself as engel1.  She asked if we could correspond through busuu e-mail.  She is learning English, and, of course, I am learning German (also Spanish and French).  I said yes and as Internet buddies do, we didn’t share a lot of information in the beginning except first names – hers is Linda.  One day, I asked her where she lived in Deutschland and she told me that it was a very small town that I would never have heard of: Stolzenau. 

Amazing - Bill and I had been to Stolzenau in 2002, and it was in the neighborhood of where his Dad grew up.  From then on, we knew we were meant to be friends. When I was planning this trip, Linda and I began wondering about the possibility of actually meeting in Germany.  This past weekend, we pulled it off.  Bill and I took the train from Berlin to Hannover and then another, much smaller train to Nienberg-Weser.  Linda met us at the train station and took us to her home – a leap of faith on both our parts. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew we were soulmates.  My favorite color is purple – her home is a testament to the color purple.  We both love angels – there were angels everywhere, and she also has lots and lots of candles – something that Bill is passionate about. 

After traditional Kaffee und Kuche (coffee and cake which German people have like Englishmen have high tea), she asked if we would like to go with her to her English speaking club.  Of course we said yes, and we met some of the people she is learning English with.  None of us were allowed to speak German, and they asked us many questions about the United States.  Everyone in the club spoke better English than I spoke German.  My German is improving, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to have a whole conversation or follow a TV program on TV.  Even people who say they don’t speak English speak better English than I speak German.  In ways it’s frustrating, but it cements my determination to learn more. 

The next day was Bill’s day:  Linda took us to his grandmother’s church in Nendorf, drove us through Grossenheerse where his father lived, and took us to his father’s church in Buchholtz.  When we were last there, we tried to visit his father’s church, but since it is on the national registry, we couldn’t get in.  This time, the side door was open, and we were able to set foot on the same ground that his father did until the time he was 13.  History:  Bill’s maternal grandfather was killed in Prussia in World War I – we have his beautiful death certificate framed and hung in our hallway. Bill’s grandmother came to the states with Bill’s Dad age 13 and his aunt age 11.  Bill’s grandmother remarried and had another son who did much of the research that allowed us to find this area of the country. We also went into the cemetery at Nendorf which was full of Meyers and Oettings (grandmother’s maiden name).  You would expect the graves to be very old in this part of Germany, but when someone is buried in Germany, their grave is only good for 25 – 30 years.  After that, someone else can be buried in the same place.  I believe that you can buy a family plot or extend the time for the graves, but if you are an ordinary person with little money, the graves go away. 

The unfortunate part of the weekend is that it was cold and rainy and things I think we could have done outside had to be cancelled, although we did visit a museum that remembered some famous Baths -Bad Rehburg -  in the area.  Also in the Museum was a very amusing art gallery.  Some artists have taken all the great art of Europe and put the faces and bodies of ducks on them in an exhibit called Duckomenta – why? We don’t know.  But Mona Duck was quite funny. In spite of the rain, we had a wonderful time meeting Linda’s friends and talking to her 24 year old son Rick.  Linda was born in Indonesia but her family relocated to Holland.  She has lived in Germany much of her life in places like Koblenz and Stolzenau.  Her mother still lives in The Netherlands so Linda speaks English, Dutch, and German.  We got to eat some really wonderful Indonesian food at Linda’s hands.
The English Speaking Club - Linda is second from right in the back.

Plaque in front of Buchholtz Church - dating to 1200 BC
Bill in front of Nendorf War Memorial
Meyer Cemetery Plot in Nendorf
Bill in front of Buchholtz Church Sign
We were planning to come home on Sunday but decided to stay another day. On Monday, we said goodbye to our new friend-for-life and got back on the train in Nienberg-Weser and then took another train from Berlin, then we took the S-Bahn and then a bus to our doorstep. Yesterday, it rained so much in Berlin that we did nothing, but we are out of groceries so we need to make our weekly trek to the mall.
Bill and Linda in Linda's purple kitchen.

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