Monday 10 October 2022

A Welcome Day Off

Monday, the 3rd of October, was a public holiday here in Germany. On this day, the reunion of East and West Germany is celebrated. Various events are hold, such as concerts, special masses in church, and gatherings where politicians give speeches to remind us that this country was divided for 40 years and that it is possible to overcome differences if everybody makes a bit of an effort. Also, the fact that not a drop of blood was spilled to achieve this reunion is poignant now more than ever, in the view of war so close to Europe (and in way too many places all over the world).

To be honest, I did not celebrate the reunion in any particular way, but was simply glad for the chance to sleep a little longer and spend the day not tied to my desk and the computers.

After a quiet morning, the day followed the usual pattern of going to a testing station for my daily COVID test and then on to hospital, the officially negative result stored in my handbag.

My Mum and my sister were there, too. Afterwards, I walked home with my sister to her place and from there took off on my own. The weather was beautiful, sunny and mild, and I enjoyed that walk very much. Those of you who are also walkers know how much this simple activity contributes to one's physical and mental well-being.

As you can see, I was out until sunset and returned home in the dusk.

O.K. was 150 km away at home; the village brass band performed at a local tradeshow mid-afternoon which meant it wasn't feasible for him to drive all the way up to Ludwigsburg and back.

It was the start of a week of nearly unbroken sunshine; we did not see a single drop of rain in spite of some grey clouds casting fast-moving shadows every now and then.

Thursday 6 October 2022

Last Week of September

The last week of September saw me returning to work, which thankfully was not very stressful, with of my clients being on holiday now. That enabled me to finish early, so I could go to hospital and see my Dad almost every day. Of course I still have to work a certain amount of hours a week as per my contract, but starting as early as 6:15 some mornings and no meetings in the afternoons meant I could leave the house much earlier than what is usually possible.

On Monday, Sept. 26, the regular meeting for my volunteer work was canceled and so I had time for a hospital visit after that first day back at work. Afterwards, my sister and I walked through the palace grounds on our way home.

Tuesday, Sept. 27, brought the usual pattern of work, going to the testing station and then to hospital. 

I was meeting a friend at the ice cream parlour afterwards; she had invited me for an end-of-season ice cream, and it was really good to see her, even though the day was actually too chilly for ice creams. My friend has been in a similar situation with both her parents some years ago, but we also talked about our recent holidays, things happening in our town and so on.

In the palace grounds, after the rain


Nothing different on Wednesday, Sept. 28; I spent a quiet evening at home, not even talking to O.K. who has band practice on Wednesday nights.

I went home with my Mum on Thursday, Sept. 29 after hospital. It had been a good day for my Dad.

No hospital visit for me on Friday, Sept. 30 - I was invited to a wedding! It took place at an unusual location: The Stra├čenbahn-Museum (tramway/streetcar museum) in Stuttgart. 

The actual ceremony was held inside an old tram, and afterwards we walked the short distance to the restaurant where a late wedding lunch was held. The ceremony had been beautiful, the food was excellent, and meeting the other guests - some of whom I've known for many years, while others I had never met before - was nice. I also enjoyed dressing up, something I have done very rarely over the past two years.

After finishing my usual cleaning round on Saturday, the 1st of October, I went to my Mum's to help her with a few things before it was time for the daily Covid test and then hospital. Afterwards, my sister joined me for a walk - it was our first real walk in a long time, and I really miss that.

Sunday, the 2nd of October, was the day (or rather, night) of the wedding party. The couple had chosen that date not only because the following day was a public holiday in Germany and people didn't have to get up early, but also because it was the groom's birthday. 

I spent a quiet morning at home before going to the test station and to hospital. Shortly after 6:00 pm, I left home again so that I could be at the party for 7:00 pm. The train into Stuttgart unexpectedly ended one stop before my actual stop, due to technical problems, which meant a longish walk in the pouring rain.

But the party was really good, held in the underground rooms of the school where the groom teaches. Those rooms are not simply for storage (or teachers' parties), but the school's cellars are part of a system of rooms and tunnels that were used as a hospital and shelter during the war. I joined a guided tour through the rooms, which was fascinating - you know how much I love such exploring behind the scenes.

While at the actual wedding on Friday there had been around 45 guests, now there were close to 80 filling the various rooms set up for the party. Plenty of food and drink was provided, and a table football was popular with the children. After the children (and about half of the guests) left, we shifted some of the chairs and tables to make room for a small dance floor.

Time flies when one is having fun - I found that to be true and was surprised to realise it was nearly 2:00 in the morning when I left the party! I helped another guest to find her way to the train station and made sure she got home alright, and was in bed at about 20 past 3.

O.K. and I spent the weekend seperately; he had to play with the band at a trade fair in Offenburg and I was at the wedding in Stuttgart. Of course we spoke on the phone every day (sometimes more than once), and he is coming here again this weekend.

Sorry for the weird arrangement of photos in this post - somehow, blogger has been acting up for me this morning.

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Another Four Days in September

Our Odenwald break was over, and we said our good-byes at the hotel on Thursday, Sept. 22, after breakfast.

Driving back to Ludwigsburg took a bit over an hour, with a stop at the Duke of Wuerttemberg's winery on the way (we needed presents for a wedding and a birthday). We arrived at my place around lunch time, had a quick snack and unpacked before I went to the Covid test station and then on to hospital to see my Dad and a friend who happened to be in hospital at the same time.

When I left my Dad, I met up with O.K. in the palace grounds for a little stroll there in the beautiful late afternoon sun.

On Friday, Sept. 23, O.K. and I helped my Mum with some more rearranging and sorting out of things in relation with her and my Dad's room swap. Afterwards, just like the day before I went to the test station and then to hospital. Again, O.K. went to the palace grounds to meet up with me afterwards. This time, my sister joined us, and we spent the rest of the evening together at my place, ordering pizza and enjoying a bottle of red.

I stocked up on groceries on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 24, and then had a leisurely and luxurious breakfast with O.K. The day was rainy, and we had originally planned to go on an all-day canoe trip, but decided against it. Instead, we spent the afternoon in town, browsing the shops and ending up with two pairs of shoes for O.K. and one for me, in view of the coming colder season.

For our evening meal, we had fish & chips at "my" Irish pub.

O.K. had to leave on Sunday, Sept. 25 - our holiday was now over. He left around lunch time, and I started on a little odysee for testing: my usual test station was closed (although they were supposed to be open), the next one only took you on appointment, but the third one finally accepted me so that I could have my (negative) test result in order to be allowed into hospital to see my Dad.

I went home with my Mum for a while afterwards and then spent a quiet evening on my own, watching TV, reading and of course talking to O.K. on the phone. 

In the course of these four days, my Dad had good and not so good times. His condition is still rather unstable and we never really know how we'll find him each day. He knows us and talks to us (most of the time), even joking sometimes, but tires quickly and sometimes drifts in and out of sleep while we are there. The nurses are great; they really look after him very well and do more than their duty, so we know he is in good hands during the many hours we can not be there.

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Odenwald Break: Day 5

Our last day here (Wednesday, Sept. 21) was also the most beautiful, and not just weather-wise. The night had been close to frost at 2 or 3 Celsius, but the morning sun came streaming into our east-facing room, and it remained sunny all day.

Once again, we chose a circuit suggested by the hotel, starting directly from the hotel grounds and into the woods:

Burg Stolzeneck ("castle proud-corner"), another ruined castle in the immediate area, was where we were headed. I was particularly pleased to find that the route took us past the beautiful Neckarblick again, today even more beautiful than the first time we passed there:

A signpost inspired us to a little detour, a narrow path leading to yet another enchanted spot with a well and a place to take a rest:

Going back to the main path - more a lane, really - offered some good views:

Then we rounded another bend and stood in front of the castle:

Like the Minneburg we had visited a few days before, Stolzeneck is partly closed to the public because the walls are crumbling. But what is left of them is still truly impressive, and there is still plenty to see from the outer courtyard.

View from the castle across the Neckar valley

We did not meet a single soul but had the place all to ourselves. After we had explored the ruins as much as we could, we followed the suggested route down a narrow path to the bottom of the valley, reaching the river:


From here, good part of the lane (not open to general traffic and therefore pleasant to walk on) took us along the river, passing the village of Lindach on the other side of the Neckar before reaching Zwingenberg, a small town with yet another impressive castle - this time, lived in and not open to the public.

Zwingenberg castle

Approaching Zwingenberg

A modern suspension bridge links the two sides of the river at this point. We briefly crossed it to have a look at the town, but could not find a place to have coffee in the immediate area and decided to make our way slowly and steadily uphill back towards Neunkirchen.

View from the bridge

Last view of Zwingenberg castle before the lane took us back into the woods
 Up in the woods, we came across this stone house:

It was erected in the 1850s to house tools and workers building the road that now links Neunkirchen and Zwingenberg. Working and living conditions clearly were not exactly pleasant for the men!

Shortly before reaching Neunkirchen again, we came past this nice spot in the sun:

We arrived back at the hotel with 17.3 km under our feet, and still in time for coffee - this time sitting in the sun on the hotel's terrace - before taking a quick turn in the sauna and, eventually, having dinner; our last one here.

It had been a truly wonderful day with a hike very much to my liking, and I was really sorry to have to leave here the next day.

If you wish to know a bit more about Stolzeneck, the link to the wikipedia entry is here, but it is only available in German. The castle was first built around the year 1200 and given up after 1610. In the following centuries, people seem to have simply forgotten about it, until in 1960 the ruins were rediscovered and made accessible.