Category Archives: Rotenburg

This Adventure Made Possible By…

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Anna Maria Esposita for finding us on the side of the road in Salerno, putting up with our feeble attempts at Italian, and magically making our luggage appear out of nowhere.  Maya, for introducing us to AirBnB in the first place…our travels will never be the same.  Our barista in Vietri Sul Mare (thank you for the doughnuts, we hope you made it to Australia!), and our wildly flirtatious maitre d’ (that wine was impressively strong!).  Fernando, for the ride to the Tiber (we’re sorry if we gave the impression that we wanted to boat back to Rome).  Pope Francis for instilling humanity into our visit to the Vatican.  University of Manitoba College of Medicine for changing the direction of our lives while sitting in a Roman burlap tent!  Jamie Pierce, for pointing us in the direction of Cinque Terre in the first place.  Kaya and Aeden for being the best roommates we could have asked for, and Sarah, Alicia, and Stacey for getting lost with us in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  And for the calamari cones.  Genius.  The Lemon Man, for delicious homemade wine with a side of really disgusting jokes, and the Pizza Man for abusing/believing in your employees (either way, you made a pizza in record time, well done!).  Pak Kashmir Doner Kebab for starting a 3-month-long love affair with kebab…and for not judging us when we came back twice in one day.  The Sprachcaffe receptionist for helping two confused travelers find a place to sleep in a language school.  Pietro for being a (very charming) walking encyclopedia of Florentine espionage.  All’antico Vinaio for your legendary sandwiches and free wine refills (no, seriously, it’s for real!).  The lovely couple who shared coffee with us on the train to Venice.  Archie & sons…your front hall will forever evoke in us a sense of oriental mystery.  The kiosco girl (and all of Vienna, for that matter) for your patience as we realized we knew literally NO Deutsch (“Card!…48?”).  The Musikverien Usher for engaging us in a Viennese musical intrigue and, therefore, much better seats!  Our Bulgarian/Brazillian (Bulgrillian?) cellist hostel roommate.  We tried to find you on iTunes but alas we were…so far…but…so close.  The Heinrich and Kress families for welcoming us so generously into your homes (and travel snacks that nearly broke the bus tables!).  Artur & Irina, we feel like we have a real home in Germany thanks to you.  Robert, Christian, and Erwin, we hope we can jam and play Dutch Blitz again one day!  Johannes for an unexpected evening of German tango (we’ll bring our dancing shoes next time).  Julia & your roommate for making us feel so at home in Köln.  Viel Glück to both of you in your new jobs!  Oma for always talking about your home country and inspiring us to retrace your Sunday walks down the Rhine.  Maybe one day we can go back with you!  Linda, dankjewel for your bikes, your lovely attic, and taking a chance on us as your first AirBnBers!  Edwin and Farah, for taking the time to hang out with us even with your wedding being a week away.  Once a WOOFer, always a WOOFer (ps come to Manitoba, we’ll take you to the snake pits!)  The stars, for aligning so perfectly as to allow us to have a lovely lunch with Dorien.  The Alma Dixons for getting us to and from Europe in the first place (Mom, your axiom of ‘would you rather have stuff or memories?’ has successfully stuck with me into adulthood) and for showing us all the places you always talk about.  The Farnham Dixons for a lovely afternoon and some authentically British fish’n’chips (sans mushy peas, thank-you!).  Wendy for taking this whole motley crew into your home and showing us around Glastonbury. Elly for introducing us to your family (I cannot imagine a more adorable kid to blow bubbles with than your granddaughter) and an evening of reminiscing about icebergs and penguins.  Pete & Patricia for the most incredible Welsh hospitality, and for driving us all over the country at all hours of the night.  Mark Hanford for keeping us simultaneously amused and not dead as we threw ourselves off cliffs into the sea (still waiting for those carpets!).  The disembodied Welsh couple whose voices helped us find our way out of the mist and back to the path somewhere on Mount Snowdon.  Jack Johnson, for being you, and for entirely coincidentally being in Paris at the same time as us.  Andréanne, for showing us around your beautiful new Swiss home.  Irene and Martin for sharing so many things with us: your inspiring work and outlook on life and faith, the truly breathtaking landscapes, and yes, the little bears :P.  Andreas and Simone, also for sharing so many things with us (like mother like son, eh?): your friends, your family, your food, your car, your bike…. That night with the giant map (and the many road trips that ensued) is still a memory that we talk about regularly!  Aric and Gabriel, for being as excited about the high-ropes garden as we were and never judging us on our (lack of) Swiss German. Joël for sharing your beautiful pays et famille. Yannick for the best duck I’ve ever tasted, and Hélène for showing us the work you’re doing to help new immigrants become self-sufficient in Toulouse.  Ron, Nicole, Aimée, Sean (and yes, Cougar) for making us recognize the name Carcassonne, even if we’ll never pronounce it properly.  Les Cabys des Taillades (et oui, de Paris aussi!) for sharing your passion for history, many hours of games (we now have our own Möllky set!), French puns, and more wine and cheese than any North American could comprehend.  Mami Caby, for a beautiful afternoon in St. Jean du Gard, and the silk scarf that’s currently on display in our living room.  Isaac and Sylvia of JUCUM Barcelona for the generous hospitality, the 2AM tour of your majestic city, and showing us what we truly believe is the best beach in Europe.  Hind, Nour, and Adam for helping us finish off the bag of snails and confirming everything we’d heard about the welcoming nature of Moroccans.  Nour, of Sahara Desert Crew, for an unforgettable few days of sights and culture unlike anything else we’ve ever seen (also, your mad photography skills. ‘Nuff said.).  Cafe Restaurant Nora, for providing a literal oasis in the desert (Nothing tastes as good as Berber pizza and Berber whiskey at +50C!) The Samnoun family for taking us in when our hostel was suddenly infested with bedbugs, and Bousha for introducing us to the madness of the Medina (and many, many friends ;)…)

And of course, contributions from VIEWERS LIKE YOU!

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Wandering Canadians adopted by German family

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There may not be a formal border crossing anymore (God bless the EU), but it’s impossible not to notice the world changing as you pass from Italy into the Germanic world (first Austria, then Germany itself). Pizzerias are rapidly replaced by metzgerei (butcher shops), portion sizes increase threefold (a very welcome change!), and the feeble linguistic assistance provided by French and Spanish disappears completely.

Yet a mere week in Germany has made us feel more at home here than three weeks in Italy. And much of that has to do with these folks:

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Two years ago, meine Oma (hereafter referred to as Erna) travelled to Germany to reconnect with the many relatives that, for many decades, were living on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Though we knew nobody in Germany personally, Erna’s stories prompted us to send her an email a few months back, asking about these German connections.

She put us in touch with her cousin’s daughter, Irina, who lives with her husband and three sons in Nuremburg, a city rich with history both medieval and modern. We exchanged a few emails and received a very generous invitation to spend a long weekend with them. The only note of apprehension was found at the end of the last email: “I don’t speak any English. I’ve been using a translation program this whole time”.

With three hours left til our arrival, therefore, Sara and I cozied around the iPad on the train and frantically tried to learn as much Deutsch as we could. We got through lessons 1-8 of 85, and got really good at talking about the weather, when suddenly we were in Nuremburg.

We were overcome once again by what we’ve come to call ‘blind date jitters,’ but we were comforted by our Argentine experiences. Family is family, and language barriers are nothing compared to sincere smiles and non-verbal appreciation of good food.

We stepped off the train, disoriented as usual upon entering a new country, only to be immediately greeted by a very friendly couple, who turned out to be Irina and her husband Artur. They walked us to their Volkswagen van and drove us to their beautiful home in the nearby town of Burgfarrnbach, serendipitously speaking in perfectly understandable English (I guess their definition of ‘no English’ was a little less literal than our definition of ‘no Deutsch’).

For the next few days, we no longer felt like backpackers, but like family. We exchanged family histories since our ancestors had parted ways in the interwar years (Artur was born in Uzbekistan, and both of them grew up speaking Russian before finally being allowed back into Germany in the early ’90s!), ate every German delicacy imaginable (Attention mennonite family back home: they put mincemeat in their rollküchen, and it’s AWESOME!), and met more wonderful relatives. The rest of them did not speak as much English, but between their Russian, Sara’s Ukrainian, and sampling of many local brews, we were able to communicate just fine.

Family dinners cooked by Oma need no translation!

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Another lovely family lunch, this time with Irina’s brother, sister-in-law, and their two kids.

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They also took it upon themselves to acquaint us with the historical significance of the area. Nuremburg is known worldwide as the site of the Nuremburg trials, in which Hitler’s inner circle was tried and convicted. What we didn’t know was that this site was chosen because Nuremburg had been the capital of Hitler’s rise to power before the war. Holding the trials here in this city, therefore, was not only a final slap in the face to the Nazi regime, but also a form of healing for Nuremburgers seeking to move on.

Originally a landing pad for zeppelins, this massive square became the site of Hitler’s rallies, immortalized in black & white videos of goose-stepping soldiers. Today the power of evil has been replaced with something more wholesome: skateboarders and a hockey arena.

Hitler's podium

Posted at the former rally grounds, this image dramatically captures fascism’s failure.

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Courtroom 600, in which many Nazi leaders were tried and convicted.

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The concept of trying world leaders for crimes of global scale was born at Nuremburg, and now continues here in The Hague, Netherlands, at the International Peace Palace. Though we’ve jumped forward a few days now in our travels, this picture belongs here with the theme of ‘power paying tribute to justice’, as Chief Attorney Robert Jackson put it at the Nuremburg trials.

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And finally, to lighten the mood, an earlier bit of history from when people were slightly less destructive and a lot more ridiculous:

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The medieval town of Rotenburg, one of our day trips with the Heinrich family, showcases a piece of their history in their central clock tower. Every day at noon, these mannequins remind us of the legendary mayor of this German town, who agreed to humiliate himself by drinking three liters of French wine in exchange for his town NOT being burned down by the French army. On a potentially related note, this region of Germany now has a booming local wine industry. Way to take one for the team, buddy.

Heinrich & Kress family, vielen dank for an incredible long weekend. You made us feel so at home. Our apartment is pretty small, but we’ll fit all of you in if you ever have a chance to come to Winnipeg! And ps. There are lots of eichhörnchen in Winnipeg too!! 😉

20140613-011507-4507274.jpg20140613-011510-4510236.jpgRoad trip snacks packed by Irina and Oma Lillia: yes, that is a panful of homemade perogies and a tub of sour cream (and two bags of beljaschi and a massive bag of Russian chocolates and apples and tomatoes and cookies and…) These people must be family!!!