May 26th – June 1st 2014
Day 274 saw us waving good bye to our good friends in Cluj Napoca, Romania, and boarding the budget Wizz flight to Dortmund, Germany. There we caught a train to Bochum to be met by our new couchsurfing hosts Freiderike and Constanze. We soon realised that although we had replied to Charlotte, this would be a family affair and we were thrilled to be a part of this welcoming family, if only for a night.
Freiderike kindly took our luggage by car as we took the opportunity to explore with her daughter Constanze. First we passed through Bochum’s pretty town centre and then through the expansive Bochum Stadtpark. The boys were thrilled to chase rabbits on the lush green lawns.
Soon we were in a beautifully renovated, old home and hung up our raincoats to sit down to a sumptuous welcome of hot drinks and treats. This great hospitality continued as we met the rest of the family and were soon deep in conversation as a BBQ was being prepared, despite the drizzle. I enjoyed hearing the travel stories, publishing accomplishments, au pair tales and exploits of the sisters. Graham helped form the men’s group and tend the BBQ with Paul. Soon all nine of us were round the table and it was a fabulous end to a lovely day.
The boys loved playing Jenga and Sagalands with the girls and it seemed all too soon that Freiderike and Constanze were treating us to ice-creams back in town and waving us off at the station.
In Dusseldorf we stayed with our long time friend, Elbert. Our first old friend since we had left Pune, India – back in December 2013.
Prunella had first met Elbert whilst travelling solo in Kununurra, Australia in 1995. He was from Holland and travelling around too after having done a stint of work in Leonora. Their initial meeting had been less than an hour, but we met again when we passed through Koln, Germany in 2000. Then Elbert was single and working as a Mining Engineer. Now fourteen years later, here we were at his home in Dusseldorf.
In Derendorf, we were embraced warmly by his wife Sarah and charmed by their lovely children. Their daughter took a while to warm to a gaggle of boys but eventually they were laughing, limboing and dancing together. The newest edition to the family is six month old Felix, so we were honoured to have a big Felix and a little Felix in the house.
Here we really managed to relax and be part of a family home. The boys indulged in shared toys, art, gardening and jumping on the trampoline. We took in the local sights including the old town, The Rhein shore, Median Hafen (harbour) and enjoyed the panorama up the Rheinturm (viewing tower).
We ate herring rolls, a huge schnitzel, drank local brews, made sandcastles, went swimming, enjoyed a romantic evening at an Irish pub, explored the harbour and ate bratwurst by the Rhine river. We had a go at cooking, prepared an outdoor breakfast and even volunteered for a night’s baby sitting – which we enjoyed as much as our friends did. We were all denied a hug as the taxi suddenly appeared and we were whisked away, but we all felt the sadness and are sure it will not be as long til we meet again.
It was so wonderful renewing old connections and being in Germany. Now we were truly back on familiar ground in central Europe and things are comfortably recognisable.
Three hundred and fifty kilometres later we were in Karlsruhe being picked up by our first BeWelcome host, Alex. Alex and Sonja are proud parents of two seventeen year old identical twins, a nine year old, another set of six year old twins and are also hosting a french teenager. So nine boys and four adults in a home together – quite an experience.
Soon the children were constructing complicated toy train tracks together and we were packing for a BBQ in their lovely renovated 300 year old home in Oberweier. The children enjoyed frolicking in the high grass and climbing trees. The adults and teenagers enjoyed the warm sunshine with light beer and a feast of food.
The next day, Alex and his three youngest sons took us on a wonderful day excursion. First the train to Karlsruhe, where we were lucky to glimpse a vintage steam train, then to Baden Baden. A thrill for all to take the cog train up to Merkurberg for spectacular views. A hike down through the Black Forest, Ice creams in the town centre and then back home to watch a DVD and dinner for thirteen.
Just the start of our many adventures in Oberweier…