S: Suzette and ShaRee's Whirlwind Trip of Europe
FC: Europe 2011
1: The trip of a lifetime! | Germany Holland Belgium France
2: The Kretzing family met us at the airport and then gave us a quick tour of Hamburg, Germany. We had our first taste of beautiful European food and architecture. Calvin and Brandon were happy to be reunited.
4: After a short trip, (including a flat tire,) on the Audubon, we arrived in Bad Iburg, where Silke, Klaus and Calvin cooked us a delicious gourmet meal.
5: Silke and Phil took us to nearby Osnabruek the next morning, where we sampled the bakeries and enjoyed the sights.
6: Not only were we greeted by the Mayor, but two local reporters from different newspapers showed up as well! They followed us around all afternoon, interviewing and snapping photos. | Besides a few satellite dishes, Drewer is stuck in time. With only 700 residents, it is very quiet and rural, oozing charm and history. | After our Osnabruek tour, the Kreztings kindly drove us through picturesque countryside to a small town called Drewer. Suzette had done some research and found out that this was the ancestral home of the Bruggemans.
7: A fun landmark in the town is the "Goose Watcher." On it is inscribed the town motto which loosely translated means "The way you raise the goose is how the goose behaves." | A highlight of our tour was a visit to the actual Bruggeman property. A dairy once stood on this plot of land, but none of the original buildings remain. | The holy grail of our Drewer visit was the "Vogel-faengers Kreuz" or "Bird catcher's Cross," erected by Hermann and Sophie Brugge-man in 1891 before they emigrated to America. It is now a protected national monument.
9: After our lovely day in Drewer, we drove to spend a luxurious and unique night in the Schnellenberg Castle. This castle, which is mentioned in records for the first time in 1222, reigns over the green hills of the Sauerland region of Germany. We took a tour, which gave us a glimpse of life in the Middle Ages and enjoyed a fantastic German meal in the Gothic restaurant.
10: After three amazing days in Germany, we left Brandon with the Kretzings, hopped a train for the first of many train rides and zipped to Holland - first stop Amsterdam. This was the most quaint and charming city we had ever seen. With the tall, narrow buildings built like sardines in a can with no space between, an endless series of canals, and bikes, bikes and more bikes, there is no other place like it in the world.
11: We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast called "Tulipa." While in Amsterdam, we toured the Anne Frank Museum, the Van Gough Museum and the Rijks Museum.
12: Both of us love of the inspirational book The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom, which takes place in Haarlem, Netherlands during WWII. So, a visit to Haarlem and the actual "hiding place" from our favorite book was a must on our itinerary. Haarlem had a busy downtown center with fun clothing boutiques, bakeries and shops. We even stumbled upon a few busy red light windows when we got lost among the tall buildings (at least that's the story we're sticking with). But, Haarlem was much smaller and more peaceful than the busy, crazy Amsterdam.
13: Another highlight of our day in Haarlem was having the privilege of hearing a professional organ concert in a magnificent cathedral in the center of town. We felt as close to heaven as we could be while on this earth. Spectacular! The organ is arguably the largest in Europe and has been played by many famous musicians over the years, including Mozart.
14: We left the Netherlands and took a train to Brussels, Belgium. Brussels is a major, bustling cosmopolitan city- actually quite intimidating, but beautiful nonetheless. It was interesting to see the old rubbing shoulders with the new. | There was a strong WWI presence with many statues and memorials, reminding one of Belgium's important role in the path to freedom. | We stayed in a fanciful boutique hotel (above) called the Manos Stephanie. | This Peter Pan statue was in a beautiful park full of flowers.
15: From Brussels, we took a short ride to Brugge. Many of the cities we visited are old, but Brugge is really old ~ permanently settled in the first century B.C. The fact that the medieval architecture is still intact is what makes Brugge so spectacular. | Brugge is known as the "Chocolate City" and is the source and center of all the Belgian chocolate. There is literally a chocolate shop on every corner, and this is no ordinary chocolate: "Confections of Perfection!" Brugge is also considered the "lace capital" of Europe.
16: We stayed at the Hotel D'Argouges in the heart of the city. Above, ShaRee is standing in front of the hotel, and the picture to the right is of the building that housed our room in the back of the hotel. Isn't it so beautiful?! | For the last leg of our journey, we went to Bayeux, France to visit the sights and pay our respects where so many of our Greatest Generation gave the ultimate sacrifice when Allied forces stormed the beaches during World War II. Bayeux was the first city in the Battle of Normandy to be liberated. | One morning across the street from our hotel, vendors were setting up their wares for a farmer's market. It was fun to see the variety of goods and animals for sale. | The heart of Bayeux is this magnificent cathedral. Of the many cathedrals we saw across Europe, this was the most amazing. How did they build that??? | This small train station was memorable because we had to jump off while the train was still moving! | One morning across the street from our hotel, vendors were setting up their wares for a farmer's market. It was fun to see the variety of goods and animals for sale. | The heart of Bayeux is this magnificent cathedral. Of the many cathedrals we saw across Europe, this was the most amazing. How did they build that??? | This small train station was memorable because we had to jump off while the train was still moving!
17: From the beach looking up you can see the remains of German bunkers. It's obvious how exposed the men coming on shore were and what easy targets they would have been. | After we visited Omaha Beach, we spent some time walking the beautiful grounds of the US Cemetery on the hilltop above Omaha Beach. | All of the trees in the cemetery have the tops cut off to represent "a life cut short". | One stop during our D-Day tour was Point du Hoc. Here, the elite Rangers climbed the cliffs and debilitated German artillery, saving thousands of lives. | Omaha Beach was the landing point for the Allied entrance into World War II. What a privilege it was to stand on this hallowed ground and visualize the sights, smells and sounds of the invasion and to get a small taste of what it might have been like that day. | From the beach looking up you can see the remains of German bunkers. It's obvious how exposed the men coming on shore were and what easy targets they would have been. | After we visited Omaha Beach, we spent some time walking the beautiful grounds of the US Cemetery on the hilltop above Omaha Beach. | All of the trees in the cemetery have the tops cut off to represent "a life cut short". | One stop during our D-Day tour was Point du Hoc. Here, the elite Rangers climbed the cliffs and debilitated German artillery, saving thousands of lives. | Omaha Beach was the landing point for the Allied entrance into World War II. What a privilege it was to stand on this hallowed ground and visualize the sights, smells and sounds of the invasion and to get a small taste of what it might have been like that day.
18: July 29th – Friday We traveled and traveled and traveled (18 hours!).... safely and well. It was a strange feeling to fly into the Paris airport as the sun was coming up, knowing it was in the middle of the night back home. The Charles de Gaulle Airport was sprawling, huge, and seemingly random and unorganized. We traveled on a tram from one building to the next and then found we were at the wrong place. Suz asked a beautiful Parisian airport worker where we should go. She simply glared at us. Suz asked again if she would just point us in the right direction to our gate. She gave us another “Talk to the hand” look, and simply pointed to the right. She never said a word. Our fears were realized in all that people had told us about the French not liking Americans.... Luckily our German friends were exactly the opposite and are so thrilled to have us here with them. Klaus, Silke, Cavlin and Phil met us at the Hamburg Airport, and we loved them from the first minute. Though exhausted and jet-lagged, we were wide-eyed when we got our first glimpse of what was in store for us- a literal feast for the senses in downtown Hamburg, a city of around 2 million, to have our first taste. Wow! Hamburg's history is rooted in the harbor and trade industry. Many people emigrating to America from Europe left from this port. A few other facts about Hamburg are that it is a major transportation hub, one of the most affluent cities in Europe and a major tourist destination. It suffered British air raids during WWII which devastated much of the city and harbor. We actually saw a cathedral which had been damaged by bombs and never repaired. We also saw a river running through the town and ate delicious German food. The streets in the cities are often narrow and windy, but the drivers don't seem to have any trouble maneuvering through. On the two hour drive to the Kretzing's home town of Bad Iburg, we had a flat tire. This incident only temporarily held us up on our journey. However, we were on the infamous Audubon, with cars speeding by quite fast. When we finally arrived, the Kretzings warmly welcomed us into their lovely home, and we had an AMAZING gourmet dinner awaiting us. Klaus, now a bakery consultant, used to be a professional chef and owned his own restaurant. The traditional German food we ate at the Kretzing's house was incredible. Silke is an event planner, (a.k.a. the Martha Stewart of Germany.) She had an amazing table set for us with beautiful handmade floral arrangements and decorations. July 30th – Saturday We went on a tour this morning of Bad Iburg and Osnabruek, (which is a slightly larger town within 20 minutes of where we are staying.) The cobblestone streets, colorful houses and beautiful German architecture were very charming, and I really enjoyed everything. We saw no buildings built with wood. Everything is built with brick and stone, and many of the buildings are very old. In Bad Iburg, we drove up to a castle that was simply beautiful. Vines climbed the stone walls, and turrets and towers overlooked the city. We didn't tour inside because we will be staying in another castle tonight. Silke was our guide, and 11-year old Phil came along too. What a sweet boy he is. (Brandon and Calvin stayed behind.) He didn't seem to mind going from shop to shop and taking our time as we took in all the beautiful sights. Downtown Osnabruek was so fun, with chocolate shops, bakeries, clothing stores, butchers and even a cell phone store. We watched three newly-married couples come out of an historic building in the town square: One couple was very traditional looking, another was quite modern looking, and the third was Gothic-style. Some other things we enjoyed in Osnabruek were the sweet shops and bakeries, street museums and old churches. Before leaving the house this morning we ate a HUGE Bavarian breakfast. Bratwurst, liverwurst, various sliced meats and bacon were all served, along with amazing fresh breads, eggs and strawberries. We ate enough for two days!! We are now preparing to go to Drewer, (rhymes with Beaver), to see some Bruggeman ancestry sites. July 31 - Sunday Drewer was green and picturesque. It looked like it came straight out of a storybook. We didn't know there was such a beautiful place in the world. Silke had arranged for a guide to walk us around town, so we were expecting him. What we weren't expecting were the two newspaper reporters who arrived with the guide to document the tour of the town. Apparently it was big news to have an American coming to search out her ancestry in this small town. Suz rose to the challenge very well. The story goes that one of the Bruggeman ancestors had a farm in Drewer. They wanted to travel to America, but did not have enough money. So, they burned down their home to collect on the insurance money and travel to America. Before they left Drewer, they constructed a large cross and inscribed dates and names on it. A metal likeness of the body of Christ is also on the cross. It is now a national monument and cannot be disturbed. We saw this crucifix in Drewer, in someone's beautifully green yard. The guide pointed out that the property was the original Bruggeman property. It was a special, spiritual experience to be there.
19: We also saw other noteworthy sites in this beautiful corner of Germany, such as the Saint Hubert's Chapel erected in 1737, and the "Goose Watcher," which is a carved stone picture of a boy following a gaggle of geese. On it is inscribed the town motto which loosely translated means "The way you raise the goose is how the goose behaves." We saw the Drewer "wappen" or flag in the center of a may pole, (a common feature of all German towns). The flag has three houses representing the three original farmers and is green for agriculture. The town wappen is surrounded by wappens of all the local clubs and organizations. The Kretings drove us to Drewer, (only a two-hour drive from Bad Iburg,) and served as companions and interpreters. Silke speaks English very well, despite not having much practice with it. Klaus speaks well enough to communicate, and Phil can speak some. He studies English in school. Calvin speaks flawless English, having spent a year in Great Falls. Overall, Drewer was amazing. Suzette was led by the Spirit to visit this beautiful place, and even Paris could not have compared. After Drewer, we drove a couple of hours through the gorgeous German countryside, through mountains, picturesque villages and by lakes. As we were driving, we asked Silke to play some German music for us to listen to. Imagine our surprise when she put in a CD that was “Big Yellow Taxi” sung in German! Much of the music we heard on the radio was American music, sometimes sung in English and sometimes sung in German. We arrived at the largest, highest castle in Germany called Burg Schnellenberg. This castle, mentioned in records for the first time in 1222, reigns over the green hills of the Sauerland region of Germany. The past is still to be seen represented today by the high rising watch towers, the powerful stone archways, the heavy iron-fitted doors and the treasure chamber with medieval objects of interest. In 1594 the castle with its whole estate became the property of Caspar of Fuerstenberg and has since then been owned by the family. It is now a charming hotel and restaurant for the adventurous guest. The gourmet restaurant is very fancy and the food absolutely delicious. After dinner, we girls were getting ready for bed. All of a sudden, we heard Silke call from the bathroom, “Help, please!” ShaRee went in to look, and Silke was standing almost naked, pointing down. She had a tick burrowed deep in her, um, leg, and needed help. This was definitely a job for Suz, so ShaRee called, “Suz, help, please!!” She came in, high on recently taken sleeping pills, and started digging with a needle that we found, with ShaRee assisting as nurse. Poor Silke held up well under the discomfort and pain, but she did protest a bit when Suz kept digging for that last little bit of tick. Suz wouldn't hear of it: “I've almost got it! One more minute!” She did the best she could and we all settled down to sleep. This morning we had a delicious breakfast and then went on a short tour of the castle. One could just picture King Arthur and his knights living there. We came back to Bad Iburg this morning and Klaus took us girls on a beautiful hike up a steep hill near their home. At the top, there was a tower that we climbed where we could see for miles in every direction. There are no mountains here; everything is quite flat except for some hills here and there. The landscape is similar to Nebraska, green everywhere and lots of corn fields. The hike took us through some pine forests with lots of wild flowers everywhere. We stopped at a small vegetable shop today, where the owner and his wife grow and sell produce. There were four hoop-houses, and they were filled from top to bottom with tomatoes of all varieties. In addition to the hoop-houses, there were other traditional vegetable and flower gardens. A quaint store housed the produce, homemade jams, and other handmade items. This has been a great experience for going out-of-country for the first time. The comfort level is the same, (meaning air conditioning, vehicles, etc.,) and we have been able to stay with local Germans who speak English and show us intimate, out-of-the way places. Tomorrow morning we leave on a train to go to Amsterdam, so we will see how well we do alone.... The Kretzing family has been so good to us, and we are impressed with the love and devotion they have for each other. Silke has gone above and beyond to provide us with an enjoyable experience. She is a lot like Suz, with high energy and much creativity. Klaus is one of the most patient, kind, affectionate man we've ever met. Calvin seems mature for his 18 years and Phil is sweet and has a great laugh. We enjoyed spending time with Phil tonight when the older boys and Silke and Klaus went to other engagements. Suz turned on the “interpreter” function on my phone and had a conversation with Phil. We tried playing games, but mostly Suz and Phil teased back and forth. Phil has a special cat named Ginny, from Harry Potter. Suz loves cats, too, and kept teasing him that she was going to steal her. We had great fun. We learned two interesting facts about Germany: 1 – Hunters must buy a tag to shoot rabbits. 2 – When someone dies, their body is buried for 35 years and then dug up and replaced with a different casket. As a result, we found no Bruggeman headstones in Drewer.
20: August 1 - Monday Last night, Ginny climbed up on Suz and slept with her all night! Phil insisted it was because that was his bed, but Suz continued telling him she was going to pack Ginny in her suitcase and bring her home. We made it to Amsterdam on a train. It was a bit nerve-racking leaving the security of the Kretzing family, but also very exciting. Most people we have approached to ask for help have spoken English, so that has really helped. We are now stopped at a little pancake shop while waiting to check in to our bed and breakfast. The pancakes look like crepes in America, and you can get all kinds of toppings on them, such as fruit, eggs, etc. August 2 - Tuesday Amsterdam is the most quaint and charming city we've ever seen. With the tall, narrow buildings built like sardines in a can with no space between, an endless series of canals and bikes, bikes and more bikes, there is no other place like it in the world. Amsterdam was settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, and as a result of innovative developments in trade, became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age. Now it is one of the most heavily touristed cities in Europe. We had a hard time yesterday finding our bed and breakfast, (called Tulipa,) because to us newcomers, every street looks the same as all the others, and they are diagonal, straight, curved, and everything in between. Once we found Tulipa, we were charmed by it. A man named Jan and his wife run it. The winding iron staircase is fun, and the breakfast was delicious. The downstairs stinks, though. That has been a common thing in Europe so far is the ever-present sewer smell. It's never overpowering, but usually lurking in the background. We hand-washed our clothes here, stringing up the bailing twine I brought from the farm. We didn't bring much luggage, only a backpack and a carry-on suitcase. We had a hard time navigating around the city all day too, but as a result we were able to take some “scenic” routes. Here is an example of a street name: Egelantersgracht. Amsterdam is filled with many canals running through the city. In fact, we read that there are more canals here than in Venice, Italy. We paid for a canal ride and were somewhat disappointed that there was no commentary, just a boat ride. The scenery was fun, though, and we got a feel for the city. We've decided that the Netherlands is the land of the tall, blonde and beautiful. Never before have we seen so many attractive people in one small, spectacular space. We, (especially Suz), have also been impressed by the will-dressed people, including men. We've seen very few grungy jeans and tee-shirts. The only strange custom (to us) is the thin scarves that the men wear. We went to an outdoor flower and shopping bazaar and bought some bulbs there. We are here too late in the year to see the famous tulip fields, but we did see lots and lots of bulbs and seeds. This is also the city of legalized prostitution and drugs, so along with the beauty there are also some places we definitely want to avoid. Suz did try to find the famous “red light” district where prostitutes stand in the window selling their “wares" while ShaRee waited on a corner for her. We felt nervous being apart, especially when Suz had a hard time finding her way back. I don't think we'll separate any more... We waited in a long line to tour the Anne Frank museum. It was worth the wait. The museum is in the actual house where Anne and her family hid for two years. The magazine pictures that she taped to her wall are still there. It was a somber place. We also went to the Rijks Museum, which is world-famous and holds many well-known masterpieces of art. There were many examples of Delft pottery, which is the traditional Dutch patter with white pieces and blue decoration. There were also many paintings by noteworthy artists such as Rembrant and Vermeer. We loved this place. August 3 - Wednesday One of the truly unique things about Amsterdam is transportation. Most people ride bikes, and there are thousands and thousands of bikes everywhere. Instead of parking garages for cars, there are parking garages for bikes. These are not fancy, expensive bikes, but old and run-down bikes that are literally piled all together. We are not sure how one would find his bike after parking it in one of these large garages. We have seen old people, couples, mothers with babies, and young people riding bikes, and they are often multitasking. One person was drinking coffee; another was holding a ladder. I guess they have been doing it for so many generations that it is as easy as walking. It runs very deep in their culture. In addition to bikes, there are cars and pedestrians, and all three modes of transportation share the same space. We have to watch very carefully where we step. Oh – and the tram is also involved, going very fast. The tram is convenient to ride if you can figure out where to get off, but it's not real smooth. Also, we've had a hard time figuring out how to pay on the tram. It's a loose system that way. The vehicles that are here in the city are small, economical cars. We've not seen any SUV's or pickups. Only on the Audubon did we see big trucks. Perhaps
21: in the more industrialized part of this city there are bigger vehicles, but here in the touristy part there are not. Some of the vehicles are no bigger than a four-wheeler, and they seem to park in random places. There are not stop signs on the side streets. Vehicles just pause, look, and go. A tourist on a bike ran into Suz, went on a little further and then crashed. Yesterday afternoon we took a train to Haarlem, which is ten miles away from Amsterdam. Our motivation in going there was to visit the house of Corrie ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place. This has long been a favorite book of ours, and we felt great reverence visiting there. The tour was very personal and non-commercial, with a strong Christian theme. Suz and I stood inside the actual hiding place. We missed Mom here because she loves the book too. We very much enjoyed this experience. Haarlem was a charming town, and we fell in love with it right away. It has the beautiful Dutch architecture and quaint shops on a smaller, quieter scale than Amsterdam. We enjoyed an interesting conversation with a local man at dinner who was at the table next to us. He explained that the Dutch build with brick and stone because fires have destroyed so many wooden buildings through the years. “Do you remember the story of the 3 Little Pigs?” he asked us with a smile. He said Dutch people generally like Obama and he made fun of the obesity problem we have in America. It was interesting to talk to a local man. We also spoke with a lady who was strapping her baby into a seat at the front of her bike. She didn't even own a car, and just carried bags of groceries with her on the bike, in rain or shine. We stayed in Haarlem until evening so we could attend an organ concert in a huge cathedral called the Gret Kerk, or the Great Church. The music was absolutely heavenly; the organist is a professional and he was very impressive. The only disappointment was that he was behind the great organ and we could not watch him play. Suz especially loved the “exposed” cherubs and small angels which decorated the organ. They added an extra flair. On our way back to the train station, we made a wrong turn and accidentally walked down a watered down version of the red light district. ShaRee sped up and kept walking. Suz slowed down, waved at a prostitute and gave her a thumbs up sign. How fun it is that we are very different and still such good friends! This morning we checked out of our bed and breakfast, said goodbye to Jan, (pronounced Yon,) and walked in the rain to the Van Gough museum. (We enjoyed a visit with a British couple at breakfast.) Vincent Van Gough was a self-taught, troubled artist whose works did not become famous until after he died (of suicide at age 37.) Van Gough's bold, bright colors and thick, textured paintings are brilliant. We looked for a post card to buy in the gift shop as we left, but became discouraged because the prints were so much less than the originals. Vincent's brother Theo looked after him throughout his life and they were very close. They died six months apart. Thursday, August 4 Arriving in Brussels was a bit of a shock last night. We took a taxi from the train station and the driver totally took advantage of us by taking a longer route and not even starting the meter. A E10 ride cost E20. That left a bad taste in our mouth. The Manor Stefanie where we are staying is nice, but not exactly what Suz had hoped for. The hallway to our room was dark, the elevator very small, and by the time we made it to our room we both felt worried for the first time the whole trip. Once we prayed, got out on the streets and ate the amazing food, we felt better again. We wandered the cobblestone streets, perused the shops and visited several WWI and WWII monuments. Because Belgium is so small and surrounded by larger countries on all sides, it has had some trouble over the years with countries wanting to dominate. One particularly moving monument showed marching soldiers on horses being protected by angels. Under the monument was a tomb, similar to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. Brussels is a mix of beautiful old buildings, churches and palaces and new, modern businesses, companies and houses. It has more of a New York feel to it and was a bit intimidating at first. But, the food (and chocolate) made up for it! We stopped at a nice place to eat last night. As we stood, trying to decide which outdoor cafe' to go to, the maitre d' came over to us, gave Suz a big kiss on the cheek and seated us at a table. That decided for us! The food was delicious. ShaRee had chicken with a tarragon sauce and Suz had a dish with mussels and veggies and creme brule for dessert. We struck up a conversation with a couple sitting next to us who were native Belgians and lived in Brussels. They told us that they have a king as their ruler, but he does not have all-power. The economy in Brussels is not good and they commented also on America being broke. The man asked us about Mormons, and he was surprised because he thought we still dressed like pioneers and drove horse and buggy. Suz mentioned that there are Mormons all over the world, and they are modern in their own countries. He commented on her bright, red hair and said, “Yes. You are very modern!” He then gave us his business card and said to call if we needed body guards.
22: This morning we wandered around the shops a bit again. (We have both been impressed with the modest, beautiful clothing here. On the other hand, we saw a bare lady on a magazine cover. It seems to be all or nothing when it comes to fashion.) After a bit of browsing, we headed to the train station to go to Brugge. As we were trying to find our way to the Midi train station in Brussels, Suz suddenly squealed and pointed. On a little office building nestled among many others was a huge sign with Jesu' Christ in large letters. It was a sign for “The Church of Jesus Christ” in French or Flemish. That was a fun find. Brugge is the chocolate capital of the world, and is also known for its lace. Wow. There were probably 100 chocolate shops in the small area we walked around. The majority of the small shops sold hand-made chocolates. We stopped at the first shop we came upon and bought a mild chocolate truffle. We thought we had gone to heaven! It was by far the best chocolate we've ever had and was handmade in that shop. We don't know if it's possible to get sick of chocolates from eating too much, but we've been trying all day. So far, we're still in love with it. We went to the Memling Museum, which is a Medieval Castle with many artifacts and belongings from that time period still intact. A huge iron pot in a fireplace that was the length of the room stood out, as did the guillotine. There were also some beautiful New Testament carvings, statues and reliefs. The Catholic feeling is very strong. There are many historic old churches in Brugge, but the premiere church is the one called “The Church of Our Lady.” In this church is a marble Michelangelo statue called “Madonna and Child.” Seeing this was a very moving experience. It is said that Michelangelo only polished the statues he thought were perfect, and he polished this one. The beauty of the work combined with the subject matter created a memorable visit. The whole church had many beautiful paintings, statues and wood carvings. The cathedral itself was amazing in its architecture. Music was playing in the church also, which added much to the spirit of the place. We wanted to buy some real lace while in Brugge, so we tried to find a shop as suggested in Rick Steve's book. It was raining and ShaRee was navigating, which was a bad combination. We saw some really old, beautiful windmills, but did not find the lace shop until Suz started doing the leading. We were soaking wet and the map was ruined when we finally got there. However, we took some roads less traveled, and got to see more of the town. The lace was detailed and beautiful, and ranged in price according to quality and difficulty in making. Everything in the shop was hand-made with shuttles, which is a fading art. The shop and lace were worth the “scenic route” walk in the rain. The town square in Brugge is incredibly picturesque and bigger-than-life. The clock tower plays beautiful clarion music, and the square is bordered on one side by a canal and another by large brick and stone buildings. The clip-clop of horses' hooves can be heard on the cobblestone streets as drivers give tours around the city. This town has had the most tourists so far, with throngs of people in the main part of town. Only when we began “wandering” did we leave the crowds of people. Much of the old part of the city is still as it was in medieval times. We could imagine Guinevere and King Arthur as we wandered through castles and cobblestone streets. It is a truly Gothic city. We returned to Brussels late that night and needed somewhere to eat. Most places were closed, but a tiny café' across the street was still open. We went there for lack of any other choices, but as it turned out, our dinner was one of the best we'd had all week. The tuna steak was especially delicious. The couple next to us during dinner were model gorgeous, especially the woman. August 7 - Sunday Friday morning we got on a train at the Midi/Zuid Station in Brussels. We had to get off the train in Paris, take a tram and then find a different train station. We had about one hour to get on the next train. We made it, but only after asking for help along the way and experiencing some stress. Suz asked a Parisian lady for help. Remember our experience in the Paris airport with the non-helpful airport attendant? Well, this lady in the train station redeemed the Parisian people for us. She did not speak English very well, but understood our need. Instead of pointing out where we needed to go, she personally led us to the right tram, up the escalator, and to the train station. How grateful we were! We rode the train for much of the day. The French countryside was beautiful, with lots of farm land, stone buildings, large round hay bales and livestock. When the train stopped at Bayeux, France, we needed to get off there. Some people were blocking the aisle in front of us, taking their time getting off luggage, etc. It was obvious they were even more uninformed than we were. Darn American tourists! :) By the time they finally started down the aisle, the doors had closed and the train had started moving.We had to throw our
23: luggage out onto the platform and then jump off after it. Trains only stop for about 3 minutes to allow people to board and depart. They wait for no one, and are almost always on time as a result. So, despite rustled feathers and some unwanted stress, we made it off the train. (It makes a great story now.) A taxi driver picked us up at the very small train station in Bayeux. He spoke English very well, (as did so many people we've met,) and he was a native Frenchman from Bayeux. Our bed and breakfast was absolutely beautiful and comfortable. Climbing ivy mostly covered the front of a sturdy stone building, and flower gardens surrounded the compound. We were well taken care of. We love the “Bonjour, Madame,” everywhere you go. After getting settled, we spent Friday afternoon exploring Bayeux. The highlights here were another amazing cathedral, (our favorite one so far,) and a large tapestry. There were lots of fun shops and cafe's. D-Day happened near here, so much of the tourist advertising relates to World War II. We got up early Saturday morning and had a few minutes to experience a delightful outdoor market across the street from our hotel. All kinds of things were for sale there: Eels, live rabbits, clothing, food of all kinds, and much more. We wished we had more time to peruse the goods. (We tried a market like this in Amsterdam but were very disappointed in that one.) Jules Vernon, our tour guide, picked us up precisely at eight o'clock to take us on an all-day D-Day tour. Nine people including the guide went in one van. Jules was British and spoke English, but we had a harder time understanding him than anyone else we've met on this trip. His accent was thick, and he spoke very fast. His knowledge on the subject was vast and varied, which also added to his excitement and speed. Jules and Suz hit it off well. He loaned her his jacket for the day because it was quite chilly and she was fighting a cold, and by the end of the day they vowed to become facebook friends. We visited many sites throughout the day, including Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, an old farm house that was important to the troops, and Point du Hoc. The accomplishments of the of the elite band of Rangers were amazing; they scaled a huge cliff and took out several German guns and men. The guns would have been used to kill thousands of troops if they had been left unchecked. We visited the American military cemetery, where over 9000 vets are buried. The soldiers' families had the choice to have the bodies sent home to be buried or be buried in France. The cemetery was a sad and humbling place. Evergreen oaks line the walkways. These trees were brought from America and are constantly pruned to keep them looking nice. 40 man-hours are used for the upkeep of one tree. The tops are chopped flat to signify young lives cut short. The beaches were very special, and we felt like we were standing on sacred ground. So many things went wrong on that fateful day, and the odds were not in our favor. But, with persistence, determination and divine intervention, the troops were able to land. That was just the beginning of the struggle, but it was very crucial. We stopped to eat lunch in a little French town that housed a paratrooper museum. (The baguette sandwich for lunch was so good...) A well-known story is told about a paratrooper that got his parachute stuck on the steeple of this little town. A “dummy” paratrooper is still hanging from his parachute, which is stuck on the steeple. As we were visiting the museum, Suz started talking to a British veteran in front of us in line. He was orphaned when he was young, so lied about his age and entered the military at age 16. (He is now 83.) In the few minutes we talked with him, this humble man told of unbelievable circumstances that he witnessed. He was with a group of military that liberated the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. When they arrived, dead bodies were stacked on top of each other like wood, and some of the people who were still alive were eating other people. When the Allied troops entered the concentration camp, a German officer hid for fear of being killed by the prisoners. He was trying to get the attention of the allied soldiers to surrender, but the prisoners spotted him first. They swarmed on him like flies and ripped him apart in their rage and anger. As we listened to this veteran, we were amazed with his sharp mind and quick wit. We asked him if he had any of his stories recorded on tape or paper. He dismissed that idea, saying that others had done much more important things than he had. This made us both very sad, and we urged him to record his stories. He mentioned that it bothered him to see the museum be such a lucrative business, making profit off of others' difficulties and misfortunes. I learned a great deal about June 6, 1944 and I enjoyed the tour very much. Instead of coming away depressed, I felt grateful. Three other couples joined us on our tour. They were from Texas, Colorado and New Zealand. We saw the two American couples last night at dinner. The retired Colorado couple were especially delightful to talk to. Our dinners were pork and onion soup. We are now back on the train headed to Paris, then Amsterdam, then Osnabruek., where Silke will pick us up. We will stay the night in
24: Bad Iburg and then take a train to Hamburg tomorrow to fly home. From now until we arrive home, we will be traveling almost non-stop. We are anxious to get home. July 9 -Tuesday It is so great to be home....We wish! We boarded the plane just fine yesterday, but had to get off after a short wait because the plane was experiencing mechanical difficulties. We waited in the airport for a couple of hours and then were told to go to the ticket counter and find a different route home. After more waiting, we had a chance to make the changes. The problem was that we had to stay the night here in Hamburg and then try again. The airline paid for food and a (very nice) hotel, which is right across the street from the airport. So, they made us as comfortable as possible. There is a potential airline strike today, which has us a bit nervous. Our first plane leaves at 2:40 p.m. European time. We are praying and hoping that all will go well. It was a disappointment not to go home, but what can you do? Our last night at the Kretzings was very enjoyable. They fixed us a delicious, gourmet meal (again.:)) We have had some delicious food on this trip, but none has been better than what Klaus and Silke have made for us. (Suzette still hungers after the chocolate mousse the first night in Germany.) After dinner we watched fireworks from their balcony. The shooting club in town was having some sort of celebration. Silke also printed off two articles that were written by the reporters in Drewer and interpreted them for us. How delightful it has been to get to know this great family. Suz left a German Book of Mormon and a Lamb of God video with them. The only disappointment when we left was that Phil was at a summer camp, so we didn't have a chance to say goodbye. Suz left him a small Delft cat as a gift, because she constantly teased him about stealing his precious cat, Ginny. Our train journey from Osnabruek to Hamburg was the most eventful of our trip. The train was over-booked, so there was no where to sit. Suz found ShaRee a seat, and then she and Brandon sat in a doorway in-between cars. Our traveling luck this trip has been very good until these last few days. We'll see how it goes from here... One more situation needs to be recorded. Last night, ShaRee went to Brandon's room here in the hotel to ask about something. His blood sugar was low – 46, so she took him some food to eat. Then we got worried that he might need more, so we scrounged up some other things and took it to his room. ShaRee knocked long and hard, but no one answered. Suz tried next. Nothing. We figured he'd gone to get a pop or something, so Suz waited 20 minutes and tried again. By this time, we were a bit nervous that maybe he'd passed out from his blood sugar being so low, so Suz went to the front desk and got another key. When she and the front desk attendant opened Brandon's door, they found him lying on his bed with his headphones on, turned up full blast. He simply couldn't hear us! We were able to settle down and go to bed after that. August 10 - Wednesday (ShaRee's words:) I am on the plane home. A talkative lady from Estonia has kept things interesting, and I've listened to a “Top 40 Albums of All Time” program, which was fun. We had a bit more stress this morning when we got to the airport. I had a for sure ticket and so did Brandon, but Suz's was only a maybe. We flew from Hamburg to Amsterdam together and then had to part ways. That was the most stress I've felt this whole trip because I didn't know if Suz would be stranded in Europe by herself. I followed her and Brandon to their gate and then waited until she was sure to get on the plane. Then I ran to my gate and just made it in time to board. We made it to the U.S. (I loved Europe, but God Bless the USA!) I was able to get my Dutch bulbs through American customs, but Suzette's were taken away. She's had that kind of luck the whole trip home! I'll send her mine. It's been so great spending time with Suz all week. I look on this trip as a pure gift. How I was ever deserving, I'll never know, but I'll be forever grateful! Thanks, Suz! I love you and will treasure the memories of this trip for the rest of my life. January 2012
25: Souvenirs & Memorabilia