As the song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year. I love Christmas - love the message behind the celebration, love the joy, the lights, the sounds and wonderful smells and goodies. And this year I really got to enjoy the holiday. Gerhardt and I took a once in a lifetime trip, returning to the country we lived in when we were first married. We got to see friends from both West and East Germany and then took a wonderful cruise, visiting the Christmas markets in various German towns and cities. Above you see part of the market at Nuremburg. We also visited Rothenburg and Bamburg. Oh, what fun. And, oh, the money I spent.
Possibly the most memorable part of our trip was the first part when we and our friends Brett and Lorian met up with new friends Sybille and Fred from East Germany and hung out with them in Cologne. Gerhardt's German is great, mine is... improving, and Sybille's not so bad at English - so our evening of eating Schnitzel, wandering the Christmas market, and then, later, playing Farkle was a mixture of languages and laughter. The next day we all went on to Aachen to enjoy time with old friends Werner and Maggie. We stayed at their B & B, and both of our nights in Aachen we all enjoyed a meal together, again, mixing languages and sharing more laughter. One night Fred made Rolladen (thinly sliced beef spread with good, German mustard, then rolled around a dill pickle, chopped olives and bacon then cooked in a pressure cooker or the oven). By the way, if you'd like the recipe it's up on the recipe page. Oh, was that a treat for the taste buds, as was Maggie's Printen Parfait, which makes use of a favorite German Christmas cookie. Oh, my! Sugar, rum, eggs, whipping cream, cookies, and calories. Yum.
After leaving our friends, it was on to the cruise ship, which we were sure we could walk to from our Gasthaus. The boys and I decided to try a trial run the morning of embarkation. It should have been a fifteen minute walk. It turned into a two hour wander. I kept thinking of the theme song from "Gilligan's Island."
Ah, but life got easy once we were on the boat. One of the fun highlights on the cruise was getting to "assist" the chef with a demonstration on how to make apple strudel. I was fabulous (says she modestly), but alas, Gerhardt had gone to the room and was there along with the movie camera and my camera so I have no proof. (I am FOR SURE getting a Smart Phone in the new year.) Since I have no proof of my fabulous performance you'll just have to take my word for it.
As with all trips, this one went way too fast. But the memories will last forever. Hopefully, the extra pounds I put on my hips won't.
So, what did I come away with from my trip? For one thing, I was made very aware of how much people love to celebrate what's good. The very air seemed to vibrate with happiness as locals and tourists alike did their Christmas shopping. Secondly, I was reminded afresh of how very blessed I am to be a modern American woman. I live in a great country where I can come and go freely. I have a wonderful family and the kind of fun and loyal friends I like to write about in books. I have a great husband and children I'm proud of. Yes, I've had some bumps along the way like everyone else. My life hasn't always been perfect. I haven't always been perfect. But God has been beside me through both the good and the bad. And this year, even with bad things happening around the world and in parts of my own country, I still see people helping each other, loving each other, forgiving each other, and celebrating and worshiping together. The message of hope feels very real and close to me this season. I pray it does to you, too.
I hope you and yours all have a wonderful holiday season. May your heart be touched, your memories wonderful and every cookie you eat magically robbed of its calories. And as Tiny Tim would say, "God bless us, everyone."