Of course our year in Germany would not be complete without a visit with our German “daughter” and “sister”, Lisa!
When Lisa lived with us, it was the year she turned 18; she attended Camas High School for a year, just for the experience (she had already graduated from High School in Germany). Now, 7 years later, she is carrying on the family business of running grocery stores – and in fact she is running her very own store! This keeps her very busy – long hours, 7 days/week. So we were lucky to catch her during a week she took off in later November, timed to allow her to recharge before the demanding holiday season.
When we visited Lisa in her hometown of Frickenhausen, we got a quick tour of her life now: her cute little apartment that she shares with her longtime boyfriend Patrick (so pleased to meet him in person!), and we took a sunset walk through the local ancient fortress. Then we met the extended family over dinner out at a favorite Greek restaurant: Oma and Opa, mom & dad Sybille and Volker, sister Hanna and her boyfriend. I got to sit next to Sybille and get to know her a bit – mother to mother – which was a highlight for me.
Oma & Opa generously opened up the upstairs apartment for us to stay the night in. Now vacant, this is where Lisa’s family used to live back when he was our exchange student. This was a unique “full circle” experience – and gave me the opportunity to reflect on the lasting impact of the exchange student experience, which resulted in a life-long friendship with the Höschele family.
Back at the apartment, Opa showed us his very impressive train set in the basement – wow. See pictures below, which don’t do it justice! Watching Opa give D a tour of the trains made me think of my own father, who would have appreciated the meticulousness and scale of that train set, I think. I can remember a similar train set that once sat in our basement, but it wasn’t a lasting hobby for us. For Opa, he explained it was a good stress reliever. It took him 3 winters to complete!
The next day Lisa joined us for a day at EuropaPark, Germany’s largest theme park. The parallels here to DisneyWorld and Epcot are everywhere; how this is not copyright infringement I’m not sure: a mouse mascot welcomes you into the park, and there is a complete copy of the famous shiny silver Epcot dome. Still, it’s all executed slightly better, and on a smaller, more walkable scale. The park is comprised of different European “countries” that you walk through, and each was done quite well, I thought, with clever details and several beautiful views. There were just the right amount of rides that were “just right” for D (although the giant wooden rollercoaster was maybe a bit too advanced). The hot drinks were plentiful and the winter scenery was charming. We didn’t make it to their brand-new waterpark but plan to go back.
We stayed that night at a local hotel (the onsite hotels were all booked up), then drove Lisa back to Frickenhausen, with a stop on the way at her store!
Lisa’s family recently celebrated 111 years with Edeka, which is a well-known grocery store chain throughout Germany. What I learned visiting with Sybille is that her family (the Dorfschmids) actually started what became Edeka, right in Frickenhausen! It’s pretty incredible.
Our visit was short but sweet, and by the tim we boarded the train home – after traveling all week including Belgium – D was glad to be “home” in his own bed.
We’re starting to be experts on these longer train journeys with DeutscheBahn. We are now proud DeutscheBahn card holders, which entitles us to journey discounts; on this trip to Stuttgart alone we saved a couple hundred dollars. Now that we have this card, we’re “all-in” with train travel. I’ve included here a scanned image from the long-haul route we did just a section of, that shows the wealth of amenities on this train. In my last post you saw an image of us eating lunch on the train journey home from Brussels. The food is pretty good (way better than Amtrak). For us, it’s still a treat to enjoy a fancy coffee or eat a meal while watching the countryside zoom by!