Category Archives: Travels in Germany

Roaming the Palatinate and 19th century history

Wine-tasting with wine princesses

Freinsheim wine princess Anne II

Freinsheim wine princess Anne II

Before arriving in Freinsheim, my cousin Matthias emailed the plans for April 2. “We have tickets for a wine-tasting with the wine princesses from 2-7 Saturday.”

What could this be? Celebrity princesses holding court behind a wine-tasting counter, pouring out sips from jewel-tinted bottles of wine? Not exactly. Here’s how it worked.

The Urlaubsregion Freinsheim (think chamber of commerce, German-style) organizes a wine-tasting to five different villages in and around the region, guided by the wine princesses from each of five villages. Each princess introduces two wines unique to her village. In our case, the tour included: a Riesling and a dry Weisburgunder in Weisenheim am Sand, Viognier and Grauburgunder in Erpolzheim, Chardonnay and Rose in Herxheim, Auxerrois and Cuvée in Weisenheim am Berg, and white and red Spätburgunders (Pinot Noirs) in Freinsheim.

But pictures say it best.

We meet the wine princesses.

We meet the wine princesses.


We hike to our first wine-tasting, in a forest park at Weisenheim am Sand.


The wine princesses introduce the vintage and wine-maker.

2016 wine-tasting 3

We sample our first vintage.

2016 wine-tasting 1

We board the bus for the next village.


We hike to a pleasant garden among the vineyards.

2016 wine-tasting 4

The wine princess introduces the wine and wine-maker.

2016 wine-tasting 5

Zum wohl!


Inside the bus.

2016 wine-tasting 6

Next stop, the Herxheim am Berg Schlossgarten.

2016 wine-tasting 7

Back on the bus …

2016 wine-tasting 8

… for Weisenheim am Berg …


… and finish up in Freinsheim.

Viel Spaß!

Viel Spaß!

Food and drink adventures

It wouldn’t be a travel blog without a post about food and drink. On Dave and my recent tour through Scotland, the Netherlands, and Germany, we’ve tasted such a delicious variety. The most unusual dish I had in Scotland: wood pigeon with black pudding, served on what appeared to me to be a (carefully scrubbed) slate roof tile.
Wood pigeon with black puddingI ordered it at a restaurant in Inverness called the Mustard Seed. The wood pigeon is the largest bird of the dove family, also known in England as the Culver.

The previous day, I had asked a waiter about Scottish black pudding, and he’d paused.

“When I describe it, you’ll think it’s gross,” he said.

“Try me.”

“Well, you take the insides of an animal, the stomach I think, they clean it and fill it with blood and–”

“Okay, stop. You’re right, I don’t want that,” I’d said.

But a day later, by the time we were dining at the Mustard Seed, I’d seen black pudding on enough restaurant menus I thought–oh, what the hell. The waiter assured me I would not get a large quantity, just a few small slices served with the wood pigeon on arugula. The taste reminded me of blood sausage (which it basically is). Rich, but very good. A similar concoction is added to Scottish haggis, which makes some turn up their noses to that breakfast selection.

Anyhow, back in Edinburgh, at a bar/restaurant called Whiski on High Street (really), I tried a whisky “flight,” a scotch whisky sampling adventure that didn’t require as much courage as the black pudding, but perhaps more fortitude. The waiter served me four bar staff favorites: Balblair 2003, Dalmore 15 Year Old, Jura Prophecy, and Ardbeg 10 Year Old, to be sampled in that order. I find I’m a fan of the less smoky, first two scotches. Just sayin’.

whiskey flight at Whiski in Edinburgh
Skipping ahead to Freinsheim, it’s time to enjoy kuchen–a traditional Palatinate dessert. At Tante Inge’s yesterday, Dave and I enjoyed slices of this delicious Apfelkuchen (Apple Kuchen).
Tante Inge's Apfelkuchen

In the evening, at an outdoor barbecue (the weather has been so warm and pleasant in the Palatinate) our hosts served up white asparagus, with hollandaise and cheese sauces.
imageNaturally, the dish was devoured.image

The meal concluded with a digestif — Pear Schnaps, a German form of fruit-based alcohol also called Obstler. This schnaps is not to be confused with the candy-cane tasting Peppermint Schnapps liqueur. Two different drinks entirely. Distilled just a few doors down from our courtyard barbecue on Wallstrasse, the Pear Schnaps was a satisfying finish. And we slept well, too.
German Schnaps


Return to Freinsheim

Matthias at the barbecue“I’m glad to see you back so soon,” Matthias said to me on our first evening in Freinsheim.

These were welcome words, as I worried Dave and I might be outwearing our welcome, having just visited here last October for the Weinwanderung. We were welcomed with a veritable barbecue feast — lamb, chicken and sausage, grilled over a fire stoked from the stalks of old grapevines.

“Does the grapevine smoke add flavor?” Dave asked.

Matthias smiled. “Okay, if you like, it makes the food more delicious. Then again, perhaps we use this wood because it burns more slowly and evenly.”

Everything tasted delicious.

imageSpring in Freinsheim is the time of ripening cherries and figs, and, this late in the season, the last days of the delicious white asparagus harvest, which attracts Germans from the cities, who are willing to wait in long lines in their cars to purchase asparagrus fresh from the field.

imageWe are here just in time for the annual Altstadtfest (I’ve tried to link to an English translation of the web site. Altstadtfest takes place June 4-7), and it looks like the weather will be perfect. The Altstadtfest will be held in the town center, just in the shadow of the church spires you see in this photo. In the foreground is the Catholic Church spire, and in the background is the Reformed Evangelical Church spire. Each has a bell, and I am told, unlike many other small villages in the Pfalz, these bells are tuned to ring in harmony.

Kings of Kallstadt

On the first weekend of my arrival in Freinsheim this past September, my relatives and I sallied forth to hike the vineyards in celebration of the annual Freinsheim Weinwanderung.

weinwanderung time to go

Ina, Manfred, Matthias and Lenny (the collie) on the first night of the Weinwanderung

Friday evening, as we headed out of town to ascend to a hilltop vantage point and await the opening night fireworks (an occasion that included the sampling of several wines), my relatives encountered friends of theirs, so we stopped to talk.

“Here is our American relative, Claire Gebben,” they said (I think), introducing me. “She’s written a book about her ancestors from Freinsheim, who emigrated from here to America in the 19th century.”

“Oh, like the ‘Kings of Kallstadt!!” All eyes turned to me. “Have you seen the film? It’s really really great.”

freinsheim wine hike group

Sunset on the Weinwanderung in Freinsheim

I had not seen the film. I wasn’t even sure what they were talking about. But as the three-day celebration of hiking and wine sampling wore on, over and over again we encountered friends who, when they were introduced to me and heard my story, warmed eagerly to the subject of the “Kings of Kallstadt.” I couldn’t understand half of what was said, but the delighted laughter and serious conversation that ensued was certainly intriguing.

Vineyards on the outskirts of Kallstadt

Vineyards on the outskirts of Kallstadt


The town of Kallstadt, as seen from Freinsheim’s Musikantenbuckel

I had been to the village of Kallstadt, just 3 kilometers from Freinsheim, on my visit in 2010, where Bärbel, Luzi and I had stood on the outskirts and watched a wine-harvester. It’s a very small place.
We could even see it in the distance from the higher hills of the hike.

A few of the people we met spoke good English, and were kind enough to fill me in. “Kings of Kallstadt is a documentary film. It’s really funny, the dialect the people are speaking is our regional dialect. It’s about people who emigrated from the village of Kallstadt to America, and became really famous. Donald Trump’s family is one of them. And the Heinz family of Heinz ketchup.”

About a week later, a group of us went to see the film. The documentary is in German, but even so, I found it hugely entertaining. Simone Wendel, documentary film-maker, visits with residents of Kallstadt, especially distant relatives of the famed Trump and Heinz families, to sleuth out if there is some unique quality to this village that led two emigres to enjoy such fame and fortune in the U.S. After a humorous investigation of the lifestyles of these rural villagers, the documentary follows a tour of Kallstadt residents to New York City. They meet with Donald Trump and his brother, and also take a tour bus ride to Michigan to visit the Heinz ketchup factory. A short Youtube clip of the film is here. In the end, they don quirky outfits and carry banners and march in New York City’s German American Day parade.

Interestingly, Donald Trump and his brother were willing to be interviewed and appear in the movie, but the Heinz family made no such accommodation. For the Heinz family, perhaps too many generations had passed for them to truly appreciate the connection? Heinz founder Henry John Heinz came over just after the Civil War, whereas the Trump family arrived in the early 20th century.

Kings of Kallstadt

Scene from the documentary film “Kings of Kallstadt”

My last weekend in Freinsheim, after a hike in the Pfalzer Wald, my relatives and I stopped in Kallstadt to enjoy a glass of new wine and slice of onion cake (Neuer Wein und Zwiebelkuchen). Who should join us in the outdoor garden but a celebrity from “Kings of Kallstadt,” a descendant of the Heinz family I believe, who came over to our table and chatted briefly. Small world. Although I’m sorry to say I don’t know her name, she was delightful in person, too.

On my flight home, browsing the Lufthansa magazine, I learned about another King — Elvis Presley.

What is less known about Elvis is that his ancestors came from Germany, their original surname was Pressler. … His surname, Presley, is anglicized from the German name Pressler from Elvis’ ancestor Johann Valentin Pressler who immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1710. Johann Valentin Pressler, a winegrower emigrated to America in 1710. Pressler came from a village in southern Palatinate called Niederhochstadt. Niederhochstadt became Hochstadt sometime during the 250 years after Johann Pressler left it, but there are still many Presslers there, among them a winegrower like Johann Valentin. Johann Valentin first settled in New York and later moved his family to the South.” From

What Frankfurt Book Fair is (and isn’t)

Frankfurt Book FairThis October, I attended the international Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse) for the first time. The Fair was everything I expected it to be — a massive assembly of book industry professionals gathered to do business in publishing and celebrate books. And more. Luckily, I didn’t go alone. I had my trusted friend Angela to help me navigate, a good thing because even though just about everyone speaks English, it really is important to know German as well. The halls were mobbed with 270,000 people speaking every language imaginable.

What was it like to be among them?

fbf escalatorMind-boggling. This annual event is, in a word, global. From big publishers to smaller ones, from Western European countries like Spain, Germany and the U.K. to Arab nations like Turkey and Iran, to India, China, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, New Zealand and Australia, African countries, Latin American ones, Canada and the U.S., all have a presence at the Frankfurter Buchmesse. It’s a marvelous microcosm of our populous, diverse and literate human race.

fbf exhibit aerial viewTo start with, at first glance I was blown away by the elaborate nature of the exhibits. Publishers fly in with entire stage sets. They construct living rooms and libraries, replica kitchens and high-tech news rooms, then furnish them with tables and chairs, plants, art, and shelves and shelves of books. fbf doubledeckerA British publisher even brought in a double-decker bus and set fruit crates  full of books outside of it, to tantalize fair-goers with titles as if offering up sweet mangoes and crisp autumn apples.

fbf living roomWhy go to all this trouble? The exhibits are not just displays, but features of the hottest books on the market, set out to entice scouts and buyers with the newest titles and the best quality publishers have to offer.

And they’re mobile offices. Meetings are going on constantly at every exhibit, sales reps at tables showing catalogs, touting bestsellers and potential breakout novels.

fbf gutenbergIn addition to publishing house exhibits, there are booths with translators, editors, universities, antique books, intriguing demonstrations. I especially enjoyed the demonstration of a Gutenberg press (pictured at left).

fbf crowds

Besides which, around 9,000 press people are prowling the convention center halls, some trailed by TV cameras. The press are there to interview authors, agents and publishers, to dig up stories wherever they can. Graphic artists come to see what’s hot and interest publishers in their work, photographers and illustrators trawl the art books for ideas. An entire hallway is devoted to 2015 calendars, those big glossy full color ones that show up in bookstores around the holidays each year.

In contrast to the publisher book displays open to all, the international literary agent Hall 6.0 was arranged like a fortress, a long blocked-off hallway with guards at the front counter. You had to have an appointment, confirmed by a ticket, for access to office carrels staffed with international literary agents. These agents have come to plow through a long list of potential clients as well as negotiate sub-rights for books on their lists: mainly translation and foreign rights. They’re cordoned off for a reason. Appointment slots fill up three months in advance. “They do see individual authors, if you get to them in time,” Rita in the New York office of the Book Fair advised when I called a month before my trip. “Most have been full since mid-July.”

fbf interviewBig name authors are also sighted at the Fair. If you’re Ken Follett or Haruki Murakami, you’re invited to be on panels, or give interviews, or a reading and signing. There is an “author’s lounge,” where famous authors hang out with other famous authors.

fbf hallAs a one-book indie author, I did not visit the author lounge, nor did I attend the Buchmesse with high expectations of fast results. Although the pre-Book Fair events offered a host of talks and panels on self-publishing, it is NOT really the venue for individual authors to attend, at great personal expense. It’s geared to the professional publishing industry. Although, rumor has it (and I mean rumor) that the Book Fair held in March at Leipzig  is more author-friendly, I don’t know this for a fact. No doubt travel expenses to get there, obtain lodging, and return are equally steep.

fbf angela readingNo, I went to the Frankfurter Buchmesse because I happened to be in Germany anyway to thank my Freinsheimer family and give a book presentation. And, it seemed like a fascinating opportunity to spend time with my cousin Angela and begin navigating the logistics of securing a German edition of my novel. She and I didn’t shell out big bucks (we stayed for free with a relative of hers in Frankfurt), and the entrance fee of about 72 Euros did not strike me as exorbitant.

It turned out to be a great experience. While there, I had the chance to:

fbf hachette

  • examine the books of different German publishing houses, both national and regional. I picked up submission guidelines, got a feel for who might be interested in my genre (historical fiction) and topic (19th century technology boom, German immigration).
  • speak with translators about prices, how long it takes to translate a novel, and ways to approach/find funding for translations. (Interesting side note: I learned a 300-page novel in English becomes a 500-page novel in German. Must be those long German words.)
  • fbf palatinate publishingnetwork with cultural/arts regional organizations that might offer funding for translating/publishing. (In truth, Angela did most of this networking in German, while I stood to one side and nodded wisely.)
  • meet with an international rights agent (by previous appointment, of course) about the possibility of her representing my novel in the German book market.
  • talk with two different regional (Palatinate area) publishers interested in publishing my novel.

Most of this, mind you, was thanks to Angela, who was brave beyond belief in approaching all kinds of people everywhere we went. While I still have many steps to take to achieve my goal of a German edition of The Last of the Blacksmiths,  I feel much better informed about the international book market. The experience was awesome. Here are just a few insights I gained:

    • there are good opportunities in international rights, if you have agent representation and a broader-themed book (for instance one with a multicultural setting rather than focused on specifically American issues. Oh yes, and impressive American sales).

fbf amazon

  • just like in the U.S., the traditional book publishers are becoming more risk averse due to the transition and change created by digital and indie publishing. A good number of publishers point to Amazon (rather bitterly) as the culprit (Amazon had only a modest presence at the fair — I presume because they didn’t need a larger one).
  • e-books are not as prevalent yet with publishers outside the U.S., largely because pricing and library lending policies are not well-regulated, making it a money loser.
  • print-on-demand books are not as easy in Europe as in the U.S., since printing of them is commonly outsourced to China or India or Eastern Europe, making quality poor, and delivery slow (an average of one week to 10 days).
  • in general, U.S. booksellers are separate from the rest of the international publishing world due to our insular perspective. “America is a one-way street,” one German publisher told me. “Americans like to send their books out to the world, but they aren’t so interested in bringing the world into America.”


On the flight home, I sat next to an editor who had been attending the Frankfurt Book Fair, too. “It was exhausting,” she said, “but I just loved being surrounded by so many people who love books.”

Me, too.

Mysterious forces at work

imageMany wonderful things occurred during my recent visit to Germany. For instance, this interview published in Die Rheinpfalz newspaper.

Look, Mom, I speak perfect German! (not) The interviewer spoke English, naturally. She recorded our talk, then translated it into German.

The photo she used was taken in the market square in the heart of the old town of Freinsheim. We sat on a bench just to the right for the interview.

Freinsheim town market place

2014-10-06 06.59.40 (1)

Still in Freinsheim a week later, I gave a book presentation on The Last of the Blacksmiths at the Altes Spital Cultural Center in Freinsheim to a full house — about 60 people (probably half of whom were relatives). My cousin Matthias Weber, sitting beside me here, had translated my talk into German in advance, which I read to the best of my ability. Afterward, I heard several times that my American accent was “charming.”

A special celebrity appeared that evening — Michael Harm — a man who lives in Freinsheim today, with the same name as the protagonist in my novel. This Michael Harm has curly brown hair, just like Michael Harm in the book. As we talked, Michael confided to me that he is named after Johann Michael Harm, the first Harm ever to come to Freinsheim. Which means he and I are related — albeit some eight generations back.

Michael HarmOf course I gave him a copy of my book and couldn’t resist asking if I might take his photo, to which he readily agreed. And look how it came out …

Isn’t that weird? My camera was working perfectly the entire trip, except for this one instance.

At first glance, it’s disappointing. But just maybe, mysterious forces were at work. This way, Michael Harm can still live in each of our imaginations, just as we like to picture him.

Historic Frankfurt

Early last Saturday, when in Frankfurt, Germany, my very kind host Mia asked me what I wanted to see. The Saturday market? The older, historic part of town? It had been a long week, and quite frankly, my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders. It was my last day there. I’d just spent three days and very long hours browsing the huge, international Frankfurt Book Fair. Foremost in my mind now was locating the airport in time for my departure flight the next morning. So I shrugged.

“Anything’s fine, whatever you think.”

Mia hesitated, then suggested we visit the Römer Platz. She said first we’d pass by an old church I might like to see. “Although it might not be open today — there might be a private Book Fair event or something. But Paulskirche is historic. The outside is still like it used to be, but inside it was renovated in the 70s.”

st pauls tourists

As we approached the cathedral, its entrance was blocked by a busload of tourists. Still, something about the place felt oddly familiar. I stopped in my tracks.

“Wait, did you say Paulskirche? The Paulskirche where Germans held their first ever freely elected parliament?”

Before Mia could answer, I’d dashed across the street, backing up against a building until I could go no farther, tipping the camera sideways to capture the very tall steeple. Mia followed, grinning.

“You’ll be able to get a better picture of the whole church over there, across the park,” she said.

“Oh, but I want this angle! I think I have the same image on file at home, showing this very vantage point at the time of the 1848 Parliament.”

st pauls kirche 1848st pauls kirche

st pauls plaque

Oh my goodness, I was delighted to come to this place. I took photos of the outside of the church (it was closed, as Mia had predicted) and also of the historic plaque by the door that gave dates and an explanation of that historic year.

st pauls claire“Give me your camera,” Mia said, holding out her hand. I shook my head, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. “C’mon, be a tourist.” How could I say  no?

My whole trip was like this, serendipity, surprise, astonishment and joy.

Roman ruins, grape harvest, and the devil’s stone

Freinsheim may be a small rural town, but during my visit there’s been so much going on I have trouble keeping up.

Friday, Oct. 3 was German Unification Day (a celebration of the day East and West Germany re-united in 1989). It is a national holiday. My relatives all gathered in a terraced garden in the vineyard, in the shade around a massive stone table. Afterwards, we hiked to some Roman ruins — two of four sarcophagi discovered a few years ago in the fields, dating back to around 300 A.D.

Unification Day brunch in the wine garden on the Musikantenbuckel

Unification Day brunch in the wine garden on the Musikantenbuckel

a uni sacrophagi

Roman sarcophagi from 300-400 AD discovered in the hills outside Freinsheim

On Saturday, the Town Council Weinlese (grape harvest) took place — the grapes used to make the town wine. About 30 gathered in the vineyards to snip grapes and enjoy a wine-maker’s picnic.

a grape harvesting

A gorgeous day for a grape harvest.

a grape harvest truck

Talk about a big toy — future wine-makers of Freinsheim.

a grape harvest table

A table spread with schwarzbrot and blutwurst and liverwurst, cheeses and wine schorles. Prost!


Then, on Sunday, a hike and delicious Pfalzer meal in the hills behind Bad Duerkheim. The Pfalzer Wald is the largest forest in Germany.

The Teufelstein in the Haardt Mountains.

The Teufelstein in the Haardt Mountains.

James Fenimore Cooper hiked here and wrote about his visit, in The Heidenmauer, including the tale of the Teufelstein — Devil’s stone.

Heidenmauer in the Pfalzer Wald was built by the Celts around 500 BC

Heidenmauer in the Pfalzer Wald was built by the Celts around 500 BC

More about the Heidenmauer here.

a pfalzer wald neuer wein

Of course I drank Neuer Wein and ate Zwiebelkuchen!

The Nonnenstein and other tales

I’ve been thinking a lot today about my other German great-great grandfather Henry F. Hoppensack, born April 29, 1821. He wrote in his autobiography about his formative years growing up in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Clearly, he never forgot how hard he had to work on behalf of his father on the Estate Kilver.

roedinghausenn henry hoppensack

In an abrupt manner, not unlike Henry Hoppensack, I decided to go to Rödinghausen today. I had a few extra days and a five day Eurail pass, so why not? Why not go to the area of the Estate Kilver, try to track down a thing or two about Henry Hoppensack and his wife Ilsabein Hissenkamper?

Roedinghausen Lutheran ChurchFive hours and four train changes later, I disembarked in Rödinghausen, a quiet village tucked at the foot of the low-lying Wiehen Mountains. I checked into the Gasthof Nonnenstein and asked where I could find some clues about the history of the area.

roedinghausen pembervilleThe Inn owner directed me to this marker. Apparently, a good-sized passel of residents of Rödinghausen immigrated to Pemberville, Ohio in the 19th century. But not our Henry — he immigrated to Cleveland, where he ran a brickyard, and then a truck farm, and he and Ilsabein had about nine children.

Later, I couldn’t resist hiking up to the Nonnenstein. The forest was alluring, the beeches and pines full of bird song and green. The mountain rock shelves of the Wiehen date back about 165 million years, and not far from here in Duesseldorf lie bones of the Neanderthals. By comparison, Henry and Ilsabein’s histories seem like the blink of an eye.

nonnensteinWhen I arrived at the Nonnenstein, I admit to feeling a bit betrayed. This tower was built in 1897, and reminded me so much of the one at Volunteer Park, including its utter lack of purpose, the thought it had been my destination was a let down. The trees have grown up so there’s not even a view to speak of.

But who could feel betrayed after spending several hours in the calm, unbelievably quiet forest here?

roedinghausen forest

A big oops

Well, I’ve done it again. I make the oddest mistakes, sometimes, and this one had a ripple effect that still has me feeling abashed and off balance.

The story of my first two days in Freinsheim. Of course I want to see all the relatives as soon as I possibly can. At the first opportunity, Matthias and I sit down with the calendar. I have my notes ready — as we decide on the times and places, Matthias makes the calls. That very same afternoon, I write it in my notes: 3 p.m. coffee with his mother, Baerbel Weber. The next morning, Friday first thing, 10 a.m. visit with Tante Gretel and Onkel Otto. Lunch with Tante Inge, 12:30. Interview with the Die Rheinpfalz newspaper reporter (gulp!) 3:00 p.m. A lot of German conversation ahead, but I brace myself and figure we’ll get through it somehow.

plum cakeBut already, time is passing. Delighted that Baerbel will see me so soon, I make preparations to go. I arrive at Baerbel’s precisely at 3. We have a wonderful, two-hour visit, in German, with — wait for it — plum cake! How awesome, and delicious!

Friday morning, Matthias urges me to get going to visit Onkel Otto and Tante Gretel. He points out it is a half hour walk, and that I should take a bicycle. I agree, and leave a few minutes late. I bicycle fast, and am proud of myself for arriving right on the hour of 10 o’clock. Tante Gretel is walking down the steps to meet me as I lock up the bicycle. We go inside and have a delightful conversation.

otto and gretel

I am perfectly happy, but Tante Gretel seems nervous, she keeps glancing at the clock on the bureau behind her. I think maybe she is getting tired or has something she must do like take her medicines, so I say my farewells. I am worried about arriving at Tante Inge’s too early, so I sit in a park and do a bit of journaling. As 12:30 rolls around, I get on my bicycle and head over to Tante Inge’s. Even though I have a map, I do arrive a few minutes late because I take a wrong turn.

“You are one hour late!” Inge greets me.

“What? It was supposed to be 11:30? Matthias told me 12:30! He must have gotten it wrong. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not so easy, when I cook dinner for you, to keep it warm for so long,” she says.

I feel terrible, disconcerted, and sorry sorry sorry. Tante Inge is very gracious and serves me a delicious meal (“not hot enough, it’s better when it’s hot,” she points out) and share memories and stories and news.


The menu is superb, chicken cordon bleu, broccoli with cheese, salad, potatoes, and for dessert cookies and coffee.

Tante Inge, like Tante Gretel, has a clock on the bureau behind her. When she turns to glance at the time, I see it is already 2:30. How have two hours flown so quickly? I wonder.

“You must meet the journalist at 3?” she asks. “Where must you meet her?”

When I explain it is in the central marketplace, Tante Inge says it will take me two minutes by bicycle, and sees me out the door on time. Matthias meets me at the marketplace, and introduces me to the journalist. After the interview, he and I return to the house. We are sitting on the back deck discussing the day, and I tell him the sad news that there was a confusion about the time for lunch with Tante Inge.

“No, that was right, Tante Inge said 12:30. I’m sure of it,” Matthias says.

“Maybe it is a language problem. You say in German half until 1, that means 12:30. Maybe she said 11:30, and you said to me in English 12:30 by mistake.”

“No, I know this. She said halb eins, 12:30. And right now, it is 5:30, halb sechs.”

“No, right now it is 4:30, halb funf.”

“No, it is 5:30, halb sechs.”

Then it dawns on me. I thought it was only an eight hour time difference between Seattle and Freinsheim — but it is nine hours. Ever since I have arrived, I have been one hour behind!! I have been so serene about it all, and here my glassy lake was full of choppy waters. Everyone has been so good-natured and kind, welcoming me regardless of my rudeness. Once again, I stand in awe of the gracious generosity of the Palatine people.