10 years in Germany - My Family Travels

Approximately 21,660 minutes 361 hours or 15.146 days spent in the air for the first 17 years of my life. Most of this time was spent on flights to Germany and back to San Francisco (SFO) or Oakland Airport (OAK). Of those 361 hours I have only slept 98 plus or minus an hour. The plane is the only place where I am too excited to sleep and have often past the milestone of being awake for 24 hours and sometimes 30 hours. This is why, the one time I finally did fall asleep my mother couldn’t wake me up and I was carried out of the plane and transported home in a wheelchair. The flight to Germany causes the worst jetlag ever, because they are nine hours ahead of the West Coast of the US.  

My first flight was to Germany when I was three months old, so that my grandfather could meet me.(see first two pictures) I don’t remember much of the younger years, except that Lufthansa (LTU)  had comics for kids about three guys on adventures called “the Abrafaxen. Then at age seven we moved to Germany and I stayed for ten years.  The first time I flew by myself, well not entirely I was a UM (Unaccompanied Minor), was at the age of twelve. I had to transfer in Chicago O’Hare Airport, Il and the stewardess helped me get through security faster to get me to my other plane. That new guy was very chatty and that is all I remember. The following year I really flew alone for the first time and on top of that was put on standby for a crucial transfer plane in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. I lived in Gelsenkirchen-Buer, which is closer to Dusseldorf Airport and was more familiar with that airport. Most trips started in Dusseldorf then Frankfurt or Heathrow and then final destination of SFO or OAK. Other times we would drive two hours to the Amsterdam Airport in the Netherlands and begin our journey from there. Another year I transferred in Boston and that was the most confusing airport I have ever been in. On the plane to back to Germany I also sat next to a sewage smelling guy who spoke Russian and broken English and German. On the smaller plane after the transfer I also sat next to a woman who reeked of perfume. I still can’t decide which smell was worse.  The one – way flight to live in the US was also filled with firsts. It was 17 hours long 3 transfers in Frankfurt, Madrid, New York JFK Airport and a surprise… Have you ever deplaned? It is emergency evacuation of an aircraft that is still on the ground. Before we could get off the plane we had to wait for an hour in a hot plane without air-conditioning. The reason for this was that the turbine sucked in a hose and it caused an explosion and the plane couldn’t fly.  The standby was only two hours, but the arrival was at another airport. The original plane should have landed in SFO and we landed in OAK, which was not too bad.

My mother and I traveled a lot and once or twice a year we went somewhere. The last time was almost two years ago and I was already living in the US. We went to Unity Village near Kansas City Airport (one of the smallest airports I have been at) for a weekend retreat with the author Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. and her husband Gordon Dveirin, Ed.D. We stayed at the motel which was near the hiking trails. Another small airport was in Sheffield, England and the plane that flew us from London Heathrow Airport  had fewer than 100 passengers. During turbulences every drink spilled and it was an eye-opener of how scary flying can be. The second time we were in London with a travel discount package, where we had a booklet of coupons for places to go. We went to see Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum among other things. We saw the mystery play “The Mousetrap”, the London Eye and shopped at Harrods. The only horrible part of that trip was that the day of our departure we were on standby for 8 hours. We also took the train to Paris and another to Strasbourg. In Paris we went to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. In Strasbourg we climbed the many stairs of the Cathedral or Munster a famous church. Another year we went skiing during Easter with colleagues of my mother to Bormio, Italy. It was a twelve hour drive and we needed our passports to cross the border at the time and two different currencies. Now you don’t need different currencies, just the euro, which is so much easier. We got a group rate for approximately 20 people and I remember the pasta was fantastic. We have been twice to Berlin and the only thing I remember is a museum we visited, which was a nuclear bunker. The coolest place to eat is at the unsicht-bar, where you eat in the dark, have blind waiters and on special days books on tape to listen to. Sometimes we stayed closer to home and went on one day adventure. If you are not afraid of heights, you can go to Bottrop and to the Tetrahedron (Tetraeder). It is metal artwork where people can climb up stairs and have a wonderful view of the area. My mother loves it and it is inspiriting for hobby artists. While you are in Bottrop you can also go Indoor Skiing all year round among other activities at the outdoor park belonging to the same property. Nearby is Oberhausen and the Gasometer. A former gas storage tank turned exhibit hall. Once they had a toilet exhibit now they have “the largest moon on earth”.

Normally I fly to Denver, Colorado to visit my father, but one year he and his girlfriend of the time, invited me to a timeshare in Porta Viarta, Mexico. That was the first time that my luggage was hand searched for security purposes, while I was around. During other trips I always get the note from luggage security that they checked my suspicious suitcases, because I always brought German dog chocolate for the family dogs. The trip to the Hotel reminded me of my mother’s game to count “WV Bugs” as a competitive road game. Mexico has a lot of old WV Bugs, because in twenty minutes on the bus I counted over 40 cars. Normally I am lucky to count one or two. The pool had themed night events where people could win tequila and I learned how 14 shots of it can lead to worshiping the toilet. We also went to a small waterfall in the area. At the beach I got those braids and of course a sunburn between the braids. Let that be a lesson to everybody not to forget the top of your head when it comes to putting sunscreen on. I actually had sun block SPF 70, because I am really white. Another year when I visited my father we went to the Butterfly Museum, near Denver and I set the emergency door alarm off. That was a little bit embarrassed.  

In Germany I went to two Waldorf Schools, one also had a boarding school on campus. With the local Waldorf School a class trip destination was the Lorelei valley near the Rheine. Nearby are the Cat Castle and the Mouse Castle, which has en eagles and falcon attraction. One of them has a dungeon I think, I’m not sure. After seeing a few castles the memory of them gets fussy. On another class trip we rode bikes in five days to Rothenburg ob der Tauber it had a dungeon I am sure of that. The most interesting thing about that town is it is a car – free zone. The entire class stayed at a youth hostel in front of the town wall.

To portray this unique boarding school, I have to tell you about the history of the place. It is only one of two Waldorf boarding schools in the Country and is the only coed. It is called “Loheland” specifically Rudolf Steiner School Loheland near Fulda. The next big town, Fulda, is twenty minutes away and buses stop running in that direction around 6 pm. So it is isolated and in the middle of a small forest. The boarding school is like a big family of eight children, ages 11-20 and two adults. With the boarding school I went on adventures too. (See other pictures) We went to a plant garden exhibit called the Palmengarten (5th picture) in Frankfurt and to an amusement park called Freitzeit-land Geiselwind (4th picture). One time the boarding school drove 300 miles to get to Bochum near my home area and to see the fantastic Starlight Express (3th picture) a train themed show performed on roller blades. Sometimes we go waterskiing at a nearby lake with the entire boarding school.

(If anybody has the chance to go to Germany this year is the best time to, because it is the “RUHR.2010, Essen for the Ruhr”.  My mother tells me about it regularly and became a city tour guide, who speaks English for foreign tourists.  During the summer there is going to be a hot air balloon over every coal mine in the country and every departing or arriving plane will see them.)

 PS: Some links may have to be translated into English with the google translater toolbar.

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