Tuesday, September 01, 2009

German Adventure Day 8: Saturday, July 25th

Mike and I took the train to Dresden....BY OURSELVES. What struck me as strange throughout this whole trip was the magnitude with which seemingly small accomplishments struck me. I am aware that some people live jet-setting, global lives which include things like flying halfway across the country and back in the same day just for a business meeting, or actually ordering from those SkyMall catalogs, but I am not one of them. Traveling to Georgia is a big deal for me, much less EUROPE! But one comfort I found in traveling so far outside my comfort zone was the fact that we had our hosts, the Hampe family, to keep us out of trouble. So as you can imagine, traveling on a train by ourselves in a foreign country was a big deal for me. Thankfully, we had family waiting for us on the other side, but in order to explain this to you, I need to dig out the Wolfe family tree....hang on a sec....

Okay, ready? Mike's grandmother, Gertrude Ludwig Wolfe ("Oma" to pretty much everyone) was born in Germany. She moved with her family to America when she was a teenager in the early 1930s. She left behind her extended family, including a cousin with whom she was very close, whose name is Kathe.

Oma lived with Mike's family for most of Mike's life, and Kathe (who speaks no English) kept in close contact with Oma through letters and phone calls. Mike's mom once told me that when she answered the phone to a string of words she couldn't identify (German), she would just go get Oma :)

Kathe has a daughter, Elke, who married a man named Mattias, whom I love dearly for 2 reasons:

  1. He is the ONLY one on this side of the family who speaks English.
  2. He loves country music.

Mike with Kathe, Mattias, and Elke

So now that you have your Wolfe family history lesson, , it's time for a pop quiz!! Just kidding - I'm still learning myself!

Elke and Mattias met us at the train station and took us to Kathe's home. She is now in her 90s and lives in an assisted living facility. And lemme tell ya, stepping into her place was like stepping into the twilight zone. Oma lived in a "mother-in-law suite" that was attached to the main house by way of the porch, and it was about the same size as Kathe's place. But what was really eerie was how they had decorated their respective homes EXACTLY the same - full of handmade crafts, family pictures, and lace. They really are two peas in a pod, from their mannerisms to their looks.

I can't begin to describe how special meeting Kathe was. Oma passed away in May, and everyone misses her dearly. She welcomed me into the Wolfe family without a moment's hesitation, and did the same for Nils. She greatly enjoyed speaking German with him! Kathe shared pictures that Oma had sent her over the decades, from baby pictures of Mike's dad to pictures from our wedding. Their bond was evident. She also asked us (through Mattias) for more information about how Oma passed away and what her final months were like. I feel proud to have met that side of our family, like we somehow brought the circle of our family, which spans an ocean and many generations, a little closer.

And I made a new friend!!! Kathe thought it was so funny when I struck that pose.
The feel and look of Dresden really spoke to me, especially after leaving the rush and crowds of Berlin. Dresdeners are very proud of their history, and although many of their landmarks were lost World War II or destroyed by the East German government, many of them have been rebuilt. Some pictures; along with captions when I can remember:

As you can see, the weather was not cooperating! Luckily the rain held off most of the day.

The clock tower.

A statue of the Saxon King John. Built in 1889.

Behind us is the main entrance to the Zwinger Palace, which was the first historical structure to be rebuilt after WWII.

The Frauenkirche - a Lutheran church whose reconstruction was finished in 2005. Elke and Mattias wanted to show us this church because Oma remembered it fondly.

A statue of Martin Luther in front of the Marienkirche.

The dome of the Kunstakademie, an Academy for Arts.
I was getting so bad about posting Germany pictures that I have taken to leaving Blogger up all the time, so that whenever I open my laptop I can upload a few pictures or write a couple of sentences and maybe eventually finish! Unfortunately Blogger does not always feel like letting me do this, so that makes postings even more delayed. I caught some sort of cruddy sickness from my kids, so I can't guarantee another post for at least a couple of days!


Dee said...

Your pictures may be "late", but they are beautiful.

The architecture is really something to admire!

phyl said...

It brought tears to my eyes to read your wonderful words about Oma, see your pictures of Dresden, and know that you were able to meet part of her family (which is now yours). You and Michael are so lucky to be able to make this connection. Thank you for sharing all of this with all of us. She was a wonderful person and we miss her terribly.
Much love,

Lynn said...

What a great trip you had!!! And getting to meet family like that is amazing. Bill would love to go to Wales to meet up with distant relatives (they don't have to be close for him to make them his family!LOL), but it's not happening anytime soon. My foreign travels will need to consist of Epcot for the time being!