a taste of America

Fresh on the heels of Kristen and Lauren’s visit to the States, we decided that everyone needed a chance to experience America after being in Germany for a year. Since parent-teacher conferences were scheduled for 2 days this week, and the kids were out of school, we packed up the van and drove to Ramstein Air Base, a 4 hour drive north from Hohenfels. For military families, Ramstein is a destination in itself: the largest military shopping complex in the world featuring a movie theater, hotel, American restaurants and tons of little shops with European goodies. We were able to reserve TLF (Temporary Lodging Facility) for 3 nights at $78 per night. Each TLF is a small apartment with full kitchen, laundry and 3 bedrooms. Bonus for us: each room had it’s own TV and DVD player. so much for quality family time but boy! how quiet it is when the kids each find a corner to hide out in.
While in Ramstein, we managed to hit the PX several times. I’m not usually one to enjoy shopping for boy’s clothing but there is something exhilarating in discovering that Levi’s has more than the “550” style jean. Will and Lilly hung out in the video/gaming area of the store–which had been set up with lounge chairs and couches so that shoppers could try out the latest in X-Box 360 Dance Central game. This became “kid central” and plenty of pre-teens were gathered around to cheer each other on. Each visit was capped off with a visit to the movies: Wreck It Ralph on Thursday and Skyfall (James Bond movie) on Saturday.
Since it just seems wrong to travel in Germany without experiencing something of cultural value, we drove to Trier, probably best known for the Porta Nigra, the black gate constructed in 160AD by the Romans. We first visited this site with Denise Rietkerk about 15 years ago on a cold and rainy December day. The weather was much the same for this visit but for some reason, the history seemed to come to life. We toured the gate, walked through the main town square, and stopped at the Trier Cathedral where the Holy Robe is kept in a wooden box on display at the altar. It’s said that this holy robe is THE seamless robe of Christ and that Helena, mother of Constantine, brought the robe to Germany when she lived here. We’ll never know for sure if this is indeed THE robe but having a story like this associated with your church sure makes tourists come out in droves. We finished off the visit with a trip to Karl Marx’s house, the Roman amphitheater and tasty doner kebaps for lunch. All this talk about the Romans has gotten me interested in reading “Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.” I wonder if I can finish it before we move back to the States?

A weekend in Berlin

This past week, Tim gave me the good news that he had a long weekend off from work—meaning 4 days of unstructured time where we can be crazy and generally goof off.  In past years, we really do go crazy by undertaking some DIY house project that turns into 4 weeks on non-stop stress.  But, living in government quarters limits the options for creative design. So, I tackled something I’ve wanted to do for many years…plan and execute a weekend excursion in under 24 hours.
Some limitations for our family:
we have 6 people in the family–this means at least 2 bathrooms for accommodations (no more hostel experiences for the Rietkerks, thank you Denmark!)
someone to watch our dog Lady because we weren’t about to travel with her in the van
A location in Germany that can be reached in 4 hours by car (Tim couldn’t technically leave the country so Italy and Croatia were out)
Some place we haven’t been before

Photo shoot

germany

When we returned from our trip to Austria, we dropped off Tim’s parents at the Munich Hautbonhof (train station) for their 7 day excursion to Venice and Cinque Terra, Italy. We then had 3 days of relative peace and quiet before my friend Christine Wood and her friend Evelyn Cervantes flew in from Africa for a 3 days blitz in Bavaria.

I first met Chris in 2006 through PWOC, the military women’s ministry, when I served on the international board. She facilitated a week long leadership academy for the board members and this was the time I became “hooked” on leadership and organizational growth. From my further conversations with Chris, I enrolled in Azusa Pacific University’s Operation Impact masters degree program and spent the next 3 years traveling the world and learning about leadership in a non-profit setting. Chris served as a mentor on my thesis paper and has become a great friend over the years. When she heard we had moved to Germany, it seemed perfect that she pit stop here before heading on to Prague for her vacation. Traveling with Chris was Evelyn, a photo journalist who accompanied Chris to Jos, Nigeria to document the work they were doing with the community in Jos. Evelyn graciously volunteered to do a photo shoot of the girls on Monday evening just as the sun was setting. To see more photos of the girls, click on the box above.

Steppin Up to 7th Grade

The three kids had their last day of school today and it was quite a celebration. Lindsey and I attended the final Awards Ceremony for the 3rd-6th graders of Hohenfels Elementary. For 2 LONG hours, we listened to the names of every solder who ever volunteered at the school during the past year; it was quite exhausting. You can tell an event has lost it’s sparkle when the majority of audience members are scrolling through texts and posts on their phones. Near the end of the ceremony, Will, along with 12 other 6th graders, was recognized for outstanding academic achievement and he received a letter and certificate signed by President Barack Obama. The principal read the letter out loud and then called the 6th grade students forward to collect their awards. We are so proud of Will and Lindsey suggested we frame his certificate with her presidential coin–a nice piece of memorabilia.

The 6th grade class celebrated their promotion to the 7th grade with a special dance and lunchtime meal the day before “graduation.” Parents decorated The Zone, a large dance hall on post, with glittery stars and paper lanterns to set the festive mood. The students enjoyed a catered meal from our favorite Italian restaurant, Il Cigno in Parsberg, and then boogied for the next hour before school was dismissed. Will asked me and Tim to please eat and run before the dancing began. He was afraid we’d cramp his style. I followed his wishes, after getting a pic of him sharing his moves.

Nothing could be finer than…

Church at the end of the bridge, Wurzburg

Church at the end of the bridge, Wurzburg

Soccer season is over and we found ourselves with a “free” Saturday. Not ones to sit idly at home for the whole day, we packed a picnic lunch and headed north in the Volvo in search of the Romantic Road. A favorite road trip of many tourists, the Roman Road was a trade route during the Middle Ages and begins in Wurzburg and travels south until reaching the most famous of fairy-tale castles: Neuschwanstein. We started the morning with a stroll along the cobblestone streets of Wurzburg, taking our sweet time on the city bridge which is lined with wine shops. Of course, would couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy a single glass of wine and continue walking slowly along the bridge as we looked at statues of saints and the Marienburg Fortress across the river.

Following our visit to Wurzburg, we drove a little under an hour to Rothenburg for a walk around the city walls and a bite of dinner. We found cafe tables outside at our favorite Italian restaurant and I enjoyed a Radler (a drink of 1/2 lemonade and 1/2 beer) and tortellini al forno. at 8pm, the girls and I joined the night watchman tour which meets at the Market Sqaure and the boys found a cafe to watch the Euro Cup game. With the summer season in full swing, we enjoyed a late sunset and delightful information from our trusty watchman. This tour is a highlight of a visit to Rothenburg.

This is the life! Enjoying a glass of wine as we stroll along the Mainz Bridge

This is the life! Enjoying a glass of wine as we stroll along the Mainz Bridge


Wurzburg Palace grounds

Wurzburg Palace grounds


Rothenberg Night Watchman entertains crowds every evening

Rothenberg Night Watchman entertains crowds every evening