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Monday, August 09, 2010


Sometimes when you're travelling, it's necessary to go on an organized tour, such as the time I went to Morocco to trek in the foothills of the High Atlas Mts.  I couldn't do that alone.  But generally I enjoy solo travel, though I have also had some trips with friends.  The thing about solo travelling is you are more apt to see things through the local's perspective and you are more open to meeting the locals.  I have been enjoying my travels so far in the company of my Welsh cousins, and this week in the company of my German friend Patrick and his mother, Hanne, who I met a couple of years ago when Patrick brought her to Vancouver.  Patrick is part of my extended family and he has been a wonderful host for my first visit to Germany and his lovely city, Mainz.
Dining with Patrick's family

I'll write more about Mainz later, but for my first German blog I will describe some of the adventures we have had so far.  Starting with my arrival here on Saturday:  Patrick invited his family members for a big feast at a Mongolian BBQ restaurant so they could meet me.  There was Hanne, and his sisters Dagmar and Frederike, his cousin Mathias, his mom's ex, Bernd and Dagmar's boyfriend Horst.  It was quite a feast and went on for hours with many trips to the buffet table and lots of talk and fun.  And it was all Patrick's treat! That was my introduction into the way folks here enjoy a night out at a restaurant, everything leisurely and everyone having a great time.

Seeing Mainz with Patrick

Sunday morning was special because I was going to hear Patrick play the organ at his little church in Wackernheim,  a village outside of Mainz.  Patrick, I know, is an accomplished musician but this was a special thrill to hear him playing on this organ which was built in 1856 by a Mainz based organ builder, Bernhard Dreymann, who  supplied the whole area with organs, many of which are still intact today and can be played. The organs have a very baroque sound considering the fact that Dreymann was an organ builder of the romantic era.

The church of St. Martin was built originally in 1753 and this is the third church at that site, with the first church dating from around the year 800 AD.  It's a small church, with cherrywood choir pews and a chandelier that represents the 12 heavenly gates of Jerusalem.   The service was conducted by the woman pastor, Vera Eichner-Fischer, who greeted me during the service.  It was so nice to hear church bells chiming and to be part of the service.

After church we took the bus to Wiesbaden where Patrick's mother lives, and where he grew up as a child.
We walked around his old neighbourhood and I saw the impressive school where he attended (and where his mom also attended when she was a child).  Later we took a bus to Neroberg where there is a water-driven elevated train, the largest one in Europe.  It took us up a steep hill to a beautiful park where we had magnificent views of the entire city of Wiesbaden, which has a population of 320,000 people.  We later walked down the hill, stopping to visit an impressive Russian chapel, built in 1855, dedicated to 'holy Elizabeth',  who was the wife of a wealthy man and had died shortly after childbirth.  Inside the ornate Orthodox chapel is a beautiful statue of her in repose.  Next to the chapel, which has tall gold spires, is the largest Russian cemetery in Western Europe.

We carried on walking down the hill through a posh area of town with some impressive houses and apartments.  We were headed to a special restaurant where traditional German food is prepared.  Unfortunately by the time we reached the Wikiger, I was feeling rather ill with stomach cramps so I couldn't indulge in any of the traditionally cream covered schnitzels which was disappointing.

Afterwards we walked by to see the world's largest cuckoo clock and then to stop at the healing hot spring at the Wreath Square.  Apparently Weisbaden is built over 7 dormant volcanoes that produce hot springs and it has always been known as a spa area for healing.

I didn't attempt to taste the water and it was pretty hot to touch, but maybe it had a subliminal affect as I was feeling much better by the next day and ready to set off on another all-day field trip with Patrick.

NEXT:  Castles on the Rhine

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