On American soil in Germany

July 5, 2008 in Europe, Germany, Travelogue

< ![CDATA[  We’re getting better at riding trains. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it’s better. The first time we rolled into Stuttgart it occurred to me that Dante might have been inspired by the dizzing downward spiral of riding German trains with fully loaded bikes when he wrote The Inferno... with Stuttgart Hbf featuring strongly as a stop in the third circle of hell... but I digress. We rode, with surprising little drama, through four trains and five stations to arrive at Illesheim, Germany to meet friends we’ve never met. The Barker family found us through the Geography Matters newsletter in the deep, dark, winter. It all started with an e-mail, Carla was excited about our trip and wondered where in Germany we were going to be. Quite far north, I assured her, where it is flatter. The lobbying began. At first, a few e-mails with links to the cool stuff to see and do in her area. Then, pictures of her kids riding their first 13 mile day in a loop around their house. Next, funny stories were traded and a friendship emerged. We changed our route, and we’re so glad we did. There is an eery quiet when a train pulls away from a lonely platform in a one horse town. We waited in the quiet and the sunshine for a few minutes before they rounded the corner, in grand style, to escort us the rest of the way home... on their bicycles. Even Caed (pronounced like Kate, only with a d instead of t) who had a cast on her broken foot! The boys were beyond all reasonable excitement at the prospect of spending a week on an American military base. The first two days they spent shouting, “Look! There’s an army man!!” Mr. Barker is an Apache helicopter pilot (a near mythological status to young boys) and is stationed in Iraq. Our only regret about this visit is that he is not here. From the stories we’ve heard he lives up to his legend and we can’t wait to meet him one day. It has been pure joy to shack up at “casa de Barker” for a few days. We’re even sleeping in the house, which is novel for us! The children have ridden bikes up and down the street, licked popsicles, played trains and dolls and read English books by the truck load. Our Daddy has picked up some of the “man work” for Mrs. Barker and allowed me to treat her to some much needed “Mommy time.” Megan has graciously donated several hours of childcare to the week and a wonderful time has been had by all. We’ve been treated to a day at the Freiland Museum, a historical village similar to the Plymoth Plantation, in Massachusetts, or Connor Prairie, in Indiana. The children explored to their hearts’ content, we ate ice cream and picked cherries until our teeth were black and our bellies were sore. We’ve been to the pool and played at the park and eaten grilled steaks and macaroni and cheese and Breyers ice cream like the Americans we are. We didn’t realize how much we were missing home! The other things that awaited us at casa de Barker were boxes. Three big boxes from friends at home. The contents: special Mama toiletries from her friend at home, new zip off pants for the boys, who have already worn through their play clothes, a fourth of July party kit, including the fixin’s for s’mores, glow sticks, patriotic paper plates, and wintergreen lifesavers and pop rocks en lieu of fireworks. We also got the mother load Clif Bars, M&Ms, gobstoppers and more. It was one big hug from home and we all loved getting it! Last night we rubbed the post-s’more stick off of the kids and loaded up on the big army bus to head about an hour south to another military base for the fireworks. It was a long bus ride for short fireworks, but worth every minute. Ezra jumping up and down and clapping after every big bang was worth the price of admission alone. The children slept the whole way home and we got a dose of “army culture” in the form of some unruly teens in the back of the bus, who Mrs. Barker felt free to mother in the interests of all of the bus passengers. We have two more days here. We were supposed to leave today, but we’re having too much fun. It is amazing to travel half way around the world and all of a sudden find ourselves at home with family that we’ve known all of our lives and only a week all at the same time. The Barkers have blessed us in more ways than we can count. No amount of bathroom cleaning or bike fixing on our part can repay even a tithe of what we’ve received in their home. They are talking about taking a train to meet us later in the trip... after Daddy Barker gets home... we hope with all of our hearts that they will. To Brad in Iraq: thank you so much for sharing your family with us and letting us invade while you’re gone. Your wife and children have blessed us beyond measure and we know that it is thanks to you that they are here to do so. Come home safe. To Carla and the kids: thank you is not enough. You’ve given us rest and rejuvenation and the best week we could ever have asked for. Thanks for opening your hearts and your home to us. It will be fun to see where we all are a year from now... ten years from now.]]>