Our second day in Amsterdam was much more successful, as we largely recovered from the shock of big city life. It was a day of museums, mostly. First the Van Gogh Museum, then the … the one with the Dutch masters, including Rembrandt.

Across from the museums is a lovely “pleine” or plaza. We used it well, first for a refreshing ice cream and then for a refreshing dip (feet only) in the pool.

Even after the pool, we were really tired.  What to do?  We’d spent so much money already (the museums, lunch, the tram) that we really didn’t want to do anything expensive.  We had a lot of time, but little energy.  We decided to use the Eurail passes and go to Utrecht for dinner.

That was brilliant!

Restaurants along the canal in Utrecht

Restaurants along the canal in Utrecht

Chez Willy turned out to be a fine dining experience and a great place to sit and watch the revelry.

All kinds of boats passed by – from canoes and kayaks to gondolas and powerboats. Some of the parties were quiet and some were raucous.  There were boats with barbecue grills and full dining tables.  It was clearly party night (Thursday?).

Party boats on the Utrecht canal.

Party boats on the Utrecht canal.

Are we in Holland or Italy?

Are we in Holland or Italy?

JoAnn without her camera?!

JoAnn without her camera?!

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Uh oh! Big City!

June 24, 2009

Amsterdam was a shock to us after our rural experiences so far. The buses, trams, Metro, bicycles, bicycles, boats, trains, autos!  Everywhere the bicycles!

We did see some things today – the Royal Palace, the Flea Market – but today was largely about getting our bearings.  We took a boat tour of the canals to get off our feet and see the city at the same time. The weather was perfect, and when we got off the boat we sat again for a cappucino right next to the canal. In fact, the cafe was on a boat, too!

Saturday on the Roads

June 22, 2009

On Saturday we had planned to meet with Peter Freking and his family.  We started out at 3 pm.  JoAnn had become an Autobahn expert during the week so we happily piled into the Peugeot to speed our way to Esterwegen.  It was going to take us a little over an hour to get there.  JoAnn was used to going 110 to 120 km/h comfortably and we traveled along like that for a very short time when suddenly the traffic came to a standstill.  We had not even reached the next exit.  We spent about 75 minutes on the Autobahn at one or two km/h and finally got off when we got to the next exit.  Now it was so late that if we could find our way on country roads, we would arrive at Peter’s right at dinner time.  So Marilyn called Peter and made arrangements to see him on Sunday instead.

Back-up on the Autobahn

Marilyn didn’t want to go back the the house and not accomplish anything so we went to Steinfield on surface roads and had dinner in the same restaurant we had been to on Wednesday.  After dinner it was 9 pm and Marilyn still wanted to find a couple of farms that used to be in the family.  JoAnn refused to drive out any farther – we could stop and see any farms  that were on the road home but she thought we should not head further away from our  home base.  I voted with JoAnn.  As the driver I believed she should have the right of way.  I didn’t want her to have to drive in the dark and it would be dark in about an hour.   Since there weren’t any farms on those roads, Marilyn agreed that we could do the farms another day.

So we started home on counry roads.Taking the Country Roads

And it started to rain. And it got dark.  And we  took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Osnabruck – far east of our destination.  Looking for Directions Home We had been there before but we couldn’t seem to find our way out. We knew we needed to go west but we didn’t have a compass to tell us which way was west and German signage does not show directions.   Marilyn and I left JoAnn in  the car and went to the train station to ask for directions.  No one there spoke English.  The people were so nice trying to help but we just couldn’t understand.   Marilyn called Karl to get help but there was no answer at his cell phone.  After looking at a map we headed out again driving around Osnabruck looking for a familiar sign.  Finally I spotted a sign for Westerkapln!  We knew that was our way home.  By the time we got back to the house it was 11:30 pm. We had spent 8.5 hours driving to dinner and back!  We agreed that on Sunday we would start earlier.

Spargle Gala

June 20, 2009

We arrived in northern Germany in the midst of spargle season, and you can’t miss it if you eat out. Restaurants have a special menu insert called variously “Spargle Gala” and “Spargleplattes”.  Signs along the road talk of spargle.  So, what it it?  Asparagus.

The first night we ate out, at a Ratskellar in Damme right next to the RatHaus, we all had spargle in some form.  By the way, we love the word. We may never call it asparagus again.

I ordered from the Spargle Gala menu, having a melange of green spargle, chicken, and onions in a very nice light creamy sauce.  Marilyn and Laura each chose a schnitzel (sp?) so they also ordered a side of white spargle (the kitchen was featuring white spargle).  The plate of spargle was huge, but that might have been because it was for both of them.

The schnitzel was quite good. Marilyn’s was pork with ham inside. Laura’s was best, in my opinion – another pork but this time stuffed with cheese.

I haven’t brought my camera to dinnner, so – sorry – no spargle photos.

Damme

June 17, 2009

The second town we visited on Tuesday yielded the clearest sign of our Freking ancestors.  The street sign boldly declares the name Freking, and the people who live on that street are all Frekings. We buzzed the street twice, enjoying the rural setting and scheming for future communcation with our Freking cousins.  They don’t speak English, Marilyn knows through prior contacts.

The farms along Frekingweg are devoted to laying hens. We also saw a few horses. Marilyn spoke to a young man at the Rathouse (city hall), who invited us to return on the weekend for the annual town party. So we know where we’ll be on Saturday!  Drinking dark beer and trying to understand Freking cousintalk.

There is a local custom, both in Steinfeld and in Damme, that is very odd to our eyes: life-sized statues of Christian saints and crucifixes in shrines in front of homes. There is one across from the Freking Weg street sign. Many of the beautiful homes in Steinfeld had these shrines in front.

Slow internet

June 16, 2009

The photos we have available right now (from Laura’s camera transferred to the house computer) are very slow to upload. I think the internet connection is slow. I’ll try again to upload the photos. But then we must go out and make the day trip to see what we can find of the family farms.

The LandRover

The LandRover

We’re Here!

June 16, 2009

Long flight, beautiful train ride, wonderful host … we’re in the MOST beautiful home in Mittengen, Westphalia, Germany.  We haven’t yet gotten the code for the wireless internet, so I cannot upload the photos we’ve taken yet.

The Landrover that they said we could use is a 1970s model that is quite a collectible. I drove it yesterday and it was an adventure. However, it seats two in front and the balance of the seating is in a covered area. That helped us to decide to rent a car for touring.  Other issues had given us pause as well:  1) such an old vehicle, what about break-down? 2) it isn’t very comfortable, 3) with no power stearing or power brakes, it takes some strength and determination to drive.

So, we rented a little Peugeot.

Laura, Marilyn, and I (JoAnn) are in our final week of planning the trip to Germany. We’re sharing thoughts about the travel plans and working on our family tree information. We’ve bought new photography equipment and travel laptops and software. We’re nearly ready to roll.  The 5th cousins 10 times removed await!