We boarded a train in Switzerland and virtually traveled back in time to the scenic German town of Weierhof. About an hour south-east of Frankfurt, Weierhof is a Mennonite community. Our hosts were Carmen and Walter who are the pastors for the local church. As mentioned in a previous post, our friend Patrick who was born in Germany had gone way above and beyond to help us find places to stay. Carmen and Walter are his parents! They were great people and we had a blast staying with them. I feel like I learned a lifetime of lessons during our 4 day visit.
The community was tightly knit and a shining example of how people should love their neighbors. When I mentioned that I was looking for a place to buy a SIM card so I could connect to the internet, it wasn’t long before someone showed up at the door with one. Walter was just getting over the flu so neighbors brought by ready-to-eat meals. I’m sure that has happened elsewhere, but I’ve only seen it in the movies.
Staying in a small farming community was a nice change of pace for us. You can’t seem to get enough R&R when traveling. And walking amongst the rolling hills with wind rustling through the fields beside you brings on a euphoric feeling you’ll never find in a city.
My mother, who was a huge inspiration for this trip, had traveled throughout Europe when she was in her 20’s as well. Her mother, my Grandma, had read that an education wasn’t complete until you spent a summer in Europe. So when my mom got the opportunity to go, she had her parents support. She managed to do it for a year and had so many great stories. She spoke about learning to ski in the Swiss Alps, seeing the Vienna Boys Choir perform, and got to sing and sway to German beer drinking songs around a table at a German pub. These were footsteps I wanted to follow!
It seemed like a pipe-dream when I was poor and in college and even after when I was tied to a 9-5 desk job. But being here now made me feel that no matter where life goes next, we’d made it.
On Sunday, we attended church and were introduced by Carmen during the service, which was of course, in German. She also revealed that we had no idea what she was saying which garnered quite a few laughs. During her sermon, it was sort of fun to try and decipher what it was about by using clues from similar sounding words or familiar hymns. Never having traveled out of the US before, it was good to learn what it feels like to be an outsider. That said, everyone went out of their way to make us feel at home.
After service we were promptly invited to share lunch with the family that sat next to us. The father was a U.S. born war veteran who had decided to stay after WWII.
The food was incredible. The salad was prepared from lettuce and tomatoes, that had been growing in their garden that same morning. We had a soup made with white asparagus. Considered a delicacy, the asparagus is planted upside-down so it never see’s the sun! This wasn’t lunch, it was a 5 star, 4 course meal. What was crazy was that this wasn’t exceptional. It was all so normal. When was the last time you ate a meal pulled from the ground just hours earlier? Yea, me either.
Every meal was something new. We were spoiled with home cooked food and man… we were in heaven. Before our first meal together, Walter mentioned German beer and took me down to their cellar. Duuuuuuuude! He showed me beer after beer that I needed to try and said if I found that I was thirsty in the middle of the night, to help myself. I tried to keep my cool, but in my mind I was running, jumping and clicking my heels together. Who are these ridiculously nice people and with such good taste!
Dinner discussion was always interesting. We learned that German students don’t have to pay for college, however many students believe the teachers leave something to be desired and often travel elsewhere for secondary education. We also learned about Homeopathy of which Carmen is a practitioner. It is a form of alternative medicine which focuses on whole body health and uses highly diluted preparations that are thought to cause healthy people to exhibit symptoms like those exhibited by the patient. As someone who rejects much of modern medicine mostly becuase of their profit motives and complete disregard for diet (jello is served at hospitals… I rest my case), I found it very fascinating.
We also talked about how common midwives were for having babies in Europe and how they are often disregarded as irresponsible and untrained by doctors in the U.S.. Yet we (the U.S.) have a much worse infant mortality rate (6 in 1,000) behind places like Germany (3.5 in 1,000). Even South Korea (4.1 in 1,000) and Cuba (4.5 in 1,000) are safer places to have a baby! Clearly we are doing the wrong things. But hospitals have their c-section, epidural, and inducement drug-cocktail routine down to a science(eh?) And fear drives people into listening to them. What girl isn’t taught that the worst pain they will feel in their lives is child birth? Things like an epidural, lying on your back, and being induced are all factors that increase the likelihood of complications and c-sections. We’ve got it all wrong, but I suppose health has never been a strength of our country. Who’s down for some McDonald’s?
Walter and Carmen both took us for walks around the area showing us historic buildings and incredible views. The cities brick streets were lined with Swiss-style homes and the entire town is surrounded by lush green fields. It is right out of a painting.
While the town was very quiet, there was never a dull moment. We picked cherries right off the tree (the best I’ve ever had), conversed about health and culture, visited a historical library, and went on long walks throughout the area. Having had German farmers our family, it was great to see how they might have lived. There is something to happiness and all this peacefulness. They go hand-in-hand.
The local librarian in Weierhof was the same gentleman who had served us lunch on Sunday afternoon. We were told he had some rare books that you’d normally only find in a museum. We made sure we stopped by and checked it out.
The possibility of moving to Germany has come up many times since this trip. It’s a beautiful place with amazing people and it was joyful being there. This has been Angela’s favorite place of all we have been. I still love Australia, but Germany is right there with it.
We visit Patrick’s friends in Solingen next!