RELIVING CHILDHOOD MEMORIES
(Posted 11th February 2018)
Homecoming is not just something a Homecoming Queen or King know about, it is an experience most of us are familiar with, whether we got just one home as most do or two as is the case with me. For the Homecoming Royal Couple it is probably the fame they remember throughout their lives whereas for myself it is more of a desire to open a window into my past, into my memories and share some of the locations and attractions which are found in sheer abundance in and around the town of my birth.
During the past two and a half years I felt an increasing urge to go and retrace some of the steps I took during my childhood, my adolescence and during my studies before Africa came knocking on my door and took me away from those familiar grounds.
East Africa, first Kenya and then even more so Uganda, became my adopted home and that choice shaped my life, personal and professional alike.
When I first arrived by charter flight in Mombasa to check out the position I was offered to take up, I was convinced that Africa needed me and that I had lessons to impart. But as time went on it was me whom Africa taught lessons, lessons I could not have learned anywhere else, lessons which influenced my career and life at large, lessons which shaped my entire adult life.
Four plus decades, in retrospect, flew by me, the years behaving almost like the leaves during the changing seasons, blown away by the wind of time, before re-growing and repeating the cycle, almost 43 times as I write this story.
But the focus today is going to be what I left behind and have started visiting again with growing regularity, to enjoy the sights, speciality food and drink only found in those parts and of course that part of the family which grew roots in the old country, unlike myself who grew roots in East Africa.
I had a bit of time at hand of during the past two weeks and finally got around to starting this mini series of articles dedicated to my home town of Bruchsal and the surrounding areas, with the compliments of a native who loves to return and pay tribute to my upbringing.
(Entebbe to Brussels, now daily on Brussels Airlines)
(Savoir Vivre in the air – in a Brussels Airlines Business Class ‘King Seat‘)
(Living the good life on Brussels Airlines)
My visit last summer was well planned and began with Brussels Airlines as my direct flights to Europe always do. I flew out of Entebbe to Brussels in no less than one of their superb ‘King Seats’ and after a brief break to collect my bags then took an Intercity train to Germany. Riddled with delays and operational mishaps did I eventually get to my home town nearly three hours late, not something I want to waste time dwelling on, more so as it wasn’t the first time that my train journeys were marred by mishaps.
My sister and I had already in advance of my arrival looked at locations and maps, places we both remembered visiting as young kids with grandparents and parents, during school outings and of course on our own. We selected a number of them and then fine tuned our planning using, unlike in the old days, Google Maps and location finders instead of printed guide books.
The ‘Badenerland‘ – part of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg with the state capital Stuttgart – is famous for its wines and beers, for food, its breads and Bretzels and of course the local sausage varieties but just as much for historic locations. It is a part of Germany where from the river flats of the Rhine River one is but a few, metaphorical, steps away from the Kraichgau‘ and the ‘Schwarzwald, aka Black Forest‘. Heidelberg, an ancient city known around the world for its scenic beauty, is a mere half an hour drive away as is the city of Karlsruhe, seat of Germany’s constitutional court and other federal authorities and the place where I attained my A-levels, or as it is called in Germany the ‘Abitur‘.
In between, and both East and West, were the locations my sister and I selected for visits, day excursions we did by both car and train, and as it turned out busses too, courtesy of several, some unannounced, track closures by the German railway. Of course, the closer by locations we explored on foot, walking as much as 14 kilometres on a single day, resulting in sore feet but plenty of laughs and even more pictures.
I will not bore you with all visits but have picked those which may very well interest readers planning to visit Germany in the future. The ancient city of Speyer, an excursion to the Black Forest town of Lahr, a return to the castle of Steinsberg, a guided tour through the musical instruments museum located in the Palace and impressions from walks across town will have to suffice in this mini series of articles and those keen for more can click on the link above to get some added insights of what my birth town looks like today, how to get there and what to do when in the neighbourhood.
(Public transport is readily available but not always entirely reliable)
Let me start with the visit to the city of Speyer, home to one of Germany’s most ancient cathedrals, in medieval times even seat of some German Emperors and of late the final resting place of the late German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, notably at the ‘Adenauer Park‘, named after his most famous predecessor and founding father of the new Federal Republic.
The purpose of my visit of course was not just to pay my respects to political leaders of my past but to walk across the city’s extensive pedestrian zones, explore the many churches and finally the Cathedral, before enjoying a well earned lunch in one of the city’s many beer gardens – packed to the brim given the temperatures of the day exceeding 30C.
(Chapel at Adenauer Park in Speyer)
(One of the many well preserved historical buildings in the heart of Speyer)
(The skyline is literally littered with church towers)
(… NO, not yet the main cathedral, just ‘another‘ church)
( … yes, more churches …)
( … and still more churches and an occasional tower …)
(My sister made a new ‘friend‘ and yes, still more churches …)
(Old traditions live on …)
(From Unicorns to birds and a variety of statues, art in the City of Speyer is omnipresent)
(And finally, in all its majestic beauty, the ancient Cathedral and Papal Basilika …)
(The ‘Speyrer Dom‘ aka ‘Kaiserdom‘, built between 1030 and 1061 AD …)
(The final resting place of several Emperors of what was then called the ‘Holy Roman Empire of German Nation‘ or ‘Das Heilige Römische Reich Deutscher Nation‘.
Walking in the heat of the day – high summer can get hot these days in Germany too with temperatures in the mid 30’s that day – is a thirsty business, makes hungry too, and as a result, after taking in the sights, was an outdoor ‘Biergarten‘ lunch called for but not before sharing two particularly interesting sights …
One was the tailfin of a Lufthansa aircraft and the other a group of young foreign students from an international school in Frankfurt – I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions if they arrived by that plane right in the heart of Speyer or used other means of transport …
(The ‘Domhof‘ beer garden just a stone throw from the cathedral and during the hot summer season a magnet for tourists and locals alike)
(If anyone needed an explanation about the meaning of beer garden, here are a few hints)
The day was over way too soon and homebound my sister and I then decided to switch from train to car and off we went to the nearby village of Untergrombach and on to the Michaelskapelle from where an excellent view over the surrounding parts of the county is guaranteed.
The main attraction for us was – after a day of already many highlights – a special moon rising with both sun and moon in the skies at the same time.
Many memories returned with this visit, memories of Sunday or Public Holiday hikes in my childhood days, when the family trekked through the forests – much more extensive then compared to now – to finally reach the chapel and more important, the adjoining restaurant where another simple classic dish from ‘Baden‘ was served as the speciality of the house, ‘Bibeleskaes‘ – something everyone looked forward to during such outings.
Afterwards would the long trek home start though at times cut short by descending into the village of Untergrombach and taking the bus home.
(Bibeleskaes made of cottage cheese, fresh cream, onions, salt, pepper and chives and then served with boiled potatoes in their skin as shown)
Today the chapel continues to attract many visitors as it is seen from as far as the Autobahn while in turn the views extend all the way to the ‘Pfaelzer Berge‘ on the right side of the horizon and the ‘Vogesen Berge‘ in the Alsace region of France across the river Rhine on the extreme left of the horizon. Most of course come by car but given the extensive hiking routes around the Michelsberg, besides those passing through the area, a lot of nature enthusiasts take a rest stop for a meal, a drink and to rest sore feet before moving on.
(An amazing sunset with the Pfaelzer Berge in the distance while from the other direction a spectacular moon rise with a partial eclipse caught the attention of my sister and I)
Part 2 will narrate visits to the City of Lahr – in 2018 home and host of the state garden show, an outing to the ancient Steinsberg Castle which dates back to 1109 AD and in Part 3 finally will come my impressions of the City of Bruchsal’s Palace, the musical instrument museum which is found inside, besides the natural history museum of the city and a visual guided tour walkabout with sights from the farmers’ market and finally from a weekend food market to round it up.