Warm & Cozy–

We capped off both nights that we were visiting Roman and Sandra by sitting around a campfire. The night air was a bit chilly, but the fire was warm and cozy. Roman played a great selection of music and we had a lot of fun, and the only thing missing were S’mores! I’ll have to bring the ingredients from America the next time we visit!

Notice the sheepskin on the chair–that’s one way to keep your bottom warm!
My drink for the night, an early season wine that we picked it up at Hofladen Birken, which is the Farmer’s Market that we had visited earlier in the day.

Altenberger Dom

During our visit, Sandra and Roman took us to see the Altenberger Dom, which is located about fifteen minutes away from their home. The Altenberger Dom located in Odenthal, Germany, is listed as a cultural heritage site. Construction on the church began in 1259 and is built in the Gothic style. The church holds a special place in Roman’s family because his parents were married there.

I’m not sure why there was a giant coffee cup in the parking lot, but served as the perfect prop for a picture.
Altenberger Dom

The inside of the church was beautiful, but I was especially fascinated by the stained glass windows. Most of the panels were black, gray, and white, which is very different from the colorful windows that most churches have. Those colors might sound dull and depressing, or maybe severe, but actually had the opposite effect. The simple color scheme allowed a lot of light to pass through, thus illuminating the church and creating a feeling of richness and grandeur. The windows were so pretty.

If you look (very) carefully, you will see that the steeple is topped with a rooster instead of a cross.
Do you see the “V shaped” wedge around the keyhole? Of course you can, I circled it in red! Do you know what it was used for? It was a key guide to help drunk clergy unlock the doors in the evenings! Apparently, this is a very common feature on old doors from this time period.

On the way back to the car, I spotted a sign for the Camino, which of course I got excited about. I’ve hiked the Camino de Santiago (Frances) twice, once in 2013 and again in 2018. Both times I began in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France and walked 500 miles (800 kms) to Santiago, Spain. The blue sign with the yellow scallop shell, that says, ‘Pilgerweg‘ is the marker for the Camino.

I also noticed another route with a picture of a witch called, ‘Hexenroute.’ Intrigued, I looked it up and found out that it’s a local hiking trail, not a long-distance trail as I had assumed. The English translation of the trail means “Witches Path.” Although I can’t find much about it, it seems that there were witch hunts in this area throughout the 1600’s.

Visiting Friends (And their Sheep!)

On our road trip back to Kassel, we visited Sandra and Roman who live about 25 minutes from Cologne, Germany. I first met Roman several years ago when we participated in the Englischhausen program in Laubach, Germany. He was a participant and I was a volunteer. We’ve kept in touch via Facebook and Whatsapp.

I visited him and his family for the first time when I attended Carnival in the nearby city of Cologne. Roman, his wife Sandra, and their daughter live on a ‘Gentleman’s Farm’ where Roman raises sheep. They also have a horse, three dogs (one is a herding dog), a cat, a few parakeets, and two guinea pigs. During our visit, I found out that the word for guinea pig in German is Meerschweinchen, which translates to ‘little sea pig.’ Funny!

Sandra and Roman are terrific people and the space that they have created for themselves on their little farm is so inviting and charming. I feel such a sense of peace when I’m there. I was looking forward to them having the chance to meet Pierre, and for Pierre to meet them and to see their place.

We had a really good time together, and we bonded over the one really big thing that we have in common–we own homes in other countries that need to be renovated. As you know, ours in France, and their place is in Slovenia, the birthplace of Roman’s parents. Roman has a head start on their place (they’ve owned it longer than we’ve had ours), and Pierre was able to ask him lots of construction and pricing questions.

Roman and Sandra were amazing hosts. They took us sightseeing to a nearby church, and we visited a little farmer’s market near their home. For the most part, we just relaxed around the house, and of course, there was lots of laughing and talking. Below are a few pictures from their place…I told you it was peaceful (and perfect)!

They’re either talking about construction or sheep!
Their vegetable garden–
Roman showed us how his dog follows four commands to herd his sheep to any point on the property where he wants them to be—it was a pretty impressive thing to watch!
Roman’s mother lives next door and she invited us for coffee and waffles one afternoon–everything was delicious (I’m bummed that she isn’t in the picture).
Roman & Max—yum, an apple!

Goodbye Germany–Hello Portugal!

Portugal 2019/Part 1–

After the Englischhausen progam finished on Friday, we boarded a bus and headed back to the main train station in Frankfurt. After saying goodbye to everyone, Judy (a lady I met on the program) and I headed off to get a coffee and a dessert. We weren’t in any rush because we were both leaving in the morning. I was flying to Portugal, and she was catching a train to Berlin.

I enjoyed having the chance to get to know Judy a bit better. She was one of the Anglo’s in the program, and it’s always hard for the Anglo’s to get to know and spend time with each other during the week, because the primary focus is talking to the students who are there to learn English. However, from our brief time at meals and during our free time in the evenings, I could tell that she was a “good egg!” Judy is originally from Australia, but she now lives in New Zealand, so I guess that makes her a Kwaussie! I’ve heard they have great hiking trails there–so it sound like a trip needs to be planned!

Fancy Apfelstrudel ( I can’t believe that I didn’t get a picture of Judy!)

After coffee, I walked back to the train station and I got on a train bound for the airport. My flight was scheduled at 7:10 a.m., so I thought the best plan was to stay at a hotel near the airport. I used my Hilton points and I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn. From the hotel, I was able to walk to the airport, which was so convenient and hassle-free.

I ate dinner at my hotel and I ordered Wiener schnitzel (of course!) Is this just for one person?

I booked Economy Plus tickets on Ryan Air for my flight, and thank goodness that I did. It not only provided priority seating, but it also allowed for priority check-in and boarding. It was crowded and chaotic in the other lines, but the flight left on time (yeah!)

After arriving in Lisbon, I picked up my luggage and headed out to the front of the airport. I needed to figure out how to get a taxi without knowing how to speak Portuguese. It ended up being an easy process and I arrived at my hotel before I knew it.

Once again, I was staying at the Hilton and using my points (yeah!) I stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Lisbon–Fontana Park, and I found the interior of the hotel to be dark, depressing, and a bit creepy…but the hotel staff and breakfast were amazing! Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, and the breakfast buffet is one of the best I’ve ever had.

I want you to see what I mean by dark and a bit creepy–

My room was the last room at the end of this long, dark hallway. It looks strange, right?
I liked my room–especially when the blinds were wide open!

I actually liked my room, but I hated the bathtub/shower! To get into the shower, I had to crawl over the back end of the tub and then step into the tub. Of course, I had to reverse the process when I finished showering. I’ve never felt overly concerned about slipping and falling in a hotel shower before, but this set-up made me nervous. The back wall of the tub was a window that looked out over the room, so that was kind of cool! All-in-all, the hotel worked out well (other than the long dark hallways and the weird tub), and my hotel was only about a mile from Christina and Sussie’s hotel.

I’m looking forward to seeing Portugal (and them)!


Part 1

I volunteer for a program called, Englischhausen in Germany. Including this session, I’ve done the program three times in Laubach and one time in southern Germany. I’ve also participated in their sister program, Pueblo Ingles, which is held in Spain.

So—What’s Englischhausen?

Englischhausen is an English immersion program that’s located at various venues across Germany. The program gives participants the opportunity to converse with native English speakers for 70 hours—yes, 70 hours of conversational English over the course of six days!

How Does the Program Work?

There are three rules at Englischhausen—

1. English Only! From the moment that the students arrive until they leave, it’s an English only environment. Even the waitstaff speaks English. We talk, talk, and talk some more!

2. Be on Time! This just helps everything run smoothly.

Group Activities—more talking!

We had just completed the Marshmallow Challenge when the picture above was taken. My team didn’t win, but we sure laughed a lot! Our group included people from Lebanon, New Zealand, Spain, The United States, and Germany.

3. Have Fun! For me, as a volunteer, I feel like I’m attending summer camp for adults. It’s so rewarding to help the participants improve their English, and all of the elements of the program are really enjoyable. In addition to the scheduled 1-to-1 and 2-to-2 chats, there are plenty of opportunities for students to practice their conversational English skills through group activities, meals, presentations, theater (my favorite part), a walking field trip, and a last night party.

Even more talking!

If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, or for the chance to improve your English, check out their website: https://www.diverbo.com

The session that I just participated in was held at the Landhotel Waldhaus, which is a lovely hotel nestled in the woods, a short distance outside the city of Laubach. As you can tell from the pictures below, the hotel looks like it was taken straight from the pages of a German fairytale.

Anne & Sarah—Volunteers from the United States and Canada

Englischhausen—Walking Field Trip

One of the activities that I always look forward to when I volunteer for Englischhausen is the walking field trip into the town of Laubach. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the group to walk from our hotel to the center of town. Once there, we were given a tour by a local man who has had family living in the Laubach area for over 500 years. With a bit of pride in his voice, he also told us that Laubach is three times older than the United States.

In medieval times poor, sick, and elderly people who could no longer care for themselves could live in this building—an early form of welfare.

The Solms library holds over 100,000 books and once was the home of one of the original Gutenberg Bibles (gray building pictured above). The bible was sold and is now housed in Gutenberg Museum in Mainz. The profits from the sale were used to replace the roof tiles of the royal buildings.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church (pictured below) dates back to the 12th century.

I love the candy-striped decor of the church–it’s so beautiful and unique!
These houses are located near the front entry of the church–you can’t really tell from this picture, but they are quite narrow.
The Englischhausen Crew–August 2019

It Feels Good to be Back!

My flight from Washington D.C. to Frankfurt was uneventful (which in the world of travel is a good thing!), and I arrived slightly after noon. After getting my suitcase, I easily found the train platforms, and I even managed to buy the right ticket by myself. I say it this way, because in the past, I’ve always had to ask for help. And here’s the funny part—the machine has an ‘English option,’ but even so, I fumble around and made mistakes.

I’m participating in a English course this week and the meet-up for the program is tomorrow at noon at the main train station in Frankfurt. This will be my third time doing the program in Frankfurt, so as soon as I arrived at the main station it felt comfortable and familiar. I even knew exactly where to buy a pretzel!?

One of the benefits of my job is that I get to accumulate (and use) my hotel and airline points. I used my United points to fly to Germany, and I stayed at the Hilton, which is very close to the train station. My room had a great view of the city!