We say our goodbyes and take our leave of these warm and friendly people who took us into their home as virtual strangers and treated us if we were long-lost relatives. Anton has decided he would like to visit Canada, so we hope to be able to return their hospitality some day. Instructing Tilly to avoid motorways, we set out for Leipzig.
It is a beautiful sunny day as we pass through the German countryside. Fields of wheat, oats and corn stretch as far as the eye can see. The winter wheat is already being harvested. We pass fields of intensely irrigated asparagus. Europeans dearly love their asparagus! The towns and villages offer wonderful glimpses of their pasts through the various architecture and building practices we observe, including a couple of windmills.
Like much of the former East Germany, there is a lot of construction going on in Leipzig. This makes the usual challenge to find a parking spot even more difficult, but we eventually tuck our car into a parking lot and hope nobody will notice it. We find our BnB and settle in. This one is a new and modern apartment above a business on a busy street. Our hosts give us a key, show us our room and then disappear. We never see them again.
We walk the few blocks downtown and find our way to St. Thomas church, where Johann Sebastian Bach was the cantor for 27 years. His mortal remains were relocated here after the church where he was originally buried was destroyed during bombing raids in the war. A talented pianist is playing some of his music on a beautiful Steinway piano and we sit and enjoy it for a while. The church is also known for its acoustics so this is great experience. From there we visit the beautifully-decorated St. Nicholas Church, where peaceful protests began that eventually led to the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.
|St. Thomas church|
|Downtown Leipsig||St. Nicholas church|
|Inside St. Nicholas church|
Who knew that Leipzig Botanical Gardens is the oldest in Germany and one of the oldest in the world? I guess we would have to visit that! The gardens were first created in 1642 by the University of Leipzig although they have been moved several times since. The gardens and the Botanical Institute were totally destroyed during WW2 and were neglected during the Soviet period. Since reunification, they have been completely renovated with five new greenhouses and a butterfly house. Today the collection contains some 7,000 species of plants from all parts of the world.
|Extensive Outdoor Gardens||Cactus House|
|Water Lily with Lily Pads||Waterfall & Ferns|
We instruct Tilly to take us to Hofheim in the Unterfranken part of Bavaria, where Heidi lives and we drive through beautiful rural countryside and small villages. The road becomes smaller and narrower, but we still have faith in our trusty GPS guide. However, in a tiny village, the road is all torn up and then it disappears down a steep hill into a forest. I shout to a man walking nearby: "Kann man durchfahren?' (Can one drive through?) and get a stern finger-wag in reply. OK, so Tilly is not infallible after all. In fact she complains bitterly for the next dozen kilometres that we are going the wrong way.
Eventually, despite Tilly's best efforts, we arrive in the quaint and charming village of Hofheim. It is a lovely place with a cobblestone square and big stone church. All around the square are little shops, small restaurants and an inn. The buildings are traditional style with red tile roofs and the place is very appealing. Heidi has a comfortable ground-floor apartment a block from the square.
Hofheim is in the Franconia region of Bavaria, east of Frankfurt and not far from the Czech border
|Cobblestone streets and traditional Bavarian architecture|
We settle in and Susan and Heidi catch up on each other's news.
We met Heidi's son and daughter in 1999 when they were children. Now they are all grown up and married and have even produced some grandchildren. It is nice to meet with them again and of course they both speak English like natives. Heidi's birthday party is lots of fun with loads of good German food, drinks and good times. We meet many of Heidi's relatives, friends and neighbours. Heidi's brother, Manfred and his wife are visiting from Canada, so we have someone to visit with. Manfred also grew up in Dryden and Susan knew him from school days.
|Heidi||Heidi's daughter, Stephanie|
|Heidi's son, Christian and brother, Manfred||Bob loves a party|
|Lots of rich German cakes...||...and presents!|
After several relaxed and pleasant days, enjoying Bavarian hospitality, we set off for Munich to return our rental car and catch our plane. Fortunately, we booked a hotel near the airport so that we could stay overnight and not be rushed to catch our flight. About an hour out of Hofheim, the normally thick traffic on the autobahn comes to a complete standstill. An accident somewhere miles up ahead blocks the four-lane divided highway and we spend four and a half hours inching forward meters at a time until, finally, traffic starts to move again. Had we chosen to drive to the airport on the day of our flight we would have been very sad!