It’s time for Project 52, Week 32, Part 3!
32 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 32 — June 14, 1996, to June 14, 1997.
But, boy oh boy, am I ever going to have to start editing myself! So far, I’ve done two posts about the year I was 32, and I still haven’t gotten half done, and just barely got to Germany! Sigh. If I want to finish the year in a week of blogging, I’m going to have to leave out a lot of the castles and sights and try to give the big picture.
Last time, I’d gotten us almost through November, which ended with Steve’s 32nd birthday. We had our landlady Silke and her girls, ages 3 and 5, down to share our cake.
They were very interested in Steve’s tuba!
But the super significant thing about Steve’s birthday that year?
Now all the ages of people in our family were odd powers of 2!!!
Tim’s age was 2 = 2 ^ 1.
Josh’s age was 8 = 2 ^ 3.
Steve and I were both 32 = 2 ^ 5.
!!! I know! Thrilling, or what?!
This (of course) never happened again, once Josh had their 9th birthday. (The next year, all our ages were odd multiples of 3, which always happens the year after your age is an odd power of 2, but it’s not nearly as rare for our whole family. In fact, just last year, I was 3 x 17, Jade was 3 x 9, and Tim was 3 x 7.)
But back to moving to Germany…
On December 1st, we visited Castle #2, Burg Falkenstein.
Burg Falkenstein is only about 20 minutes from Sembach Air Force Base, and ended up feeling like “our” castle. It became our favorite place to take visitors when they just got off the plane. It’s a little castle, but the view is beautiful. And close by. And no admission charge. It’s just there. There’s also a restaurant just up the road from the castle, though I don’t think we discovered it just yet. Oh, and the road to the castle has a 25% grade, so I was always glad that Steve was driving. But fortunately, you can drive to the level of the castle and don’t have to walk up the hill to enjoy the view.
So here’s “our” castle, Burg Falkenstein, the first time we visited it on December 1, 1996. (This is probably the ugliest it ever looked — still very beautiful.)
On December 5th, we got our household goods and Josh started 3rd grade at Sembach Elementary School.
I think it was the very next day, a Friday, that both kids came down with a fever. Timmy got a super high one and burned it out within a day, but Josh didn’t have as high a fever and was sick long enough to miss some school the next week. Steve made a special trip to the Base Exchange at Ramstein to buy a video for them to watch. I think it was Toy Story. We’d found our TV and VCR, but we hadn’t found our videos yet. (The folded up bed in back is loaner furniture, which got removed on the 11th.)
Remember how I’d been trying for a white Christmas ever since 1990, when we left California? Whenever we went back West for Christmas, they’d get snow at home, and whenever we stayed home, we wouldn’t get a flake during Christmastime. But this year, all that changed. Here’s how I put it in the Address Change Letter I wrote the following March:
“And, yes, at long last, we had the White Christmas of our dreams! It snowed on the 23rd, but on Christmas Day there was not a cloud in the sky, and the view from our house was breathtaking! Thanks to an ice storm on the 22nd, the treetops really did glisten, as if coated with diamonds. It was incredible. We went sledding both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, simply walking up the hill behind our house. They say that they haven’t had a white Christmas here for 8 years, so again, we feel that this was a special treat from the Lord. We’re glad that wherever we go, He still watches over us.”
Some Christmas pictures:
The glistening treetops:
In the afternoon, after some sledding, we visited Marie-Laurence and Sam Sikaly, who now had newborn Joel as well as Elise.
Marie’s Grand-mere was there, who only spoke French. Elise “only” spoke French and German. Marie, of course, speaks excellent English. We played an interesting card game with English, German, and French all used.
That first Christmas was when Steve and I bought each other a cuckoo clock, complete with a German band of musicians in front.
On December 28, we went to another favorite castle, Castle #3, Schloß Heidelberg. I love Heidelberg’s Castle, because it’s got picturesque ruins and a beautiful view, but it’s also got luxurious parts still and even parts that are still used today. And there’s an American base in the town of Heidelberg, so they give castle tours in English.
The day we went to Schloß Heidelberg, the temperature was in the single digits Fahrenheit. The Germans were going on about how COLD it was. We didn’t think too much of it — days like that always came along in an Illinois winter. Well, it wasn’t until about our last year in Germany that we ever experienced weather that cold again! And the next time, we were complaining right along with the Germans. Brrrr!
(Interesting to me, I also visited this castle later on one of the very hottest days I ever experienced in Germany, about 102 degrees Fahrenheit. I think I actually prefer single digits.)
Here are pictures from that very first visit to Schloß Heidelberg, Castle #3:
Josh is posing below the statue of Joshua:
The green thing is a heater, which was on:
Well, I’m going to have to stop going day-by-day, or it will take me the rest of the year to finish the year I was 32! Now, I just realized that I missed scanning the film from several months of 1997 — beautiful months, too! So perhaps that will help restrain me.
Let me quote again from the letter I sent in March 1997:
“Steve has already been to England, Eastern Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, and he played at many of the Christmas markets in this part of Germany. For our tenth wedding anniversary, we took a bus tour to Paris, where, to quote Timmy, we saw the “Awful” Tower. Paris was wonderful, but the bus was indeed awful. Anyway, we figure that one of the great things about living in Europe is that we really don’t have to do our sight-seeing with tour groups. All the weekends in February were beautiful, and we spent them “castling” and hiking. As a family, we’ve now visited 12 castles or palaces, including Heidelberg and some along the Rhine. There’s something magical about spending a Saturday roaming over an 800-year-old ruin! And they’re all over the place! We won’t run out of hiking trails either.”
So now I’m going to *try try try* to restrain myself and just post some of the pictures I do have scanned.
I have to show this one! At the Louvre, Steve told Josh that if they could get their head between the pyramids, they’d become super smart! Then this exact spot was important in the book The Da Vinci Code.
I was so excited to find a street named after a mathematician across the street from Notre Dame!
From the “Awful” Tower:
At the L’Arc de Triomphe:
Snow was on the ground the entire month of January! (The longest it was ever on the ground during our ten years in Germany!) When Aunt Kay sent money for Christmas, we decided to buy a German sled.
Our landlady had a costume party for Fasching:
The house had wonderful window ledges for Timmy to drive cars off:
And, okay, more castle pictures, since I’ve already cut them down to size for the blog. These are from when we went back to Burg Nanstein, Castle #1, above Landstuhl, which was closed the evening we first touched it. We went back on February 1st.
Okay, NOW I’m going to try to post fewer pictures. (The above, I’d already selected before I’d realized I was overdoing it.)
Here’s one from a hike in our woods by Leithöfe:
Oh! And another significant Castle! Castle #6 was Altenbaumburg, above the village of Altenbaumberg. (I’d counted Versailles and the Louvre — once the home of kings — as castles.) Altenbaumburg had a restaurant, and it was only about 20 minutes away from Gundersweiler, where we moved in 1998. So we visited many more times. Again, cool ruins, beautiful views. And this one also had hiking trails leading away from the castle, which we explored for a bit.
On March 1st, we took our first climb to the top of our own hill. This later became a regular after-dinner tradition. A game of Monopoly Jr., a walk to the top of the hill…
That’s our house, the white one right in the center of this picture:
Here’s our town’s sign:
And the front of our house:
We visited Castle #7, Burg Berwartstein, on March 2, 1997.
More Castling on March 8 — First Castle #9, Burg Neuwolfstein:
(This one is to show how tall I am, filling the doorway!)
Then Castle #9, Kyrburg:
A few from Leithöfe:
On March 12, 1997, we took our first car trip along the Rhein! We touched another castle that ended up becoming a favorite — but that day it was closed by the time we got there. Castle #10 was Burg Rheinfels.
And Castle #11 was Schönburg (“Beautiful Castle”):
It’s probably just as well that I didn’t get the rest of my Year 32 pictures scanned. There are rolls and rolls. I do have this set in photo albums, and there are many that are truly gorgeous. Clearly, I’m not able to restrain myself from posting them. Here are the castles we visited:
Castle #12, Ebernburg, after Schönburg, also on March 12, 1997.
Back to Castle #10, Burg Rheinfels, on April 4.
Castle #13, Burg Reichenstein, April 4.
Castle #14, Burg Lichtenberg, April 11.
Castle #15, Hohenburg, May 3.
Castle #16, Burg Breitenstein, May 17.
Castle #17, Burg Spangenberg, May 17.
Castle #18, Burg Meersberg, May 31. (We met Darlene here!)
Castle #20, Neuschwanstein!!! June 1.
And that brings us up to my 33rd birthday!
You can see that it would have taken me hours longer to finish this year if I’d still had all the pictures. Neuschwanstein! Leithöfe in the Springtime! The Partnach Klamm by Neuschwanstein! So much more! (I will scan them eventually and post them on Facebook, so my friends will get to see them.)
But one thing I do want to say about our move to Germany: A few years before, someone had suggested writing down your dreams for yourself. So I’d written down some wild dreams I didn’t imagine could ever come true until maybe I retired. Well, I counted up, and I remember now that NINE of those dreams came true when we moved to Germany. I don’t remember all of them, but some were:
1. To quit teaching.
2. To have more time with my family. (We used to play Monopoly Jr. after dinner, then go for a walk up our hill with its glorious view.)
3. To live where it’s beautiful. (Wow! That was the most incredible view I’ve ever had. It fed my soul.)
4. To travel to Europe again.
5. To learn other languages. (Well, one.)
6. To be able to go hiking right from my doorstep. (The crazy thing is, since then, I’ve never lived where I can’t do that, but that was the most far-fetched one of all when I first wrote it down. Not something you can do where I grew up.)
7. To write a book. (Now that I wasn’t teaching, I finished writing my first children’s book! I really finished it!)
I don’t remember what the other two were. I never dreamed of getting to touch castles! But let’s just say that I felt that God had given me so many desires of my heart.
The funny thing about moving to Germany — many other band folks hated it. Now, the band commander was reportedly verbally abusive and awful to work for. So it was harder on Steve than on me. But Steve and I had a private joke about a couple we knew who hated it in Germany and wanted to go back to Scott AFB, which we were so glad to leave. When we saw a beautiful sight that seemed prototypically European, like passing a cathedral or quaint shops or a beautiful view, Steve would say, “Doesn’t it make you wish you were back at Scott?” And we’d laugh together.