(I'm going to start trying to get these out faster so it doesn't take another month and a half.)
The next stop on our itinerary was Heidelberg, home of the famous castle and university. But my sister and I decided we wanted to take a side trip to Kaiserslautern. As I said in the first post in this series, when I was growing up, we lived in Germany twice for a year. Kaiserslautern was our home the second time we were there, in 1978-79, and my sister and I were old enough to have many fond memories we wanted to revisit. Our brothers weren't interested, so my sister and I and our husbands took over the 4-person van and headed out on our detour while everyone else went straight to Heidelberg.
Kaiserslautern isn't a town you're going to find on any tourist guides. It's a university town, and there are a number of military bases in the region, but otherwise it's just an ordinary small city, some business, tech, and industry, but nothing that most people would think is very interesting. But one of the most memorable things about that year is the amount of freedom I and my siblings (except my youngest brother, who was only 6) had. I was doing at-home study for my junior year of high school that year. I would do my schoolwork in the mornings, then take off to spend the afternoon exploring.
Kaiserslautern has at least three really cool old churches, vibrant pedestrian/shopping areas (where I had lots of fun spending my allowance), squares surrounded by charming old buildings, and even its own ruined castle! Just an ordinary city, off the beaten trail, but there was something interesting to see around every corner.
Behind our apartment building was the Stiftskirche, built 1250-1350. There was a Christmas market in the square here, with booths selling decorations and crafts, and vendors selling roasted chestnuts, something we'd never had before. Yummy! Every Christmas, I still bring out the small wooden nativity scene I bought here.
St. Martin's, built 1300-1350, across the main street from our apartment, where my youngest brother went to Catholic kindergarten under the tutelage of Sister Petronius. We're not Catholic, but it certainly built character.
Martinsplatz. I love this little plaza near St. Martin's with its fountain and charming old houses
Ruins of the castle built in 1152-1160 by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Kaiserslautern was his favorite hunting retreat. Kaiserslautern is also noted for its modern high rise city hall, built behind the castle ruins.
Me and my sister (she's the cute one!) looking at the apartment building where we lived. Note the old half-timbered house squeezed in among the modern apartment buildings. Little surprises like that everywhere we went in Kaiserslautern.
It was so much fun revisiting these places we remember and showing our husbands the sites of so many great memories. We were kind of feeling our way around, not exactly sure of how to get where we wanted to go, then we would spot something familiar and get all excited. Everything looked almost exactly the way we remembered, except the apartment building was painted different colors now, and the McDonalds in the alley behind the building was gone, and I'm pretty sure that GameStop wasn't there in 1979.
After that we went to Heidelberg and caught up with everyone else there (I'll write about that in my next post, Tourist Stuff), then from there we all went to Karlsruhe, the city where we lived in 1970-71.
Karlsruhe is another university town, and it's especially noted for its beautiful palace built in 1715 and the extensive park around the palace. This is also near the university where my dad worked that year, so we spent a lot of time visiting the palace and playing in the park. I don't remember Karlsruhe as well, but still have some good memories. We explored the park and had ice cream at the Schloss cafe, and the four of us kids posed for pictures in the exact same place in front of the palace where we got pictures taken 40 and almost 50 years ago.
That year, we actually lived in a cute little town just outside Karlsruhe called Durlach. There's a trolley line that goes from Durlach right to Karlsruhe and we used to ride on that a lot. Durlach has gone up upscale since we were there last. We stayed in a very quaint but nicely modernized hotel, Hotel zum Ochsen.
The restaurant at the hotel was pretty fancy and getting ready to close by the time we got there, so we didn't eat supper there. My husband and I went out exploring and found a hip little place called Judy's Pflug, where we had a yummy dinner of traditional German food. The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel (included with the room, like at all our hotels) and it was epic. German breakfast is awesome, with the brotchen that aren't like any other rolls in the world, and butter and jam and meat and cheese and fresh fruit and yogurt and muesli (with chocolate chips!) and juice and hot chocolate... And here the waiter kept bringing out extra stuff; I especially remember the creme brulee. We ate and ate and would have eaten more, except we had a very important engagement to go to.
There was a German family in Durlach we became especially close to when we lived there. We attended the same church as them, their younger daughter and son were the same age as me and my next-younger brother, and their older daughters became our babysitters. They took us under their wings, showed us around, and helped us feel at home. The parents have passed away and three of the kids are living elsewhere, but the daughter who's my age still lives in their old (centuries old?) house with her husband, dog, and cat. She's an artist, and she and a group of other artists have an art gallery. That morning, she was kind enough to open the gallery just for us so we could have a look at the current exhibit. It was great to get to see her again and see what she does :)
After this trip down memory lane, remembering our two years of living in Germany, it was back to being tourists.
Next time: Places Tourists Go. We'll catch up with Heidelberg, and then head into the Black Forest and over to Neuschwanstein. (For my family members who are reading this, I know I'm skipping around a bit. I'm trying to organize these posts into themes, but I won't leave anything out!)
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I am Kyra Halland, author of tales of fantasy, heroism, and romance.
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