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Goodbye (for now) Berlin, Hildesheim, and Gaildorf-Münster … Hello China!

12/09/2011

Oh, I have been a very bad boy indeed!  I can barely believe almost two months have slipped by since my last post from Szczecin, Poland.  Actually, I have a pretty good excuse (at least in my mind) as I’ve been absolutely buried in the logistics of getting myself to Xi’an China where I am teaching English at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

Before I post any material from Xi’an, however, I want to finish up with a few photos from my last days in Germany.  I will be posting another update in a day or two of my initiation into Chinese culture…   But for now, let’s head back to Berlin where I lived all summer at the home of my cousin Thilo in Berlin.

(Tip:  Clicking any photo will bring up a larger version.  Clicking that version will display maximum size.)

Thilo, Andreas and I enjoy some beers and German snack food near their home in Kaulsdorf (North-East suburb of Berlin)

We built a new stone terrace from scratch in mid-July. Every now and then I need a reminder of what "kick ass" work building things from concrete is.

The results of the hard work are worth the effort, however. The entire project cost less than US$1500.

After the terrace project, Thilo and I took off for Hildesheim and Diekholzen (nearby) to visit my Uncle Jimmy (Thilo's father). Hildesheim, while not large, has some beautiful old-style buildings.

Althugh it was late August, the landscape was still amazingly green. Germany has had more rain this summer than normal.

Uncle Jimmy, Thilo, and I take a walk around Diekholzen.

A company in Hildesheim manufactures gyrocopters (also known as autogyros), which are similar to helicopters but are propelled by a push-propeller while the main rotor spins freely. Here Thilo suits up for his first ride. (Family members are taking turns trying out a ride… My ride was a couple of years ago.)

Although a bit apprehensive, Thilo was ready.

This is one of the two enclosed models in which the occupants ride in tandem fashion. In the other enclosed model, the occupants ride side-by-side.

Thilo’s model was “open cockpit”, however. It’s about as close to a flying motorcycle that there is. From inside, one looks directly down at the ground.

Although the cockpit is open, Thilo is ready for bad weather.

The pilot sets her helmet in the front seat while she helps Thilo with his.

"Let's Roll!" calls out Thilo!

Ok... Off they go!

Now take a look at the actual flight:

Back safely on the ground, Thilo is grinning from ear to ear.

Before I left the Hildesheim area, I took a quick look at the new shopping center being built in the city center. When finished in summer of 2012, the new center will be nicely blended in with the existing classical style buildings.

A Swiss made electric bicycle in the "Dynamo" bike shop in Hildesheim. There are also several companines in Germany manufacturing them. The European models are expensive, however, ranging from $3k to $4k. I'll be doing a full blog post soon comparing some european models with Chinese models... so stay tuned.

One last scene in Hildesheim before we move on... The city maintains a very nice kayak training course on a small river flowing through the city. Note how green and lush everything is, despite it being late August.

After a few days in Hildesheim, I jump on the trains for the journey to Gaildorf/Münster, not far from Stuttgart. Here we are making a stop in Schwäbish Hall, just a few km from our destination.

The regional trains in Germany are rather boxy looking red models. This particular "wagon" car is designed to accomodate passengers with bicycles. The regional trains make many more stops than the more direct and streamlined express trains.

In the home stretch to the train statin in Gaildorf. I still marvel at the green countryside, givne the late summer time frame.

As you can see, this area of Germany is covered with beautiful rolling hills.

Finally making it to Gaildorf, I walk the 1 km path along the slowly meandering Kocher River to visit my Aunt Erika. She is so full of life and spirit at 87. A visit to Erika is never complete until she serves up some home-distilled Schnaps (Brandy). It packs a punch! American "Schnapps" is a liqour, not a brandy as the German versions are.

Erika lives directly next door to her son (one of two) Willi and his family. He might be called a "gentleman farmer" in the USA, living in the small farming village of Münster but very worldly and well-traveled. This is just the nicest family you can imagine. They are so very polite and soft spoken. Yes, that is I on the left.

Willi and Birgit's farm rolls over beautiful hills. Very picturesque!

Walking the lush path connecting Münster and Gaildorf along the Kocher River.

Several park benches line the 1 km path between Gaildorf and Münster. They are so inviting, it's difficult to pass them by without stopping for a few minutes to enjoy the peace and tranquility.

Here my Aunt Doris (right) pay a visit to her friend Crista (left). We are admiring Crista's classic 1972 French Citroën "Duck". Aunt Doris is also quite the character. She prefers I call her "my cousin", as I think it makes her feel younger.

The Citroën 2CV6 Cub is nicknamed "The Duck". To describe it as "basic transportation" would be an understatement. It was designed mainly as an affordable automobile for French students (and other relatively low-income people.) It certainly would not come even remotely close to meeting modern safety standards. Still, it does have a certain undeniable charm. Chrita's "Duck" is in almost new condition.

The two ladies and I drove the Citroën "Duck" into central Schwäbish Hall, a small city yet oozing with old-world charm. It's virtually unknown to US travelers.

Schwäbish Hall can only be described as "lovely" as it hugs the Kocher river.

A distant castle peaks over the roof of a near-by building in Schwäbish Hall.

All too soon, my time in Schwäbish Hall and in German drew to an end. Here Doris, her friend Christa and I climb back into Christa's Citroën "Duck" as wel leave central Schwäbish Hall for the short trip to Christa's house. She allowed me to drive. The small car drove more like an overgrown golf cart than a real car. The "understeer" was very noticable, forcing me to crank much more on the manual steering wheel than I had expected in order to make it around a corner. Still... It was fun. The following morning I jumped on two trains to catch my flight out of Germany heading toward China. I'll comment later on the two train rides and 5 plane rides necessary to get there. But for now, it is "Auf Wiedersehen" to Germany. Tschüß!!!

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