Pre HofftoExplore (thanks to my travel diary!) November 2013.
On the morning of my flight to Dusseldorf, Germany, I was busily scouting for last minute Halloween decorations for the pub I was working at, and painting potatoes black so they could be used as the body for spiders. Sadly while I was in the basement covered in paint, Billie Piper (singer / actress) was in the pub upstairs! And I didn’t even know so I didn’t see her before I rushed off to catch the train for the airport!
Anyway so off to Germany to stay with 76 year old Inge who doesn’t speak much English. Our plane had issues so they moved us and all our luggage over to another plane. Poor Inge waited 2 hours at the airport for me in Dusseldorf. She looked so happy when I arrived and embraced me like family. I wanted to tell her what had happened with the plane but I didn’t know how to say it in German!
When we got home, Inge had a bottle of Furst von Metternich that she opened and we toasted my arrival! Inge had prepared a beautiful 3 course meal for us along with more wine. She lives in Viersen (about 30 minutes from Dusseldorf) in a lovely flat and insisted I sleep in her room while she slept on the couch!
Now who is Inge I hear you ask? While she shares the same last name as me, we actually are not sure if we are related. My ancestry can be traced back to Germany, but not specifically to her family. So it was a risk for both of us and we can thank Facebook for finding one another!
We watched the German version of The Voice and then afterwards, I learnt about Inge’s family. We spent some time looking at Inge’s family photos and the men are the spitting image of the men in my family! They HAD to be related!
Friday 1 November – Local sightseeing Viersen, Dulken, Bruggen
I woke up to a breakfast made for champions. Cereal. Jug of coffee. Meats and cheeses. Germans are organised! Inge taught me a few German words for things like knife, fork, table, clock, picture, water etc. Then we got ready and did some sightseeing around the local area. Inge likes to window shop though I’m sure if they were open she’d be doing some real shopping! It was a public holiday today. Luckily though we found an icecream shop open and both discovered that we are lovers of mint choc!!! Meanwhile it was very cold but there we were wandering along eating mint choc icecream in a waffle cone. We finished the day with a nice walk around the lake. I had to have a little siesta when I got home (and 76 year old Inge didn’t!!) then we went across the road to a tennis venue where they also had a bar and restaurant. Inge’s friend was supposed to join us but unfortunately was unwell. We toasted before the meal with our red wine glasses and I tucked into a delicious steak with mushroom sauce and potatoes.
Saturday 2 November – Trip to Cologne
After being spoilt again at breakfast, we caught the train to Cologne. The cathedral there is absolutely stunning. I have seen a lot of churches but this place is a must see. We found a little pub for a quick bite and I tried my first kolsch beer which is only made in Cologne. Not bad. Inge had a kolsch with me! In fact her life motto is when you’re older, have a fine flat, drink lots and have great friends! Well I’ve got the ‘drink lots’ and ‘have great friends’ thing down pat, I just need to buy a nice comfortable flat when I’m older. We got some tickets for the sightseeing bus and sat on there for an hour while it went around to all the sites. Lucky for us the bus had a cover on the top level as it was pouring with rain.
After the bus sightseeing we went shopping! The streets were packed! The first shop we went into was Zara and Inge helped me pick out a nice warm jacket for Iceland and Copenhagen. Then we crossed the mall to Gerry Weber and I helped her pick out a royal blue cashmere pullover.
Hot chocolate in a café nearby and time to head off home! Another full day with Inge! The language barrier was surprisingly going ok. I carried a dictionary with me so that we could always work out what we were saying. Inge can speak a small amount of english which is helpful. And it’s amazing how much body language can get the message across without words!
Sunday 3 November – Breakfast date and visit from Irene
To avoid repetition (like I would mind!), Inge took me to the Royals Café for breakfast which was literally a café with walls covered in pictures of the royals and other royal memorabilia! It was a fancy buffet which of course has boiled eggs in little egg cups. All you can eat so Inge and I sat there for a solid 1.5 hours chatting and eating. We rolled out and did a bit more window shopping before making it back to the car.
My friend Irene who I met on the Intrepid tour in Greece came over in the afternoon and helped translate Inge’s family history. This resulted in a very interesting diagram and story and a possible connection to our family in Australia. Later I was able to speak to Andrea who is Inge’s daughter living in Jamaica. Funnily enough her son studies on the Gold Coast so the connection lives on!
To finish the night I watched Harry Potter number 5 in German, had a few wines and curled up in bed!
Monday 4 November – Last day with Inge
I heart Inge. This trip has been amazing! To be welcomed into a home by a stranger, but potentially long distance relative and treated like family. One of the best risks I have ever taken.
We spent today relaxing at home. Breakfast included a boiled egg today because Inge saw how excited I was about it at the Royals café. She also cooked bacon for me (none for her!) because it’s part of an English breakfast. Like I said, spoilt. Inge taught me how to do my make up with liquid (I use minerals) because she swears by the 24hr Maybelline liquid. Looks really good! She packed me up with a bottle to take home. Awwwwwww!!!!! Time to go to the airport. I gave Inge a big squeeze, felt the tears forming and quickly said ‘tchuss’ which is the slang word for bye and is pronounced like ‘choose’.