As in previous years, I am taking a break from blogging during the holidays. My wife broke her leg on one of our walks down at the golf course and needs all my attention. I won’t be able to read and comment on your posts for the next little while. Sorry!
I would like to take this occasion to thank all my followers for their posts, kind comments and likes. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. During this time of the year, all people are yearning for peace. Let the light of love shine and bring hope for a better world. I selected a few photos of recent capture to present the theme of lights that are presently decorating our home. God bless you all.
My brother and I were three years old when my mom made the first attempt to escape with us to the West. Fences, ditches and surveillance towers did not yet fortify the newly established borders between the divided Germanys. Heavily armed border guards patrolled the unmarked dividing line between the East and the West. My mom planned to cross the densely forested border at a remote village with my sister and us two. Once safely across, my sister would take us by train to relatives in the West while my mother would return home to escape with my Dad via Berlin to the West to rejoin us later. At that time, the East German regime had not yet built the wall, and it was still possible to escape from the eastern part of the city to the West by the subway system, which still joined the two parts of Berlin.
The memories of that night are etched in my memory forever. My mom and my sister struggled to push our twin stroller over a rugged forest path at the approach of the night. When the going was getting too rough, my mother allowed us to walk a short distance ahead of them. My brother and I didn’t like being cooped up in the stroller for too long. We started to run and chase each other around a bend of the narrow path when a gigantic figure with a gun stepped out of the dense bush and blocked our way. We all stood motionless for a long moment until my mother and sister came around the path. My sister started to scream with fright, but my mother stayed calm. She tried to explain that we had lost our way, but she could not fool the guard. He told my mother that he would walk the other way pretending he never met us, on condition that she immediately returned to the village. If she refused to comply, he would have to shoot, as were his strict orders. If he showed mercy, his own life was at stake. He did show some pity by giving my mother directions to a house nearby. There we would find the porch door unlocked and spend the night under a roof. “There will be shooting tonight,” were his last words.
Once again, we experienced the unexpected mercy of an enemy soldier. We spent the night huddled in the corner of a spacious porch. My sister broke down, crying hysterically. We had never heard her cry before, and it scared us more than the sounds of shots fired in the distance. Part of my sister’s breakdown was that she experienced the first stages of pregnancy still unknown to her.A few months later, she married her long-time boyfriend, and soon after, our first nephew was born. Thus, my brother and I became uncle and aunt at the tender age of four.
In November, there have been some unseasonably warm and sunny days, whose images in stark contrast to the snowy and bleak start in December create fond memories. In the third Advent week, I need to hurry to publish the photos before Christmas. The mushrooms you see are a scarce sight so late in the fall and so unusually close to the sandy and stony beach. Enjoy.
Gotha is a picturesque city located in Thuringia, one of the most beautiful regions of Germany. It is called the Green Heart of Germany because of its vast pine and mixed forests stretching over rolling hills. My dad did not have the outgoing, cheerful personality of my mom. Although he could be humorous and enjoy company, he was more introverted and loved reading, studying, and writing. History was his passion. But he also was an outdoor enthusiast and loved to hike, bike, ski, swim, go camping and boat in his canoe-like paddle boat. My mom and dad explored all the major rivers of Germany by embarking on extensive boating and camping trips in the summer.
Until late in his life, my dad led hiking clubs. He loved exploring and marking new trails. He also loved collecting mushrooms and became an expert in researching new species and cataloging them. He also liked to compose poetry, especially ballads, illustrating with beautiful ink drawings. The only thing he lacked was practical skills. According to my mom, he could not even “cook water.” While my mom was loved, my dad was respected.
Our family lived on the main floor of a spacious villa not far from the castle and its fantastic park. It is the most famous landscape park in Germany and contains many rare and exotic trees. This wonderful park became our playground. Every weekend through the changing seasons, my father would take us on long walks to this charming place.
Before we even went to school, he had taught us to identify and name trees, flowers, plants and animals, more than I can recognize now. My brother and I would collect colourful leaves, tasty hazelnuts, shiny chestnuts, acorns, pine cones, rose hips, and other seeds and berries. These treasures would delight us more than toys. We loved to watch the birds, chipmunks, insects, butterflies, frogs, toads, snakes, salamanders and other small animals living in this enchanting realm. Two big ponds were another exciting attraction to explore. Some of my earliest memories are holding my dad’s hand and walking in this peaceful and magical place.
The snow has finally come, and it looks like it will stay. We are looking forward to a White Christmas. It is also time to take out our cross-country skis. Only a few weeks ago, under the influence of the Hawaiian express (a river of warm air flowing in from the Pacific), we enjoyed balmy weather that felt more like spring than the coming of winter. There were a few stormy days when the lake was so rough that nobody dared to go out fishing. Here is a collection of five photos reflecting the dramatic effect the waves created against the beautiful backdrop of our mountainous region. Enjoy.
Born in the Rhineland region of Germany, my mom incorporated all the positive qualities attributed to a typical Rhineland personality. She was always cheerful and full of vitality. She loved life and, above all, people. Her keen sense of justice and fairness added strength to a tenacious fighting spirit. Her memory was astounding. She could recall events and people of the past in minute detail. She was very resourceful and overcame many insurmountable obstacles. She always fought for freedom in all its forms.
People would gravitate towards her; even strangers would love her almost at first sight. Sometimes my brother and I were a bit embarrassed by the attention strangers gave her when we travelled with her. Her hospitality was famous and all our friends loved to visit our home. She took a genuine interest in other people. She had good advice, and people accepted it with gratitude. She was also beautiful. After leaving the convent school, she found employment as a receptionist for a photo studio and frequently sat as a model for her employer.
My half-sister was born when my mom was 23 years old. My mother never talked about that time, and the identity of my sister’s father has remained a mystery to this day. My nephews are still searching to find out who their grandfather was. Until I was 20 years old, I did not even know that my father had adopted my sister. My parent’s generation kept a lot of secrets. There are some indications that my sister’s father was not acceptable to my mother’s strict catholic guardians. Very likely, he was a Jew. I remember a rare moment when my mother told me that she was once given a beautiful necklace by a Jewish man who loved her very much but died in a motorcycle accident. At that time, I did not know that my sister had a different father. Looking back now, I believe that my mother wanted to force the marriage by her pregnancy. Tragically, her lover died in a fateful accident before my sister was born. This scenario is speculation. I do not know how my mother coped as a single parent and how she eventually met my father. I only can presume that my father must have loved her very much to overcome the social barriers of that time to marry an unwed mother and thus jeopardize his status as a police officer.