He agreed to pay the airfares and I paid for all the ground transportation including Eurail passes for us both. I helped him carry luggage, go up and down steps, get on and off trains, and to get cabs and necessary wheelchairs.
My first post about my trip is about my traveling companion and about our hosts in Europe who were all very different from one another, and yet they were each wonderfully generous hosts and delightful and fascinating people, easily the most rewarding part of the whole trip.
I travelled with Bill Paulsen, a retired Lutheran pastor from Brooklyn who is also ethnic Norwegian and not at all shy about reminding everyone of that. He can be almost aggressively friendly which really helped in situations where we needed assistance. It also helped that he speaks 3 languages, English, German, and Norwegian. I think he preferred speaking German when we were in Germany.
He has a lot of experience in Europe. He's been traveling there regularly since he was 20, and lived and worked in Berlin as a Lutheran pastor for about 10 years at the height of the Cold War with regular trips to East Berlin (Bill is convinced that there's a Stasi file on him, but he has no interest in reading it).
They were incredibly generous hosts and great cooks. They made a feast of wild salmon for us on our first night there.
A lot of people we stayed with had cookouts while we were there. I think we gave them all an excuse to fire up the outdoor grill.
Chrystal is the daughter of a Lutheran pastor involved in the Confessing Church movement during the reign of Adolf Hitler. Her parents worked very hard with great difficulty to keep her and her older sister Hannah out of compulsory Nazi youth organizations. The threat of arrest or draft into the military always hung over her father. She remembers the bombing of Dortmund and watching her favorite church go up in flames. She spent part of the war years in Ettal in Bavaria away from the bombing.
She is now retired, though still independent and remarkably active at 86 years old.
Peter is a very intelligent and well read man. He was a great tour guide through all the old churches in Nuremberg and in Bamberg. He pointed out marvelous things that I would never have noticed. He has a great eye for art and a real sense of how form works to convey meaning.
He could also tell great dirty jokes, almost as many as Bill Paulsen.
Louisa spoke a little English with great difficulty. I regret that my German was so little, and that I could not relieve her much of the burden of struggling with English. But, somehow we managed through a combination of Denglish and hand gestures. She very generously took me sight-seeing around town to the castle and the old medieval cemetery, the Johannesfriedhof.
He and Bill Paulsen are old friends going back about 20 years.
I photographed him in the cathedral at Autun.
For our visit, she cooked us a memorable multi-course meal of sausage with grilled wild mushrooms, wild mushrooms baked in a quiche with a crust that most New York bakers would kill for, the best au gratin potatoes I've ever had in my life, rabbit in wine sauce, local cheeses, and home made caramel custard. I had seconds on all of it.
She lives by herself and hosts small religious and spiritual retreats for free. She also takes in individuals who need a retreat, especially after a life trauma, again at no charge. She is an old colleague and friend of Jean-Yves. You can see them together in the photo above with her large and very friendly dog.
I also met Jean-Yve's older brother Paul over dinner in Lyons, a delightful man with a great sense of humor.
They are both medical doctors who do the Lord's work. She works as a gynecologist with many immigrant and poor patients. Peter is a pediatric oncologist doing research on the application of stem cells to the treatment of childhood leukemia. When he isn't treating patients, he is doing research and sharing the results at conferences around the world. Despite the august credentials, they are both warm and generous people who made our stay a real pleasure. Just all around great people.
Godparents are a bit more serious of an institution in Germany than in the USA. Not only do they sponsor children at Baptism, but they are responsible for raising the children if something should happen to the parents. Relations between children and Godparents can be very close in Germany.
Jan also has some serious artistic talent and shared his portfolio with me. He would like to go into design with a side interest in painting. I look forward to seeing his work again in the future.
Andreas took us on day trips to Osnabrück to see the work of the artist Felix Nussbaum, and to Schloss Moyland to see Joseph Beuys' work.
His wife Andrea works very hard as a nurse in a geriatric hospital nearby.
Bill Paulsen and the Hellgerman's liked to sing this kids' song together in the car and after meals. After so much beer they could sing it in rounds.
Knight is a retired sociology professor from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His sons still live there and he visits them regularly, but he prefers living in Amsterdam with Ramonda. Knight is Bill Paulsen's oldest friend. They've known each other since 1963. Knight can meet Bill's aggressive wit with just the right comeback every time.
There aren't many pictures of me on this trip, so here a few taken by others.
Special thanks to Paul Lane who made my first trip to Paris so enjoyable. He speaks French like a native and lived in Paris for about 5 years and knows the city well, especially its public transit system. He was a great help in getting Bill around the town from place to place. Paul was also a great tour guide showing me lots of things that the tour buses miss. We spent a lovely evening walking together at twilight through the Place des Vosges, through the old Jewish quarter, and watching the gay life spill into the streets in the Marais.
Photos of Bill Paulsen and myself by Jean-Yves Bonnamour:
A pair of rumpled Brooklyn alter cockers