Saturday, July 04, 2009

Driving Fast

As fast as we are driving, we don't seem to get any place too soon. Our mistake? We may have aimed for too many stops in our European Sampler. Geoff will never admit that he regrets stretching ourselves so thin, even though we are sitting at a German rest stop while he naps. Yesterday we drove from Gelderland, Netherlands, through Limburg and all the way to Triberg, Germany. And by “we” I mean Geoff, because we are in a manual transmission Espace. I drive automatic. Anyway, driving all that way and stopping to see the Kasteelruins of Valkenburg, got us in to our hotel at 23:50. Such a beautiful drive, while it was still light, but hard too. The GPS is either doing an amazing job or she, we call her Sheila, is completely random and prone to stoopidty. It's hard to tell. We drove through the Netherlands, then Belgium, then France, then Texas, then back in to Germany... Sheila delights in making us take horrible and absurd detours when a u-turn would suffice.

Update: That was written on our way to Switzerland on the fourth of July and now it is Sunday morning. 5 July. Brienz Switzerland.

Geoff never should admit we are spread too thin. It is all worthwhile. We are a bit travel weary and we definitely wish we had more time to spend in the places we are driving through and the places we have stayed over.

Triberg, Germany was adorable and the people were incredibly friendly and considerate. We made an embarrassingly fast visit of the town. Saw the giant cuckoo clock and took dozens of pictures of window boxes full of the brightest and prettiest red geraniums I have ever seen. Everything was unbelievably quaint and charming... to the point where I have abused the words “quaint” and “charming,” and was forced to rely on “cute” and “precious” as well. The drive out of town was almost excruciatingly quaint, charming, cute and precious and I was gasping, sighing and exclaiming over every barn, window shutter and foxglove filled meadow in sight. We even came to a narrow stretch where we had to wait for cows to be herded across the road. Chickens on haystacks and a woman in an apron and a kerchief on her head was raking in a forest clearing... I got the picture in my mind, but unfortunately not in my camera.

Switzerland. Whoa. Hey, when they say “going through the Alps,” they are not kidding. We have never been in so many tunnels in our lives. Long ones. Forget the time of day long. Uphill long. Really, really long. Longer than this description.

We had a blast. We laughed and marveled and delighted at every twist and rise. Toward the end of our drive we stopped going through the Alps and actually started driving up the mountain. The green and lush, waterfall dotted, chalet covered mountain. I begged to hear yodeling and craved fondue. I wanted to find grandfather and the goats and drink milk and make cheese and braid daisy chains to wear in my hair. I need a dirndle.

We passed many lakes that are a color I have no name for. Slate blue? Sky gray? Iced jade? It rained. It is a perfect temperature. We arrived at our hotel and could not believe our fortune. Brienz is the kind of place you would feel lucky to see, to drive by and hope to visit, and we are actually waking up here... on a lake! We are in a comfortable hotel apartment with views of the lake from all three rooms. We have been watching clouds and water, chalets and boats, ducks and mountain faces... all changing, appearing and disappearing in the sunlight. It was not fireworks for our Fourth, but it has been a breathtaking display. Also in view is a church and we have been serenaded by its bells ringing the hour. The view from every corner, from any angle, is an idyllic postcard. Honest. How will we ever leave? When can we return?

I do not want to temper my mood, but I am keenly aware of how much I want and need to appreciate being here, being in the moment and thanking God for our blessings. I am quite certain that the Blue House will not be ours. It breaks my heart. Pity Party forthcoming.

My aunt Liz has been keeping us updated on her parents' health. My tia and uncle Bill have been fixtures in my mind and heart for as long as I can remember. If I were not here, I would be there, visiting them and trying to find the words that comfort, trying to be helpful somehow. Liz, and Beckie... their entire family, my Abuela too, are all easing my tia's days as she prepares for heaven.

At this very moment the church is ringing out the hour and a calling for service. Tearfully, I recall our own church in El Valle, all the services there and the inspiring and sustaining faith my Abuela has. The resonance of the bells is vibrating in my heart. It is not stopping. To the very last ring, it stirs the air and my spirit.

Maria has been sad, homesick, only twice on the entire trip. The first time did last several tear filled hours in which she mournfully called out for Izzy. “I miss Izzy! I need Izzy! Izzy. Izzy! Oh, Izzy...” sniffle-sniffle. I've been homesick too. I think every pretty house, fat hen, and lovely town makes me wish for home, for a home of our own... otherwise I think I could just keep traveling and seeing new sights and waiting. Someday I will have flower boxes and chickens on haystacks and a fenced yard with a veggie garden. Someday I will be unpacked and have family pictures on walls... walls painted the colors that I like.

But now... now we are Here and here is a beautiful place to be. We are healthy and feeling strong from many great walks. We have enjoyed amazing sights and good laughs, even the stimulating challenge of being a bit turned around or wondering if we are in the right place, doing the right thing... just yesterday Geoff and I had an unexpected lesson in “how to use a public bathroom in a Swiss truck stop.” Our trip won't last much longer, but I hope to be in the moment, appreciating all of it while I am here and then savoring the memories later.

Oh for goodness sake... it's too good here. Too good, I'm telling you. Geoff just called me to the porch so I could see the white swan on the lake. It glided by on mist, as regal and elegant as any fairy tale swan could ever be.

I am too cynical to believe that any place is perfect.
I am too hopeful to stop wishing for something that comes close.

I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July.


CrazyCris said...

It's that age-old question when travelling:
try and see as much as you can at the risk of spreading yourself too thin (but at least you'll have touched on a bit of everything)?
or do fewer stops and explore them more fully to get a better understanding / appreciation of where you are?

A very tough question! But don't let worrying about it take up too much of your time, you seem to be spread a bit thin, but still enjoying it to the fullest! And for the kids' sake it's probably a good way to go since they'll get to see bits of many different places that will probably inspire them in different ways in the future.

Bon voyage!

Susan said...

I absolutely LOVE your blog! I have been lurking for a while, but I especially love today's post. I didn't even miss the pictures. Your writing is so descriptive and perfect that I felt as if I WERE looking at pictures!

What a wonderful memory-making journey you and your lovely family have been taking. It's so nice that you are seeing more than just the high spots one usually sees on a European tour.

I'm so sorry that this is also a difficult emotional time for you. ((hugs))

nicole said...

Ok, first of all: All the beautiful places we have here in Germany and you pick Triberg. OMG. *lol* we usually joke that Triberg and actually most of those small villages in the black forest were created for Japanese Tourists who spend a day in Germany and want to see the cuckoo clocks.
I understand that you liked it, it's a bit like Disneylands representation of other countries. It's nice but it's not really Germany ;-)
Really, I'm glad you liked it, but man, you should really have gone somewhere else, too.

Ok, enough bitching. I really didn't mean it to be bitchy, but I used to ride through Triberg on the train when I was living in Constance (there's a city you should go and see) when I went to visit my parents up here near Frankfurt (which is overrated).

I hope your relatives are doing as well as possible and I hope you will get to see them before their time in heaven starts. You know, to share your adventures and stories in person and everything else you might like to still do.

TCavanaugh said...

I love your descriptions of your travels and am glad you are all having the time of your lives.

I truly hope your tia has a gentle journey to her resting place and wish you all peace in your loving memories of her.

dewatobay said...

- "ditto" Susan's comments. Your writing precludes any need for photos. It's a good life.

Andy John said...

i like 4th of july and yer blog interested me.. i am new around here and have been perusing... yours was the first that made me wiggle... in my brain...

Sarah said...

I love your chicken photo on your header!! it's so adorable!
We have a barred rock that looks just like that, we call her 'Pepper'.

Mary Smith said...

Enjoying following your travels. They bring back such great memories. So much beauty, thank God!