Lisa & Bill Get a Dieburg Day

| December 6, 2013 | Reply

When a friend mentioned she was going to be in Frankfurt in early September with her significant other for a day before embarking upon a road trip through Germany and surrounding countries, I insisted we get together.  Remembering that they enjoy seeing how people really live, not just hitting the touristy sights, I picked Lisa and Bill up at their hotel and headed down to Dieburg to show them my home in Germany.  I was disappointed that they were hitting the area right in between our summer and fall festival seasons, but I figured I’d find something fun to show them.  Lisa and Bill definitely got to see the charm, feel some stress, learn a few things, and drink some good German beer…all in a Dieburg day.  This is the story of their visit and some interesting tidbits about our life in Dieburg.

When we arrived at the house, we parked but didn’t go in because there was a break in the light rains we’d been having all morning.  We wanted to spend some time on foot while we had a chance.  First we walked down my very narrow and uneven streets,

past the old mill (which had been putting in some overtime during this summer’s floods),

photo by Lisa

photo by Lisa

across the street to the medieval wall that borders the butcher,

Dieburg

Dieburg

down the cobblestoned streets, through the fachwerk houses and businesses, into the Marktplatz and around town.  Dieburg is located along the official Fachwerkstrasse, scenic stretches of maintained timbered framework homes and buildings throughout Germany.

Dieburg

Dieburg

Town Einschulung blessing

Town Einschulung blessing

I pointed out the town’s main church.  Just a week earlier, all the first graders had gathered for a public blessing on the first day of school for both of the town’s schools.  I explained that our public schools are affiliated with the Catholic church, and as such actually teach religion.  There is not as strict a separation of Church and State here as in America, and we happen to live in a pretty Catholic region of Germany.  If a child comes from a religion other than Catholicism, a parent can choose to allow the child to receive religion classes (twice a week for Sequoia’s class), or an ethics option.

We checked out my favorite fountain, which represents Karneval–the one time of year our little town of Dieburg goes absolutely crazy (which I’ve written about).  Scaffolding in the background shows the constant upkeep of the old buildings in town.  Things do not go to hell in a hand basket.  Maintenance on storefronts and public buildings seems to take much less time than in the States.  Personal homes are another story.  A guy a few houses down from us has had scaffolding on the side of his house since we moved in.  Unless it’s art that we don’t understand, we’re thinking he ran out of money for whatever he’s doing.

I noted that during Karneval, the tiny blue doors that look like only Munchkins could fit through them, open up to let people party downstairs.  Some already lead to bars in the cellar of eating establishments; others, I don’t know what they are when there isn’t a sudden influx of costumed partiers in town.

Dieburg

Dieburg

As we walked past one of our town’s old towers,

Dieburg

Dieburg

I received a phone call from Sequoia’s friend’s mother to inform me that Paul was not at the school to pick up Sequoia as arranged so I could spend the day wandering without a plan with Lisa and Bill.  Panic.  Fortunately we were just around the corner, by the Schloss, so we rushed over to the school.  En route, I mentioned having wanted to show them the juxtaposition of old and new in Dieburg (and Germany as a whole)–now would be the perfect chance.  Sequoia’s sleek school building sits one block from the old palace.

It was the first week of school and one of the activities on Sequoia’s schedule hadn’t actually started yet, so I’d unwittingly given Paul the wrong pickup time.  Since elementary school here has a schedule almost like American colleges, with kids not necessarily starting or ending during the same period every day, misunderstanding Sequoia’s schedule was a daily occurrence for about two weeks.  Sequoia starts at 7:55 on some mornings, 8:40 other mornings; and if I hadn’t signed her up for recorder lessons, she would start at 9:45 one day!  She gets out of school at 11:15, 12:15, or 1:00, depending upon the day of the week.  (And yes, those half days are for all elementary school students, not just first graders.  That’s their full school day.)  It is total insanity, and the first weeks of the school year were chaos for me.  Lisa was getting as true a taste of my life in Dieburg as possible: beautiful surroundings, constant confusion.

Sequoia led us all to our local tiny supermarket, Edeka, which is no bigger than a 7-11 but is jam-packed with pretty much everything a person needs.  Aisles are tiny but full.  There’s a well-stocked butcher, baker, and cheese counter, a robust fresh produce section, a hearty beer and soda market room, and a long wine and liquor wall…the necessities.  Here, Sequoia is offered a free piece of bread, a free chunk of Wurst, and a free lollipop as she makes her way through the store.  As I’ve said before, Germans love kids.

photo by Lisa

photo by Lisa

(see top windows)

(see top windows for Rolladens when down)

Next, Sequoia gave everyone a tour of our house, the garden, and her special tree.  Lisa, a realtor, had been dying to see the place.  Maybe not the tree, but Sequoia was insistent.  Lisa was impressed with everything, but could not believe we lived without central air.  I explained Rolladens, the (in our case automatic) metal blinds on the outside of our windows.  They make the town look boarded up, but are actually energy-efficient ways to keep the heat in or out.  I had spent all summer learning to run around the house like a mad woman opening the windows while it was cool in the morning, then run around like an even madder woman three hours later when I realized it was getting warm and I hadn’t shut the windows.  The house stayed amazingly cool, so long as you remembered to do this and keep inner doors shut, while listening to the echoing voice of your parents long ago screaming “YOU’RE LETTING ALL THE COOL AIR OUT.”  In winter, you have to switch to the channel of your parents screaming, “WE’RE NOT HEATING THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD,” which, incidentally, radiators do not have the power to do.  It is therefore crucial that you remember to close doors to every room in winter.  Also, Rolladens keep the light out in summer when it’s 10:00 p.m. and the sun has not gone down and by God, you just want to go to sleep.  And what’s that?  Oh, it’s just the sun back up at 4:00 a.m.  Rolladens.

Oberwaldhaus

Oberwaldhaus

Lisa and Bill and I headed to one of my favorite restaurants, the Oberwaldhaus, which sits in the wooded area between Dieburg and the city of Darmstadt.  There, we enjoyed yummy German fare (“Bill, I’d like to introduce you to Schnitzel”) and went over the most important Wurst-related vocabulary Bill would need to remember while traveling Germany.  I pointed out something that Paul and I find classy in Germany: pretty much any drink you order, in almost any establishment, will come in a glass for that specific beer, juice, soda, or water.  Not the establishment’s glass, but the beverage.  Each of us drank from different glasses featuring our own drink’s logo etched into the glass.  At a smaller bar, perhaps only the beer will come in its own pint glass.  But the larger or nicer the restaurant, everything will have its own glass, from the orange juice to the specific bubbly water you’ve ordered.

We were very close to a tiny town museum in Messel, which houses fossils/replicas of those found in Grube Messel (the Messel Pit I’ve blogged about before).  But when I went to turn down the street to the museum, the road was closed: there was a party going on!  At 2:00 on a Monday, half the town of Messel was out drinking beer in the street.  They didn’t need a fall festival.  It wasn’t a large celebration—about 4 beer tents, 2 or 3 food stands, one merry-go-round and two game trailers.  It was much smaller than a local carnival—mainly just drinking and more drinking.  One very friendly citizen of Messel, Hoss, through a good sport college-aged boy he yanked away from a beer tent and used as a personal interpreter, talked our ear off for about an hour.  He was impressed that I knew the theme song from Bonanza.  He also grabbed our rumps.  It was the first time I heard, “You come here often?” in German.

3 photos by Lisa, 1 by a good sport:

After a few hours, beers, crêpes, and finally popping into the museum, we headed back to Frankfurt to sit around and chat.  Basically, if you visit for a day have no plan, you will see our charming town, panic over a child’s inconsistent school schedule, eat good German food, stumble on a street fair, and get your butt grabbed.  Hope to see you soon.

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Category: In Germany A Broad blog, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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