They’re oh SO sweet
Fresh from the garden
They can’t be beat.
On Saturday, we attended the official ceremony at the old town hall. Speeches were interspersed with a mandolin orchestra and our singing. A European deputy spoke about how they had put into place the structures for creating this sort of link between people, but that it was up to us, each citizen, to do the actual work. The part about it being up to us is true, but I think we could manage without hierarchy or structure imposed from above. Everything was given in German and translated. The man who did most of the translating had been a French teacher. One of his former students said he wished he had been allowed to translate so freely when he was in class. (much laughter)
This was the 35th anniversary of this twinning. Some people have been participating from the very beginning, creating strong friendships. It is a good thing to work in the direction of friendship, especially since there was previously so much hate during the wars.
The hors d’oeuvres served afterwards were excellent. I especially liked the ones with smoked salmon, dill and cucumber. We walked around the town a little while and then got on the bus for a short ride just outside of town where we went for a hike. Many plants were familiar. The trees are taller, not used so much for firewood as they are here in Brittany.
In the evening was a BBQ. They have picnic pavilions and large pits. There was a coleslaw, but not with the type of dressing we have in the States, plainer, very good. Some tensions were beginning to show. We are all just human beings and not everyone thinks about being penitent which is questioning oneself, working to change so as to be and do good, practicing love, forgiveness, peacemaking, freeing oneself from prejudice.
All in all, it was a good weekend and I hope we contributed towards building world peace, fraternal love between all peoples, recognizing values that transcend culture, practicing that which constitutes our spiritual nature.
Bright and early we were on our way in a very comfortable bus. There are quite a few regulations about bus drivers and their hours. One man drove for the first two hours, then he got off the bus jingling some keys. I guess he was going to drive himself home but I don’t how they set that up. Then the second driver took over and drove for the rest of the trip and all the way home. We made stops at certain intervals for certain lengths of time.
Traffic was heavy on the other side of the road going and completely jammed in places when we came home. It can be so convenient to be in the minority.
Crossing Belgium we noticed the streetlights on the highway (seen as wasteful) and the poor state of the road. Someone said that’s normal, they don’t have a government. They also had higher than usual trees on the median strip.
When we arrived there were quite a few people to meet us. As it was a holiday weekend, many people were away and so there weren’t enough homes to lodge everyone. My husband and I were put up in a B&B, a very nice small apartment with a superb rosebush. All the fixings for breakfast were placed in the refrigerator by our hosts and we dined in a Turkish restaurant with the twinning committee. I deliberately ate 2 slices of cucumber. We enjoyed a fine German beer and talking with the people, many of whom speak French and/or English. A not too late evening and then off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
The next day a car was sent for us and we took the bus to visit Aachen, Aix-la-Chapelle. The name most often associated with this town is Charlemagne but our guide told us the Romans were there before him and a lot of political maneuvering, etc., went on. A pilgrimage sometimes brought 140,000 people in one day which led to the invention of a specialty called printen, a kind of cookie which can be made ahead of time and keeps well.
I courageously tasted the mineral water which was hot. Everybody was talking about rotten eggs but to me it was just reminiscent of a hardboiled egg.
We ate lunch in a beer garden type place with several rosebushes. I very much enjoyed looking in the bakery windows. After repeating the name of a bread to myself several times, I quickly entered a shop and fortunately a girl was free to wait on me before I forgot it.
The next item on our agenda was a park called dreipuntlanden, three points land, where Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands touch. The borders are very discreet now, I look forward to the day when they will disappear all together. We saw a few “dents anti-char”, large blocks of cement to prevent the passage of tanks, left from WWII.
Then we went to the church for our concert. All went well; they enjoyed our program and offered refreshments afterwards. The donations went towards renovating the organ in another church. Back to our lodgings and another good night’s sleep.
Some mutterings I jotted down before leaving—can one jot on a computer?
Getting ready to go to Würselen for an exchange between twinned towns, I read a few lines about it on the Internet and learned that it is located in North Rhine-Westphalia. I remember the word or region Westphalia from a book we studied in French literature. Here is how it begins:
COMMENT CANDIDE FUT ÉLEVÉ DANS UN BEAU CHÂTEAU, ET COMMENT IL FUT CHASSÉ D’ICELUI
Il y avait en Westphalie, dans le château de M. le baron de Thunder-ten-tronckh, un jeune garçon à qui la nature avait donné les mœurs les plus douces. Sa physionomie annonçait son âme. Il avait le jugement assez droit, avec l’esprit le plus simple ; c’est, je crois, pour cette raison qu’on le nommait Candide.
Also running around in my mind is the phrase « jambon de Westphalie ». A google and I find:
Le jambon de Westphalie
Der Westfälische Himmel veut dire le « ciel Westphalien » en français et se réfère à un produit local commercialisé sous le nom français de jambon de Westphalie. En Westphalie, on dit que le ciel « est rempli de jambons ». Or, on accrochait autrefois dans les maisons, les gros morceaux de jambons dans la hotte de la cheminée, qui occupait une place importante et centrale, pour les faire fumer. C’est donc cette cheminée, qui représente « le ciel rempli de jambons » et qui donne à toutes les vieilles maisons de Westphalie cette odeur si particulière du jambon fumé… En France, le jambon de Westphalie était assimilé autrefois au jambon de Mayence.
Here is my translation of the above paragraph : Der Westfälische Himmel means the Westphalian heaven (or sky?) and refers to a product commercialized under the name Westphalian ham. In Westphalia it is said that the sky is full of hams for in times past, one hung large pieces of ham in the chimney, which had a central place in the home, in order to smoke them. This chimney represents the sky full of hams and gives a particular odour to the old houses in Westphalia. In France, Westphalian ham used to be assimilated with Mayence ham.
Not having ever studied German, I felt a little bit embarrassed to participate in an exchange in Germany. I reviewed how to say please and thank you and the phrase “I don’t speak any German.” I know lyrics in German such as “wasser machet stumm” which means water makes one mute (Haydn – Die Beredsamkeit). That I might be able to place in a conversation but “Christ lag in Todesbanden”, I don’t think so. (Christ lay in death’s bonds, Bach – Kantate NR. 4)
The purpose of this visit was to do with the fact that the town where our chorale is based is twinned with Würselen. They match up associations from each town and people are generally lodged with a family. We were paired with a choir of similar size, an ecumenical choir. We prepared two songs that we could sing together. We also prepared a song in German, Brahms’ Lullaby.
I set my intention with this verse:
The following paragraph was written in 1998 in reply to the monthly question for a group of American wives of Europeans. The question was about our mothers-in-law.
May’s Question of the Month
One taste of her aubergines corses, one glance at my right hand where I wear her mother’s engagement ring, and you will know my mother-in-law is someone special. She took very seriously my mother putting me into her care the day of the wedding and has always been supportive of me. When she comes for a visit, she picks up the iron or a needle and thread. I do wish she would forget ways in which I embarrassed myself twenty years ago, but isn’t that how mothers are?
A couple of her sayings:
When you’re dead, someone else will do the housework. (Like, don’t sweat it. )
If you don’t use your head, you have to use your legs.
She has now passed on and I have thus lost my second mother.
Facing the prospect of an 11 hour bus ride, one way (which actually turned out to be 12 ½ hours), to keep myself out of mischief, I packed my Barbie doll, all her clothes and a valisette of Matchbox cars—non!— I packed a couple of sticks and some brightly coloured thread. The main body of a rainbow moebius is now in place. As I work on a border, I mull over the weekend and what shall I write about it. In any case this non-scarf will be a good souvenir of a weekend devoted to creating bonds between fellow human beings.