Once in the city of Koblenz, Michelle and I settled down with our German family that we stayed with, fairly quickly. This wonderful family, the Budka’s, opened up their spacious home to us with open arms. We really lucked out with our placement with this particular family. The father, Marion, was a police officer in Koblenz and the mother, Sylvia, was a dental hygienist (which proved to come in handy later on in the trip). Marion and Sylvia had three children and the oldest was a 13-year-old girl, Mariam, the only one who spoke decent English.
Michelle and I always dreaded when Mariam had to go to school because we knew our brief lessons in German, months before, only enabled us to ask and say a few things like: “Wo is die toilette?” and “Wo is der Bahnopf?” Neither of which helped us out when we wanted to make conversation and sound like civilized people. The word inept and inadequate took on a whole new meaning for me in Germany as I struggled with the language daily!
Our second full day in Koblenz was one for the memory books, once again, but unfortunately I had to leave my sweet Michelle “home” because she woke up sick and she could not go with me and the rest of our group to our next adventure. So alone at first, but not for long I left with my group from Summit Elementary in Austin, Texas and we first took a trip to a small wine town off the Mosel river. The town was Moselkern, a beautiful, quaint quiet place and it was truly a pleasure to find this secret hidden away town.
Little did I know what was ahead though. We began, what I was led to believe, a “short” hike from Moselkern to one of the most famous castles on the Mosel river, Burg Eltz. My friends and I began the pleasant walk through Moselkern past a small visitor’s center and beirgarten at the end of town. I wish I had known then that would be our last sign of civilization for over 1 ½ hours!
Our “walk” quickly turned into a hike which within 15 minutes or so turned into a climb up a very tall mountain that was hidden from previous views! Only a quarter or our way up the mountain I say too many that this better be a really awesome castle (Burg means Castle by the way) or I want my money back. My only saving grace during the grueling climb was that I was one of the few that wore shorts and tennis shoes.
It became hot so quickly and due to lack of consistent exercise in the months before, my calves and thighs were beginning to talk back. I began to think that Michelle lucked out by not having to make this awful climb. If she only knew what we were going through! The only thing that kept me going was looking back on the trail at the younger mothers and several teenagers that were far behind me. Maybe I was in better shape than I thought!
My friends, mothers and children alike, would look up at me and often yell things at me, obviously envious and foolishly thinking I worked out every day. If they only knew it was inner resolve and a small ounce of competition (well maybe not that small) that kept me ahead of most all of them.
Finally, 1 ½ hours from the start we had arrived at our destination high up in the mountains…but now we were extremely cold, being at the top of this mountain with the cold wind piercing through our bodies, we all began to question our sanity at following this Germany itinerary.
(Only later were we to find out that our German planners had read (and saw on TV) that all Americans love to climb mountains)!
But the castle, the castle…Wow. Burg Eltz was far beyond what most of us could imagine the perfect castle could be. No wonder the family who built this castle hundreds and hundreds of years ago in the medieval ages, felt secure and powerful. High above the German countryside, the visit to Burg Eltz proved to be one of the highlights of my trip. This for certain, was a safe and beautiful place to be. Looking back I would take that climb once more, just to be at Burg Eltz once again.