JY IS MY HELE HART

Enkele jare gelede, vyftien om presies te wees, moes ons ‘n baie moeilike besluit neem. Christine het ‘n werksaanbod uit Duitsland van die Daimler-Benz Aerospace-maatskappy gekry. Ek was heel gelukkig in my werk ingegrawe en omdat die kontrak in Duitsland net vir ses maande was, was dit buite die kwessie dat ek my werk bedank en ons as gesin Duitsland toe gaan. Dit was egter so ‘n gulde geleentheid en finansieel gunstig, dat dit werklik dwaas sou wees om dit nie aan te gryp nie. Familie en vriende het grootoog gewaarsku teen die moontlike gevare wat dit vir ons huwelik en gesinslewe kon inhou, maar ons het biddend die besluit geneem dat sy moes gaan. Op ’n koelerige herfsaand is sy toe alleen Duitsland toe met drie jong kindertjies – die jongste twee jaar oud –  in hul pa se sorg.

Duitsland is ver van Pretoria af en ons sien mekaar net so een keer per maand. Ek kry, as bonus, egter ook die geleentheid om ‘n keer of wat in Duitsland te kom. Die kinders gaan met een kuier saam, maar bly by Oupa en Ouma tydens my ander besoeke.

Een heerlike soel somersaand drentel ons, ewige verliefdes, by mekaar ingehaak deur die steenstraatjies van ‘n eeue-oue dorpie, Lindau, toe Franz Lehár se musiek na ons toe aangesweef kom. Op een van die hotelle se groot buitelugstoepe is ‘n groep musikante en sangers besig om ‘n waarderende gehoor na Glimlagland weg te voer. Ons kry nogal sitplek en met haar sagtheid teen my aangenestel, is ons weer die wittebroodspaar van ouds, met geluk in die harte en sterre in die oë. Die groep sluit heel gepas af met een van my groot gunstelinge – Dein ist mein ganzes Hertz (Jy is my hele hart) uit Land des Lächelns.

Die laaste dag van my besoek breek aan en ek loop die plek plat agter ‘n kaartjie aan vir haar. Ek soek ‘n kaartjie met baie spesifieke woorde  –  woorde wat ek, so glo ek toe, net dáár sal kry. Uiteindelik kry ek dit. Met ‘n bos blomme. Ek steek dit weg in haar huis met die asemrowende uitsig oor die Bodensee en die Switserse Alpe in die verte.

Met haar linkerstuur-motor ry ons in stilte lughawe toe. Afskeid is nooit lekker nie.

Laataand, alleen terug in haar kamer, ontdek sy die blomme en kaartjie.

Christine, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz – für immer!

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NUMBER 2: ZEPPELINS AND TORKELS

Hagnau

I was a complete novice to the whole “overseas” experience. It felt like a different planet to me and I was more or less prepared to see wings or extra limbs on the inhabitants of this foreign world. To give you an idea of my ignorance: We had a bank account in Germany when the currency was still Deutsche Mark. One Saturday on the ferry to Switzerland, we realised that we didn’t have any Swiss Francs. At the Swiss cash machine I wasn’t sure how this machine was going to respond to our German card. And what currency, if any, we will get.  I was absolutely dumbfounded when, not only were we given a selection of languages to be served in, but also received Swiss Francs from our German account!

Germany is renowned for their beer and wine festivals.

Hagnau am Bodensee

In the sleepy village of Hagnau the Torkelfest is an annual event to celebrate their wine making tradition. A Torkel is an ancient winepress and the one in Hagnau dates from 1747 – the last of twenty six that once pressed the grapes from the surrounding vineyards to produce wine.

Torkel

Each of Germany’s thirteen wine-producing regions is divided into smaller districts known as Bereiche . The wines of Bereiche Bodensee  are influenced by the lake and warm wind that can enhance ripening called föhn – peculiar to the surrounding Alpine area.

A few kilometres east a completely different experience awaits visitors.

Friedrichshafen

Friedrichshafen is where, in June 1898, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin built the first of the famous Zeppelins in a floating wooden hanger on the Bodensee.

The fourth Zeppelin

Zeppelin in Friedrichshafen

The memories of that once huge industry are brought to live at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen. I had never realised just how massive those airships were until I stood beneath a tiny section of a Zeppelin that’s been reconstructed inside the museum.

Inside the Zeppelin Museum

NEXT TIME: VON TRAPS AND CONNYLAND

NUMBER 1: THE BUG

The lady across the street was born in our little village here in England, more than eighty years ago. In 1956, as newlyweds, she and her husband built the house they are still living in. I wonder what it feels like – to spend your whole life in one neighbourhood.

During the European summer of 1998, a bug spawned in my veins – beware, this bug is notoriously invasive! – internationally known as the Wanderlust Bug. My wife had a contract with Daimler-Benz Aerospace near Friedrichshaven in the south of Germany.  Although my own commitments back home in South Africa kept me from joining her for the duration of the contract, the visits to the land of Mercedes, Apfelstrüdel, Zeppelins and Wagner did leave an indelible impression.

Home away from home

To me (and my wife) it was the start of an affair with the world, a craving for more; an unquenchable yearning for foreign places, exhilarating experiences and different cultures.

Our room with a view

The offspring of the original Wanderlust Bug had found the perfect host.

That summer of 1998.

The Abby in St Gallen, Switzerland

Friedrichshaven nestles cosily between picturesque villages dotted along the German shores of Lake Constance (locally known as Der Bodensee). Germany shares this lake with Switzerland in the south and Austria to the east.

Meersburg Castle in Germany

The weather was perfect – sundrenched days, clear skies and the aroma of ripening fruit from the orchards and vineyards held promises of everlasting memories.

We found ourselves on top of the world.

Bregenz – pfänderbahn, Austria

NEXT TIME: ZEPPELINS AND TORKELS