Brenner Blood: Germany, vol. 4

Sweaty and heaving air in and out of my lungs, I write this update while sitting on a nearly empty bus to Paris. Its raining, which I currently love because I am not getting soaked. We nearly missed this bus; lets just say we probably gave many people the idea that Americans are idiots that run back and forth through an entirely large train station- oops. But I did stand in front of this large bus with my hands in the air as it drove down the street; we now sit safely on our bus. It was like a movie - I could star in some crazy dangerous movie. The passengers include Loren, one lady, and myself on a bus that seats 40. We sat somewhere near the middle, more towards the front. I plan to start and finish Paper Towns by John Green on this silent six hour trip.

Brenner blood : a certain type of blood that runs thick in veins and straight through hearts. It is undeniable and gives permission such as emailing perfectly seeming strangers and making them into dear friends with memories made. Brenner blood, the more I familiarize with it, is wholly generous and completely hospitable. All of the Brenners that I meet are those beautiful things.

Our time in Berlin was short but long lasting in memory. Loren and his cousin Stephan met for the first real memorable time in 12 years - the last time they glanced at each other was briefly across the yard at a huge Brenner reunion in San Jose. Stephan gave us the first story of his home as our space; the hospitality in Germany is top notch, friends. I have learned so much.

Stephan rented us bikes for the two days and gave us a bike tour of All The Important Things, including one of the bunkers used in WWII. It happened to also be Mai Fest (May Day) so we celebrated the night into May with 50,000+ other people.

  Bike riding all the day long.

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Part of the Berlin Wall.

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One of the (precisely) 3 prayers that I lit a candle for in the old churches that offered such moments.

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Standing in the middle of the Holocaust memorial which consisted of a multitude of large cement stone blocks varying in size.

 

Brandenburg Gate

Pommes at the Brandenburg Gate

 These images were captured at the top of Sony Tower -- it contains the fasted elevator in Europe. It takes exactly 5 seconds to go from floor 0 to floor 24.

An old train station that was bombed during WWII.

We stepped into the scene of a post-apocalyptic movie, Loren expecting to see zombies. But instead we found a seat and ate some overpriced sweet potato.

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This little square of bean bag chairs and bookshelves is the memorial for where the books were burned

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Check Point Charlie

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There stands the last of the oldest German traffic lights over yonder!

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We stepped off the train and into platform 5 of Duisburg unsure what face we were looking for.

Loren's dad (Ralph) has a cousin living in north western Germany, Moers, and we connected with the family via the great World Wide Web. We slowly walked towards the stairwell leading to the underground breezeway, hoping we would somehow recognize a human we had never met or laid eyes on. We weren't even Facebook friends. But Brenner blood runs thick with love.

Suddenly through a mass of travelers, submerges a quick woman, smiling and obviously recognizing us. Embracing us in the warmest and most sincere hug ever, she kissed our cheeks and I thought, "This must be Andrea. I like Andrea."

Moers is a small town similar to the size of Corvallis. Andrea and Franz have lived here all of their life, currently raising two beautiful kids (Christopher, 18 and Anika, 12). This family is nothing short of a gift. Their hospitality exceeds many I have experienced and their hearts are inviting. Just as quickly as they welcomed us into their home, they welcomed us into their hearts. They even read up on this blog here and purchased me gluten/dairy free bread! The love is for real, folks. What an honor to claim such people as family.

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Andrea and Franz decided to take us the 18 minute drive to Venlo, Netherlands. They said, "it's not everyday you can take a day trip to the Netherlands for their pommes and shopping!" Down the autobahn we went, entering a fourth foreign country (the third unplanned), ready to devour pommes. They were some dang good pommes.

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Also, we went to the best shopping store ever; I got 3 scarves, shoes, a purse, socks and Loren got 3 shirts and a sweater...all for just $35. So obviously next time I want a cheap shopping trip, I will head to the Netherlands. Their coffee is also ridiculously low priced. On our way back to Moers, Germany, we stopped to meet more family. Loren's Opa's brother, aka Ralph's uncle, among other wonderful humans who share their blood. The barrier of language hardly held us at bay; with Loren's broken German and a few of their broken English and a whole lot of smiles and hand movements, we communicated. It was a unique moment for me as I watched generations of Brenners meet and talk and share stories of loved ones. I couldn't help but think how blessed I am to now be a Brenner.

Brenner blood runs thick and apparently there are tons of them spread throughout Germany.

Here's something crazy: this man Edmund was in a coma for 10 days, his heart stopped beating for something like 14 minutes, declared dead. The doctors shocked him with those iron-like equipments and now, 2 months later, he walks around no problem. Amazing. He said that while he was out of commission, he was walking around and asked God, "Where am I?" And God said, "Time to go back."

I had the pleasure of staring these down for two hours.

Our time in Moers will forever be cherished. We do hope to return. (Also, Franz and Andrea, if you are reading this, be sure to let Annika and Chris know they should come stay with us).

It is difficult to recap quickly what life beholds, yeah?

Did you know that in Germany the traffic lights blink red to yellow then to green? And white asparagus is huge and widely known here, also tastes nothing like green asparagus. Interesting, I know.

Revoir mes, petits amis!

Tchuss, Tubingen. Hallo, Rothenburg: Germany vol. 2

IMG_0129 Germany is beautiful. Graffiti is everywhere, but I barely notice it in comparison to the unique buildings and cobblestone roads. The people here are generally quiet and seem to be good at enjoying present life. They seem present. Aware. Almost always soaking in whatever scenery is before them. The part of Germany we have been in this week (southern) has a lot of little villages hidden in nooks of forestry, with rivers or creeks running through them. Water is my favorite.

There are castles in many of the towns.

God and I have been having honest conversations. He is shifting things around in me, changing chunks of my soul, rearranging my thinking. My priorities are slowly and slightly shifting and it's scary, because change is not comfortable, but it feels right in my heart. 

Aside from a certain continual ache within my being that I will not pretend doesn't exist, this birthday was by far the most memorable. Loren took me to Cafe L for fruit and cappuccino, then on a dreamy paddle boat ride down the river in Tubingen. We sat and we peddled and we laughed and we smiled and we chatted and we enjoyed the peaceful calm.

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Loren got us another Air B & B in for the night in a little village named Buhl. The 25 minute bus ride was beautiful; we drove through country fields of horses and green grass and yellow flowers and farm homes. Pulling into the village center we asked the first man we saw if he knew where a street was; he quickly pointed his finger and we were on our way. It wasn't long before the majestic castle shouted, "here, here, your host home is here!" Our eyes locked with sheet joy and we took a few more steps forward before Jurgen stepped around a tall square bush and exclaimed, "You must be Loren!" (Except it sounded like Loraine, which was wonderful). His English was nearly perfect, lacking a heavy German accent. Jurgen was jolly.

The front yard was pure bliss and I wondered what the inside of this gigantic German home looked like. I wanted to adopt these friendly people as my aunt and uncle. And this village as my own. So the room and everything about it was perfect:

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Jurgen encouraged us to try the German restaurant down the cobblestone walk, around the corner, and through the gate. So we did and we ate the best pommes. Among other yummies things.

I absolutely relish the amount of time that must be put into gardens. Everyone always has flowers, everywhere, all of the time. So much life. Here are some photos from our walk:

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In the morning, the birds and sun greeted us equally as wonderfully. Monika made us breakfast which we devoured happily.

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 We hopped on the Friday morning bus back to Tubingen to meet Tony - and off to the castle we went.

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Saturday we sprinted to our bus which was wonderful because I haven't ran in way too long. (So about that marathon training..) Grabbed some cappuccinos and boarded trains to the very northwest part of the Austrian alps.

 

We first stopped in a small island village on Lake Constinence, Lindau. This town was cuter than cute. When walking out on this ledge to the lookout, one view was of the snowy alps and the other of a gorgeous town.

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Next we entered Bregenz where the gandala awaited to take us up to the alps. From the top of the mountain you can see Switzerland and Germany (and Austria) and the curvature of the earth.

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This morning we worshiped with a bunch of Germans. This church is over 800 years old.

  

We said tschuss tschuss to Tubingen today, which means we also had to say goodbye to our dear friend Tony.

After a four hour train ride, our Air B&B host picked us up at the station and dropped us off down in the village center. We were now in the village that I have been most looking forward to - Rothenburg. This town was the little place my good old cousin Walt Disney based Pinocchio off of. It ALSO was where parts of the Deathly Hallows was created. HARRY POTTER, PEOPLE!

I thought Buhl captured my heart...but this town, this town has stolen my heart forevermore.

              

It's 12:30 am and I am exhausted. Thanks for checking in and following along on our great adventure! Be praying for us, for our hearts to be close to Him and one another - that as we travel, we would continue to be selfless and caring for one another.

If you have any questions, fire away in the comments! I will do my best to answer them within a reasonable amount of time.

Tschuss!

Oh child, we're all foreigners: Germany vol. 1

brenners and backpacksIt's my birthday! Today we celebrate the day my strong momma literally pushed me from the dark and into this world, the light. I feel extra loved today as we sit in Cafe L while sipping a [caffeine free, dairy free - don't judge me] cappuccino at a long wooden table with sun warming me.

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Last night Tony [long time friend], Max [German student, Tony's roommate], Loren, and I sipped Spanish wine and toasted Happy Birthday, Gubertstag, at midnight -- apparently you celebrate into your birthday here. I found myself sitting among 3 amazing men while they sang to celebrate me in two different languages, and the appreciation was real. I won't soon forget this birthday.

So much has happened since Saturday the 18th at 6 am. We traveled a good long while...the hours calculated, I am unsure. The flight from Seattle to Frankfurt was 10 hours and sometime during those hours we gained half a day and were 9 hours ahead. When we landed at 11 am, my watch read 2 am.

We made our merry way to the baggage claim, brushed our whites pearly, and set off for what we thought were simple directions to our first stay [Vilma, Air B&B]. Vilma has been writing in German and sticking those words straight through English translator; this is all good and cherries until google translates walk [street] names or tram stops into English. Exhausted and ready to sleep for years, we didn't think to take notice. By the grace of God we got off at the correct tram stop. As we released tourist-like semblance, an African refugee woman took us under her wings and stepped in as godmother. "Your host lives on a cemetery?" She asks bewildered. "No, no, she simply put the German through google translation and that is what it came out as. Do you know a street named 'Forest Dig?'" Shaking her head, she was clearly flabbergasted and wonderfully delightful. As we slowly paced our way, Loren mentioned something about us being foreigners. That is when she lulled the now legendary, "Oh child, we are all foreigners."

When we found Vilma's home, it was similar to finding gold while panning in the river. She welcomed us with open arms and warm hugs; it was as though we were old friends visiting from ages past. Immediately we were encouraged to remove our shoes and step into her slippers. It's the German way, we learned.

VILMAS HOME!Our stay with Vilma in Frankfurt was perfect for our jet lag recovery. We went on long walks through the nearby parks, which were full of pigeons, trees, flowers and benches. I could see myself living there very easily as I fell in love with the simple neighborhood, welcoming to families and a quiet lifestyle.

Frankfurt, Germany

Our room at Vilma's was on the third (of 4) small floors of her home; windows big, inviting sun, fresh tulips, and birds showing off their gifts of music. She invited us to sit on her back patio in the garden area and sip [carbonated] lemon water. When Vilma sent us off on our cheery way, Shem quickly put together an amber heart necklace, which I later learned is a huge act of kindness and love in the Lithuanian culture [where Vilma grew up].

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Tuesday we traveled to Tony [one of Loren's best friends] who currently lives in Tubingen. This town is pure romance for us tourists. Cobble stone roads, old cracked buildings, absolutely breathtaking. It reminded me of Brugges, Belgium. We explored the Tubingen castle, an ancient monastery in a near by village, and old town.

Tubingen with Tonytubingen brick road 

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view from the Tubingen castle 

IMG_9987 Tony invited us to join him for his worship night Tuesday, put on by his student group, Unterwegs, which means "along the way." Their office is great - in the basement is where worship was held, but they also watch movies and have a kitchenette down there. The main floor is open for students to hang out and use their wifi, sip coffee or tea. Upstairs is the office. So much light through the windows! We also joined Tony last night [Wednesday] for Cafe English at one of the pubs. Basically, it's an event Unterwegs hosts to invite students to - it's a time to practice their English and learn about American culture through games likes scategories or trivia. Our table had 4 German students, all studying American Studies. It was an odd moment to realize that their entire degrees are based off of and learning about our American and English culture. Are we that interesting?

   

Tubingen's mark platz. 

  I met a new friend, Jasmin [pronounced Yaz-mean]! She contacted me via this lovely space of mine awhile ago and lives in Tubingen. Jasmin is wonderful and beautiful and all things lovely. She even loves Jesus! It's wonderful meeting people face to face. Turns out, she sees our friend Tony nearly everyday. This world, so small. Our God, so big.

   Check out this hillside we ate lunch on before heading down to monastery in the next village over:

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Sadly for me, I won't be posting this on my actual birthday. I forgot my phone in Frankfurt which has been a mixture of not mattering at all and yet a hassle at times, since it carries vital information and some fun photos of travels. I also forgot my USB card reader. Therefore, I ordered one on amazon because amazon owns the world and it should be arriving tomorrow, along with my phone, in the mail! What what.

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Loren is about to take me on some boats....I know, so romantic, but I want to add in some first impressions I wrote down along the way. Impressions are just that: impressions that are subject to change.

Ready? First impressions:

1. Everyone we have asked for help from has been welcoming and kind; though not all of them have been able to help because of language barriers, we did not leave their presence with sour tastes.

2. Germany loves fresh flowers! There are flower stands everywhere, along with fresh fruit. It's refreshing. In nearly every home we have been in or seen, there have been fresh tulips. Even in the windows, there are masses of flowers. I love the flowers and fresh fruit stands.

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3. We walk way too fast. We noticed that we are just going going going, while everyone around us seemed to be taking it slow, strolling to their destination and enjoying their time walking.

4. Take your shoes off right when you walk in a home and leave them by the door.

5. LACE. All the lace. I loooooove this part - in nearly every window there are no blinds, but only lace or sheer fabric. It is elegant and quaint and I plan to bring some home as a souvenir for our home. Because why not.

6. A lot more people smoke than we are used to, which is fine, just an observation. also, you can smoke in restaurants if you're sitting outside. Same with alcohol - there is no brown bag law.

7. America is so far the only country I've been to that has toilet seat covers - not Germany, England, Belgium, France, Canada, Mexico. We are really worried about our butt skin and not the environment.

8. There are never paper towels to dry your hands...just odd blowers that disguise themselves as long metal sticks that are attached to the facet.

9. The public restrooms toilet paper isn't locked up...they trust us.

10. Graffiti.

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11.The sleeping patterns are as follows: bed time - 1 am to 2 am, wake up - 9 am to 10 am.

this is us after midnight...we are so not night owlsI adore my husband and am so honored to be a foreigner with him. He has been practicing his German for awhile now and is doing a superb job of getting us around as well as making sure I eat non-poisonous foods. Well!

Off to boats on the river and new exploring. My soul is full.

Tschuss!