Thursday, October 20, 2011


Schuusss, that's what they say in Hamburg for bye-bye. It is almost sung in a high pitched, melodic way, two long syllables, and we have grown used to hearing that, along with many other memorable and sweet phrases here. Now we have had to say Schuuusss to our dear host family, and return to Santa Cruz.

It rained on Tuesday, and we spent some time packing up and getting organized. Kerstin drove us into the windy and grey center of town. We went to the Kunstmiele and saw a fantastic retrospective of the painter Max Lieberman.

We loved these wonderful paintings, drawings, pastels, and portraits, what a rich body of work they displayed.

After a yummy lunch, featuring something so delicious and utterly surprising, fresh rhubarb juice, we drove around and saw some of the sights, the Elbe River that winds through the town center, the new and enormous half-billion dollar opera house and arts complex being constructed in the dock area (middle photo), and some other new construction projects that are taking shape and transforming the old downtown streets into a vibrant new area for arts and culture.

Kerstin dropped us off at a big shopping mall so that we could have one last chance to drop a few Euros before heading home. Actually we have hardly shopped at all on this whole trip, so we had fun browsing all the stylish stores.

Heinz took great care to prepare the "grand finale" dinner for us, with champagne and a wonderful selection of cold meats, brown breads, and also assorted varieties of pickled herring and salmon. We topped it off with gingerbread cookies, all covered in chocolate or flavored icings. And so ended our last evening with this amazing family. It is difficult to convey the breadth of their kindness and generosity towards us. They spared nothing in making sure that we were treated like honored and cherished guests, every day, in every way. We had hours of laughter and great conversation. We played with their children. They drove us around and arranged numerous excursions and entertainments to please us. We were bathed in their kind attentions for almost an entire week. We hope they enjoyed it even a fraction of how much we did, and we are happy to know that Kerstin can once again focus on her painting and Heinz on his business without having the two American grannies hanging out in the background. They get the medal for tolerance, that is certain!

Our flight back to the US was long and pretty uneventful. We had time to shop in the magnificent Copenhagen airport stores. We stared at the grey and sour landscape in Iceland, we passed through the easiest customs checkpoint ever in Seattle, and we arrived home at about midnight last night, to the wild welcome of our two waggy little dogs. Today we are clearly jet lagged, but glad to be home, and happy to have the memories of the last 3 weeks to savor. Thank you, dear European friends, for all of it!!

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