Monday, June 16, 2008

Strange Boys in a Strange Land

A friend of mine, Jeremy, told me awhile back that he would be visiting Europe this summer. But he had no plans to visit Brussels. I was glad for him that he could make it to Europe, but sad that I probably wouldn't get to see him. This is the friend that I have taken many adventures with in the past. The two of us visited Boston on a road trip last Thanksgiving break and the Christmas before we went to pick up his brother, Sean, from college in Minneapolis, MN. We've had a lot of great times together. So I was elated when he sent me his itinerary and it included Essen, Germany, which is just north of Cologne. Jeremy and Sean were traveling with one of Sean's friends, Bryan, who knew some Germans. So we stayed in the home of a wonderful German family and got to experience the essential German life. So many sausages... And beer (but not as many as in Belgium)... And this amazing chocolate candy called "Marzipan" which I had never heard of but fell in love with.

I had never had any real desire to visit Germany again, but something about being shown the country by real life people who really live there helps the experience a lot. I suppose that's true of any place though. One doesn't learn about France by visiting the Eiffel Tour, or about England by visiting Buckingham Palace, or about Italy by visiting St. Peters anymore than one learns about the U.S. by visiting the Statue of Liberty. Honestly, those things I can take or leave, but the people in all of these countries (as well as dozens others) fascinate me. In each, they have their beautiful and ugly. And it shows me the beautiful and ugly in my own dear Kansas/Oklahoman culture too.

Essen used to be a huge coal industry town. In the 1970s, all the mines were closed down. They tried to tear them down but the biggest one was preserved and is now a Unesco World Heritage site. Below are some pictures.

Outside the coal mines. Jeremy, Sean, Bryan, and the German family.

Inside the mines. Scary huh? Actually it's face light.

We had a near miss when part of the building started to fall down. Fortunately, Sean was there to save the day and pulled the steel beams of of us. Jeremy would have helped more, but his hands were fully of (English!) materials about the museums.
It was so sunny and warm in Germany. Well, compared to Brussels anyway.

So that's my adventure in Essen. The family has asked me to come back, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to. The eldest son (Hendrick) wants to visit me while I'm in Brussels, and I've assured him he's more than welcome. So you may hear more from my new German friends!


Ruth said...

Glad you guys worked it out to get to see each other. Sounds like you had a good time. :-)

Rebecca said...

We are remembering what beer is, aren't we? ;-)

Pierre Bellville said...

Yes, of course. But when in strange lands, one must eat/drink strange foods, including other organisms' biproducts.

Rather like eating the eyeball of a goat in Africa, don't you think? One just must not think of it.

Jeremy said...

Thanks for the post and pictures! So glad you could join us.