The summer of 2016, saw us heading off to our first housesit for a month in Germany.
To be more precise it was in a small community just out of Wiesbaden City Centre.
We were excited about the opportunity to experience a small slice of German life would be an understatement. We felt very fortunate. Then came the travel arrangements. Which didn’t take much organising, just the need to purchase two air tickets to Frankfurt, with a quick trip on a suburban train to Wiesbaden where we were met by Yvette.
Jake the cat, the reason why we went to Germany, was waiting at home for us.
Jake, has unfortunately passed away just recently, June 2018, after a very full life being an expat cat. As he and Yvette just happened to be from America. That event has prompted me to write about our housesit in the company of Jake while Yvette went climbing a mountain. Both of whom have travelled far and wide though Yvette more than Jake, as he was more of a homebody, and much preferred to have the company of housesitters while Yvette went away to clock up yet another country to her evergrowing long list of places she has explored. It is with much interest that I still follow Yvette and her travels.
As a side note, interestingly most of the people we housesit do not come from the country that they are currently residing in. We really do live in a mobile world. Which is great as it gives us the opportunity to meet many varied people who love travelling.
How did we find our first housesit in Germany?
Brilliant fun as we got to appreciate the history and architecture, to sample local cuisine, and to relax around the neighbourhood with Jake.
Jake the Cat, was a very shy feline. We had our ways to improve our interaction with him, which had him seeking us out. He eventually became our constant companion when we were about in his home. As far as laps go he much preferred to be on the Squires’ knee than mine.
Fortunately, we were able to connect not only with Yvette to converse about her life in Germany and America. We also had the opportunity to chat on more than a few occasions with her German neighbour. Who showed an avid interest in what we did and in return she was interesting company. So over a drink, we would share a few laughs as we listened and learned.
What did we explore in & around Wiesbaden?
Firstly, it was working out where to purchase a weekly bus pass, which we found at the train station in a small building where people caught the buses. An obvious place I suppose, after spending an hour looking for it.
Learning what are the local food specialties and seeking them out to try, via the local markets, supermarkets then came the fun and joy of cooking and eating. Which meant we got to visit the local farmers’ markets as well as the supermarkets that had an incredibly long aisle dedicated to just pasta, for some reason the Squire suggested he quickly go and grab something instead of me doing so!. Those moments had us entertained for more than an hour or two, having to limit ourselves to short bursts as there was too much to see and do outside those four walls.
After acquainting ourselves with all the practical requirements such as purchasing weekly bus tickets, supermarkets, and the markets.
Our education on the local history was to begin.
We learned so more about a culture first hand than any history book could tell us. How? By walking around the narrow lanes behind the more modern part of Wiesbaden, and coming across small brass cobbles set into the cobbled stone road.
We soon discovered that these stones are Stolperstein or Stumblestones.
They will have a persons’ name on it, their birth date and execution date. These are installed in memory of individuals who were killed by the Nazis. It was not only the Jewish who were victims. Many of the stones are representative of people who were killed for the mere fact that they were Roma/Sinti, Homosexual, Jehovah Witness, Socialists, Communists, victims of the T-4 Program, and anyone who was seen as a threat to the Nazi regime.
It was a sobering afternoon when we kept on finding them as we walked. In such a small area, so many people were affected by the actions of the Nazis. I loved the concept of these stones as it was a strong message for all who walked those streets. More importantly, people who died at the hands of Nazis are remembered in a very public way. We ventured in silence over to the Museum for more of an insight into yet another war we, the human race, don’t seem capable of learning from generations after these events.
There we found information that over 67,000 stones have been installed in Germany and 21 other lands. These stones are to be found in Wiesbaden, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, France, Belgium, and many other European countries.
These will be in front of the homes or workplace where people last lived/worked of their own free will. Different groups or organisations pay for the installation. If any family members are alive, they are invited to be there when the stones are placed into the walkway.
What got to us the most was when we found a whole group of these stumble stones together and realised that an entire family had been deported and killed.
As I previously wrote, we learned so much more by walking those narrow cobblestoned streets, with the added stories and photographs of local people that were part of a museum exhibition than any history book could teach us.
The Highlights of Other Places We Visited
The Light show was one of the major highlights as well as admiring the historical architecture and a visit to a Palace.
Bolongaropalast, Frankfurt to visit this majestic palace. You could moovitapp.com which lets you know which train to catch. Though I would check closer to the time of using it as with most transportation in Europe time changes and delays are frequent.
The spectacular light show!
Mainz was one place where we visited on a few occasions as there was much to see and do, in the way of churches, museums and generally an interesting place to stroll and admire the architecture when you are a new arrival to Germany.
Over the years we have seen and explored many churches, as you do when travelling around Europe for an extended period.
One that has stood out in my memory bank was St Peter’s church in Mainz. This impressive Baroque design was created by Johann Valentin Thoman and built in 1749-1756. The building did need to be rebuilt in the 1950’s after suffering extensive damage in WW2. Even without being entirely like the original one it is still worth visiting.
St. Peter’s Church is located beneath Deutschhaus Mainz in the northwest of the historical center of Mainz, Germany. It is the one of the most important rococo buildings in Mainz. Originally it was a collegiate church monastery of ″St. Peter before the walls″, which had existed since the 10th century and is dedicated to the apostle Peter as patron.
Today it serves as a parish church for the parish of St. Peter / St. Emmeran.
Not only was St Peter’s spectacular so was the distinctively German Cathedral in Mainz.
The Cathedral of Mainz dates from 975 AD but was continually rebuilt and restored, reaching its present form mainly in the 13th and 14th centuries.
It was at Mainz Cathedral on March 27, 1188, that Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (Frederick Barbarossa), took up the Cross in the Third Crusade called by Pope Gregory VIII.
During World War II, Allied bombing of Mainz destroyed 80% of the city, but the cathedral was left almost entirely unharmed.
It was not only churches, cathedrals that had us entertained we had the opportunity to view a few classic cars on a warmish Sunday afternoon. Finishing off that afternoon with a cool one as you do in a country renowned for its wheat beers, Hefeweizen.
It is a country we hope to revisit or to housesit to extend our knowledge of what makes Germany a destination that many put on their list of “MUST DO’S.”