On an ICE (intercity express) train from Berlin to Basel after four days and five nights with Maria and her family in Berlin. She handles things amazingly well – two children almost ten years apart in age, and she is nearing age 50 with a three-year-old in tow. But she still looks like she’s thirty! They have a family life that more-or-less suits everyone. Michael has a great deal of help with her logistical support and her editorial assistance, and she has an interesting and varied (and prestigious) life as the wife of a journalist who travels a good deal. She and the children go with him perhaps half the time. She also seems to get a great deal of satisfaction from her role as mother, and is great with the boys. Harry is developing into a good-natured, independent person. Gabriel is a bit whiny and demanding, but some of that is probably because he was sick when I arrived and was not completely well when I left. Maria bends and weaves gracefully to accommodate the others' whims, so it all seems to work out.
The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Chuch was built by Kaiser Wilhelm II and dedicated to his grandfather, Kiser Wilhelm I in the 1890s. Kaiser Wilhelm II, urged the Austro-Hungarian empire to retaliate in Serbia, thus setting off World War I. He was the last emperor of Germany. The church was bombed and damaged irrevocably during World War II in a 1943 Berlin raid. After the war, it was decided to leave the damaged hull of the church standing, as a reminder of the destructiveness of war. Another modern church was built around it.
We are passing through the German countryside – mostly fields – green or brown (plowed) or yellow (rape-seed for oil?) and huge windmill farms here and there, their arms flapping lazily above the green and yellow. Off to the left (I’m traveling backwards) is a village (Dorf) of quaint houses with steep roofs. On the train, is a young boy, four or five years old, facing forward on a window seat next to his mother. He’s enthralled with everything he sees out the window, and I understand essentially everything he exclaims to his mother about “gleiss” and “Kuhe,” u.s.w. At our first stop he asks, “Steigen wir auf, jetzt?” which must be the German equivalent of “Are we there, yet?” “Noch nicht,” says his mother, who offers him a coloring book and some colored pencils.
Later, the train is about to stop at Freiburg and my three elderly companions (a couple and her cousin) have left the table and will depart the train here to meet a daughter (& niece). The train was very crowded between Kassels and Freiburg. Young people sitting on the floor at the ends of cars, almost all the seats reserved. I happened to snag one that was unreserved at a table where the other three seats were reserved by pleasant, low-key Germans about my age (must have been children during WWII). This south-western part of the country is where I’ve spent most of the time I’ve lived and worked in Germany – first in a work camp near Deggingen, between Stuttgart and Ulm, in the summer of 1957, then visiting Lis in Freiburg when she was a student there in 1997, and then in Heidelberg, Kaiserslautern, and Wurzburg during my year in Europe with UMUC (2003 – 2004).
We’re far enough south now, that vineyards flank the railroad tracks. The sky is overcast, and it has rained for the past couple of stops. We’ll be coming to Basel, soon, but I won’t be able to spend any time there (as I hoped I might), because I need to get on to Lausanne to meet up with Mauricette, with whom I will stay a couple of days. After that, I go on to Milano.