We arrived in Mannheim via a Very Fast Train (I was almost sad the ride was over), where we were greeted by our host Vollker, who escorted us to “the parsonage” and presented us with a set of keys. He and Marika, another of our German “daughters” who stayed with us years ago in Atlanta, share ownership of an old parsonage with two other couples. It is a huge brick house next to a tall brick church, full of unexpected doorways and mysterious dark stairs, and a marvelous guest apartment where we stay. These people are the ultimate example of advanced city dwellers – they belong to a car share, so they don’t own a car, they just check one out when they need it. They take their children to school and daycare on bicycles equipped with the trailers like we see a lot at home. They ride the trolley or trains when they need to, but mostly they walk to the local version of our Co-op, or the Farmer’s Markets, or wherever they need to go. And just like every other German town we’ve visited, there is a marvelous bakery every half a block. Oh, my pinching waistband… how DO all of these people stay so fit? Hopefully all of the walking will make a difference?
Ursula and baby Simon are with us, so once the baby is asleep, we have the wonderful intellectual discussions we remember from when Ursula and Marika were teens. Both women are now accomplished global professionals, parents, citizens of the world, and their perspective is so intriguing, so refreshing. They partnered with men of equal intellectual standing, who share the family responsibilities joyfully. All that and they’re all just such fun to be with!
I wanted to make a painting of the huge grape arbor that covers their patio/chourtyard; it’s a beautiful space behind the parsonage, below the church clock tower, almost completely roofed by a giant trellis full of juicy black grapes. But as soon as I got out there, it began to rain. Dang. So I broke off a stem and brought it in the house, so instead of a landscape, voila – still life. With “trauben”.