Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer Vacations...the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Ahhh...summer vacations, something you look forward to each year. I've had many and I thought I'd share some of my most memorable ones with you.

So many good, in fact great vacations to choose from in this category...Hawaii ranks up near the top, a week in Mammoth Lakes with no phone, tv, or computer one of my favorites, romping through the streets of Paris...amazing.

My number one best travel experience couldn't be written better...I like to think my angels had a hand in this one, or the spirit of my Mom more likely.

My family and I had planned a three week trip to Europe, with a stop in Southern Germany to visit my Grandmother's birthplace and the town she grew up in until she was nineteen and crossed the Atlantic to make roots in the U.S.

The only things I knew about this place was the name of the town...Weisweil, it was near the border of France and Germany close to the Rhine River. I had a copy of my Grandma's family tree...written in German, hoping to locate my descendants.

My biggest hope was to find some relatives in the local cemetery,by deciphering the German names on my family tree. We drove around and around this quaint, small town looking for the cemetery and lost hope of finding it until we spotted some bike riders. We asked them if they could help us...we don't speak a speck of German...I handed them my paper and they seemed to understand how to help us. Great! I was excited, my hand signals really worked!
We hopped back in the car and followed our German guides. As they pulled into a driveway of a house we just all looked at each other....hmmmm....I think something got lost in translation. I thought for sure my charades for a cemetery were clear...are my relatives buried in someones backyard?

My guides excitedly knocked on the door and handed "the tree" to the man who I presumed was a possible relative of mine.(I have to admit it started feeling like a scene right out of "European Vacation") ! I was wrong, same last name as my family but not related. Next thing I know my family is invited into this house and served refreshments while their family scan over "the tree" like it was a treasure map. Phone calls are made and people start showing up on bikes to also read "the tree".
A few hours have passed, it's like a crash course of German trying to listen and figure out what they're saying. Luckily a daughter translates most of the conversation for us and I'm finding out that my Grandmother's brother is someone they knew.
The last person to show up on a bike is this cute little woman...kind of resembles my grandma...her name is Ana. She is my Mom's cousin, my second-cousin! She reaches in her purse and pulls out a letter written to her from my Grandma from many years ago and a faded photo of my Grandma's garden.

It was a surreal moment for me to have this chance meeting and be welcomed into this charming house to meet family. Gosh, would I open my door if strange foreign people came to my house?

As we piled back into our rental car and turned our heads to see everyone waving goodbye with big smiles on their faces that's when I knew nothing could top this moment as my best vacation story.

Next week...THE BAD!