Sunday, 5 November 2017

Eine kleine Deutschlandreise

I grew up travelling.

We were a wandering family.  Moved home some 12 times in my first 6 years.   It seemed like we were in perpetual motion.  I have vague memories of being with my Mum on a plane when I was 4.  I got lost in a German railway station, I remember seeing Mount Ararat and the Caspian sea from the back of an OM truck, considered moving through airports with 10 huge suitcases as absolutely normal, insisted on Burger King over the golden arches as we drove across the US in a hand-me-down car in 1977 because BK gave kids small toys.

In contrast, Asha and Enoch have been relatively stationary.  Yes they are in boarding so we do burn the Laltipur-Delhi-Dehradun-Mussoorie line not infrequently.  Yes they have traveled over to Vizag every winter to be with Amma and Appa.  Yes we did a North East tour to Manipur and Meghalaya 3 sun-spins ago....

But we have not left the country yet as a family.  Asha and Enoch have not yet sniffed the air of other lands.  Sheba's foreign-jaunt was stepping out of India into exotic Birganj, just over the Bihar/Nepal border.  So this generation of Eichers has really not travelled outside of our beloved India.

That's about to change.

Last week we got this in the mail:  our visas for Germany!

The week before we bought flight tickets - in good Eicher tradition the cheapest ones available to Frankfurt - at the time of booking it was via Bahrain (instead of in the past via Amman, via Kuwait and other cut-rate carriers).

Here is the deal:

We very much want to see Germany along with our beloved Mum / Oma.

She turns the ripe young age of 80 this week (11.11.17).   This is the time for us to meet our relatives.  I was last in Deutschland in 1990 and the time before was 1984 so there has been some water flowing under the bridge since I last met my kinsmen (and women).

Mum is an only child - and her half her generation has died.  She very much wants to meet her cousins who are still alive, since most of them are in poor health and have limited mobility.

For our kids, this is the right time as Enoch is finishing his 9th standard at the end of November and Asha her 11th.   They then have 2.5 months holiday before they gear up for their 10th and 12th standards.  Both of them thus have a school year with an external exam looming in March of 2019, so (being the good Indian parents we are) travelling next winter-hols is not in question!  Study study study!

Plus we have some lovely friends who we have always wanted to meet in their Heimatsland.

Add to this an itch to see Germany, and that too in the Luther year, and we have a pretty perfect recipe for a month cram-packed with the normal Eicher insanity of trying to do everything, all at once, and on the proverbial shoe-string.

And here is the itenary (D.v. of course):

We fly out of New Delhi on the 11th of December 2017 on Gulf Air via Bahrain to Frankfurt.  From Frankfurt we take the train to Mosbach and there pick up a vehicle with OM Germany is very, very kindly putting at our disposal.

And then the open German roads...  our Deutschland-bummel looks like this!  Almost like a Schwartzwald-pretzel.  You can see that I am already ramping up the German-words-that-you-can-stick-together-and-make-new-words-with!

We return, by flying out of Frankfurt on the 10th of Jan 2018 via Bahrain and back to Bharat.

We will be staying with wonderful families and friends en route - with Hessigheim, Stuttgart, Schwann (near Pforzheim), Wurzburg, Velburg, Schneeberg, Chemnitz, Berlin, Leipzig, Gera and finally Frankfurt being the places where 5 weary Eicher heads will lay themselves to sleep on soft German pillows.

Germans being Germans you have to plan well in advance.  Mum was at it since the beginning of this year - and in March we made ironed out a time-table.  Then Mum sent emails to each family that we were hoping to stay with (all wrote back super positive of course) and then wrote to others who we are going to meet on 'day trips.'

Our side of the deal was getting our Schengen visas (all biometrically tabulated) via tons of paper-work.  But last week they were granted and it looks like its a green signal to plow ahead!

So we have a vintage Eicher journey on our hands.  Lots of lovely people to meet.  Driving through the country-side in borrowed vehicles. And even the odd speaking engagement.  Currently we are slotted for a church in Stuttgart as well as a Jan 5th 2018 time with Mum's childhood church - the Free Methodist Church in Leipzig.  A good amount of unknowns mixed in of course.

And then there is the excitement of seeing things - the museums galore (from the Mercedes one in Stuttgart to the whole raft of museums in Berlin), going to Wittenberg and Herrenhut to learn about Luther and the Moravians, the possibility of skiing (we are there in winter after all).

But most of all, the joy of being with old friends and the discovery of our relatives.   Mum wants to be with her cousins before they pass on.  We want to know the family while she is still with us.  And we have the old "India hands" like the Meisters (my teachers from the German School in Bombay), the Alis (from OM days), the Harnisches (Woodstock vintage) and especially the rollicking Winklers (senior and juniors) whom we are spending Christmas with.

Also auf fahrt!