It was great to renew a friendship that had started with a brief encounter 17 years earlier while on an adventure in East Africa. Driving from the Rotterdam airport to their home in the suburbs of Hamburg (about 500 kilometers) was not without some adventure in itself. None the less we managed to drive right to their front door. We had only met Dieter and Liz the one time was looking forward to traveling with them and getting to know them better.
They live in a beautiful
community. Their home is filled with books and worldly treasures from
their many travels throughout the world. I think it is a mutual love of
travel that has kept our friendship alive over the years. The whole trip
Patti and I were treated like royalty. Dieter and Liz absolutely spoiled
us rotten with their gracious attention to every detail. The meals in
their home were a delight to the eye as well as the taste buds.
This part of our trip actually begins in the winter of 1987 at a remote location in Kenya, East Africa.
|Driving into Hamburg the skyline is dominated by a huge sweeping bridge and I was more than a little surprised by the size of the industrial harbor area. It is huge! Hamburg was ravished by bombs in WWII and had to be completely rebuilt. Like the Phoenix it rose up from the ashes renewed as a beautiful modern city.|
a couple of days sight seeing in and around Hamburg we set off on a 5
day loop trip. Dieter is an amazing planner and organizer. An answer he
made to a question of mine seemed to sum up Dieter’s planning. As
we were gathering up bags I asked, “How much longer before we will
leave.” Most people would have said oh in about 15 or 20 minutes.
Dieter’s reply was, “We’ll leave in 17 minutes.”
The whole time we traveled with them everything went like clock work.
The itinerary was well thought out, well planned, and couldn’t have
been more fun.
|We drove about 280
kilometers east to the historical town of Potsdam. The town dates back at
least to 993 and was a major city of prominence in Prussia over the centuries.
We arrived the day of a medieval fair in which people dressed up and reenacted
days gone by. Lots of guys in military uniforms, ladies and gentlemen in
fine dress, and even a few guys just hanging out having a few beers. It
was great fun.
|The Sanssouci was the residence of Frederick the Great who ruled Prussia from 1740 to 1786. The Sanssouci Palace includes its own vineyard with large statues and fountains. The inside is overly flamboyant with lots of gold trim and fancy ornate fixtures. Voltaire also lived in the palace for 3 years.|
That night as we
were walking back to the hotel after dinner we stopped to watch an Elvis
impersonator (with a hefty German accent). The band was really fun and
a little girl was dancing up a storm much to the delight of the crowd.
Quite a large crowd had gathered when all of a sudden some guys cordoned
off the crowd and created room for a catwalk and a fashion show began.
| Once East and West
Germany were rejoined to form one country again the dilapidated city of
Berlin was virtually leveled and rebuilt into an amazing ultra modern city.
They restored the best of the old landmarks but everything else is high
tech and contemporary. The Parliament building combines both with a modern
glass dome built on top of the old restored building. Remnants of “The
Wall” and Check Point Charlie are among the few reminders of the old
Communist rule. Dieter and Liz treated us to a peddle bike tour around Berlin
as well as a boat tour.
The Sony Center Fancy car "store" in downtown Berlin
The old Parliament building with a modern new glass dome on top. You can look down through the center of the dome and see inside the parliament chamber.
"The Wall" Memorial to those who died trying to escape Check Point Charlie
The boat tour around Berlin
|Dieter and Liz surprised us with a special night on the town where we saw an Australian group called the Ten Tenors in the Tempodrom. They were fabulous! They performed a wide range of song and dance from classic opera, to rock ‘n roll, and even a country western song. These songs and their dialog included at least 5 different languages. They are coming to the USA next year. If you get a chance to see them – GO! They really put on a great show.|
We angled northwest as we left Berlin. The first stop was at Schwerin and one of the most beautiful storybook castles you’ll ever see. Much of the palace was under restoration and covered in plastic while we were there but it was still incredible.
We arrived in the late afternoon in Lübeck. This is a beautiful old town is filled with magnificent historic sights that held extra meaning for me. It is believed that this is where my Pinnecker family departed Germany onboard the ship Love and Unity II bound for a new start in life in Russia. After sight seeing around town and a nice meal on the shore of the Baltic Sea it was time to head back to Hamburg and prepare for the next part of our European vacation.
Thank you Dieter and Liz for a WONDERFUL time!
The third part of the story begins in the summer of 1987 at a remote location in Kenya, East Africa. Patti and I had traveled only a short distance that day to reach Lake Bogoria but it had taken a long time due the primitive rough roads. We were surprised when we arrived at the out-of-the-way lake to find a convoy of trucks and group of about 10 wealthy campers and an unknown number of support personnel.
This was an amazing “campsite” each person or couple had their own large tent with lots of opulent features. We were wide-eyed as we drove past looking for a private and comfortable place to pitch our own small tent.
Lake Bogoria had lots of flamingos and geothermal activity. Large and small geysers everywhere and surrounded by strangler Fig trees. We found a place away from the large group and began to make camp. Within just a few minutes a black man in a khaki safari suit showed up and told me they had exclusive permission to the Lake Bogoria Fig Tree Camp Site and we must leave. We had spent the night before in the park warden’s home near Lake Nakuru and he was the one that had told us about this place and provided us a map. Therefore, we felt we were within our rights to stay and so we refused to go. Finally the black man reluctantly said, “Well I think it will be okay if you stay just here in your little campsite area and don’t make any noise.” He left and we continued making camp.
A little while later I was off in the woods looking for firewood. While I was sawing a branch a German fellow showed up and asked, “What are you doing?” I thought to myself, oh great here’s the leader of the group and now he’s going to try to run me off too. I replied, “I’m cutting firewood.” He said, “Why?” I said, “So I can make a fire.” He said, “Yes, but why?’ I said, “So we can cook our dinner.” He said, “but why?” At that point I was lost for words and before I could say anything else he said, “Aren’t you coming to dinner at our camp tonight?” “Huh?” “We would like for you and your wife to join us for dinner tonight. We serve cocktails around 5:00 and dinner around 6:00.” I said, “Sure that sounds great.” That sounded great Patti and I had planned on having a box of macaroni and cheese. He then introduced himself as Dieter Guttmann and said, “If you’d like to take a shower before hand just tell that man down there that Dieter sent you and he will warm up water for you and your wife.” I had to smile and in fact it was hard not to just laugh out loud as he pointed to the black man in the khaki safari suit that had just tried to run us off.
There was a round of introductions as we arrived for cocktails. This was a VERY wealthy group of people from Germany, England, France Switzerland, and the USA. They were intrigued with our stories of camping on our own, staying in the homes of local tribes people, being attacked by baboons, and charged by rhinoceros. Our trip was MUCH different than theirs.
Dinner was amazing! It was served on one long table with fine linen, china plates, and glassware. The food had been prepared by their staff of chefs and served with fine wine. It sure beat macaroni and cheese and a bottle of warm Tusker beer. After dinner Dieter and his wife Liz invited us to breakfast the next morning. After breakfast the next day we exchanged addresses with Dieter and Liz, said our goodbyes, and we were on our way to Lake Boringo.
Dieter and Liz have kept in touch with us ever since that memorable day 17 years ago. Once we decided to go to Germany on vacation I emailed Dieter and asked if we could meet them for dinner or something while we were there. He replied with a proposal of staying at their home and traveling with them for a week to 10 days.
… And so our trip begins.
Revised: December 15, 2007