After being in Germany a good 11 months, it was finally time for my dad to come and visit me in Germany. The plan was initially for him to come to Frankfurt and then for us to go and visit his friends in Wolfsburg for a long weekend, but with the possibility of me having to move earlier than planned I didn’t want to risk having my dad visit when I was going through a move. So we spent a good 5 days in Wolfsburg together.
These friends of my dad aren’t just any friends. How they met each other is a bit of a long story, but basically Joachim and Marith (from Wolfsburg) met my dad when they visited back in 1980something (maybe 70something!) due to my dad’s then mother-in-law being Mairth’s mum’s penpal – a little complicated, but actually really cool! The Germans came to England and met my dad and got on instantly, making friends for life.
Back in 1986, my dad, as well as my sisters, Melanie and Katie, and their mum visited Wolfsburg, meeting Joachim and Marith’s two daughters, then 3 and 7 (or something along those lines). I believe Joachim visited England in 1989, too. In 1999, Joachim and Marith, without daughters, came to visit us in little ol’ Gilberdyke where I met them for the first time and Marith taught me the phrase “Ich bin ein kleiner Hase” (I am a little hare) at the tender age of 7.
Joachim and Marith went back to Germany, probably expecting to see my dad again in the near future. A few years later, they realised they’d completely lost contact. Joachim and Marith had moved house, my dad had changed his telephone number. Joachim tried to call up the village hall in Gilberdyke, my dad did the same with the Wolfsburger town hall – to no avail. I even spent my year abroad in Hannover when my dad told me to find Joachim and Marith with Wolfsburg being so close – but how to start with just a name?! Hopeless.
Then, in October last year, I got a Facebook message. It was Joachim. 15 years later, Joachim had finally got contact back to my dad! I told Joachim my dad’s phone number and he called and had a good chat. Joachim and Marith, in April, were down in Mannheim and said they could drive through Frankfurt on their way back and we could go for lunch – so we did!
Together we decided it was finally time to reunite – a whole 16 years later. We organised for my dad to come to Wolfsburg, flying to Hannover, at the beginning of July, and I would come up from Frankfurt on the train. We were there from the first Wednesday of July, and my dad flew back on the Sunday and I took the train back down on the Monday. I was pretty excited to see them reunite after such a long time!
Joachim and I met at the airport on the Wednesday evening to collect my dad and it must have been brilliant them seeing each other again. Joachim drove us back to Wolfsburg, about an hour, where Marith was awaiting with a table full of tasty nibbles, as well as beer, wine, gin, Schnapps… you name it, they had it.
On Thursday we went to the Autostadt, after a very tasty breakfast made by Marith including scrambled egg and salmon. I went to the Autostadt a few times on my year abroad in Hannover. It didn’t disappoint and we even went to a section of the place that I’d never been to which was a hands-on museum type thing, very cool! And of course we had VW-Currywurst for lunch. Later on, we met up with Elsa, my old housemate from Hannover, who’s working at Volkswagen in Wolfsburg. We went for some extremely tasty ice cream – made on a cold stone. I’d never heard of it before but it was great – pick 3 toppings of your choice and it was all roller up together. Safe to say when I asked for one of the toppings to be amaretto, they weren’t shy about putting enough in!
I can’t fully remember what we did in the evening, but I know for sure it consisted of yet more delicious food. And alcohol. Lots of it.
On Friday we had a tour of the Volkswagen factory. If you know me well, you’ll know I’m not a big fan of cars. If I were to describe one, I’d tell you it’s blue, not what make it is, because I usually don’t know what make it is (unless it’s a Mini, of course). But the tour was really interesting, even for somebody like me. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the factory, but it was incredible seeing these huge machines doing such precise movements when doing things such as putting in the windscreen on the front of a car. The sausages for the VW-Currywurst are also made in the factory somewhere! For the tour we were sat in trailers linked to a VW car (I unfortunately couldn’t tell you what make, but it was silver and didn’t have a roof), and half way through the tour, when we were going through a tunnel from one room to another, the tour guide, who was driving the car, decided to tell us that the car has about 250 horsepower and that he would show us what how fast that means. I suddenly felt like I was at Alton Towers, just we didn’t have a seatbelt which wasn’t too reassuring! But we didn’t get hurt so all is well.
In the evening, we had yet more delicious food and alcohol, this time sat outside in the little ‘Christmas hut’ they have in their back garden. It’s full of Christmas decorations, but they said they normally use it in the winter months when it’s Christmas anyway, so they don’t see the point in clearing it away to put it back up again the next year – makes perfect sense to me! The wine I drank was a rosé wine and German. Extremely tasty, I think I’ll have to ask for the name of it again because I keep forgetting… Though the way my head was feeling the day after, maybe I should keep it that way that I don’t know the name of the wine!
Saturday was a really interesting day. When my dad visited back in 1986, Joachim took him to the East-West border near to Helmstedt. And, of course, there was no going through, unless you were willing to wait hours to go through the border control. This time, of course, you could go through very easily. We went up the point where my dad and Joachim had to stop 29 years ago, a small bridge, and we walked across the bridge. Unfortunately, with me not having experienced, I didn’t get the same feeling I reckon my dad got – must’ve been a bit strange seeing it all those many years later and being able to actually cross the bridge! We then got back in the car and drove across the bridge and visited the border control station at Marienborn. Very interesting but very creepy at the same time, despite the time that has passed since it was last used.
Heading back to Wolfsburg, we had something to look forward to in the evening. And no, I don’t just mean delicious food and alcohol (though there was plenty of that), but Joachim and Marith were having a small barbecue and had invited Janina and Anna, their two daughters, who, as I said, my dad saw when they were 7 and 3, respectively. Except now you have to add 29 years. Plus two partners. Plus a child. I’ve never met Janina or Anna before, so I was just meeting new people, but it must’ve been strange for my dad to seem them all grown up. Anna, the youngest, said she doesn’t remember them visiting with Melanie and Katie (then approximately the same age as those two), and Janina said the only thing she remembers is getting really angry with my dad because he was sleeping in her bed. She can’t remember what they did for the week or so they were there, where she even slept herself, but she just remembers being mad at my dad! Luckily, the hard feelings had gone away 29 years later and we had a really pleasant evening. I was lucky that everyone there can speak very good English, so only on rare occasions did I have to translate something for my dad, though the evening did tend towards German. Mind, at one point, something was said to my dad in German, and he actually understood with the context and the pointing (I think it was along the lines of Joachim asking where all the beer has gone, and Anna’s boyfriend, Michi, pointing at my dad and saying “it’s him who’s drunk it all!”. Though, Michi was being host and serving my dad all the beers so my dad quickly pointing to the beer barrel and replied “I didn’t touch it!” – turns out you don’t have to understand the language to understand all of what’s going on!).
On Sunday, it was time to say bye to my dad and take him back to Hannover to catch his flight back. We got back to Wolfsburg at around 3/4pm and had some food and a glass of wine, when it was decided that we’d have another visit to the Autostadt. As we got out of the car, Marith got excited at the sudden thought of the ‘Schaukel’ (swing) and said that I have to have a go on it. A little concerned and with an image of a swing at a little playground in my head, we got into the Autostadt and came across a huge swing. Extremely huge. WordPress unfortunately doesn’t seem to support the video type, but Instagram does, so here’s a link to me on the swing: https://instagram.com/p/5OfFHyDoC3/?taken-by=danjwalker4. It was chuffing high. The Autostadt was also preparing for its annual Water Festival so we turned into big kids and had a play with the fountains which you can move around or turn on and off with different movements, including jumping and waving your arms. We also had a ride around on a solar boat along the canal between the Autostadt and the VW factory – a pretty fun afternoon/evening all in all!
On Monday, I was taken to Wolfsburg train station where I took a train to Hannover. With me being in the north, I couldn’t exactly not have a quick trip to Hannover. Although only for less than 2 hours, I met up with Ilka and two of her three children and we went to hers for a quick lunch – it was lovely seeing her again! A short but sweet meet-up, that’s for sure. Then it was time to head back to Frankfurt, where I had a big, fat burger at Sausalitos with Tim, and a Mai Tai which I’m pretty sure consisted of pure alcohol.
And that was the story of my dad meeting his long lost German friends having last seen them 16 years ago! Hopefully Joachim and Marith will go and visit my dad at some point soon, perhaps next year. And as my dad pointed out to Marith on the night of the barbecue when I was chatting to Janina and Anna and others in German, I have now become a big hare after being a little one 16 years ago. Not sure if großer Hase has such a nice ring to it, but hey, I’ll take it!
Vielen Dank, Joachim und Marith, für eine wunderschöne Woche! Ihr wart super Gastgeber und ich freue mich sehr darauf, euch wiederzusehen!