Sat 21 Dec - Kleinvillars, Germany

Another big family day for Di...

We start off the day with a few photos from Christa's huge place in Meckenheim. Yes, we were very impressed, in particular since the finishes seemed to constantly be of such high standards.

This is just inside the hallway with the kitchen to the left and living room straight ahead.

Looking back the other way from inside the living room and Hans relaxing in one of the very comfortable reclining chairs.

This spiral staircase took us down to the basement where we stayed while here... this room. Plenty of space as you can see and with a basin.

Breakfast at 8.30am same as yesterday and then we packed for a 10am departure to Kleinvillars where Roland lives and where we will all be for the next couple of days including over the Christmas break.

The 80km trip went smoothly despite the early morning ice on the road and repeated radio announcements of long queues around the area. An hour or so later we arrived at Roland's home in Kleinvillars.

Here is Di standing outside. Roland lives on the ground floor and his daughter Catherine and her husband Werner live upstairs, and they both share a huge basement for washing and storage.

The cars belong to, from left to right, Christa, Roland and Warner / Catherine.

We've often heard of Kleinvillars and Roland as Di's dad, Günter, has visited several times. Firstly as a child but also recently when he picked up his campervan which is parked at the back of Roland's garden, for touring Europe with his wife Caroline.

We had also heard a few comments about its road worthiness (from Di's brother Bill) and were not game to take it for a spin especially when Roland mentioned something about brakes and 2 years ovedue for inspection. Here's the "notorious" van lurking...

Lunch was homemade and light. It was sort of ravioli soup, with the "ravioli" being called Maultasche. They are a local speciality (more detail later) and are like large meat ravioli cooked in a light vegetable soup. Yummy. Finally a meal with no cheese or heavy meat and fat (but that would change later).

While the soup cooked, Roland pulled out an old photo and book of Di's family, including this photo which shows Di's great great grandfather, Louis, seated to the right surrounded by his 6 sons (Louis' wife died when they were young). Roland's grandfather is one of the sons, August.

Di's great grandfather, Albert, is another son and he is standing on the far left. A good looking man - maybe it runs in the family? Albert died long before Di and her sister visited her grandparents in 1976 but she did meet his wife, Fanny, her great grandmother who lived to the ripe old age of 97.

Roland then showed us another "no so old" photo but this one Di remembered clearly - she is on the left in a favourite dress. Her twin, Carolyn is on the right and brother Bill in the middle and the photo was posed in the backyard of her childhood home in Hurstville, Sydney.

Roland did not know how he got the photo but Hans liked seeing a cute young Di (as always...).

Roland had a full agenda for us for the afternoon and we then set out for Maulbronn Kloster (a Cistercian Monastry).

Building started in 1147 and was the first German site with some gothic design architecture and is the most complete example of a Monastry left north of the Alps. This was a model of the Monastry at their visitor's centre, which gets quite a lot of tourists as it is UNESCO world heritage listed.

We started our tour here with an audio guide each.

As you could see from the model, the footprint of the monastry is massive, with many many buildings. The monastry that was built was its own village - completely self contained, with its own farm, water supply and mill.

This end of the monastry complex was where the farming "lay brothers" lived and worked.

This fantastic looking building used to be the monastry's grain and vegetables storage and is these days used for functions. The stone used was local sandstone and is very strong. We just loved the sight of it.

Next stop took us into the cloister area.
Now this was a good story, of the 11 finger (Elfinger) wine in the dining hall of the monks:
A cask was inserted high up in the wall, wine dripped down the trail that you can see in the picture and the monks used their fingers to taste it, dipping a finger into the wine and then licking it off. One monk thought that the wine tasted so good that he said that he wished that he had 11 fingers (in German it is pronounced elf finger) instead of 10. Nowadays there is a local wine called Elfinger.

Unfortunately, the audio guide then quickly dismissed that story giving its name to the wine as a myth and replaced it with another one which was dull and shall not be repeated here. Di figured she could follow the monks example... They were on to something here...

Another good story that goes with this dining area is about the invention of "Maultasche", the local meat ravioli we had in soup earlier today. The name is literally from Maulbronn and tasche means "purse". The monks were not allowed to eat meat but they liked it - so they worked out how to disguise it from God! The lay brothers who cooked for the monks disguised the meat in the little pasta purses and served it in a pure vegetable soup. Of course, God would never know...

Hans in front of very old wall paintings that were not rediscovered until the 1930s when restoration work took place here.

Very very old tagging...B.C? Maybe this means "Before [captain] Cook" for Australians?

Our tour took us into the church, near the choir stalls of the monks. A selfie here shows the main nave of the church behind and the choir stalls for each monk. Also very old, dating back to the 1500s, but even then the very practical Germans realised that a monk could not stand and sing for hours on end so the seat design folds up for standing but includes a small "resting place for your bottom" high enough up to lean on.

The cross here was not made of wood as it looked like, it was all carved from one single block of stone (we think that the audio guide said stone, but it may have been sandstone). Very impressive with man made wood cracks to replica the timber grain. This is also more than 500 years old.

Many of the Monastry buildings today are used by a school so the whole site is well maintained and feels alive. We liked it a lot.

After walking through the monastery and the grounds, we crossed the perimeter wall and followed a track on the other side...

...took a selfie along the way, and...

...arrived at this "monkmade" lake supplying water (and fish) to the Monastry.

This was also the lake where Roland learnt how to swim once upon a time. He politely declined the suggestion to reenact those early days here today. Yep, that's ice on top.

Same way back from the lake to the monastry and Di set up Roland, Christa and Hans for a portrait on the bridge connecting the monastry.

Well, the setup photo turned out OK, but the photo that Di accidentally shot beforehand looked better, so here it is.

Of course, what goes up must come down. A tiny little bit worried, are we?

Roland had also organised for us to meet Horst and Rut art their home near Maulbronn for coffee and cakes at 3pm, all homemade of course.

Rut is Roland's cousin and is the lady at the far left in the red vest. Horst, her husband, was seated opposite her and Volger, their son had his back towards the camera. The lady on his left is Volger's girlfriend, we think that her name may have been Dagmar.

And a proper family portrait. Standing up is Horst, then from the left Volger, Dagmar and Rut.

Volger took this lovely photo of the 4 of us.

We had a lovely time, largely with German being spoken and Roland and Rut reminiscing of visits from Di's father, Günter, and her grandmother Hedwig.

The dark settled and at 5pm and after 2 hours of coffee and came we were on the way back to Roland's house in Kleinvillars for a light dinner. Käse fondue or cheese fondue was on the menu for the night and Di was inspecting the table with interest.

Fondue is so popular here that it comes pre-packed in plastic with all its ingredients. Just add a bit more wine, some spices and serve with bread. Delicious.

Of course, the best of a cheese fondue are the bottom scrapings. Believe us when we say that this pot was totally cleaned out at the end of the meal (and not just Di as she had competition from Christa too).

Now, what is Di doing here...? When her German language skills fail...

Well, we may not say just yet but instead reveal it in tomorrow's blog... A tiny little bit of suspense...

The evening finished with plenty of wine and chatting and family reminiscence between Di and Roland. By 9.30pm the alcohol (and not enough water) had caught up with Di. A small headache took her to bed.

Full of food and wine and drink Hans stayed up and chatted some more, and went to bed close to 11pm.

Checking out today from Kleinvillars, Baden-Württemberg, the German förbundsland where we now spend time in a 4th town / village after Freiburg, Tübingen and Heidelberg...


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