On Monday we left Cologne headed for Regensburg. On our first trip to Germany, now 12 years ago, we met Helmut and Ingrid. Helmut, now retired, was then the Fire Chief in that city. Several years prior he and his wife Ingrid had visited Arizona and stayed at the home of one of the other Tempe firefighters. Terry had made them feel very comfortable while they were there but never visited Germany in return and in subsequent years they had not kept in close touch. When we were planning our first trip to Europe that included 10 days each in Ireland, England and Germany, we contacted the Sister Cities' organization for recommendations on places to stay in Regensburg, a sister city to Tempe, Arizona. They promised to find us a place and when we left the states we did not know where it would be!
During our travels we were given a phone number for Helmut and Ingrid and told that they were expecting us to stay with them! We did not know that he was Fire Chief until we arrived and spoke with them. They were so delighted that someone from Arizona had made the trip to Germany and I suppose we reaped the benefits of the kindness shown to them on their trip to the States. We have kept in touch through the years with letters and Christmas cards and more recently through email. Their English is wonderful, thankfully, which made it so nice to catch up with their travels and what their families are doing and to discuss their plans and ours for the future.
Their beautiful garden was an inspiration to me when I planned mine in Phoenix as were Ingrid's delightful watercolors. They also enjoy traveling and visiting interesting places. Bob and Helmut had many things to discuss about firefighting and now as retired firefighters. It was lovely to spend time with them. They took us on a day long adventure that included a drive to a small city about 20 minutes drive from their house, a hike in the woods to a striking monument high on a cliff that commemorated Germany's separate states joining together to fight Napoleon and becoming a unified country in the early 1800s, then more hiking to a view over the Danube, following a trail down to the river where we got on a small boat that took us across the Danube to a former cloister, now a beer garden, where they still make this liquor that is supposed to be good for digestion (Ingrid and I both bought a bottle!) and then took a larger ferry back down the Danube to near the parking lot where we parked our car. A very interesting round trip!
We spent two nights in Regensburg, leaving on Wednesday morning for Verona. We were planning on going through Austria and learned from Helmut that there is something called a "vignette" that you must purchase before driving into Austria. It only cost about 7.5 euros but there is a fine if you don't get it. We did not know this on the way north and were fortunate not to have been stopped because the fines, he said, are steep - 120 euros. His directions were so clear, we had no trouble finding the place to buy this but the signs were not very obvious and we felt that this was a sneaky sort of "speed trap" way to make extra money for the Austrians. But then we are aware too that if you plan to drive through a foreign country you should be aware of the rules of the road and be prepared.
We stopped in Innsbruck, Austria, where the Olympics were held I believe in the 1960s and found it to be a very lovely city, along a river with a dramatic mountain backdrop. As we were tired and wanted to get home by this point, we only spent a short time walking through the center of the old city but hope to return again to explore further.
By dinnertime we were driving through our little Borgo Roma here, just outside Verona, just in time to have a pizza at our local restaurant "Ai Glicini" and a glass of wine. There is a lovely young woman from Croatia who greets us so warmly whenever we go there, so it was nice to be welcomed home!
For two days afterwards, we did nothing but laundry and rest. It was a great trip, now a happy memory. But there are more adventures to come so keep reading!
Rosemary e Robert