The last three days have been very special ones! Time spent here in the Bensheim area with our sweet Uncle Gerhard is precious. After leaving Nurnberg on Thursday, we drove to Heppenheim where Gerhard arranged for us to stay in a youth hostel that is inside of a castle. It’s quite a novel idea in spite of it’s dorm like design. The main challenge has been the weather! It has been in the upper 90’s and 100’s F and VERY HUMID and our rooms are on the upper floor and are without air conditioning—hard to sleep in a sauna but thankfully we have gotten a few hours of sleep each night in spite of that challenge. Tiffany and Grant have also been bitten by some unknown insects at night while they were sleeping—hopefully nothing that will cause too much trouble—some very large red and itchy welts have appeared on their skin. Thankfully I brought some remedies that have been helping.
Friday we went on an excursion hiking as far as most people would have driven up and over hills, through woods and vinyards and villages with two main destinations in mind—the house of my late German grandparents (Grossmuti and Grossvati) in Bensheim Auerbach and the castle above their house that we used to hike to and play in when I was a kid. Gerhard showed us some interesting places on the way with historical meaning as well. Then in the evening we headed down to Heidelberg to see the castle there at sunset. So many memories have come up of visits we had with my grandparents and the things we did here! It’s nice being able to show my family these special places and facilitate Tiffany and Grant connecting with their heritage.
Saturday we attended a church service at Marienhohe, a college that my father taught at during the time that I was born. It was nice being there. We met some people who were able to show us the very apartment where they lived and where I was born. We took some pictures—one of which you will see below. The building of my birthday is the long white building with red windows at the top. Then after that tour we headed over to Oppenheim—taking a ferry ride over the Rhine River on the way. After having some lunch at a nice little German restaurant where the food was delicious, Gerhard wanted to show us the cathedral he celebrated his first engagement in. It was a beautiful Lutheran cathedral that contained bells. Just as we arrived they were ringing quite loudly—soon we found out that the reason for it was a wedding!!! Must have been more than a coincidence, you think? We were also able to go up to the top of one of the towers of that cathedral and this afforded us an amazing view of the whole area! After the view we headed to the grounds behind the cathedral where he showed us a cellar of human bones which had been collected from 1400-1750 of the members who had died during those years--20,000 sets of bones in one place!! Can you imagine??!!! Made us think about how precious this life is that we have now and how precious our future life with Jesus will be :-) Our next stop was Worms, Germany. It is the place where Martin Luther was tried by the Catholic Church. There is a Martin Luther stone memorial there and the church where he was tried in front of the Papacy. Was so glad to be able to see this because Wittenburg, where Fountainview had filmed, was the beginning of his challenges moving forward with his part in the reformation and Worms is where it culminated! The memorial showed the progression between those two places and had stone memorials of other significant individuals alongside Luther who also had been part of the Reformation movement toward Protestantism. Very meaningful and interesting. Amazing and remarkable what God was able to do through him so that we all can read the scriptures for ourselves and have "nothing between our soul and the Savior." I thank God for people like him who stood firm for what they believed no matter what the cost. I pray for that same kind of courage in my life standing firm for God and what's right no matter the cost!
Sunday Gerhard was ready to take us on another day long hike through field and dale discovering beautiful and fresh things along the way! He took us to the highest point in the Odenwald, the forest he lives close to. There is a tower that has a 360 degree view at the top! But before starting out on our main hike, he wanted to show us the Feldenmehr—sea of rocks—basically a huge rock slide of large boulders with a mystery addition—a huge rock pillar that was carved from a boulder by the Romans hundreds of years ago way up high on a hill. It’s laying on it’s side there and no one knows why. We thought it was just a short walk from the parking lot but it ended up being a couple miles up this really steep hill which we had a great time doing. The amazing thing is that Uncle Gerhard just charged right up and down the hill without much huffing and puffing at all!! Wow! I want to be as fit as him at 88 years old! Pictured below you'll see a picture of one of four springs of water that are active all year around. They help supply drinking water to the people in the area as well as keep the Odenwald green even in the summer when it's hot :-) The main hike we went on after that was beautiful and nostalgic. It brought back many memories of my childhood and of Dad growing up here. Gerhard took us to a place for Kuchen 2/3 of the way through the hike and we had a chance to enjoy some meaningful discussion time with him. His friend Peter who is 20 years younger than him just had a stroke and he shared that he was very concerned for him. We joined hands and prayed for Peter and his family. We spoke of things that really matter in life such as love, connection, family and friends. It was a special time of connection that we will never forget! Shortly after we returned to our castle home on Sunday there ended up being a beautiful sunset. The last two pictures below are of our castle home--Starkenburg Castle--at sunset :-)
We are now heading out to seize that last day of our time here in Europe!!! My father has shared several places that are special to him. We will visit all those places and reflect on the meaningful and nostalgic things that happened in them. Will write about them tonight after we return to our castle home for one last time :-)