Our Impromptu

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Family & Friends: Germany by Car 2006

We decided to visit with some friends and family before going North to ready Impromptu for our 2006 sailing season. In Frankfurt, we spent two days visiting with Lo and her family - we even saw Nico and his girlfriend Nicola - a great coincidence and hopefully a sign that their relationship should last for a good long time, Babs with her new beau, Thomas, and Islin, unfortunately without husband Michael because he was so nice to baby sit while she was with us. We also saw my "favorite" aunt Herta. It is always so nice to see her. She did so much for me during my childhood. I will never forget that.

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Frankfurt - Dinner at Lo's

From Frankfurt, we drove North to Wuppertal, my home town, where we spent just three days with my brother and family. That was great fun though way too short. I sure wished we would have had more time but we had plans to drive through some of the "new states", part of the former East Germany, and we had to get to our boat around April 25. So time was short. We had a wonderful time with Ulli and the boys. Gabriele left Sunday to see a girlfriend in Ireland, a trip she had been looking forward to for a very long time.

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Ulli's House
Lippi and Juli on Scooter
Lippi with Scooter
Goodbye Wuppertal

We had dinner with Margret in Kempen, a cute old town near the Dutch border, saw her apartment for the first time - very nice, overlooking the castle of Kempen. There, we also booked our 25th wedding anniversary trip to Madeira - more about that later on a separate page. Dinner was wonderful, in an old historic house refurbished as a rustic but elegant restaurant - food and wine delicious and the company very invigorating.

The next day, our trip through Germany began. We ended up in a castle (Wolfsbrunnen) near Eschwege, passing through old towns and villages like Bad Wildungen, Fritzlar, and Waldeck - yes, Tony, we even made a detour to see your town. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to visit the castle there - were your ancestors living there??? We hope to clarify this through one of our next e-mails or even a phone conversation which is long overdue. Unfortunately, our cell phone service this year is worse than last year as we can only make calls through the prepaid card system. They no longer accept a short-term contract like they did last year. Mergers will do that to people...

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Castle of Wolfsbrunnen
Waldeck Castle
Downtown Bad Wildungen
Town of Fritzlar

The castle of Wolfsbrunnen was in some disrepair, the room ok, the food very nice, and the view over the valley unbelievably beautiful. On our way to that castle we saw the most vigorously colorful (if that exists) rainbow I have ever seen. The colors so intense and the rainbow spanning the entire valley - incredible. Unfortunately, I was driving and there was no place to stop to take a picture. This means you will have to take my word for it.

The towns of Erfurt, Weimar, Leipzig, Dresden, Bautzen were more beautiful than we had seen them last. Bautzen was a first for us this time. We were lucky enough to get tickets for Tristan and Isolde at the "Semperoper", Dresden's famous opera house, and though we surely prefer performances at the MET, we enjoyed being there, seeing the house, fully restored, and hearing a Wagner opera - clearly not one of our favorites, we decided. This was the second time we saw/heard it, the first was at the MET during a strike with third tier performers, the second time was this performance with voices rather uneven, acting mediocre. Our seats were terrific (5th row in the center of the orchestra). So, all in all it was an interesting and memorable event. We of course stayed at our favorite hotel, the Taschenbergpalais with a view, this time, of the newly opened and rebuilt Frauenkirche. We even managed to see the church inside - huge, gorgeously redone - and we also went up to the platform in the rotunda which afforded us distant views over the town of Dresden, the river Elbe, and the surroundings.

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Thueringer Sausages in Erfurt
Juergen getting a hair cut
Heinz Lindner, Uschi and grandson Hendrik
Weimar-Buchenwald Memorial
Weimar Castle
Dresden - Frauenkirche
Saxony beer makes happy
Saxony linguistic specialities

After the visit to the Frauenkirche, we slowly drove towards Berlin, enjoying the forested areas, the beautiful and not too crowded Autobahn, took one or two small detours for sightseeing and were amazed at the progress of construction, renovation and restoration of famous buildings particularly in the former Eastern part of Berlin. Our hotel was in the Western part and, through a Kempinski, clearly a great disappointment, particularly after the Taschenbergpalais with a room close to 50 sqm or so (roughly 550 sqft). We met with Baerbel and Peter as we always do when in Berlin, chatted with Yana, tried to talk to Julia, my favorite aunt's oldest niece (daughter of her son Norbert), unfortunately, without any success. We went sightseeing through Berlin, walking and by bus and rental car. It is an amazing city. We even managed to get tickets to a performance by the "Stachelschweine", a cabaret group that has been in existence even during the years of the cold war. Their performances were a lot more poignant then than the one we saw, still we were amused and happy to have seen it in person.

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Weimar - Juergen resting
White asparagus, offered in Weimar at the market
Berlin  -  Brandenburg Gate
Jewish Memorial

We actually wanted to go to Schwerin, another former East German town which has a beautiful castle. We had hoped that their reconstruction was finally complete and that the town had something fun to offer for tourists like us - at least a restored castle and a beautiful downtown. We took a detour of over 100 miles to see the town of Rostock (also former East Germany) which we had never visited before and went to the coastal town of Warnemuende, a place we will visit not too long from now (as we are finally on our way by Impromptu - more about this on the separate page). It is a quaint little fishing town with lots of old houses, a bit touristy by now but in good taste, at least during this off season. We ate a delicious Northern German lunch and investigated the harbor entrance from land. We learned that the town built a brandnew yacht harbor for 700 boats. It is reachable from the water only while pedestrians can take a small ferry to get into town. It all sounded pretty nice, and we are now looking forward to spending a few days there.  For pictures of Warnemuende, please see our discussion of sailing in the Baltic.

Schwerin was a huge disappointment. It seemed that not much progress had been made. The castle looked more "golden" - we thought not very tasteful - the town looked like not much changed since we had been there for the first time about ten years ago. We could not even find a nice hotel that would have made up for our disappointment. So we continued on our way to Ratzeburg. I will spare you the details but here, while looking for a hotel, we had an accident that required exchanging cars (the first one was no longer driving). The police were extremely kind and helpful, even drove us to the hotel while we were waiting for the tow truck of the rental car company. All this prevented us from getting dinner. In these small places, restaurants close around 9 p.m., and we only got back to the hotel around 10. Thank God we had lunch in Warnemuende...  The following day, a Saturday, it was raining, gray and ugly. We decided to take country road to get to Juergen's brother's house.  I will spare you the pictures of the damaged cars.

Well, what a welcome! The pictures will be on a separate page as there are too many, covering our first few days and the days after Madeira when we readied Impromptu.  Guenter and Waltraut had just moved into their new and self-built home. They received us with open arms, and the rest of the family also came to greet us. We went through each of the rooms, all nicely painted. The kitchen was particularly attractive in this rather open setting. Everybody seemed quite happy. The view over the properly and the neighboring fields is very picturesque. The land is flat with lots of meadows for cattle and horses, a few trees here and there, lots of birds including stork - an unbelievable sight. We spent two days and then flew to Madeira.