Last week, my brother and his wife and their almost-one-year old son drove up from the bottom end of Germany to the top end, bringing along my mom, who had been there visiting for 3 weeks. My sister and her family spent a week roadtripping around Belgium and the Netherlands and we had a easy 5-hour drive down to meet up with them all in the little hamlet of Holzdorf, about an hour outside of Kiel on the northern coast.
We had 9 days together; the first time we've all been together in this particular constellation in years. In summer 2010 when we were in the States, we had a week with my brother and my sister & her family, but John's wife was missing (home with her ailing father) and Sammo was yet to be born.
Simone's friend & colleague Bettina provided the perfect setup: 3 apartment/cottages to rent on her parent's farm. The farm itself was a delight, complete with a passel of red chickens, a hutch-rabbit, a friendly dog, 2 friendly marmelade cats, 2 barns full of pigs from 4 weeks old on up, and a pasture of cows behind us, complete with one baby when we arrived and another born halfway through our week there. Karin was so excited when we arrived and she first saw the little wobbly calf that she cried out, "Mom!! Look at the cow puppy!"
So Cow Puppy he was the whole week along with the second little white cow puppy that arrived a few days later and the pig puppies and the 2 cat puppies that belonged to the farmer's older daughter down the street who invited the kids down to ride the horses & ponies whenever they wanted. My littlest human puppy is funny. :)
The week was only slightly overshadowed by the rotten weather (boiling gray cloud cover, pouring rain for days and smash-bang thunderstorms one night) and the fact that nearly everyone got sick at some point. Sammo and Simone were sick when they arrived, and just as they were finally recovered, the rest of us came down with head colds, sore throats and fevers to one degree or another. John ended up at the doctor, prescribed antibiotics for a virulent sinus infection but we all soldiered through regardless, determined to spend our time together in the best of spirits to the best of our abilities.
Despite the rain, we spent a day in Shleswig visiting the local castle museums, a day exploring Kappeln with a riverboat trip down the Shlie fjord, a day hiking around the coastal pathways in the Geltinger Birk nature preserve (complete with Highland cattle and wild horses) and a day at the Children's Science Museum (Phänomenta) in Flensburg, along with a few quick trips to the local beach to search for amber (none found). We also spent a day walking around Husum (a town that moved inland from the coast after being destroyed in floods in the 60s) with a side trip to a children's petting zoo and a long walk down a LONG pier to the north sea sandy beach in Peter Ording.
But the best parts were the jokes and the laughter, the fantastic strawberries and the card games and the hugs and the smiles and the general wonderful feeling of being together with family that you love and don't see nearly often enough.