Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 176
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The Martinshof Story -
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Monday - Thursday, August 16 - 19 2010
I made several walks this past week through nature reserves in the Dutch provinces of
Eastern Overijssel and the Southern part of Drenthe. After one such walk we stopped for
a beer (and of course bitterballen) at a pub in the country which had hanging above
each of its doors opening to the outside a plastic bag filled with water hanging on a
thread above the door. The waiter told me this was a device to keep the mosquitos
outside. A remarkable thing I have never seen before either in Holland or anywhere
On Tuesday the 17th I moved to Hotel Eden in Zutphen. It
is the former 's Gravenhof where my late former sister in law Gertha and
my Uni friend Reinier had their wedding reception and dinner way back in 1970.
It was the occasion where I had my very first taste of the famous desert wine
Chateau d'Yquem. Sadly both Gertha and Reinier have past away many years
On Thursday we had a lovely reunion with retired long time employees of our former
family business Martinshof. The company is still going strong in premises
in Apeldoorn, lead by the
energetic present manager Yvonne
Yvonne has a strong sense of the history of our company and had organised, with long
time employee and excellent diamond setter Harry Harberts, this wonderful day for us. It has been some 27
years since I have seen most of them.
Knowing (from my Blog) how much I love the Dutch bitterballen and krokets, they had
included krokets for everybody during our lunch which we shared with all current
employees of the business. A most endearing touch which for me highlighted the fact that
the renown spirit and attitude of a personal touch and friendly service, which my
father had build up and maintained over the years, is still alive and well in the
Thank you Yvonne, Harry and all others who contributed to this day.
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Friday & Saturday, August 20 & 21 2010
Unlike two years ago (when I took this photo) there is a blue sky and a lovely
warming sun that greets me in Boppard after a most relaxed train journey from Zutphen.
I feel a great sense of relief, having escaped oppressive Holland. Even this past
stay of just two weeks there was too long for me.
I realise now that this
estrangement is not something which has developed since my migration to Australia, but
that even while growing up
there I (almost stoically) endured the Dutch environment (cold, rainy, somber) rather
enjoy it. No wonder therefore that I left my native country at my first opportunity
after completing my National service at the end of 1965.
As soon as I stepped out off the Deventer railway station (in Holland) two weeks ago, I felt myself
transposed into an unreal virtual world. Partly of course a world from the past
(as many familiar landmarks reminded me), but, as I realise now, predominantly the
feeling of no longer belonging to anything or anyone in that country.
This may sound strange, as in these past Blog entries I have recorded wonderful
encounters with long time friends and relations. But somehow even these emotion driven
encounters were not quite real. I belong in an entirely different world to them and
fact places me in a virtual mental cocoon, from which I observe and am
observed. We share our pasts but not our present and future. (This is probably a
feeling most migrants experience when revisiting their country of origin.)
Nevertheless, I hope on future occasions to visit my dear friends again over
there, but I will do this within a shorter time span of say one week only.
In Germany I don't feel that way, at least not to such extend. I still know I belong in
a different world, but there is a much softer emotional and mental edge between me and
that country and its people, which allows this difference to be somewhat
Boppard is a sheer delight these two days, and I sit hours on one of the many
benches along the promenade watching the rather fast flowing Rhine and the busy boat
traffic up and down the river. Many holidayers are doing just that too, so most benches
are occupied with people. The hotels and restaurants do a terrific trade with drinks
and meals on their terraces right on the water's edge and many (like my Hotel Rebstock where Frau
Welker still reigns supreme) are fully booked. I love it here and no doubt will
return again in the future.
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Sunday, August 22 2010
Early in the morning I receive an email from Mairead with the preliminary
Australian National election results. Happy news : the Conservatives (Liberal
plus National parties) have 73 seats, Socialist Labour 72, the Greens 1 and Independents
A hung Parliament, but where hopefully the Conservatives will form a new Government.
Tony Abbott has really done a terrific job to first
get Rudd thrown out as PM and now defeat Labour after they have been just one term in
Interestingly we have had similar results in the UK, where the Conservatives had
to form a Government with the Democrats, and in The Netherlands where the
Conservatives (VVD) and Christian Democrats (CDA) are making a deal with the ultra
right, anti Islam PVV party.
Today I travel to Altenahr, a small village on the river
Ahr. First back up North from Boppard to Remagen (just south of Bonn), than with
a very picturesque train ride through the Ahr valley to Altenahr.
The first stretch
of this line we travel through a rather flat and wide valley, then suddenly (just past
the Medieval town of Ahrweiler) the valley narrows with steep mountain slopes on either
side. The slopes on my right, which are facing south (and therefore the sun) are
covered with vineyards, those to my left (facing north) are densely wooded.
places the valley is so narrow the Ahr river (never wider than 10-15 m, 30-45ft) and
rail line seem to be fighting for space. The river of course always wins in these
battles, forcing the train to cross over it or to travel through dark twisting tunnels.
Tiny villages are tugged into sharp bends of the valley.
Immediately after disembarking at Altenahr I spot a familiar face. I walk across and
ask in mock disappointment : "Marguerite, haben Sie mich dann
schon nach nur zwei Jahren vergessen"? But no, Marguerite from Imbiss Conrady, recognises me too straight away.
"Sind das schon zwei Jahre her ? Ich dachte sie waren hier
I promise to come back for a Currywurst and a chat after checking in in the 900 year
old Hotel Zum Schwarzen Kreuz, where I also stayed 2 years ago.
meet the hotel owner, Herr Mannstaedt, for the first time (he was overseas
during my last visit), a very pleasant gentle gentleman, and manage to obtain the very
same room (Nr.24) I stayed in before (with
toilet, shower and a private balcony) : a home away from home.
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Monday - Wednesday, August 23 - 25 2010
Monday morning is rather overcast, so I decide to take the train to Bad Neuenahr
and check out the Spa baths there. Bad Neuenahr is quite a pleasant small town
with well laid out Kuhr park along the Ahr river. However I am disappointed with their
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There are just four small whirlpools with water temperature of
37°C. Also two of these pools are empty and the whirlpool effect is not working. So
I sit there for about 45 minutes with 4 or 5 others packed like sardines in a can in
one of these, then decide enough is enough. There are of course several larger pools
but the water in there is only just 30°C, too cold for my liking.
So no more Bad Neuenahr for me. But that does not matter. Last week back in Holland I
was just tossing up whether I should pay another visit to Baden Baden, when I received
an email from my ex Antien explaining
that she used to go there in the 1950s with her Grandfather Opa Jordaan, who enjoyed taking the waters there
and listen to the concerts in the Kuhr park. Opa Jordaan was a man with true old
fashioned style and taste and had a great awareness and appreciation of history, I
liked him very much.
So I immediately booked a Hotel in Baden Baden for another three nights, arriving there
next Friday. I feel very good about this as Baden Baden has now an even greater
emotional attraction for me than before.
My usual Hotel am Markt was
unfortunately booked out so I am trying another one, a bit more expensive but also quite close to the Caracalla
Thermen : Hotel Römerhof, located in the very elegant Sophienstrasse.
Meanwhile I am enjoying my stay in Altenahr. I do pleasant walks during the day, but dinner in the Hotel is of course the highlight of the
day, as the chef who was here 2 years ago is still with the Hotel. I have proclaimed
him the König der Suppen (King of the Soups),
as all the soups I have had from him are absolutely delicious.
I feel in fact very
special when sitting in this ancient dining room, where guests already have been drinking
and dining for some 900 years!
At dinner I initially stayed with my choice of red wine from 2 years ago (Nr.206 on the
wine list), but after just 2 glasses of this Herr Mannsteadt (the Hotel owner,
who is very passionate about his wines) gave me a sample of his preferred choice :
Nr.210 a 2006 Ahr-Spätburgunder, and I immediately switched over to that
one. I always maintain that I am a quantity drinker rather than a quality
drinker, but I must say that this wine for sure can compete with the best of any
French, Australian or other red wine in the $25-40 price range.
Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner