Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 176

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The Martinshof Story - A Philosophy of Happiness - Life Awareness - Maps & other Text series

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Monday - Thursday, August 16 - 19 2010 (diary)

Anti mosquito device above door of a Dutch pub 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 else.

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 ago.

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 Hafkamp.
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.
With former Martinshof employees and current Manager (with coffee cup), August 2010
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 company today.
Thank you Yvonne, Harry and all others who contributed to this day.

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Friday & Saturday, August 20 & 21 2010 (diary)

Promenade along the Rhine in Boppard, May 2008 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 than ever 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 this 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.

Edelgard Fass with my Currywurst and orange juice - Schnellimbiss, Boppard 2010 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 blurred.

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 (diary)

Tony Abbott, Australia's probable next Conservative Prime Minister, 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 4.
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 office.

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.

Hotel Zum Schwarzen Kreuz, Altenahr 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.
At 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.

Imbiss Conrady, Altenahr 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 letstes Jahr."
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.
I 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 (diary)

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 Spa facilities.
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.

Opa Jordaan at our Engagement party in 1962 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.

Ancient dining room of Hotel Zum Schwarzen Kreuz, Altenahr 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.

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