Late lunch of homemade goulash in Steinwenden hosted by Weikel (heretofore corrected to Weichel--pronounced "VY shull") relatives who have lived in this family home since 1784 (8th generation ...8TH!).
Sitting at a picnic table in the courtyard of this 300 year old home with our new German friends and very old German family, in the early summer breeze and golden setting sun reminds me why we go so far out of our way and to such great expense to travel to far-off lands. THIS is a moment to savor indeed.
We are then taken to our first official German beer fest in a stunning garden overlooking the city of Kaiserslautern. The beer was brewed special for this evening in a limited batch that will never be bottled. It's cold and delicious and the perfect antidote to jet lag. As the sun begins to set over this stunning setting we are lead through the gardens by the Lord High Mayor himself, Klaus, and his kind-of wife, Bruni. He and the Weikels are related on same same branch of the family tree and he's our de facto guide for our time in Kaiserslautern and the region.
On our stroll we all pause at a scenic overlook and talk about the Weichel heritage and are stunned to discover the similarities between the present day American and German Weichels, despite the distance of time and space. It's simultaneously touching and grand and humbling all at once.
Later Klaus takes us to a swanky club atop city hall for a digestif of delicious cocktails and beautiful city views (it certainly pays to travel with the Uberburgermeister). An hour drive through the German countryside with Roland and we arrive at midnight in what must be Germany's most awesome rural hotel. After stumbling through to our rooms, still riding that special high that comes only from a heady combination of jet lag, adrenaline and the excitement of being on foreign soil (oh, and beer), we make our way back downstairs where the inn keeper and her husband the chef pour us local brews on the house while we stand around the old wooden bar that has doubtless held up many a weary but willing traveler.
We complete the night/early morning with a round of shots of what the chef claims is schnapps but tastes like nothing I've ever had. It just happens to be served from a giant oil can labeled "benzin", but we don't let a little detail like that keep us from toasting to a safe arrival in a new old land.