ROTHENBURG, Germany — Friday marked the first full week of our three-week European adventure, which began with a wonderful birthday weekend in Paris and likely will conclude there in two weeks.
My travel companion, Claudia Erickson, aka The Woman I’ve Been Dating for Three Years, spent nearly 10 years in Germany almost 25 years ago while teaching children of U.S. military personnel. Our trip is two-fold: marking my 70th birthday in Paris (done) and visiting the communities where Claudia lived and worked (done). We are also visiting some of her favorite regions and historic sites.
We enjoyed some of the famous sites of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and the creepy Catacombs, where the remains of an estimated two million humans remain under the streets. Unfortunately, Claudia’s wallet was stolen from her backpack while we were standing in a packed subway car. It put quite a damper on the early segment of our trip and caused no small degree of complications and frustration for her. At least we’ll always have the visit to a police station for future replays of our trip.
We took a train from Paris to Luxembourg, where we spent two wonderful nights. We rented a car (driving on the right side is always easier) and visited the American Military Cemetery, where 5,200 WW II military personnel are buried, including Gen. George Patton and 22 sets of brothers. The view of all those white stone crosses is so humbling and sobering. We also visited the nearby cemetery for German soldiers, where the dark stone markers are such a stark contrast.
After the cemetery visits, we motored on to what I refer to as Claudia’s Germany, making stops in Welschbillig, Burg Ramstein, Erhrang, Bitburg and Malberg, former places she had lived or spent time in. We stopped outside her former homes for quick walk-arounds and in a great stroke of luck, Claudia met a German metalworker who remembered her from his childhood.
We drove back to Luxembourg and the next day we took a train from Luxembourg to Trier, Germany, spending two nights in one of Claudia’s favorite places and where she has sweet memories of shopping and walking with her two young daughters.
A highlight of the Trier trip was visiting the remains of Porta Nigra, erected in 180 AD when the Roman city was surrounded by walls. It remains the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The gate has been known since the Middle Ages as the Porta Nigra, or “black gate” after small organisms darkened the surface of the white sandstone.
On Friday, we hopped on another train for the 7-hour trip from Trier to Rothenburg. The ride took us through the Rhine Valley, where we saw miles of vineyards up in the hills and a variety of castles in the distance.
We’ll spend next two days walking the streets of Rothenburg, which is well known for its medieval old town. From here, it’s on to Munich and beyond.