In the summer of 2010, with our 50th wedding anniversary approaching (in 2014), our four adult children said, "Let's all take a trip to Germany together and see where Mom and Dad were married (and lived for two years)!" Loving the suggestion and thinking this was way better than a party, we agreed it could be an amazing adventure.
In 1964, my husband was an MP stationed just outside of Heidelberg, attached to U.S. Army Europe Headquarters. After months of planning, obtaining a passport, and purchasing a $303 one-way ticket, I flew to Frankfurt via London on a Pan Am 707 out of JFK Airport on a cold February evening. (The plane I flew to Germany was said to be the same plane that brought the Beatles to America earlier that day to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show that weekend. I remember seeing the banners strewn about the airport - I only wish I had arrived earlier!)
Casually planning this trip for 2014, my husband and I, our daughters, son, sons-in-law, and grandchildren would all try to make the trip back to where we began our lives together. "It should be simple, right? Four years away is a long time. Start saving now!" was the advice heard then. Those four years passed all too quickly, and, while not all were able to make it, 17 of us flew to Frankfurt in September.
Having rented four Autobahn-friendly (fast) cars, we drove less than an hour to Heidelberg and checked into our hotel in "old town." Over the next few days, we visited the Heidelberg Castle high on the hill that overlooks the Old Bridge and the Neckar River winding its way below. We saw the Church of the Holy Ghost, strolled the Hauptstrasse (Main Street), rode the funicular that goes to Konigstuhl (King's seat), and viewed many other historical places and walkways.
We showed the family where we lived, where we worked, and the town hall where we married. A lot had changed. (The Army pulled out of Heidelberg in 2013, so seeing Campbell Barracks and Patton Barracks behind steel fences, barren and overladen with weeds and grass, was disappointing.)
Heidelberg itself seemed more crowded and definitely more diverse than what we remembered. Our family loved the city and all it had to offer. Most important, it was very special for my husband and me to share all this with our children, who are now older than we were when we lived there. We tried to see and do as much as possible over the three days there, but wanting them to see and experience more, we headed southeast.
After an afternoon stopover in the quaint medieval-walled city of Rothenburg, we ventured on. Having visited Munich and Bavaria in September 1964, we wanted to show them this beautiful area, and because the timing was perfect (and not by accident), we could also take in the biggest beer festival in the world, Oktoberfest. Not only was it an experience drinking beer with 7,500 to 10,000 people in magnificently decorated tents, but even more amazing was seeing their nationality and culture through their eyes, dress, songs, and traditions. At Oktoberfest, everyone is German, and over the 16-day festival, about six million people visit. With "Ein Prosit" being sung every 20 minutes, it's a party atmosphere like none other. Needless to say, this was the second highlight of our trip!
After eight very busy days, we flew home, tired but full of wonderment and with enough memories (and photos) to last a lifetime. Wanting to see more, we vowed to return on our 55th!