Wednesday, April 15, 2009

March 8, 2008: Gutten Tag!!! Greetings from Heidelberg!

I only have a few moments but wanted to send out a short email. Our last days in Africa were the best of our trip and were truly amazing. We went on a guided tour to Kejetia market, the world's largest open air market covering more than 12 acres. It sold everything you could think of and was more eye opening than anything I have ever seen. Our guide, Comfort, took us to the top of a building adjacent to the market and showed us the perspective and it was almost too much to take in. Then she walked us through the market stopping to explain things to us and introduce her "Bruni" to friends from her local village. It was hysterical, but also overwhelming. I'm not sure Justine and I could have made it through there on our own. Being in Europe now, a place I am very comfortable in, I realize just how exhausting Africa was. We were constantly aware of our surroundings, the people around us and trying to stay "safe" even though most of the people we were encountered were the nicest and kindest people I have ever met. Regardless, it was foreign territory and the conditions were so foreign and unfortunately so "third world", that it was better to be safe than sorry. 

One thing I never did comment on was what we DID eat in Africa. Per Anthony Bourdain's suggestion on "No Reservation" and the reality that the Ghanaian diet consists of mostly carbs, we did try two specialties. One was Banku which is basically a ball of sticky pounded maize (think uncooked bread dough) that you use as your eating utensil. Banku, similar to Fufu (made of cassavah) and Kenke (cassavah with maise..baked), is served with some sort of stew or protein. I had mine with fresh grilled fish and a pepper tomato sauce. Really good but the banku can get to be too much. Bean stew with whole fish and rice is another typical meal we had. It's good I got over my "thing" with fish because the whole fish does include the eyeball and the teeth that "grrrr" at you while you eat it! 

After a very long and hot overnight flight back to Europe, Justine and I arrived in Germany at 5 AM yesterday. Luckily, we were able to shower in the airport and hit the autobahn in our Seat Ibiza! Having control of our "destiny" (i.e. ability to drive ourselves) is SO underrated! We went first to Wiesbaden and did a day trip up the Rheine River Valley stopping at a Cistercian Monastery that used to grow Riesling wine and several castles and charming villages along the way. Although we are a bit early for the tourist season in the Rhineland, it was almost more fun as we were among the very few to walk within the castle walls and to tour the villages. 

We ate a very late lunch in Bacharach, a medieval village surrounded mostly by the original walls and traipsed up and down the hills looking at the old ruins and the vineyards (most are on the side of the steep hills that line the valley. Our drive along the Rhine brought us to Koblenz where we stayed last night. After a great run along the Rhine this morning, we did a quick tour of the city and hit the Autobahn again towards Heidelberg.
PS...the weather (about 40 degrees) is awesome as opposed to sweating all day! Justine is a bit in shellshock after 5 weeks in Africa but she's slowly coming around. Warm and inviting food is a great help...and fruit! I'll admit...I hit up the Starbucks in Wiesbaden yesterday for a latte! 

We toured through Heidelberg today, which is such a charming city, and we are about to leave for Bamberg, a UNESCO city just north of Nuremberg. We are planning a "picnic dinner" in our room tonight...very exciting for us apparently. 
I'm not sure I'll email again before I come home and if I don't, I will send photos when I get back. This has been an amazing trip and I can't wait to tell you more about it!!!

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