The pool at The Westin Grand Munich is designed more for the leisure rather than the competitive swimmer—it’s irregularly shaped with a waterfall and a hot tub-esque enclave in the middle. However, I wanted to share my passion for swimming with Ella, so there we were, ready to dive in. I wore a Speedo training suit, goggles, and a cap with the American flag on it. Ella donned a darling suit with a polka dot skirt and water shoes (Jo ensures that his grandma is stylish). Since she cannot swim, Jo and Andreas affixed orange water wings to her arms and found several floating noodles to wrap around her. “It’s cold! It’s cold!” she protested as Jo walked into the water with her in her arms. His level of care for her is astounding; nothing is ever left to chance. He promised Ella that she would warm up if she moved her legs and arms around in the water. I did a few laps of freestyle and butterfly. It felt good to get back into the pool after a couple of weeks off.
Eventually, Ella did warm up. We posed for a photo op under the waterfall and Ella was all smiles. Jo turned on the underwater jets within the pool that created a current. He and Ella laughed as the current swept them away. I decided to swim against the current, thinking it would be good exercise. Jo recorded a video of me swimming next to Ella, saying that I was a professional swimmer. (Thank you for saying that, Jo, but unfortunately I am not.) Swimming requires a lot of energy, so Ella needed her midday nap after our time in the pool. Jo wrapped her up in three bathrobes, feeling so worried that his grandma would get cold. She dozed off immediately.
Later we headed to the Fruhlingsfest (or Spring Festival) that was held on the famous Oktoberfest grounds. I didn’t know that these festivals were accompanied by a fair with rides and midway games. We had to meet a journalist from the local Munich newspaper by the Ferris wheel. She was a very nice lady who joined Ella, Jo, and me in one of the wheel’s cars. We went around at least four times and, as we approached the apex of the ride, Ella would wave and smile to everyone who was below. Jo spun the car around and I told him to stop (I think I’m a little afraid of heights), but Ella had no fear at all. I had been hearing that Ella was excited to see the “Zombie Man,” a guy at the fair’s haunted house ride who dresses up as the undead to scare the riders. As soon as she saw him and his female counterpart, Ella gave them huge hugs and rubbed her hand over her heart, showing them affection. We were escorted into one of the haunted house’s train cars. The journalist asked if Ella was afraid and she shook her head vehemently to say no. I didn’t think I was leery of the ride until the Zombie Man appeared from out of the darkness holding onto our car. I screamed. After, Ella danced with the Zombie Man and kissed him on the cheek, getting some of his red face paint on her nose. We then slid down the giant slide together. The slide’s operator announced that Ella was 103-years-old. Everyone applauded and the great lady waved to the crowd.
Ella’s mother and father were married in the Frauenkirche, the grand church that sits in the center of Munich. Inside the cathedral she prayed for them and lit a candle. From there we walked over to Munich’s city hall. The place was swarming with tourists, but we caught the attention of passersby thanks to the photojournalist. A French woman approached me wondering where I was from. “America,” I said. She was surprised and she complimented me on the dress that I was wearing. I beamed–a compliment from a French woman about one’s fashion is the best kind there is. For dinner, we were joined by my American friend
Todd, his wife Laurie, and their German friend Steffi. Todd is also a wanderluster. We became friends on a Marquette University trip to China. He spent a month in India once when an Indian friend invited him to attend several weddings. As soon as Ella met Todd she turned on the charm, flirting with him for the entire meal. “Can I borrow him for the night?” she asked his wife. We all laughed and Ella rubbed her hand over her heart.