“I was born in 1910 in Kelheim on the banks of the Danube, but I cannot swim,” Ella said as we drove into the city of her birth. She was visibly excited as we rolled into town, waving from the car’s window. I’m always delighted to visit places that I have only read about in textbooks. I remember first laying eyes on the Arch de Triomphe in Paris; I jumped up-and-down with excitement. When I toured the Forbidden City in Beijing I had happy butterflies in my stomach. I felt the same upon seeing the Danube River, as I remembered learning about the great rivers of Europe when I was in elementary school. Places that I once only knew in pictures surprise me in the best way–the world is large and small at the same time.
I toured the Schneider Weisse Brewery with a group of senior citizens from Berlin. The tour guide did not speak English, so I attempted to read the German signs around the brewery. Luckily, being from Milwaukee, I am well versed in the art of beer making, and I could basically understand the gist of everything. (I must thank Lakefront Brewery for that!) We were each allowed to bottle one beer for ourselves and that was quite a treat. I enjoyed a few tastes of the Schneider family’s different beers and then Ella and I met Mr. Schneider himself.
Kelheim is a beautiful city, home of King Ludwig’s Hall of Liberation. This monument serves as a memorial to the various battles of the Napoleonic Wars. Ella posed like a pro for Jo and his ever-ready camera (he is our personal papparazzo). Then we spent a little time at the Weltenburg Monastery. The monastery sits on a spot of land that juts into the Danube. As we drove up one of the monks was playing soccer with a few local kids. Luckily the soccer ball didn’t splash into the river.
Ella and I are now even more famous in Bavaria–Kelheim‘s mayor and a journalist from the Mittelbayerische Newspaper met us in the center of the town. This multigenerational Facebook friendship is truly something special. Upon hearing the story each person thinks that Ella and I are both crazy and inspiring. Maybe we are, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.