Our trip to Europe had it's ups and downs for sure. I fell and hurt my ankle and knee at the beginning of the trip which caused pain throughout the rest of the trip. I also got sick and ended up having a sinus infection and bronchitis. It was a trip where one night we took a train to a new city(got in around 8pm) then the next day Mark had meetings all day and I checked out of the hotel around noon and left the suitcases at the hotel and then went out site seeing(as best as I could with a swollen ankle and knee), then we would catch another train around 5:30 and do the same thing all over again. I realize we were in Europe, so I shouldn't complain BUT when you don't feel good and you are running from one city to the next it's not ideal. Paris with Mark was amazing(except from falling outside Notre Dame) and then the end of the trip was wonderful. 24 yrs ago I went on exchange program to a small little town in Germany, Hereford. We were matched up with a student who first came and stayed at our houses and then we went and stayed at theirs. I was paired with Dagmar Hagerbaumer. Like me she is the youngest in her family and like me she has two older brothers. Our parents are close in age, hers are now 71 and mine are 78. We hit it off immediately unlike some of my friends who never got along with their exchange student. I felt very blessed. While I was in Germany we traveled to Berlin and this was when the wall was still up. Our German teacher set it up for us to be able to travel into East Berlin and meet secretly with a group of LDS German teenagers. In East Berlin the LDS people were not allowed to practice their religion but in their homes they secretly held church. It was amazing to meet with them yet at the same time it was very depressing. I remember their questions were about things like Michael Jackson and movie stars. We weren't allowed to take the money we had exchanged from the German deutchmark into the East Berlin dollar back into West Berlin. We all gave our money to the LDS group we met with. It was very little but they were so appreciative. At the end of this trip we went to Berlin for a night and a day. The whole time I was there I felt like I had a huge smile on my face. Our hotel (which was amazing) was in the East side of Berlin. Where back in 1986 the East side was blah and drab in colors and feeling, now the East side has new buildings, fancy hotels and a huge amazing train station. More money has been put into the East side which was nice to see. I went to the Jewish Museum and spent about 3 hrs there, it was one place I was told to not miss. It was worth the limping around. After that I took a tour bus and sat up top like a tourist but it was nice to sit for a little bit and be able to see all the sites. It was amazing to see all the places I remember seeing with my High School class. We would drive by a historical site and I could see my friend Alison and I walking around as teenagers and I couldn't help but smile. After Berlin we took a train to Bielefeld, which is a really small town about 20 minutes from where my host family lives. It was so random that Mark and his co-workers needed to meet with a seller in this small town yet such a blessing. Dagmar's parents Traugott and Helene have sent my parents and my family a Christmas card ever since 1986. As far as I know I am the only one in my High School group that has kept in touch with their student and host family. Dagmar and her 2 yr old daughter Naya came and picked me up in the morning and took me to her parents house. When we pulled up to their home they had stuck an American flag in a flower pot and on the door their was a big piece of paper that said Herzliche Wilkommen(translate to happy welcome or much welcome). They were standing there waving with huge smiles on their faces and I instantly felt at home. We spent a long time talking(Dagmar's dad speaks English pretty well but her mother doesn't speak any English)and looking at photo's. Then we had a yummy soup that her mother made and Dagmar's brother Fred joined us for lunch. It was so relaxing and such a great day spent with her family. We then went to Dagmar's home and let Naya take a short nap and then we went shopping for the kids and to buy a bunch of chocolate for my family. That night we met Mark,Dagmar's parents, Dagmar's husband and teenage son for dinner at a Chinese place in Bielefeld near the train station so that we could catch the train to Hanover after dinner.
It was a great night and I will never forget my day spent with them. It was the perfect ending to a long but wonderful trip.