Conrad and Diane arrive in a pedicab  Conrad and Diane during the ceremony   Releasing white doves after the wedding
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Conrad and Diane relaxing at home the night before the weddingIn the summer of 1985, we participated in the Experiment in International Living student exchange program as a host family for German high school (gymnasium) students. By pure coincidence, we were in Germany that summer with our choir tour and had the opportunity to meet Conrad and his parents before he came to Houston. Since that summer we have remained very close to Conrad and his family. We have visited in their home in Harlingerode on several occasions as well as meetings in Bavaria, Berlin, San Francisco, London, Prague, Dubai, Helsinki, Warsaw and several ski trips in Austria and France. Conrad has two younger brothers, Ulrich and Volker, each of whom has visited us in Houston as well as meeting us on some of our trips. We have been to each of their weddings…Volker and Ana’s in Spain and Ulrich and Birgit’s in Blankenburg. So now 23 years after our first meeting, Conrad and Diane are getting married. They met in Gorlitz in 2005 when Conrad moved there to take a job in a call center. Diane was working there and to paraphrase Conrad he knew when he first met her that she was destined to be his wife. This is the narrative of that destiny.

Thursday/Friday 12-13 June 2008:

Berlin is the closest international gateway to Gorlitz. It is about 250 kilometers away, but still the most convenient. OurConrad's House is the corner building flight from Houston required a brief layover and change of planes in Newark. We experienced over an hour delay on the runway due to heavy congestion in the area. As we finally cleared the runway and our arrival time was posted, we knew we would be over an hour late arriving at Berlin’s Tegel airport. Conrad (senior) and his companion Inge were waiting to meet us as we cleared customs. We had left Houston in 95 degree humid heat and arrived in a heavy drizzling rain and 55 degree temperatures. Conrad drove while Inge navigated us out of Berlin onto the autobahn in the direction of Dresden. We made a brief detour to Tropical Island which is an artificial rain forest which has been created inside a hangar built for zeppelin (dirigible) aircraft. To say the building is huge is a bit of an understatement…the Astrodome would fit inside this monstrosity. The plan was to service air ships which would be used for research, but the project failed due to lack of funding before the first zeppelin was ever launched. Entrepreneurs devised a plan to salvage the building by turning it River Neisse Germany on the right Poland on the leftinto a tourist attraction. Now one can visit the Caribbean without ever leaving Germany . One can hike 2 kilometers of trails through the rain forest, swim in lagoons or play on white sandy beaches 24 hours a day for the entire year. After our quick stop to see this attraction, we continued on to Gorlitz…jet lag started to work it’s magic and I slept the remaining hour of the trip to Gorlitz. We arrived at the hotel Borse about 1:30 and then went to lunch. Our plans for the afternoon were to relax and enjoy a walk through the historic town. The clouds did part and we enjoyed cool sunshine for the remainder of the afternoon. We had time to enjoy a walk around the town in search of a ATM machine and a cold pilsner beer while looking across the Neisse river to Poland. We walked to Conrad’s house at 6:00 for the family gathering and the evening meal. Volker and Ana with daughter Carmen and son Niels had arrived. We met Conrad and Diane and their one year old daughter Vanessa as we entered the house. Conrad’s house is large 5 story building which he is in the process of renovating. He has invested a huge effort in the project and the results are very pleasing. We have seen a major transformation since our first visit there at Thanksgiving of 2006. Now it is a comfortable (if not huge) home…they live on the second and third floors, but they plan to move to the third floor when it is complete and rent the second floor flat. The first floor flat is already rented. Conrad and Diane had prepared the traditional Dege “abendbrot” which was enjoyable having the entire family around the big table. The kids were fun and well behaved for their ages. Volker’s children are tri-lingual speaking German, Spanish and English. Unfortuantely Ulrich, Birgit and Tabea were delayed by a traffic jam near Leipzig and never arrived at the party. After much food, beer and conversation we were ready to return to our hotel and enjoy some much needed sleep.

Satuday 14 June 2008:

Our room in the Guest house of the Hotel Borse was above an outdoor café and some of the patrons remained until 2:00am enjoying beer and conversation. Fortunately I had my noise canceling headphones which rendered total and undisturbed silence. We found the breakfast room and enjoyed the bounty on the buffet featuring a large assortment of breads, cereals, meat, cheeses, fruit and yoghurt. We have learned in Germany when you want decaffeinated coffee to as for “café hag” but you must be prepared to wait a few extra minutes for preparation. We started to meet some of the Dege family who were also staying in the hotel Borse. Outside on the UnterMarkt Platz we found Hans Gerg and Rosa, Conrad’s (senior) brother and sister in law. We had some spare time in the morning to explore Gorlitz and take pictures before the wedding began. The blessing after the exchange of ringsThe ceremony was scheduled to begin at 1:00pm and we decided to walk to the Luther Kirche in order to arrive at 12:30. The walk to the church was only 20 minutes and took us parts of the town we had not yet seen. Here we continued to meet more of the family whom we had not seen since Ulrich’s wedding. This was the first time for us to see Tabea, Ulrich and Birgit’s daughter. It was a delight to see the children as well as reacquaint with our German friends. We met more of Conrad’s cousins, aunts and uncles, many spoke good English and those who didn’t were polite to accept my Texas accented German while I translated as best I could for Becky. As the bridal couple arrived, the guest lined up on each side of the grand stair case leading to the street, women on one side and men on the other. One might expect Conrad and Diane to arrive in a limousine or horse drawn carriage, but no, they fooled everyone by arriving in a rickshaw styled pedal cab. The guest followed the couple into the 100 year old church nave that was stunning in the light filtered through beautiful stained glass rose windows. We took our place with the other guest and managed as best we could to follow the service which was of course totally in German. After the ceremony, the children led the bridal party out of the church on a carpet of flower petals which they had strewn from Diane and Conrad at the coffee receptionbaskets. Outside everyone offered congratulations to Conrad and Diane and then they led us on a 20 minute parade through Gorlitz to the reception hall for coffee and desserts. This was a time to enjoy some classical music from a duet of piano and violin while we met new friends and reconnected with other friends from previous visits with the Dege clan. The dessert buffet offered a wide selection of homemade cakes and tortes as well as the yoghurt raspberry wedding cake. Following this pre-reception, we had the opportunity to take a walking city tour. Conrad had arranged three city guides to take the guest on a walk through the historical old town and to learn the history of Gorlitz. Becky and I joined one of the groups and learned all we could about the trade crossroads that built Gorlitz into a important commercial center. As the walking tours ended at 5:30, everyone reconvened at the second reception hall for main event. We were greeted with a glass of champagne for a toast to the success of the newlyweds. From that point on, the beer, wine and food flowed as if there were no tomorrow. Conrad had arranged for a troup of dancers to provide entertainment…they presented a program of modern dance featuring numbers from Flashdance, Grease and other popular rock and roll themes. Following the dance troupe, the dinner buffet opened while the wine and beer continued to flow. The buffet offered a huge selection of beef, pork and fish with vegetables and salads typical of the region. As you would expect, there Conrad and Diane in tradiitional dance under the veilwas a selection of desserts to balance the selections. As the buffet lines began to cease, the DJ started to musical program for the evening. You’re probably thinking loud electronic music of the younger generation, but the music began with a selection of Strauss waltzes! Conrad and Diane attend ballroom dance class every Monday night so the music was designed to accommodate the accomplished ballroom dancers. We knew from previous weddings in Germany, that most Germans are very adept dancers which was obvious on Saturday night. The floor was awhirl with dancers who seemed to step out of the set of Amadeus. My 50's era jitterbug was not going to see me through this night. Nevertheless, the dancing, drinking and celebration continue well into the morning with no sign of slowing. At 1:30am we raised our white flag and wished the hardy souls who continued the revelry a pleasant evening as we departed by foot to our hotel. We were in bed by 2:00, but the excitement (and perhaps the wine) made sleeping a challenge.

Sunday 15 June 2008:

Conrad and Diane in Texas T-shirtsWe slept as late as the schedule allowed which was almost to 10:00 in the morning. Our hotel breakfast buffet ended at 10:00 so we just slipped in under the wire. Coffee was the first goal…then a little food to settle the digestion. The program for the day began at 11:00 at Conrad’s home. We had planned to carry our wedding gift from the hotel to his home but fortunately Christian was staying in the same hotel and he offered to carry the gifts in his car while we walked. We left in beautiful clear, warm sunshine, but five minutes later we heard a clap of thunder and the rain and hail started to fall. We found shelter under the doorway of a building and waited 10 minutes for the storm to pass. The rain stopped as quickly as it had begun and we continued to Conrad’s house in the sunshine. The morning reception was another gathering of the extended Dege clan…most of whom were suffering from the late night of partying. Conrad and Diane had spread a feast of drinks and food, but the renovation to the house provided the interest for the morning. Tabea Birgit and BeckyAs the Dege friends and family began to leave for their return trips, Diane’s friends and family started to arrive. We stayed until 1:00 when Conrad said it was time to start our trip to Berlin. We bid everyone farewell and promised to return for the next big event, whatever that might be. Our hotel for the evening was in Spandau which is 250 kilometer from Gorlitz. Conrad made the trip in three hours with one stop for coffee and a nap for the driver. The traffic in Berlin was moderate but construction blocked all but a few streets into Spandau. After several attempts, we managed to find the hotel and park the car. We found a pleasant restaurant less than a block from the hotel which offered some daily specials of fresh asparagus with a choice of entrees. If you are ever in Germany during the asparagus season, you should treat yourself to this wonderful speciality. After dinner and a couple of refreshing local beers we were ready to retire to our rooms for the night.

Monday 16 June 2008

Our flight to Houston via Newark was scheduled to depart Tegel at 9:35 in the morning. Conrad waves farewell as we depart GorlitzConrad and Inge dropped us at the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight; we bid everyone farewell and promised to return whenever we could…they assured us that we have an open invitation. Our checkin was delayed so that the previous day's flight which had to be cancelled due to weather could complete there checkin and depart. Fortunately we had first class check in priviledges so we were not terribly inconvenienced. We waited for our departure in the Air France lounge. Our flight was delayed for two hours before we got clearance to take off.




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