Ulrich & Birgit_zum voll!
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The Invitation:

Hugh, Becky, Conrad, Diane

While we were in Dublin in March, we received the announcement and invitation to Ulrich’s Wedding for Friday June 9. Let’s begin with a brief history of how we came to know Ulrich and his family. In 1985, we sponsored a German exchange student named Conrad Dege; little did we know that this would be the beginning of a lasting and viable international friendship between our families. There are three sons in the Dege family; Conrad is the oldest son, followed by brothers Ulrich and Volker. We had attended Volker’s wedding to Ana in Burgos, Spain five years earlier and promised to attend all of their weddings as they occurred. We were thrilled to receive the invitation and made immediate reservations for the trip to Harlingerode, Germany.

 

Thursday, 08 June 2006:

Ulrich loading for the drive to the Westerburg Castle

The first leg of our trip to Ulrich’s Wedding was a nonstop flight from Houston to Amsterdam where we changed planes for the continuation to Hannover, Germany. Conrad Sr. was waiting for us outside the customs area; we loaded our bags in the trunk of his ’93 E220 coupe and made the fast 1 hour drive to their home in Harlingerode. There we found Ulrich cleaning his car in preparation for the wedding. The remainder of the afternoon was for recovery from the long flight while we anticipated the arrival of the rest of the family later that evening. The first to arrive was Volker with wife Ana, daughter Carmen and son Niels plus Andrew who had just arrived from Las Angeles. Andrew had been an exchange student in the Dege’s home back in 1986. Soon we sat down for dinner prepared by Ulrich; this was a traditional The Westerburg Castleselection of sliced meats, cheeses, breads and spreads as well as melon, peppers and tomatoes with ample beer. After dinner we moved to the terrace for more beer and conversation and to await the arrival of Conrad and his girlfriend Diana. Conrad lives about four hours drive away near the Polish border; they arrived about 9:30 just as the party was getting started. For the next few hours we visited, drank beer and wine and celebrated in anticipation of the next day’s wedding. The one person who was not at the family party was Birgit, the bride. She was staying in the Westerburg castle and spa for the day and evening to prepare for the wedding and enjoying the service of a first class spa!

Friday 09 June 2006:

Birgit and Ulrich exchanging rings

The day started with breakfast at 8:00 and then departed at 9:30 for the Westerburg Castle for the wedding. The castle is in the former East Germany about 25 miles from the Dege’s home. It is wonderfully restored and a perfect setting for a wedding. The drive into the East was fascinating as we remarked about the progress that has been made since the reunification. We arrived just a few minutes before the start of the civil ceremony in the castle’s chapel. The chapel is on the third level of the castle and dates back to 1670. The hand carved wooden alter and organ screen are excellent examples of the period artisans. Following the civil ceremony we moved to the courtyard where we enjoyed the champagne toast while Ulrich and Birgit used a crosscut saw to cut a log in half. This a German tradition to demonstrate that partners must work together. Ulrich then Working together for the common goalmade introductions of all of the guest and then we went into the banquet hall for the wedding feast. The meal was excellent with ample quantities of wine. Next on the agenda was the church wedding ceremony, which was held in the same chapel as the civil ceremony. Following this event we returned to the courtyard for rice tossing, photos and congratulations. Ulrich and Birgit had arranged for the wedding guest to take a tour of the castle while they had pictures made. The tour lasted about an hour, then we moved to into another room for cake and coffee. About this time some of the guest started to leave, but the hardy went to the outside terrace for the start of the beer drinking which continued until after 8:00 when we left for the Dege’s home.

 

Saturday 10 June 2006 :

The happy groom on the day after! We had a chance to catch some much needed sleep…breakfast was a little later today because we weren’t due in Birgit’s home in Blankenburg until 11:00. Blankenburg is situated in the former East Germany, about 30 minutes drive from Harlingerode. We met at Burg and Festung Regenstein which is an old fortification outside the town. The Burg is on the highest hill in the area and affords a wonderful view of the country side. There is a restaurant there which clings to a cliff which made a nice setting for lunch. Asparagus was in season and the daily specials were all built around this delicacy, which has only a 5 week season. From Regenstein, we drove to Birgit’s home and immediately began a walking tour of the major sites in the town. Much is now restored and the town seems to be fairly prosperous although at least a fourth of the population left immediately after the wall came down in 1989. Conrad having a good time the day after the weddingWe visited the Schloss and gardens then walked to the Tuefel mauer and climbed the Grossvater. There is a legend about how this interesting rock formation was formed which involved a deal that the devil made with God to get some light into Hell. The devil lost the bet and in his frustration heaved the stones which now is know as the Grossvater. We did reach the observation area, but wished for proper shoes for such a climb. We returned to Birgit’s home where we were treated to afternoon cake and coffee outside in the garden. Soon Regina (Birgit’s mother) served dinner of soup, salad and a goat cheese quiche. After dinner we returned to Harlingerode for our last visit to the terrace to enjoy the good German beer. In spite of the fact that we had to depart at 4:00 in the morning for the Hannover airport, we made a fitting final celebration to the wonderful wedding weekend.

Sunday 11 June 2006:

Andrew, Birgit, Ulrich, MartinaConrad drove us to the airport arriving about 5:00 in the morning; we bid our farewells and immediately checked in for our 6:00 flight to Amsterdam. We had a brief layover in Schipol, but plenty of time to visit the duty free for some shopping. We departed Amsterdam on KLM for the 9 hours flight to Houston. We arrived a few minutes early, cleared immigration and customs and headed for home.

 

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