We’re home! Late this afternoon we returned from Minneapolis, after flying in from Germany, via Iceland, Friday evening. As Rebecca said over dinner, “It’s really great to be home!”
Still, we had a great trip, and looking back – and looking forward, I’ve got some observations to share…
Thumbs up for the tour. Well run and well organized. An energetic tour guide, and a driver who even got an ovation at one point for his ability to bring a tour bus through a very tight squeeze.
Thumbs up for the people who traveled with us in our tour group, including several from Wisconsin. Mostly older couples, but a few families. Rebecca was still, however, the youngest in the group.
Thumbs up for German breads – I loved them! And the pastries too, especially the “schneeballen” (snowballs). Ask Pastor Jean or Rebecca about them.
Thumbs down for soft drinks in Germany. Yeah, Coke is everywhere, and easily available, but seriously? $3.50 for 7 ounces? In some spots a beer (a really good German beer), was cheaper!
Thumbs up for some basics of German cuisine – the sauerbraten was excellent, and the Nuremberg brats were really tasty. Pretzels were everywhere.
Thumbs down for the chicken. Two four star hotels restaurants took a shot at it, and while it was OK, it was, well, just OK. I think I do better chicken than they do.
Thumbs up for the variety of churches in Germany. From the huge cathedral in Cologne, to the intimate chapel at Hofner Sturgen. From the ornate building at Birnau to the simplicity of Heidelberg. From the Lutheran history at the two churches in Wittenberg, to the WWII history of the bombed out ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. Good stuff!
Thumbs up for the beauty of the Alps and the lushness of the forests, especially the Black Forest. Nice rivers too, especially as we took a cruise on the Rhine River.
Thumbs up to Germany for its efforts in clean, renewable energy, especially solar. Solar panels were on buildings everywhere, and we saw numerous “solar farms,” fields filled with solar panels. Saw a number of wind turbines too.
Thumbs down to Germany for smoking. Lots of folk smoke, and while there are designated areas for smoking, its still a significant nuisance. Even Rebecca wondered sometimes what risks she was in due to second hand smoke. I know it’s a major addiction, and I feel for those who have trouble breaking the habit. But returning to the US, I appreciated the “no smoking” signs.
Thumbs up for general cleanliness and safety. We felt save in our walks, even in the heart of Dresden at 10:30 PM (the place was busy with outdoor cafes).
Thumbs down for pay toilets in public. You better have some cash, or learn to hold it!
Thumbs up for the German trains. Not quite as precisely on time as we sometimes imagine, and there was confusion as to where to board the train on our first ride (station staff gave us two different answers), but the trains were clean, smooth and efficient.
Thumbs up for the first three flights we took with Icelandair – Minneapolis to Reykevik (Iceland), then to Frankfurt. Decent service, on time, and less expensive. Keflavik Airport is nice, but crowded – still, we went to Iceland, if even just the airport!
Thumbs down for our fourth flight, a six hour trip back to Minneapolis, arriving at 6:30 PM. We began in Frankfurt, at about 7 AM (midnight Central Time). A tech issue at the airport in Reykjavik delayed the last 20 passengers from boarding, so we left about 40 minutes late. Then a medical emergency (not us) as we landed kept us from de-planing for another 30 minutes. All on top of being really tired!
Thumbs up for the medical personnel who responded to the medical emergency. Don’t know who they are, or who they treated, but they were there. So, tired and cranky as we were, we appreciated their work.
Thumbs ups for the hotels we stayed at, especially in Oberammergau and at Hofner Sturgen. Both were chalet style buildings. In Oberammergau we had a room with a loft, and a small porch overlooking the river. At Hofner Sturgen we got a two room suite, with a porch overlooking the small complex of shops.
Thumbs down for the hotel we stayed in the first and last nights (in Frankfurt). Not too bad, but Rebecca’s bed was set up in the hallway, just barely allowing the bathroom door to open. And the room’s AC didn’t work the second time were there (they did move us to another room).
And finally, thumbs up for my travel companions – I love traveling with Pastor Jean and Rebecca, and we had a great time!
So there you go – 13 ups, and only 6 downs. Pretty good. I guess that’s why it was a good trip.
13-6 – sounds a bit like life too. There are downs in life, things that we don’t like, things that don’t work well, disappointments, even tragedies. But in the end, the ups usually outnumber and outweigh the downs. Makes for a good life.
But what if…what if the downs ruled? What if there were precious few, or even no thumbs up. For a trip, that’s a recipe for a disaster. A waste of time and money. The trip has to be a positive or there is no reason to travel.
Life, however, doesn’t give me a choice. I get what I get. And sometimes it really does seem like the downs are way ahead of the ups.
Yet there is always one “thumbs up” that towers over all the rest, and even over the “thumbs down.” You probably can figure this one out – the one “thumbs up” that rules, is Jesus.
There will always be days, or even weeks, where the downs far exceed the ups. I know – I’ve been there. But I also know that there is something bigger going on. There is Jesus. Despite all the downs, and even, frankly, regardless of all the ups that seem so important at the time, the real center of life and living is Jesus. Jesus, the crucified and risen one who holds me even when the downs are pulling me further and further down.
On Friday morning, as we were finishing breakfast, another family of six was leaving for the airport. They had all their bags packed on the airport shuttle when, in almost the blink of an eye, someone swiped one of the bags, the one with passports, credit cards, and a valuable camera. Big “thumbs down” there!
Yet, throughout our trip, no one was hurt or ill, and no one got lost. Yes, you can chalk all of this up to good (or bad) luck. I prefer to celebrate that while things were lost, and costs were incurred, Jesus still held us in his care. I know that’s easy for me to say since it wasn’t my bag that was swiped, but I’ve been there – I’ve had lots of “thumbs down.”
But I’ve also had the experience of the big “thumbs up” – Jesus. And not just to get me through an occasional bad day. I’ve had Jesus, renewing and restoring my life even in difficult moments.
So count them up – count up your “thumbs up” and your “thumbs down.” But remember, regardless of the score, you’ve go the big “thumbs up.” You have Jesus.
Or rather, Jesus has you!