Suzi and my journey through Bavaria has been enriched by the friends we have been so lucky to spend time with along the way.

Fifty years ago I met Helga on a park bench. I have been friends with her, and her husband, Dieter, ever since. On this present trip they met us at our Munich hostel in quite a little snow squall. We spent the day in the great technical Deutsches Museum seeing the wonders of the machine age. Mostly we just visited at the cafe and then went to their home for a fine Bavarian dinner.

Helga and Dieter help us with our bags.

Helga and Dieter help us with our bags.

Afterwards we sang folk songs from one book after another. It’s too bad we are not neighbors.

Singing from the old songbooks.

Singing from the old songbooks.

We had a good afternoon visit with Sibylle and Alexander, Suzi’s aunt and uncle. As you see, we were served two kinds of stollen, the traditional Christmas cake, the first we’ve had on the trip. Now that’s a good way to get a trip started.

Having a good visit with Eva's sister and her husband.

Having a good visit with Eva’s sister and her husband.

Alex is one of Suzi’s friends she met nearly a decade ago in her travels to Borneo. He’s as nice a guy you would ever want to meet, a lawyer who prefers to explore the world, like Suzi. I stayed in and let them enjoy an evening of prowling the ins and outs of Munich by themselves.

One evening Suzi had a night out with the girls in Munich, with two of her first cousins, whom she gets to see so rarely. They had dinner in the same restaurant as nine years ago. Find a good thing and stick with it, you might say.

We have “new” relatives! Since we attended the wedding of Suzi’s cousin last July we now know the parents of the bride. Well, we met them at that time but now we know these generous people much better. Cousin Gregor is lucky to have such parents-in-law. Vigorous and sharp, of Romanian roots, they were eager to show us their charming, historic city of Ingolstadt. Time around the table was the best of all.

Around the breakfast table with Annelie and Fritz.

Around the breakfast table with Annelie and Fritz.

Speaking in English didn’t slow them down.

We enjoy a delicious lunch of regional specialties.

We enjoy a delicious lunch of regional specialties.

Suzi met Martina in Malaysian Borneo back in 2007. She and her family live in a beautiful pastoral setting of the Allgäu, pretty much overlooking the Alps. Right away Martina whisked us off into the countryside to her favorite cheese “factory”, a small four person operation that offers over twenty types of mouthwatering cheeses.

Products of the small cheese-maker. How can one choose?

Products of the small cheese-maker. How can one choose?

Master of her art.

Master of her art.

We had six varieties for dinner, along with wine and fresh crusty breads.

Evening meal with Martina and Carsten in their kitchen.

Evening meal with Martina and Carsten in their kitchen.

Other nice people such as the gas station attendant, an elderly lady behind the cash register who was helpful getting the credit card read correctly, and with a big smile gave me a delicious, wrapped Lebkuchen traditional Christmas cookie.

Last night we stayed in a private home and had breakfast with most of the family – mother, son and his law student bride of a few months. What a spread they put on, and what a fine family, too. We found them through the agency AirB&B.

What a delectable breakfast.

What a delectable breakfast.

Verena, her son and his bride Laura.

Verena, her son and his bride Laura.

We were there, too.

We were there, too.

Oh, I should tell you about the little old lady who offered help when we needed it. We had just entered Unterammergau, with snow all around and craggy peaks ahead. Lunchtime was calling so we stopped at a cafe with several cars parked outside, a good sign we thought. However, the place was closed. As we prepared to get in our car this stooped older woman was trying to wrestle her old dog into her car next to ours. Suzi helped her and fell into a long conversation. Amidst all this the lady recommended a restaurant down the street and followed in her to make sure we located it. It had been open only a month or two and we had a long talk with the new owners/chef. They were proofing a new menu using an iPad. I knew we had chosen the right place. Our meals were unusually tasty and showed special skill in the kitchen.

Chef Thomas and Brigitte are reviewing new items they added to the menu.

Chef Thomas and Brigitte are reviewing new items they added to the menu.

And not to omit our present landlady for the next four days. She is the first person we have encountered who does not speak English. In a way this is a relief because I have had almost no chance to get out there and use the limited German that I know.

In our final days we will not remain too idle. Christmas Eve we join something like 17 relatives for the traditional family Christmas party. Who knows what good things will transpire. They are a most fun and creative family.

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