Brigitte Kiepert
Detour

Handwritten letter is the best tour guide

By - Jul 13th, 2010 04:00 am
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Call me old-fashioned, but receiving a handwritten letter in the mail makes me ridiculously happy. A great amount of time and effort goes into writing a letter. Today, people’s lives are a constant speed of full-steam-straight-ahead, and to have someone take the time to write says a lot. Handwritten letters almost seem a thing of the past, and in our technology-driven world, I can only imagine they will be just a distant memory very soon.

Great-Uncle Fritz in Bacharach 20 years ago

The physical evidence of a letter seems to carry much more weight than an e-mail, for instance. In electronic communications, emotions often get lost, meanings are skewed and at times, one’s words lose their importance.

Yes, in our day and age faster seems better, more beneficial and a necessity; but with that, we must face the consequence of our words becoming less sincere.

The letters I receive are few and far in between, but when I do, I fully submerse myself in the words. I was given this wonderful opportunity when my Great-Uncle Fritz wrote to me last October, shortly after my arrival in Bonn. He enlightened me with his favorite spots along the Rhine in Germany from his many travels to the country throughout his youth. His words on the gold-bordered stationery danced with such heart and emotion.

I became deeply attached to this letter. It became my connection to home; a reminder of support. I wanted to show my great-uncle just how much his letter meant to me. It became my goal to visit the towns and places that he eagerly explained. When my parents came to visit in June, the opportunity presented itself and it seemed only fitting for us to journey the letter together.

First stop: Köln (Cologne). As I have previously written, I have spent a decent amount of time there, but my great-uncle wrote about places I never would have come across on my own. He has made Köln that much more memorable for me. We dined at his favorite restaurants and drank one of his favorite German beers, the Köln Kölsch. With that in particular, we had no problem obliging him.

The smallest and happiest street in the world

From Köln we traveled down the Rhine to a small town called Rüdesheim. As he explained, “very touristy but so what. Find Drosselgasse, the smallest but happiest street in the world. ” And it really was the narrowest street I have seen. Nonetheless, it brims with ice cream parlors, wine cafés and shops. What’s not to love?

As we continued along our journey, the next destination was Assmanshausen. “If for no other reason than to visit the Hotel Krone, the most historic hotel on the Rhine. It has hosted royalty, composers and writers for centuries,” Fritz wrote. The magnitude and the history of the hotel really was astonishing. I felt very privileged to walk the same halls the respected guests once had.

Unfortunately, because of my work schedule, my time with my parents was short. The last town, Bacharach, remained unvisited, but it was Great-Uncle Fritz’s favorite place in Germany. Still, there was absolutely no way I would return to the States without completing the letter.

Last weekend I decided it was time, and off to Bacharach I went. “The village is untouched by time and tourists. My most memorable find was an ancient inn that looks like something out of Grimm’s fairy tales.” He enclosed a photograph of himself  in the hopes that I might be able to find his gem.

I became so enthralled by this photograph. I have never seen him so content before. I wanted, I needed to find this place.

And after an extensive search throughout the village, I found it. I indulged in some delicious German dishes and glasses (note the plural) of the regional wine. It was quite an emotional experience for me. I had completed the letter and it couldn’t have come to a close more perfectly.

Thoughts of my family and our German history resided in my mind. My understanding of what Deutschland means to the Kieperts became incredibly clear. This year has been a long one, but to realize all of this made it all worth it.

0 thoughts on “Detour: Handwritten letter is the best tour guide”

  1. Anonymous says:

    AWEsome!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Charles!

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