I feel like a ghost lurking around in the shadows at odd hours of the day when the rest of the world seems to be happily snoozing away. On the day I left Amsterdam it was again pitch dark because I left for the airport at 07:20 and there was no hint of daylight yet. I texted my daughter in Stuttgart who was on her way to Berlin, and complained about this ghastly winter phenomenon. She wrote back that she herself is still missing the long summer days when it was still bright around 21:00. My taxi driver was a lovely elderly lady who was very surprised to see that I could actually lift my own suitcase “you are a small but strong lady” she said with amusement.

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Above The Clouds ©MT Herzog

Schiphol has to be one of my favorite airports in the world even when it is the center of absolute world chaos like last Spring. The level of organization and management that goes on at this airport is something I have rarely found elsewhere. Vienna, Copenhagen, and Heathrow come close but still can’t match Schiphol; whereas Istanbul, Frankfurt and Paris are my chosen airport nightmares. Istanbul doesn’t have enough seats or bathrooms, the Frankfurt staff is downright rude and not at all helpful, treating everyone with suspicion until proven otherwise, and Charles de Gaulle is huge, disorganized, uncoordinated, and the staff ruder than anywhere else in the world, and far less willing to help lost and confused passengers than in Frankfurt. I can live with flying through Istanbul for the simple quirkiness of it all, but I would rather fly additional hours in any direction to avoid Frankfurt and Paris.

Just so we are clear, these comments are strictly regarding the airports mentioned and not the main carriers that fly through here, although I still have my issues about flying Air France and Lufthansa. So, back on the plane I was and this time flying into Germany. There is always something comforting about flying into a country that has been your home, or in my case, is my home base when in Europe. I’m back on familiar territory, I speak the language (I loved listening to Dutch and am determined to learn it someday but attempting to understanding it when it is being rattled at high speed is something else) and know how things work (at least how they are supposed to).

Flying into Bremen has become something I look forward to each time, and this hanseatic city in the north of Germany is now familiar territory, regardless of whether I arrive by train or plane. The rain and fog continue to haunt me here, but at least my heavy-duty winter wardrobe was waiting for me. I am now equipped – though not ready – to face snow, sleet, fog and rain, though it doesn’t mean I like it one bit. I can’t help but wonder what Champagne would have thought of the weather here if she were travelling with me. One thing is for sure, she would have definitely been just as confused about the missing daylight hours.

I landed in Bremen on December 12th, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I suddenly remembered my parents’ devotion to Our Lady and was saddened by the fact that they were no longer around nor was I going to be near a Catholic church to light a candle for them. So I wrote to my soul pillars in Manila to please light a candle for Mommy and Daddy there, which I am blessed to say, was done with love and affection.

Never say “never”. When we drove into town and parked the car, I stepped out and read the sign on the wall that caught my attention for some reason. Lo and behold, I was standing in front of the convent of the Bridgettine Sisters of Bremen! The door was open and there were signs that led to the chapel at the back of the courtyard. As I entered, my eyes fell on the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the altar with flowers, and candles could be lit at the back of the chapel. What a blessed way to begin my visit in Bremen!

A drive over to Oldenburg for holy coffee hour and a stroll around the Christmas market there was the afternoon agenda. The most charming café in the main pedestrian zone had me enthralled with its tasteful decorations and cozy atmosphere, not to mention a scrumptious cheese cake. Although I spent the entire day working the next day, this was the homecoming I needed.

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