OUR TRIP TOGETHER WITH THE “PENSIONER GANG” by Rita Thieunissen Again we made a trip with the pensioner union of Herbert’s company as we do every year. It is to say that this firm has big settlings in some cities in the South of Germany. There is a big factory in Schwaebisch-Gmuend / Swabia and the Berliners and the Gmuender have a good connection to each other. When they got to know that we celebrate our 20th anniversary they invited us to come and to have a party together. That’s the reason why we travelled in summer this year instead of Advent. We started our travel on Tuesday. It was nice to meet people whom one sees only on this occasion. Everyone was in a great mood when the bus left Berlin. Although it was a modern and comfortable coach we were glad when we arrived at Schwaebisch-Gmuend 9 hours later. After dinner we went to bed because the Gmuenders had prepared an extensive program for us and we should start next day early in the morning. Wednesday We started after breakfast at 8.00 am. Our first destination was the Daimler-Benz-Museum in Stuttgart. I didn’t feel like watching old cars, but I experienced a big surprise. Never before I have seen such an architecture. Here is a description from a pamphlet: It’s a double helix as unique and elementary as a strand of human genetic makeup. Descending through a series of Legend floors and Collection rooms , 2 inter-twined tours ultimately arrived a common destination. The selection of exhibits is as extraordinary as the museum itself., for the first time showcasing key representatives of the company’s commercial vehicles history along sides its passengers cars. From every model Daimler-Benz ever did produce they show a specimen. (You would have been enthusiastic, David!). After lunch in a nice restaurant we went by coach to a big farm situated in a village outside Schwaebisch-Gmuend. Covered wagons, each pulled by 2 horses, were waiting for us for a trip through the beautiful landscapes. When we were back again a Vesper was served. In the South of Germany and in Austria this kind of meal is very important. In Bavaria they call it “Brotzeit” and in Austria “Brettl-Jause”. It means different kinds of sausages, cheese, potato salad and brown bread , accompanied by a bottle of beer. Thursday In the morning there was leisure time. At 1 pm we left our hotel for the garden party in Mutlangen. At first we have been disappointed because the garden turned out to be a big schoolyard with many tables and benches and a stage for the Big Band. We got vouchers for cold drinks, liver cheese and salt tarte (thin dough covered with diced bacon, onion rings and lots of sour cream). Little by little much more pensioners reached the yard and the banks were occupied in a jiffy. Then the band began to play and we forgot our disappointment immediately. The music was wonderful and the Berliners started dancing although it was not planned by the organizers. In the evening we left for another Vesper. Our destination was an inn near Goeggingen. It was a strenuous effort for the waitresses to serve cold drinks when 52 Berliners and a lot of Gmuender rushed into the taproom. One of the Gmuenders took his guitar and he asked us to sing with him. You don’t have to tell this twice to the Berlin pensioners. We started to sing instantly and we sang German folk songs and silly pop songs and of course we swayed with the music (very German!!!). The owner of the restaurant and the waitresses were amazed. When we sang a well-known waltz they stand arm in arm behind the bar and they swayed too. We all were in a great mood when we arrived at our hotel late in the evening. Friday After breakfast a guide was waiting for us to show us the old town of Schwaebisch-Gmünd.. The man who took us was more than 8o years old but spry. Because he was born and grown up there he could tell us a number of stories that you can’t find inside a guide book. The Gmuenders are proud of their minster and I must say they have every reason to do that. There are sculptures from the 11th century and windows from the 13th century. The guidance was soooo interesting and our guide was so nice that we forgot the time and when we finally reached the coach we where 30 minutes to late. Peter, our driver, took us to the ZF-canteen (ZF is the name of the firm) where we had lunch. Then we went to a restaurant in Eschbach where we had an evening of entertainment and – you have a presentiment – a Vesper. Please, don’t believe that we got the same food every day. There was always a big selection of different sausages, ham, cheese, and, and, and…. We knew Otto, the entertainer from our stay 5 years ago. He is a handsome man with a good voice and he is an excellent musician on the accordion. We had a nice evening with singing and dancing, but it was too long because our chairman didn’t find an end. Finally at 1.30 am we all got up and left the restaurant. What could he do? He must follow us. We reached the hotel at 2.00 am knowing, that we must get up at 6.15.am the next (or should I say the same) morning. Saturday Of course we all where tired when we left the hotel early in the morning. We were announced for a visit at the medicinal herbs garden of the Welleda company. Welleda is a firm which applys a different strict standard to the cosmetic and medicaments which are produced there. No chemistry!!! For me it was the high light of the trip and the garden came up to my expectations. It was a dream. A calm place with trees and ponds, surrounded by blooming medicinal herbs. We also saw big fields with vine ( for a medicine against liver diseases!!!); marigolds with an intensive orange colour (a feast for the eyes), Echinacea (a dream in mauve). I forgot my tiredness for a while. After lunch in a restaurant we had time for a nap Everyone made for his bed. In the afternoon we met all the Gmuendesr in the restaurant of the company. The tables were decorated in white and wine-red colours. We had a 3-course-meal. After that the Gmuenders surprised us with a festive program and we were sad when we finally must leave. They promised to visit us in Berlin next year in September. We are looking forward to this event. Sunday Believe it or not: When we left the hotel early in the morning a lot of our friends were standing in front the bus to say good bye once more and to wave to us.