Year 2018

Here is a short overview of what the year 2018 brought us.

The first days we spent building the infra-red sauna, which we ordered months ago and which was finally delivered. It will have to be our ultimate answer to the cold.

January started well, we thought, with a trip to Israel.

We flew from Bremen with a stop-over in Amsterdam and had organised a family dinner in Hoofddorp, for a belated celebration of Ernst's 70th birthday (november 2017).

Unfortunately, Ernst landed in a bad way when he got off the shuttle bus. Because he often sprains his ankle, we assumed that that had happened this time as well, although now it was more painful. However, once in Israel the pain became worse, he could no longer walk or drive, and after we spent a day in the ER in Netanya it turned out to be a completely ruptured Achilles tendon.

So our intended visits to our Israeli friends and relatives had to be limited to seeing Ann for dinner in the hotel and a nice lunch with Tali and Danny on our way to the airport.
After three days we were back home (thanks to the travel insurance) and after another four days Ernst had surgery in Cloppenburg.

February and March were mainly dominated by his revalidation.

In April, we hosted a Pesach lunch with Herman (Tilburg-Emmen) and then we visited Wuppertal. The meeting place Alte Synagoge Wuppertal had organised a very interesting and pleasant reunion program for family members of Jewish former Wuppertalers (part of Sylvia’s family lived there before WWII) with a book presentation at the end. Ernst did a lot of archive work, while Sylvia participated in the city walks.

At the end of April, Sylvia suffered from flashes of light in her left eye. After seeing the emergency ophthalmologist she had a laser treatment twice. After a check-up we got the green light to go to our traditional RV meeting in Bodenheim. By now, Ernst could drive vehicles with a manual gearbox again.

But, of course, we first celebrated the annual party around erecting the maypole with our neighbours.

From Bodenheim on the way home we took a detour via the Mosel Valley and Luxembourg. At Pentecost we visited, with Ton and Kris and their young Ridgeback Ylva, first the Pfingstspaß im Moor in Benthullen and then the Medieval market in Ahlhorn.

At the end of May we took Motek to the vet for a dental treatment under anaesthesia. Once he was asleep, he got his yearly shots and we could remove some tangles from his fur coat at ease.

In June we had another small family gathering in the Netherlands, this time on the occasion of the 4th birthday of grandson Abe.

We had shepherd dog Blitzen and her human José as visitors. While playing in the garden, Motek hurt himself in an unclear way and suddenly we had a very sad doggie. Because he had been anaesthetised shortly before, we decided to wait-and-see for a while and have him keep a lot of rest. At the end of June our friend Elisabeth invited us to come to Emden, so she could show us her ancestral city.

With short walks and a beautiful boat trip we did so. And, again, in delicious weather!

Our summer vacation consisted of two short trips of a week: first to East Frisia and then, while children and grandchildren vacationed in our house, a week to Schleswig-Holstein.

We've seen a lot of nice things, but Motek still seemed to be in pain.

So, once back home, we went to see the vet. She could not really examine him, but we're going to treat him with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.

The nice weather continues. The garden is sprayed with water from our well, but still the drought causes damage. In August we make some short trips, to the wool festival in Sulingen,

the birthday weekend of Ton in Groningen

and the Mensa veterans’ meeting in Utrecht. Sylvia is not satisfied with her ophthalmologist and makes an appointment for a check-up with another, but she can only go in January 2019.

Motek's pills are all taken and the pain seems to come back again. Our vet has no X-ray machine and refers us to a colleague. The X-ray (necessarily under complete anaesthesia) shows that Motek has a hernia between the backbone and the pelvis. More and longer medication is prescribed.


At the urging of Israeli cousin Tali, Sylvia goes back to the internet looking for a vanished branch of the family, which had moved to South Africa before WWII. Eventually, Sylvia located that lost branch. Over the years, a letter n in the surname was dropped. It turned out there is another 2nd cousin alive, in the UK. She is 91 years old and lives in Leeds. Because she never could find someone (because of this missing n in the spelling) she always thought that no one survived and she is overjoyed that this is not the case. She would like to meet Sylvia, but she can not travel anymore.

Good plan, but first there is a busy month of September with the Jewish High Holidays, Sylvia’s birthday and two trips to the Netherlands. Ernst drives to Amersfoort for the unveiling of memorial stones for Alfred Schnell and Eva Jolowicz, two good friends of the family, who were murdered in the Shoah. He meets a nephew of Eva and his family there.

Sylvia stays at home to give Motek his medication. A few days later we drive together to the birthday party (7) of Sara (we have dog sitters at home), one day back and forth because of Motek's pills.

Kris and Ton visit us to show their new bus

and Ernst is helping to build the sukkah in Oldenburg.

We'll skip the caravan and motorhome show in Düsseldorf this year: Ernst can walk pretty well now, but for our doggie it would be too much.

A small-scale veteran car show in Benthullen at the beginning of October is about all Motek can handle.

Sylvia has to stay at home with Motek a lot this month, while Ernst has things to do elsewhere: installation of a new computer network in the community’s office, a volunteers meeting in Hamburg

and the 70th birthday of Cora in Leiden. A small camper van then is a godsend!

Ernst has been saying for ages that he is curious to know more about a DNA test at MyHeritage. That is a beautiful birthday gift, which is already being sent to America in October. Meanwhile, we also arrange our upcoming trip to England.

But first in November the YStuds, an a cappella group of students of Yeshiva University (NYC),

perform in Oldenburg. Ernst greets them at the station with a homemade sign that they like so much that it has to go back to New York with them. It is a fantastic concert!

A week later it is 80 years since the “Night-of-broken-glass" took place. There are many commemorations, of course also in shul in Oldenburg.

Ernst's birthday is celebrated with a visit of his sister Kine. Our “first neighbours" also drop by. 

And then it is gradually time for packing our suitcases. Via Rotterdam, with a visit to Markus and Corrie, friends of 50 years, we take the ferry

to Hull and from there we drive to Leeds. We sleep at a caravan park just outside Leeds and during the day we visit Inga and her son David. View photos, exchange stories, update the family tree and eat in cozy restaurants.

After Leeds it’s a day’s drive to Leighton Buzzard. We spend the night at a pub’s parking lot and the next day we visit an antique market where we find beautiful, modern judaica for a quarter of the original (museum shop) price.

Finally we spend a wonderful Sunday afternoon with Ernst's first cousin Chrissie, her children Rachel, Ben, granddaughter Sophie and son-in-law Mike.

Via Harwich, Hook-of-Holland and Voorburg (Anat) and some shops back home, where Helen and Judy have taken good care of Motek.

The December month is a mixture of Chanukkah and Christmas spirit. It starts with the Santaclaus mile in Großenkneten, including Santa and his angels (this is Northern Germany!). We also visit the Christmas market in Oldenburg, because they sell those wonderful woollen socks there.

And it is good for Motek to be in a crowd once again, although we deliberately have chosen a rather quiet moment for our visit.
There are two more concerts: the Three Cantors (one of them turns out to be ill) and an inter-religious choir concert. And Ernst is present at the unveiling of a memorial in Berne, for the former Jewish population there.

The next day he visits Berne again to see the Jewish cemetery and to have a talk with one of the descendants now living in the USA. Always handy if you speak some English!

The year ends with a severe cold for both, with Ernst resulting in bronchitis and pneumonia. Hopefully the antibiotics have done their work before New Year's Eve.

Between all this there are also the usual activities such as: board tasks for the Jewish community, cataloging the study library in shul, coordination of the Sunday school, maintaining our motorhomes, tending to house and garden, Hebrew lessons, keeping in touch with the outside world via the Web and knitting. (You can guess who does what ;-).
At the end of the year Motek is still not his old self again, but he now can walk for half an hour without pain.

Thanks to Helena, Amy, Helen, Emmie, ​​Siebe and Judy for being dog sitters. Without you our trips would not have been possible.

We wish all readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019!

Ernst & Sylvia

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