Back in 2016 when Ted and I came to Europe, our first stop was in Holtum-an-der-Geest, a small town in the county of Verden-an-der-Aller, in the province of Niedersachsen, where we stayed for several days at the lovely home of my cousin Helga and her husband Manny, and visited with my other cousin, Helga’s younger sister Doris. My Tante Lydia was still alive, and we delighted in hearing family history from her, as well as going through old photos and the Mandau family bible.
We also got to meet relatives I’d not met before: Helga’s sons Michael and Matthias, Doris’ daughter Yvonne and son Mark, my first cousin Ingrid (whose 50th anniversary celebration we were so pleased to join on the day we arrived) and her daughter Regina and adult grandchildren Sean, Emily, and Amy.
Helga, Manny, Ted and I did a day trip into Bremen while we were there and had a great time. Knowing that Ted and I were also interested in seeing Berlin, Tante Lydia treated us to a weekend there – with my cousin Doris joining us in Manny’s stead. Ted speaks no German and Manny speaks no English, meaning all their communication – exhaustingly – had to go through Helga or me. I think Manny was happy to opt out of the weekend.
At any rate, we three “girls” had an amazing time. Ted had a good time too, but ditched us after dinner in the evenings to go back to the hotel and rest his ears after spending the days with three chatty women… and we three continued to chat, while also taking in the amazing Reichstag light show, and drinking many, many Hugos in open air bars along the Spree until the wee hours of the morning. That wonderful weekend factored heavily in my desire to return to Berlin.
We’ve been looking forward to reuniting our cousins’ group ever since that visit. Helga, Doris, Ingrid and Regina get together regularly, and keep me updated on family news via Whatsapp messages in a group chat called “Cousinentreffen” (meaning cousins’ meeting/reunion), occasionally including a picture of “my” empty chair wherever they’ve chosen to meet. I’m happy to be part of the online group, but happier still to be reuniting in person this year. Helga and Doris plan to arrive in Berlin by train early this afternoon. Unfortunately, Ingrid and Regina are unable to come along – but Ted and I are going to hop on a train to go and see them next weekend, before we leave Berlin for Vienna.
A big surprise this weekend is the bonus of a “new” cousin, Rita, whom Helga and I only learned about during Covid lockdowns when we all had the time to update our genealogy files. To be fair, Rita actually found us – through a distant male cousin who has worked for years on the Mandau family tree (my father was one of 16 children, so it’s a BIG tree Episode 71 – A Needle In A Haystack On A Farm In Poland – Rose and Ted’s Excellent Adventure ).
Rita is related on my grandmother Emilie’s side, about which we knew almost nothing. Not only has Rita been able to share lots of information via email, but when she heard we’d be in Berlin she made plans to join us here, even though she lives almost 600 km away in Köln (Cologne). When I corresponded with Rita last week, she mentioned bringing her sister along, so there’ll be yet another family connection made.
I’ve been pretty excited about our upcoming Cousinentreffen weekend, and now it’s here! I expect a couple of late nights and much beer and Sekt (sparkling wine) will preclude there being blogs for a few days until everyone heads back home, but once Ted and I are on our own again I’ll update our adventures here so that the memories will be available to look back on whenever I need a “fix” of cousin love.