We arrived to Cuxhaven in mid October, an interesting though strange little town, it is home to an important fisherman’s wharf and ship registration point for the bigger port city of Hamburg as well as for the famous Kiel Canal. Our initial plan was to sail down the Elbe river onto Hamburg but it was a long and highly trafficked area so we decided to leave Messenger at the marina in Cuxhaven and check out the country by train. Although traveling by train was very stressful for the Coconuts who aren’t used to set departure times, we still enjoyed it. You get to see so much out the windows, the country side and the multiple towns you go through, which is very different from sailing where most times you are so far away from land you don’t even get to see the landscape changing. We knew we would be walking a lot so we packed light, everyone took their own backpack with their own clothes, even Caribe carried her own.
We stopped for one night in Hamburg where we surprised the girls by booking a cabin on the J.R. Tolkien, a harbor tug boat which was converted into a 40 meter gaffeltop segelschooner or gaff topsail schooner in english.
After “checking-in” and dropping off our backpacks we went to find an art gallery where some friends whom we met while in Iceland were playing music. When we arrived at the art opening our friends were playing but during intermission they came to say hello, they were pleasantly surprised that we just showed up after a brief email exchange in which they mentioned where they would be performing next. We made plans to met for dinner around the corner after they were done with their gig, in the meantime we took the girls to play in a pretty awesome playground we had passed on the way.
Out of the trio of musicians we had only met Hrólfur while visiting Hesteyri in the Westfjords of Iceland, a place where his mother still has a house and runs a café during the summer though she doesn’t live there year round. Hrólfur is Icelandic but has been living in Germany for many years and is an established musician. We had the pleasure of meeting Iris, his wife who is German, a woman who glows not only on the outside but from within, she is also an exceptional musician and teacher. Together they play as a duo called Star Fish. Playing with them that evening was their long time friend and colleague Carsten who owns his own recording studio/school where he invited the girls to come to record some songs and experience singing with an amplified microphone. They loved it and although it was a bit “out of our way” to go there we made it a priority because we believe the experience was priceless for the Chicas who love to sing.
In Berlin we stayed in a great neighborhood called Prenzlauer Berg, a quiet area with families and cool playgrounds. There we met up with Cedric, a friend Jay had met while working on a sail charter trip in Iceland, he brought along to dinner his charming girlfriend and a refugee whom he had recently befriended, this refugee was a very well educated man, it was really nice meeting him and hearing his story though sad. We also met up with a couple who recently bought their first sailboat and whom we saw everyday on the dock in Isafjordur, Iceland working on their boat. Heidar is Icelandic while his wife Nancy is German, they were in Berlin visiting her parents and Heidar’s daughter Mia who also lives there. And on that same day Julie and her daughter Tully came out to rendezvous, I met her back in Costa Rica but she recently moved to Berlin.
These four lucky international children got to go to the best “playground” ever! Kolle 37 a construction adventure place where they chopped wood with an axe for the bonfire, built huts with clay and wood, cooked bread and potatoes over the open fire, took care of rabbits and guinea pigs, all unsupervised. We dropped them off and a young fun guy jotted down Nancy’s phone number and kindly asked us to leave, parents can't stay, not even enter the place. There is only one rule he told the kids, the rule was to have fun! Us adults walked to a cafe and a few hours later we picked up our kids who had had the time of their lives.
The most educational thing we did while in Berlin was visit the Berlin Wall Memorial where the Chicas learned a very good history lesson. Jay and I really make a point of turning any life experience into a learning lesson for the kids. Jay is especially good in explaining historical facts in a language and in a way that our smaller kids can understand, it was amazing to hear how much they understood when Jay was quizzing them on the train on our way back to the boat. The Berlin Memorial is an outstanding tribute to those who suffered and died there. Just this was worth the long and at times stressful way of traveling by train.