Remembering Acts of Kindness by Strangers

Dear friends, this week’s Blue Monday seems to last all week. Or maybe this week should be called Blue Week in January. It is absolutely horrible. Of course it does not help that I am aching all over with a flue virus and are just recovering from some other stress. The weather seems to mirror my feelings.

Lone Tree small

But while it is snowing and raining and sleeting and being foggy and miserable and cold,  I am sitting here in my cozy studio cabin which our oldest son built for me a few years ago. The heater is humming softly.  Thanks to our youngest son Stefan’s expertise I am connected even in my remote sanctuary  to all of you in the world through the internet.

small cabin

My husband and best friend brought me some coffee and cake.  Suddenly my spirits start reviving.  I am thinking of all the wonderful things in my life   Yes, I have experienced great losses, sadness and pain but I have survived.  How can I let the weather and other  minor stresses or discomforts of every day life dampen my spirits?   I have my family, friends and above all LOVE.  God’s love and  all the love and kindness of people close to my heart,

Suddenly,  I remember that I even experienced love and kindness by complete strangers throughout my life.  This is the reason why I am writing  this post  I want to express thankfulness to you strangers I can no longer thank personally. But maybe, miraculously you will receive my message of gratitude in your heart.

Acts of kindness of strangers are especially felt when we are alone and in a precarious or vulnerable situation.

Throughout my childhood and adolescence I was overprotected by my parents, especially my mother.  I was seldom among strangers.

When I graduated from school, I lived for the first time away from home.  I was hired through our principal as an au pair girl  or nanny by a family with three small children in Manchester, England.

At that time, I was unofficially engaged to Peter and planned on following him to Canada in the near future.  My parents realized they could no longer stop me from making my own decisions.  In England I wanted to improve my English skills, earn some money and learn to stand on my own feet.

The prospect of living far away from home in a strange country with people I had never met did not intimidate me.  Confidence of youth, I guess!!!!  I was inexperienced in every thing, especially in handling money.  My parents never let me budget pocket money. Before leaving  my father gave me a quick crash course on the British currency.  It  was very complicated because it was not based on the decimal system. I only listened with  half an ear. I was not worried.  Somehow I would manage. coinsnew

Finally the day arrived when I left for my first adventure away from home.  The train ride from Düsseldorf to the port of Calais was very long.  The ferry ride across the English channel to Dover  happened at night.  I remember meeting other young people sitting on deck under the stars  with me. More experienced travel than I had they advised me to do some sightseeing in London before catching a late afternoon train to my destination in Manchester.

Biene smallIn the early morning hours we arrived in Dover and took a  short train ride to London.  My travel companions all dispersed in London and I was on my own.  Although dead tired I did manage to do some sightseeing before my train departure to Manchester.


I even managed to get a taxi to the right train station.  Relieved that I made it on time i wanted to be kind and  give the black taxi driver a generous tip.   I grabbed the biggest and most impressive looking coin from my change purse.  When I handed it to him,  he suddenly spat on it, threw it to the ground and stomped on it uttering swear words. I did not understand.  Before I could  remedy the situation he sped off in a fury.

Taxis Engl.

This perturbed me tremendously.  I had wanted to be kind but ignorance had prevented me from doing the right thing.  My intended kindness had turned into an insult.

A friendly elderly couple who shared my train compartment for part of the journey managed to cheer me up with their kind interest in me. They shared valuable information about my new host country and gave me some good advice. They made an effort to speak slowly and clearly so i could understand.  They were amused when I finally dared to confess my money mistake.  The coin I had offered was  of the lowest value, worth less than a penny.  That prompted them to explained to me the different values of the coins and the paper money.

train station

After many hours,  i finally arrived in Manchester.  The friendly couple had left before.  “I hope my host family will recognize me?”, I thought while maneuvering my heavy suitcase out of the train car.   Lots of passengers got off.  Eventually the crowds dispersed and less and less  people were left on the platform.  Where are my hosts?  I started to wonder.   Finally  I was the last person standing there.  A tall nice looking black porter standing a distance away kept on glancing at me.  I tried to avoid his gaze.  Eventually he approached me. “Need help,  Miss? ” he asked in a kind voice.  “Can I get you a cab?”   In my broken English I  told him about my predicament.  He advised me that it was probably best to take a taxi to my host family.  When I agreed, he took my heavy suitcase and led me through the busy  train station to the exit. He approached a taxi driver and gave him the address of my host family. I wanted to thank him with a big tip.  Since the friendly couple on the train had taught me the value of the different coins and paper money,  I took a generous amount from my purse and tried to hand it to him.  “No, no Miss”,  he protested. “I don’t want money. It was a pleasure helping  you.  Good luck to you!”  He left with a big warm smile.



I am still remembering him after half a century.

The next episode I am telling you is very dramatic. It happened on a wet, cold and dark  day in October. I had just arrived by plane from Canada  in Germany the day before.  My twin brother lay dying in the hospital of  Gummersbach, the place where he was last employed.   His boss had picked me up the day before at the airport and brought me to my brother’s apartment.   My brother’s close friend from Thailand had  special permission to stay with him in the same hospital room day and night.  He never left his bedside for long.  ( I am convinced he was an angel in human form.  I’ll tell this miraculous story sometime soon.)

Walter and Jazz small

The next morning i was supposed to visit my brother for the first time. His friend phoned me and gave me directions which bus to take. He also asked me to bring some roast chicken from a fast food outlet at the main bus station where i had to transfer to the hospital. Jazz, my brother’s friend, needed a change from hospital food.

It was an extremely wet and dark day and i was glad that I found an umbrella at the apartment before leaving. On the bus i sat near a window. Jet lagged and frightened, I felt dazed and confused like in a bad dream. Only one passenger sat at  the back behind me. I  held on to my umbrella like a life saver. Water was dripping  monotonously to the  floor.

gummersbach small

“Main station” the bus driver called.  I quickly grabbed my umbrella  which I had dropped  to the floor and followed the few people leaving the the bus.  The fast food outlet was easy to find. I ordered the roast chicken. Ready to pay,  I noticed  with panic that instead of holding my handbag  i was only holding my umbrella. Terror  shot through me like a bolt of lightning.  I dashed out of the door.  i had left my hand bag on the seat of the bus when I picked up the umbrella.bus

The bus I had been on was leaving.  I ran after it frantically waving. To no avail.  It  gingerly turned a corner and disappeared from sight. In shock and disbelief i stood in the pouring rain like paralyzed. Suddenly i noticed a tall man with a long rain coat which he clasped shut with  both hands  moving towards me.  When he stood closely in front of me he suddenly opened up his coat and asked in a low voice,  “Are you looking for this?”  MY HANDBAG!!!!!!  Instantly my paralyzing shock  turned into agitated euphoria.  Overjoyed I jumped up to hug the man .  “You don’t even know what’s  in my bag!”, I shouted close to tears of joy. “Everything!!!! My credit cards, my cash, my keys, my passport my flight tickets, my jewelry…and…”How can I thank you,  what can I give you?” I asked eagerly to reward him generously.   “Nothing!”, he muttered, turned on his heels and left me stunned.

rain coat

Although there are so many experiences of miraculous acts of  kindness by strangers I experienced through out my life I limit myself to one more in this post.

It happened also during that fateful stay when I saw my brother for the last time.  One night i barely caught the last bus from the hospital.  At the main terminal I found out that the  closest bus connection to my brother’s place was not running at this time of night.  I was able to catch another bus to a street from where I could walk to the apartment.

It was a very dark and wet night   I soon noticed that I must  have turned the wrong way.  I felt lost.  The residential street was deserted and badly lit. Suddenly I heard loud and agitated male voices talking in a foreign language. I saw several dark male figures coming towards me.  Fear started to grip me.  Were they drunk?  They seemed to argue back and forth in a language i could not make out.  When they spotted me, they surrounded me quickly.  In broken German one of the men asked me if I could give them some money.  “How much?”, I asked in a  trembling voice ready to give them all I had. I could not believe my ears when he asked for the equivalent of one dollar in coins.  “We need coins for phone!”, he said, “can you please give us?”   I had loose coins from my bus fare in my coat pocket and I quickly handed them to him.    “Here”, he said.  “take this!”   He gave me the equivalent of five dollars in paper money in return.  I could not refuse.  They were so happy that they could finally make a phone call. They thanked me profusely and even  helped me to find my way to my brother’s apartment.   We parted joyfully  like friends.

men on street

These acts of  kindness by strangers always restore my faith in the miraculous human spirit.   I’ll leave you with a quote from George Eliot,

 “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”


Postscript to my Previous Post about the Forbidden Word…Knö…

Dear friends,  before I start writing my new post I have to add a picture relating to my previous one.   My friend Peter, the master Kloss maker, has forgiven me for calling the famous Thüringer Klösse  ” Knö……..”  Oh, no I promised him to never  say that forbidden word again.  He also reminded me that  Klösse and roast goose belong together like sun and moon in a traditional Christmas dinner in Thuringia.    He sent me a picture of his beautiful daughter who cooked the enormous goose this year to accompany the famous raw potato dumplings.  They were made to perfection according to an old secret family recipe  by Peter.  Here are father and daughter who prepared the traditional Christmas  feast of my birth place in Thuringia, GermanyKlosse Petersmall

goose small

Hope you will experience this  special dinner at least once in your life.

April 1,  (April Fools Day) I may publish Peter’s address,  so you can maybe drop in next Christmas for dinner..



“Knödel” is a Forbidden Word for Thuringians

Dear friends,   after my last post talking about Stefan’s attempt at making the famous traditional Thüringer Klösse   (raw potato dumplings) for  Christmas eve, I received an email from a friend in Germany.   He voiced his extreme displeasure that I told him that our son tried to make Knödel.  Now I have to explain that in Germany there are many words for dumplings and I thought they were all interchangable.  Not so!  I found out.

I have talked about my friend Peter before in an earlier post.  He is from Thuringia and was born at the same time and place as my twin brother and I in my home town  Gotha.   There is a strong connection. He is the one who did the  “research” on the mysterious “Mrs. Goose”, my first teacher. Look in my archives for that post.

Peter is not only a proud citizen of Thuringia but also a master “Dumpling” chef.  He has a very old recipe which dates back many generations and is the treasured  secret of his family. I feel extremely honored that he shared this precious recipe with me.

Now I have to admit that in my childhood growing up in the “hotpot region” of Thüringer Klösse I was not very fond of these enormous potato dumplings. They were swimming in a rich gravy often paired with sweet and sour braised red cabbage and fatty goose meat.  I was an extremely picky eater and could not stand the smell and sight of such rich dishes.  I remember my mom and sister grating enormous amounts of potatoes and working feverishly and nervously  over the hot stove to make sure that  these dumplings would be a success. Christmas would be ruined if the dumplings , oh no I mean Klösse, did not turn out to perfection.

I have to  further admit that when my husband and I started our own household in Canada I left this “Dumpling” or “Kloss” tradition happily behind.  I never ate a Thuringer kloss for many years until exactly twenty-five years ago.  That’s when I met Peter,  the Klossmaster (not Peter, my husband who does not care for any dumplings or Knödel whatsoever.  He does not even know the differences between them.)  But I’ll get to that point soon.

Peter, the “Klossmaster”,  as I will call him now.  was visiting Richard E., his long time pen pal for the first time after the Berlin Wall came down. Since traveling from East Germany  to the western hemisphere was finally allowed  Peter and Edelgard decided to meet their friend across the ocean in person.

Peter and his wife Edelgard came to Canada to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary with Richard E.,  our friend from nearby Apple Grove.  We were invited to the party. Richard at that time lived on his beautiful property off the land  (hippie) without electricity and other modern commodities.  His idyllic setting and beautiful productive garden made up for many things. I still remember the beautiful hand woven baskets of freshly picked, sweet smelling strawberries  sitting on the rustic wooden table under the apple tree.


There  were a variety of delicious dishes the guest had brought. The spirits were high.  We did a lot of singing, laughing and teasing Peter and Edelgard who were trying to renew their wedding vows.

Peter was very excited and overjoyed when he learned that we were both born at almost the same time and same place. Such a miraculous coincidence!  He couldn’t get over it.

When Peter and Edelgard finally had renewed their wedding vows after long humorous negotiations and tense moments when Peter threatened to drown himself in the beautiful sauna pond, the guests started to leave.

sauna blog small

Ready to say our good-byes to the newly rewed pair, Peter held us back excitedly.  “You cannot leave until you have tasted my Thüringer Klösse.  They are the crowning conclusion of this wonderful day,”  We couldn’t decline.  Peter led us to Richard’s rustic log house which seemed to belong to another time in the long past.  In the dim candle light Peter dished out two enormous, perfectly round and fluffy white Klösse (dumplings).  He ladled a generous amount of glistening and shiny gravy over these balls and lots of tender meat. He waited eagerly for our approval. When we finally managed to express our appreciation of this delicious food in between big  mouthfuls of  dumplings he told us how he managed to make them that day in spite of major obstacles.

Richard at that time (before Margret) lived mostly from fresh produce from his garden and rarely wasted his time with cooking.  He had a small propane camp stove for these eventualities. The big and beautiful antique wood stoves were only used in the winter.

Green house Ri.jpgsmall

Early in the morning, when Peter was ready to start the arduous process of  his Thüringer Klösse preparations he experienced an unwelcome delay.  Although Richard prided himself with the freshest produce from his garden almost all year round his last year’s  potatoes in the late spring were no longer of top quality.  Peter was almost in tears when he looked at the shriveled and sprouting specimens.  In spite of Richard’s protests and risking to insult his host, he jumped into the car and raced to Nakusp,  a 45 minute drive  at normal speed, to buy the best quality potatoes he could find. The end result of all his efforts was a culinary delight and changed my taste. I finally enjoyed the iconic dish of my birth place.

I never tried to duplicate his efforts though and went for many years without tasting them again until my nephews from Thüringia came for a visit and successfully prepared them for us paired with a turkey dinner and gravy,  a delicious German Canadian combination.

Almost 25 years after Peter’s visit our youngest son Stefan tried to go back to his”roots” and to try his hand at making these Klösse on Christmas Eve with the help of our big brother Google.  With passion and enthusiasm and lots of youthful vigor he set out for this daunting task.Stefan smalling the Klosssmall

Stefan Klosssmall

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Table Klosssmall

I won’t go into detail but he was moderately successful.  A great accomplishment for the first attempt.  Although they were not perfect, we enjoyed our dinner. The absolutely well seasoned gravy covered the imperfections.  Stefan’s meal was delicious. A few days ago Peter sent me an email showing off his master pieces and reminding me that it is a grave insult to all the people and Klösse makers from Thuringia to call these  famous specialties Knödel, which is another German word for dumplings.  Luckily in English the word dumpling covers them all.

Klosse Petersmall

Peter sent me his secret family recipe again and I promised myself to try and make them on the next special occasion.  I’ll let you know if I succeed.

Have a successful and happy New Year.

  And remember NEVER  call Thüringer  KLÖSSE