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We’re back in Italy now, and it is just wonderful to be here. Not that we don’t love our homeland, but we love our adopted land more every year. Each time we return it feels more familiar, and more like ‘home.’ Of course soon after our arrival the usual train of bureaucratic nonsense began, but that’s a story for another day; and truly, it is not enough to dampen our spirits (as long as the sun continues to shine).

This time we returned through Frankfurt, taking advantage of American Airlines nonstop from Dallas to Frankfurt, and then low-cost RyanAir‘s nonstop from “Frankfurt” to Pisa. RyanAir is a good bargain most of the time, but you have to be rather careful about exactly where you are going to find yourself. Several years ago the Captain and I went to “Glasgow” from Pisa via Ryan, and arranged to rent a car at the airport. Ha ha. Ryan’s “Glasgow” flight goes to Prestwick, which is 30-40 minutes distant by car. We arrived in Prestwick, and not surprisingly found no car waiting for us. The AutoEurope people were fantastic, though, and quickly figured out what had happened. In short order we had a car and were on our way, laughing at our own carelessness. (In fairness, I have to say that the RyanAir website now says “Glasgow/Prestwick” – I don’t think it did a few years ago.

Likewise the website refers to “Frankfurt/Hahn.” You might think from the linking that the airports are close to one another; in fact it takes about an hour and a half to drive the 116 kilometers that separate the two airports. Ryan didn’t fool us this time, though; we had cleverly done our homework. There is very good and reasonably priced (E 12) bus service between the two airports, but we wanted to spend the night near Hahn and enjoy some good German beer and wurst. Unfortunately we were unable to find convenient bus/train service, so we simply rented a car, which had the added advantage of giving us lots of freedom… a good thing since the little town in which we chose to stay, Raversbeuren, was not exactly stuffed with pubs or restaurants.  Click here for map of the area (The pin A is in Raversbeuren, Hahn doesn’t show on map, but is right there.)

As we approached Raversbeuren we passed right by one of the Hahn Airport taxiways; it seemed decidedly odd to be so close to this large transport which had just landed.

A few minutes later we found ourselves in the B&B run by the charming Berta and Helmut Kirst:

They could not have been nicer to us. Their hospitality extended to an elaborate mid-afternoon tea with four different kinds of sweeties made by Berta herself. Our overnight there cost only E 40, permitted us early check-in, and included this amazing breakfast:

In addition to the spread of meats and cheeses, jams and breads, there are boiled eggs under those cheerful little red hats.  Behind the tea pot (good tea) is a plate of more of Berta’s sweeties.  There was not room for everything, but it was a pleasure to do our best to eat it all.

Hahn Airport was, until the mid-90’s, a U.S. Air base (cool airplane pictures here), and that’s pretty much what it still looks like.  For starters, it’s in the middle of nowhere.  You will not find the usual big hotels that sprout like weeds around more urban air hubs.  But you will find lots of small charming villages, and endless expanses of fields.

The photo above is of farm fields just outside Raversbeuren.  Hahn and its airport are about 5 km to the left.  Many of the houses and barns in Raversbeuren are clad completely in slate, which gives them a rather dour, imposing look, and which is, I think, quite unusual.

After our usual post-arrival nap we hopped in our nifty little car and took off to tour of the neighboring towns.  Enkirch is very nearby and is where we returned for a delicious dinner.  The sister towns of Trarbach and Traben lie on opposite sides of the Mosel River; both are picturesque and rather touristy.  They are connected by a fancifully painted bridge.  (There is an album of photos of these towns and other parts of the trip here.)

We arrived in Germany the day after Easter.  I don’t know if any other country has more fun with Easter than Germany.  Shop windows are given over entirely to springtime displays featuring flowers, rabbits, eggs, and bales and bales of straw grass.  Both our room at the Kirst B&B and the pub where we stopped for some excellent German beer were decorated for the holiday.  It seems you can’t go anywhere around Easter time without tripping on a bunny or an egg.

Arriving at the airport the next morning was a bit surreal.  We came in through the back entrance, rather than the somewhat more polished main entrance.  After traveling about a mile on dreadful heaved up and bumpy pavement we arrived at the gate, which looks much more like a base entrance than an airport entrance… for the simple reason that for years that’s what it was.

Fortunately we didn’t have to stop and show military ID.  But the strangeness continued as we drove past one hard stand after another. (The Captain explained to me that the hard stands each housed one airplane and its crew, which were always at the ready for almost instantaneous deployment.  Hahn was important during the cold war.).  We must have driven by fifteen of them at least.  It certainly didn’t feel like the beginning of a commercial air trip.

But it was, and eventually we found the place to return our rental car and were driven back to the air terminal.  The flight to Pisa was gorgeous as the Alps were in plain view for a change, as were the Lakes (and Lecco… where I think I saw some Rubbah Slippahs); so often one sees just the peaks popping through a heavy cloud deck.  As we approached Pisa we had ample proof that there has been a ton of rain in Italy.  Here is the muddy Arno emptying into the sea:

A few minutes after the above photo was taken our feet were once again on Italian soil, and all the joys and inconveniences of Italy re-entered our lives: we ate a fabulous panino while we waited for the train, which was delayed one and three-quarters hours.