A Last Look Back and it’s a Wrap


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“Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened”

-Dr. Suess

2019 was quite a year. Not just for me and my family, but for people and places all over the world: The Chinese landed on the far side of the moon, Notre Dame unbelievably burned, Karl Lagerfeld left behind an extraordinary creative legacy and last but not least, the 45th standing president of the United States was unflinchingly impeached.  On a more personal level however, while not quite eventful enough to make worldwide news, 2019 has also been a busy one for my family.  We kicked 2019 off by returning from a German holiday vacation and soon hurled ourselves into our last year of high school, started new jobs and rediscovered lost relationships.  So many life changing events arose that although I had every intention of closing the loop left open by neglecting to finish blogging about our year end trip, I never did get around to wrapping that up- until today.  There is much more that will have to remain unsaid on the places we saw and the things we did, but behold here a streamlined summary of select experiences at the end of last year that imprinted themselves on both our minds and hearts.

The stately Rathaus in downtown Hamburg
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Our bedroom at the Schlaflounge

Rewind back with me if you will to December 30th, 2018.  After a few hours’ drive west away from Berlin, we spent the final chilly winter days of the year in beautiful Hamburg.  Our dear relatives living there acted as expert guides in making sure we had a memorable stay by suggesting we check into the Schlaflounge, which I can highly recommend to any visitor headed to that fair city.  The modern rooms and bathrooms were stylish, functional and roomier than one might think, the continental breakfast was ample and the owners/hosts were as warm and hospitable as an old friend.  The personal attention and care we received made us feel like we were at our home-away-from-home each day of our stay.

The Rice Brothers, Hamburg
Last lunch and best lunch of 2018

On New Year’s Eve day we laughed and lunched with family at the whimsical Rice Brothers, where both the décor and Asian cuisine were bright, fun and tasty all at once.  This eatery is a favorite of our cousins, so they guided our group of 10 to a back room where they knew we could comfortably seat everyone.  There was something on the menu for each diner, and we all relaxed took our time enjoying both the food and the setting.

The amazing table and feast prepared by our fantastic cousins

The evening’s New Year’s Eve celebration however was the most wonderful night of our trip.  Our cousins hosted a dinner party in their elegant and spacious apartment on the first floor of a gorgeous old building in the city’s Sternschanze district.  An expansive feast of simmering fondue pots and trays of meats + delicious side dishes was prepared for sixteen guests of varying ages who ate, drank, talked and laughed the night away.  All too soon, amidst a shower of glittering street-side fireworks, our old friend year 2018 flamed out while shiny new 2019 disco-danced its way in.  We found ourselves wishing that our enchanting evening would never end.

After only a few hours’ sleep, we roused ourselves to rise, shine and spend the first day of the new year on an outdoor adventure accompanied by usual suspects from the night before.  We all piled in to a roomy van for the short drive through town and upon arrival at our destination, several of our group, including my very brave (and apparently crazy) daughter, participated in a New Year’s Day Plunge into the freezing cold waters of the Elbe River.  Several yards from the riverbank, I watched with an unsettling mixture of horror and pride as she sprinted down the sand with about 30 other people to swim out, submerge, and then jet back out of the river toward the warmth of the roaring fire pit and a waiting beach towel.  After we did everything possible to warm the frigid bones of those fearless plunge-takers, we then hiked through the rain on a riverside path to a restaurant with a view for hot refreshments.  The warm Glühwein and hot Kartoffelgratin really helped take the edge off, even for those of us who stayed as dry as possible throughout the challenging adventure.

A Container ship rolls by on the Elbe during lunch

As we drove back into town, we marveled at the colorful stories we would tell back home about what we did on our first day of the New Year.  In a matter of hours our glorious holiday concluded, and we dolefully flew west into the dark northern skies to begin the new year again from our own side of the globe.  Once we landed, 2019 with all its mystery and promise could begin in earnest now that we were back at home.

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Fast forward with me to the present.  Unlike during that of 2018, my last week of 2019 will not be spent thousands of miles far away from home traveling to beautiful cities, spending precious time with friends and family I rarely have the chance to see.  This year we are at home in familiar surroundings, living our usual day to day existence, briefly interrupted by the warmth and good cheer of visiting relatives, friends and holiday celebrations.  But no matter the circumstances, as 2019 winds down toward its inevitable close and not only a new year but an entire new decade lies ahead, feelings of warmth, melancholy and nostalgia for the past give way to feelings of excitement and anticipation for what lies ahead.

As for my personal 2019, the past has fortunately caught up to the present- at least where https://offmylist.com and other writing projects are concerned.  I’ve been careful to spend most of this past year making sure to wrap up anything not wanted or needed in the new decade, and I can confidently say I reached my goals and am ready for 2020.  On one hand, the first blank pages of a new 356 page book await, and on the other the story continues.  Happy New Decade, everyone!

©2019 Lisa Ihnken, All Rights Reserved.

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