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Traveling Mistakes

This is in answer to the question about mistakes made while traveling.

When I was young and single I took a trip to Europe with my girlfriend. I loved it and immediately wanted to go back with someone I loved. Two years ago my husband and I took our 25th anniversary trip to Europe to follow our roots (I won, he wanted to lie on a beach somewhere). One of our stops was Malan's Switzerland, a small village near Chur. My grandfather's family came from there. It was more than I had dreamed of and I felt a real connectedness.

We took a day trip to find the Castle Reitberg. A relative had mentioned it since my grandpa's name was Riedberger. We didn't feel there was a family connection to the Castle but wanted to go anyway. We took a train and a bus and got off at the Castle Rietberg stop. We walked up the road and found an old castle that had been added on over the years. Some additions were quite recent and modern. We still were not sure that this was the right castle. People still lived in the many parts of the castle. An old lady waved to us through an open window. There was a little girl playing in the courtyard but she didn't understand our questions.

This was in a part of Switzerland where not everyone spoke English and since we spoke no other languages usefully it was hard to make ourselves understood. We asked a young lady riding a horse but she couldn't understand us either. We saw a ruin in the distance and decided to walk there. Maybe that was the Castle Rietberg. Our path took us over rising brooks, wild flower strewn fields, past fleeing deer and big-eyed brown cows with noisy bells. It was everything a Swiss Mountain meadow should be.

We finally came to the ruin, which was next to a huge farmhouse and a bigger barn than I had ever seen anywhere. My husband didn't want to go in. He has a fear of trespassing, but I was insistent. We passed the house and around the corner of another barn we saw an older couple sitting on the porch of a little stone cottage next to the huge ruin. I yelled "do you speak English". The woman answered that they did. We were able to find out that the first building was indeed the Castle Rietberg.

Our mistake, traveling on to find the name of the ruin turned out not to be a mistake at all. The couple, Margarite and Joost, invited us to sit with them on their porch and have strawberries and tea. They were teachers or retired teachers from Harlem, Holland. They take their "holiday" every year at the rented cabin. They explained to us the history of the region and told us much about the castles, how the peasants of the area were disgusted with the aristocracy and stormed the castle we were seated next to, tearing down parts of it. They said most of the farmers houses and barns in the area had foundations made from the stones of the castle. They told us the mortar was made with buttermilk. I couldn't believe how lucky we were to be sitting in front of this little cottage, eating strawberries and drinking tea while looking out over the beautiful mountains and valley and talking to new friends.

I am sorry to say we didn't get their address to write them a proper thank-you. Thanks, Margarite and Joost. This is the things dreams are made of.

Jane and Ron


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