Sleep came quickly the previous night; a combination of the long drive of over 750 kms and the comfortable bed. It had been arranged that we would go with Fr Xavior to the Corpus Christi Church in Rotteburg, where he was to say Mass at 9.30 am. We had sandwiches and coffee before leaving at 8.15 am. The Church was about 40 kms away but we reached well in time despite having to search out the Church – a ritual, Fr said, whenever he came to this Church. The fairly large, yet simple, church had a small enclosure with a wooden sculpture of Our Lady, where we spent some time before going into the main hall. A small gathering of elders were at Rosary. We joined in and soon it was time for the Mass. It had been 8 weeks since we had heard Mass and hence, the experience was spiritually fulfilling. Shortly after Mass began the gathering filled the Church, mostly with elders; as is to be expected given the demographic skew of the population, 60% being over 60 years of age. Those who attended the service were serious churchgoers and not those who had an obligation due to societal or parental pressure. Once the Mass got over people greeted each other quite effusively and met in small groups to exchange pleasantries.
We left for Benefeld with the intention of touring the Vogelpark, which is considered one of the best bird parks in Europe. On the way Fr asked if we would like to sample a local delicacy of fish fillet in Hotel Forellenhauf. It was a family establishment that farmed Thilappia and the “fish fillet mullerin art” which they served with salad and potatoes was a must have in the area. Not one to turn down an opportunity to taste something local we agreed to to the suggestion. Over a tall glass of the Benefeld speciality of Schnuckernbrau beer we feasted on the fish dish. The specially steamed full fish is meant to be laced with fish oil and a dash of lime is added to it. Mustard chutney accompanied the steamed potatoes. Crispy vegetables, fresh mayonnaise sauce and pomegranate with dressing made up the salad. Beer, salad, potatoes and fish – all went down in quick time. I did not have the stomach for desert! Another positive out of the visit to the hotel was that we could get connected on WiFi to the Internet. The short time made it possible for us to check mails, social network sites and contact family and friends.
We got dropped at the Vogelpark after the early lunch. We thought of spending a few hours strolling through it. However, when we learnt that the entrance fee is Euro 19 per head we almost abandoned the original idea and headed back to Benefeld. At the end of assessing the pros and cons we decided to visit the Park and economise elsewhere some other time! It was a good decision for the Bird Park was indeed splendid and maintained so well with people of all age groups in mind. Children had many places to use interesting outdoor equipment and aviary enclosures where they could get up close and personal with birds. Bird feeding, flight displays and humorous shows were meant for all ages. Restaurants and snack bars were available for those who wanted a beer, food, snacks or even ice creams. We had an ice cream in between admiring Nature – the colours that made the birds either distinct or unrecognisable in their environment were stupendous. Pelicans, Storks, Flamingos, Owls, Hornbills, Penguins, Fowls and Lorries we spent time with. I was taken in by the large variety of Owls and Hornbills. It was the first time I was seeing Penguins in the open, without a controlled environment.
Once the large Park was covered to some extent we walked back to Benefeld enjoying the cool breeze that tempered the Sun. The walk by the side of farms made us experience the countryside better. It was a rather long walk of 3 kms, but it did not tire us. Fr made us the most delectable Spaghetti and meat sauce served with powdered cheese. A couple of pints of local beer chased the delicious meal down the stomach. The warmth and friendly nature of Fr Xavior is indescribable. The two days we were with him were most enjoyable and uplifting.