Thursday, May 1, 2008
Our plans for today were to travel to Feldbach for Jutta's family reunion. Her father is one of 11 siblings. The reunion began at a wonderful restaurant. I had the yummiest meal. Meat (steak, chicken, pork, bacon and a hot dog) grilled with butter and garlic and served over fried potato wedges served with a salad. The platter was enough for at least 3 people. I ate what I could. I shouldn't have to eat again until Sunday! It was great!
The party consisted of about 60 people, all happy to see one another. Mary was a little intimated by the large party of people laughing and speaking german. She did regain her courage and ran outside to play with the other children. Opa Rupert and Jutta's 13 year old cousin, Joseph played with the children outside. Mary was in her element in a matter of minutes.
After dinner we headed on our next excursion with all of Rupert's relatives. They had a bus that took us from the restaurant to the zoo. The sky looked cloudy but we were hoping the dark clouds would blow over. No such luck.
We began our trek through the zoo with Jutta and her extended large family. We saw the lions, the cheetahs and the baboons. And then the rain came. We headed for shelter in a small pavilion next to an ape house. The rain was coming down in bucket fulls. The storm was quite violent. But we were dry in our small pavilion. The kids played on the fence, with the picture prompt from Madagascar and some log stools.
I was talking with Jutta when the lightning struck. The lightning stuck the ape building next to our pavilion about 15 feet away. When it struck, before we heard the thunder. I felt a vibration and a shock. I looked down at my left foot and saw a spark. In my head, I'm wondering if I was struck by lightning-it was that close. The thought came to me that I couldn't have been struck by lightning because I'm still standing here. Jutta at that point is pointing to the ape house. It was obvious that it was struck. Smoke was billowing out of the building. The thatched roof went up in flames quickly. We moved to another location under an awning. And watched the building go up in flames. The pavilion that we were standing in also was burnt down. The winds from the storm spread the fire from the ape house to our first shelter.
It was very scary. Mary was very concerned about the animals and the people. She now has a very healthy fear of lightning. The two apes in the ape house died. One died instantly by the lightning and the other died in the fire.
The storm was increasing. We needed to get to a better shelter so we rain in a down pour to the gift shop. Once at the gift shop, it began to hail. Some of Jutta's relatives were trapped on the other side of the zoo by high water. They had difficulty getting the kids and strollers through the foot deep water.
Everyone was fine. But the party was over. As we headed for the bus Mary and Adrian pointed out that they only saw 3 animals. We had planned to visit a castle after the zoo but decided against it. We headed for Feldbach and spent the rest of the afternoon with Jutta's parents.
We had a very exciting day even though it was nothing like we had planned. Tomorrow we will be visiting another castle in the morning and then heading to the chocolate factory. We will be spending the day with Victoria. Victoria lived in Hollidaysburg a few years ago for a year. We can't wait to see her.
I have video of the aftermath of the lightning strike. I am having trouble loading it onto the blog. I will try again tomorrow.
Enjoy the Day!