Ursula and Heidi


Ursula and Heidi

One of the best things about lifting in the last session of the day in Germany, is that when you’re done, they open up the Schnapps bar (in addition to keeping open the bar that’s been there all day); the German polka band comes on stage, and we get to relax. It was awesome.

While we were talking about the meet with Petra and Uli, these two cuties came up to me and told me they were selling necklaces and bracelets they had made. I don’t know if they instantly spotted me for a sucker or if they just got lucky but I quickly sent Bigg for more schnapps so we could get some change Euro’s to give them. While we were waiting, the little girl in the green was eyeing the flower in my hair. Her little friend said she spoke English and we were able to get out of her that she really liked the flower. So I gave it to her. (Again, suckah!!) They were just so cute and so sweet and running around to all the schnapps drinking adults selling their jewelry (Capitalism is alive and well in Germany folks. Make no mistake about it!)

When I came home, I showed a pair of clients the picture of my two little entrepreneur’s and one said, ‘Oh that’s Ursula and Heidi!’  (David makes up fun stories all the time. They have a pet cricket and cockroach who goes on tons of adventures he’ll tell me about. It’s pretty awesome.) So there ya go. Ursula and Heidi, my personal jewelry makers in Germany.

What I love most about my picture of Ursula and Heidi is that it embodies everything I absolutely adored (and am missing) about my German friends. Sweetness; ingenuity; fun; capable; a little sassy; creative, bringing fun and light in your life. That’s the German people.


What a treat it was to spend some throwing time with Meike and her daughter, Jaqueline (the two of them are called, ‘The Hobbits’) and meet other friends of the Athletic Haus.

I don’t know if the name, “Petra” means ‘Sunshine’ but I’m guessing it’s something like that. Because that’s Petra. I had a chance to throw in Scotland with Meike and Petra and have appreciated them ever since. When Petra enters a room, you know it. Her huge…smile (heh), and warm greeting will instantly make you feel hugged. I don’t know how she does it. It’s a gift I appreciate, probably cuz I don’t have it.

You are drawn to her. Her warmth and laughter. Her innocent silliness and at the same time her deviousness. (We  were coming back to their home after grabbing Matt from the airport and Petra got there first since Uli drove with us in the new rental. We had some snacks and wine and Uli went to grab the chocolate from a drawer. He said it was a new pack but when he opened it, some were missing. Petra had already gotten into it but pushed the other pieces down so it still looked new. It’s most likely a ‘location’ funny but we lulzed pretty hard. Petra is very stealthy when it comes to stealing chocolate.)

Another time, we were touring the local Palace where there were many signs and warnings of not touching anything EVER and for the most part, items in the rooms were roped off. Well, while in the King’s receiving room, Petra’s phone went off and she quickly wanted to shut it off. So she plopped her purse down, right there on the King’s 15th Century-roped off table, to grab her phone. I thought our lovely tour guide was going to have a stroke. It took us about two more rooms to stop laughing. It was awesome!

Petra was our cruise director, even before we got there. In Buffalo, she asked about the meet and where it was. And then she said, “you get a hotel there on Friday and Saturday and the rest of the days you stay with us.”  She always had a plan and when plans needed to be adjusted (we were going to Oktoberfest and the Mercedes museum on Monday but had just spent our Sunday walking through crowds of people at the Palace while driving for an additional 10-15 minutes trying to find parking. We all wanted to avoid both parking problems AND huge crowds of people the next day. New plan) she was on it to make sure we had something fun to do.

While we were driving back home on Monday from the Black Forest, Petra turned to me in the car and said, “okay, here’s the plan…” I’ll miss that. Someone giving me a plan for something awesome to happen each day. At some point after she started telling what the plan is we got giggly and talked about how, even when you have fun on the field for a couple of hours you never really know how spending time with each other for days and days will go-but then it goes wonderfully. I cherish that. New friends that your lives just merge into without incident. What a gift.

If Petra is the Sundshine, Uli is the steady breeze that ensures we are where we need to be when we need to be there; have been fed, and never falters in his steady guidance.


One of four welcome gates to the Palace grounds. So now you see why Meike and Jacquline are called The Hobbits;)

Because his work schedule was a little more flexible than Petra’s, he made sure I got to their Athletic Haus (more on that another day) to train and eat. When I arrived Thursday night he fetched me from the airport (German lei in hand) and we went back to the Athletic Haus to meet up with Petra and the rest of friends and to eat. He asked me what I needed and I said, “Meat and healthy carbs.” Boom. Steak and spatzle fell from the sky and I was good to go. After training on Friday, we had lunch at the Haus again (a Croatian family rents space from the athletic haus and runs a restaurant. It was some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life.) Again, Uli asks what I need. Meat and some salad. BOOM!


Ask and you shall receive. A platter of delicious meats and salads and crispy french fries. And a pretty awesome lunch companion.

Petra joined us there and after we all ate, we went to an Army surplus store they found for me to look for Ozman prizes. Again, after we fetched Matt from the airport and we got our rental car, Uli said we should come back to house before heading off closer to the meet because current traffic would make a 25 minutes drive 3 hours. (The Autobahn is very fast, until it’s not.)

I imagine spending time with Petra and Uli is much like going on a cruise where everything is laid out in front of you and you really don’t have to go to much effort to have an amazing time. The difference is, you’re not seasick and in need of throat punching hundreds of  stupid people while riding around in a ginormous petri dish. Our time with The Hobbits on Sunday’s palace tour and dinner afterwards was an extra treat. We are so incredibly fortunate to have such wonderful friends around the world who are so kind and open their homes; their lives, and their friends to us.

Before I finish, I want to say a little about my very brief time in the Istanbul airport. First off, it was fine. In fact, I will recommend Turkish Airlines to anyone who wants to travel a bit cheaper into Europe and doesn’t mind the Turk detour to get it. While it did make the trip home over 10 hours, the $600 price tag was well worth it. Hell, I’ve spent nearly that flying around America. The airlines itself takes very good care of you and in addition to multiple meals and scrumptious Turkish red wine (yes, multiple of that too) you can always grab a cheese sammich or a muffin along with bottles of water in the galley’s throughout the whole trip. I drank so much water on these flights that I landed plenty hydrated. It was awesome.

What I did notice about the Turkish people is that they are very pushy. In the airport; waiting in que; on the airplane. They constantly push. Now, while I thought it was rude, I was reminded by one of my clients that this is the norm of a population that is overcrowded. Asia can be the same way (I’m told.) So this actually makes sense. Also, I noticed that when you push back, they back off.

The Istanbul airport is pretty much like any other airport except the people watching will include people from all over the world where as the people watching in Milwaukee consists of fat locals in Packer jerseys. Not nearly as exciting. I’m sure my face did go ‘tourist’ when I saw something like this…


…a group of about 15 women in Burka’s shopping for Turkish Delight candies. This was new for me. I tried not to stare. They were so, I dunno, beautiful. Strong. Majestic. What I DID notice is that I wasn’t the only affected by it. One woman, sitting at a table across from me, just said, “Wow.” Yup. Wow. Here’s another little tidbit, if you want to further the myth that women in America have very little rights, you live in a fucking bubble. Grow up. White American women are some of the most privileged and protected women in the world. There have been a lot of people who have helped that along and I suppose it’s fair to say that any group wants more rights than they have. But for today, we’re doing pretty good.

Anyways, Turkish Airlines is A-okay by me. Istanbul, at the end of the day, is just another airport but with a lot of cardio as they make you traverse one end of the airport to another while they make four gate changes on one flight.

Lastly, this girl:


Quite lovely, isn’t she!?

Our beloved Highland Games sister, Annie Marshall, moved to Germany late last year and I know I can speak for others when I say how missed she was by all of us on the fields this year. I am so appreciative of her making the trek out on a rainy, late evening to come and watch me lift and grab a few moments of laughter and as many hugs as we could fit in before a quick goodbye. She is a gem and I’m so incredibly thankful for our time together.

While I love to share our journey with our friends, it makes me a bit melancholy for them. OH! After my last (missed) lift, Matt brought me back a glass of wine (their local wine is my absolute favorite. Each athlete who got on the podium went home with a bottle. It is very special and will be drank at some appropriate time if we actually get around to celebrating these World Championships) and I instantly went out of “athlete” mode and into “tourist” mode. Because of that, I didn’t even realize that even going 2 for 6 at the meet, I increased my total by 4kg. Now, that may not seem like a lot but an increase of 4kg a few times a year is a huge increase overall. Especially approaching 50. I’m super happy with it! I have one more chance this year to increase my total, hopefully by 2-4kg and I’ll be incredibly satisfied with my lifting this year.

And while I have many pictures to enjoy from the trip, this one of Ursula and Heidi is one of my favorites. I hope good things for them. I hope they meet fun people from all around the world and forge friendships with them that brings them together. At the very least, I hope that for them.

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.



About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to jep6095@gmail.com At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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