With Easter weekend on the horizon, I decided it was time to get away for a couple of days’ rest and relaxation. After a little deliberation, I chose the town of BAD Saarow, partly because it looked pretty and wasn’t that far away, and partly because it sounded like a misbehaving small bird, which is what I am most of the time.
Deutsche Bahn, in their infinite wisdom, had chosen this weekend to do work on several regional train lines so, with a small house on my back, I set off to get the first train that would take me to the second train that would take me to the first replacement bus that would take me to the second replacement bus…
Finally, at around 1.15, we pulled up outside BAD Saarow train station.
After a quick glance around to make sure everyone hadn’t turned into fairy tale characters, I got off the bus. I took a couple of photos of the train station – mainly to prove that it actually exists in real life. My hunger and need to pee brought me back down to earth and I wandered across the road to a café, looking over my shoulder every now and then to make sure the station was still there.
I sat at an outside table and a waitress promptly brought over the menu. Fancying something a bit hearty after my extensive travels, I ordered the Wurstgulasch mit Nudeln. The fact that they didn’t have wine should have been a warning sign, but I was still in a bit of a daze so I just ordered a cup of tea instead. My “Gulasch” arrived…
If you’re thinking, “My, it looks just like chunks of sausage in an abundance of tomato ketchup thrown on top of some pasta”, I can assure you, that’s exactly what it was. Still, it was edible so I ate enough so as not to alarm the waitress, paid and trundled off.
I was actually staying at a guest house in an even smaller town, called Neu Golm (I know, right?), which was around 3kms from the centre of BAD Saarow; I just had no idea in which direction. Seeing no taxis outside the train station, I headed for the harbour, thinking they might be hiding out there.
I had seen pictures of Scharmützelsee (Lake) and, well, this is Germany, so I was expecting it to be “pretty”, but my expectations weren’t even close to the reality.
As the sun danced on the calm water, I danced around merry Germans, mentally congratulating myself on having chosen this place on this fabulous weekend. Soon, however, the weight of my backpack overrode my smug delight and it was back to the train station which also houses the information office. I asked the lady about buses and it turned out the next one was in around three hours. So, I asked her about taxis. She called one and the driver said he would be there in 15 minutes. I said I’d wait outside.
Five minutes later, she came out in a panic to say that there’d been an accident on the Autobahn and the driver would be delayed indefinitely. I followed her back inside and watched as she frantically dialled other taxi companies, took money for souvenirs and fended off requests for bicycle rentals and boat tours. I resisted the urge to whisper, “Relax, this is all just a dream. None of this is actually happening…”
In the end, she decided to call the owner of the hotel to come and pick me up.
15 minutes later, I was standing outside Landhaus Neu Golm.
Herr Scherr handed me a key with a key ring that was almost as heavy as my backpack, explained the dinner/breakfast times, and we were done. My room was on the ground floor, spotless and airy, with the comfiest bed I’d ever set my tired arse on. But, this was no time to get lazy. It was Easter Saturday, i.e. the last day you could buy a bottle of wine until Tuesday.
I set off for a little stroll around Neu Golm – which took around three minutes. Neu Golm, I established, consists of some houses, a picturesque church, and a “yoof” centre that didn’t look like it was going to cause me any sleepless nights.
It seemed like the only activity in the area that day was a potato sale. It was almost like someone knew the Irish were coming…
I walked back in the direction of BAD Saarow – a pretty, peaceful walk which consisted of trees and fields, more trees and fields, and some more trees and fields.
After surviving the armageddon-style scrum that you find in supermarkets the day before a public holiday, I meandered back to the lake and eventually to the terrace of a restaurant I’d had my eye on earlier.
Oddly, they were closing up the outside section.
Me: Can I sit outside?
I settled in with a glass of white wine, on a cushion that they brought out specially, and enjoyed all the light I could see while reading “All The Light We Cannot See”. Spooky, eh?
Having taken another billion photos, it was back to the hotel for dinner. With the menu rather heavily geared in the pork direction, I opted for the Schnitzel with onions, garlic and fried potatoes. It’s safe to say German portions will be the death of me.
From my vantage point at the window, I noticed that something was happening at the Youth Centre.
Me: What’s going on over there?
Waitress: Oh, Easter Fire.
Me: Huh. Can anyone go or is it invite-only?
Waitress: Anyone can go! No problem!
So I stumbled across the road with my Schnitzel-baby in tow. About thirty people were standing around a massive bonfire, talking, drinking and warming themselves. I bought a dodgy-looking shot from the lady working the “booze window” and made my way over. Naturally, in a village with a population of around fifty people, I stood out.
It seemed that the entire fire department was there and, sure enough, one of them came over to test the level of “stranger danger”.
Fireman Sam: You’re not from around here…
Me: No. I’m from Ireland.
And that was that. Instant “in”. Soon my new buddy and I were surrounded by curious Neu Golmers, wondering how an Irish girl had wandered into their midst on Easter Saturday. Shots were downed, Glühwein flowed, many a funny conversation was had, and I soon felt like an honorary Neu Golmer.
Before midnight, I was invited along to a well where it seemed the Germans were going to dip their heads in freezing water, or something. With my bed within crawling distance, I declined. Maybe next year…
(To be continued…)