Manfredas: Do you fancy a couple of days in Hannover? We’d be staying with my parents…
Me: Oh God.
But I agreed to go; the chance to see a typical German family household with alles in Ordnung trumped my nervousness at having to try to be “normal” in a foreign language for an entire weekend. I made Manfredas stop at a supermarket close to their house so that I could pick up some flowers. I figured that I could at least make a good first impression even if it was going to be all downhill from there.
Me: What kind of flowers does she like?
Manfredas: I dunno. Everything?
We arrived just after sunset and were greeted at the door by Mr and Mrs Manfredas. I needn’t have worried – they couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming. We were ushered into the dining room where Abendbrot (evening bread) was waiting for us. Abendbrot, as far as I can tell, is basically breakfast without the jam and Nutella. Yes Germans, your secret is out…
Me: (eyeing a suspicious-looking grey mass on a plate) What is THAT?
Manfredas: Leberwurst (liver sausage).
I excused myself to go to the bathroom, which was so clean you could have eaten your Leberwurst off the floor. His dad had rigged up a radio to the light switch so it was a very nice, musical pee. I made sure to compliment Mr Manfredas on his ingenuity when I got back downstairs.
After a little more small talk – yes, Germans do that – we were off to visit Manfredas’ friend and his wife. We sat in the “party kitchen”, drank wine and good whiskey and I managed to not come across as a total idiot – I think.
The next morning, after a musical shower and a massive breakfast, we hopped on the U-Bahn to the football stadium where Hannover 96 were playing Sankt Pauli. As the Germans are capable of having ideas, the cost of the trip to and from the stadium is included in the season ticket in a bid to encourage people to leave their cars at home.
The weather was a bit shit but Mrs Manfredas had been nice enough to lend me a practical German raincoat. As we approached security, I prayed that she had no illicit substances in her pockets. Having been briskly frisked and having my phone charger taken off me, we were in. The match was sold out and the atmosphere was buzzing. Sechsundneunzig – immer nett und freundlich. Various chants were being sung and I sung along with what I imagined the right words were.
Me: Are they saying “Ole asshole”?
Manfredas: Ha, NEIN! “Ole HSV!” (pronounced like “Ha ess fow” in German so an easy mistake to make…)
Hannover won 2-0 in the end and the stadium was a testament to what simple creatures men really are.
We met up with another of Manfredas’ friends on the way out and proceeded to the Hannover version of Oktoberfest. It was a bit like Las Vegas on steroids.
We managed to stick the noise and drunkenness for one drink and then walked to the old city to find somewhere a bit more civilised. The German love of sausage appears to be strong in Hannover.
Manfredas brought me to Gosch, which is where the Hannover wannabes hang out. I looked a little out of place amid the primped and preened ladies in my over-sized red raincoat, jeans and trainers but it’s Germany so nobody really cares. Still, I wanted to find somewhere a little more “me” (i.e. dodgy) so we left after one.
Walking past a bar where women with partially shaved heads and tattooed necks were roaring out the window at some poor bloke on a bike, I decided we’d found it.
We stayed for as long as I could bear listening to the Hannover Hyena laughing toothily at everything I said and then went for a bite to eat.
Sunday morning was sunny and warm and, when I got downstairs, Manfredas and his dad were sitting in the garden putting the world to rights. I decided there and then that my mission in life was to become a German pensioner – these people know how to live.
After another huge breakfast, Manfredas, his dad and I took a stroll to the nearby Blauer See, not five minutes from the house. Of course, this being Germany, there was also a beer garden.
Manfredas: Do you want something to drink?
Manfredas: My dad’s going to have a beer.
Me: OK then, I’ll have a glass of wine.
It was 11.55.
We sat and chilled for an hour or so, sunning ourselves and enjoying the peace and quiet. I made witty conversation – in my head – and Manfredas and his dad pretended that what I said in reality was actually correct German.
We all went for a delicious lunch in a Croatian restaurant and then it was time to pack up and get on the Autobahn back to Berlin.
I can’t say how the Manfredases felt about me, but I’m a huge fan of theirs. From the moment I arrived, I “felt myself at home” as the Germans would say – the musical bathroom was just a bonus.