Category Archives: German Cities

Meeting the Manfredases

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? 

Me: Sigh.

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).

Me: Jesus. 

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.

Musical bathroom
Musical bathroom

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.

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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.

Woop! Ole asshole!
Woop! Ole asshole!

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.

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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.

Yup, this was the place!
Yup, this was the place!

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.

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Manfredas: Do you want something to drink? 

Me: Ummmm.

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.

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Blauer See

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.

 

 

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The Road to Rothenburg

After a light chocolatey breakfast in Füssen…

Yum
Yum

we were on the road again, this time to Fürstenfeldbruck, described online as a “German rural district” – but there was method to my rural madness. I was finally, FINALLY, going to meet Simone of “Lady of the Cakes” fame! There’s always something a bit odd about telling people that you’ve got this great friend that you’ve never actually met in person, so I was happy to be able to rectify this bloggy problem. I also had the good sense to snap a couple of cake shots so I’d make a good first impression (four years later).

Caaaaaaaaaake.
Caaaaaaaaaake.

Simone chose the Romantik Hotel as our meeting point – don’t worry, she didn’t try to jump my bones – and when we arrived, there she was, sitting at a table in a beautiful courtyard. She had brought her brother along, I guess as protection in case Manfredas and I turned out to be psychos.

Romantik
Romantik

Disappointingly, neither of them was dressed in traditional Bavarian garb, but we managed to have a lovely time anyway. Manfredas summed it up nicely afterwards saying it was like watching two old friends who just hadn’t seen each other in a few months catching up, rather than two people who’d never met before in their lives. And, as you would expect, Simone chose somewhere with delicious food…

Chicken in some sort of sauce with potato gratin
Chicken in some sort of sauce with potato gratin – and a flower.

Sadly, after a couple of hours, it was time to say goodbye and hit the road again. I think Simone was probably relieved to see the back of me as I was struggling to hold in the yodels at that point. After a brief stop in Dinkelsbühl, which is just as cute and dinky as it sounds:

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we drove to our final destination of the trip – Rothenburg ob der Tauber – arriving just before sunset. Rothenburg has long been on my list of places to visit, being a medieval town with flower-covered, half-timbered houses lining the pretty cobbled streets. We dropped off the car and our bags and hit the town walls for a sunset stroll.

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At this stage, we were pretty hungry again, so we found a likely-looking spot in the town centre and refuelled on Flammkuchen – and wine. Unfortunately, all of the outdoor seating areas shut down really early because of the residents so we decided to head back to the rooftop terrace of our hotel to watch the stars with a bottle of wine instead.

The next morning turned out to be a glorious day, providing the perfect backdrop to this gorgeous town.

I even managed a dungeon escape…

Ha HA!
Ha HA!

Against my better judgement, I agreed to climb to the top of the Town Hall, which promised spectacular views over the city and surrounds.

Gulp.
Gulp.

To say the stairs are precarious would be an understatement and all of my leg muscles were screaming by the time we reached the top – which turned out not to be the top at all. No, after a grinning man relieves puffing, red-faced you of €2, you have to haul yourself up the remaining steps, through a trapdoor and out onto a 1-foot wide ledge. The views were well worth it though.

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If I had thought getting out there was bad, getting back in again was ten times worse. Manfredas – bless him – had to take my bag as I tried to angle myself to squeeze back into the gap and down the ladder backwards, with handles roughly the size of staples to hang onto. With sweaty hands, this was NOT easy.

Me: How many people have died doing that? 

Grinning man: None. 700-year-old fitness studio.

Me: Harumph. 

After the most-deserved glass of wine ever, it was time to drive back to Berlin.

To sum up – lakes, castles, mountains, The Sound of Music, amazing food and wine, yodelling, beautiful towns and cities, meeting a blogging buddy, countless border crossings, a “mad” king, flowers, flowers, flowers, trick fountains, great company that doesn’t mind me singing and shouting “ROAD TRIP!” sporadically, ladies’ bottoms and a sex gag machine – if there’s a better way to spend a trip, I can’t think of it.

 

Adventures in Alsace (3)

One of the things you must do when in this part of the world is take a trip to Haut Koenigsbourg castle. The road up there is a bit of a roller coaster with sharp turns, steep drops and mad people hiking, cycling and jogging to the top. Having me singing “I’m on the top of the world looking down on creation…” at the top of my voice in your ear will make the whole experience even more enjoyable.

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

We parked the car and walked to the castle, stopping to take photos every couple of seconds. The views over the Rhine Valley from this vantage point are nothing short of spectacular.

On the way back, we took a spin to Colmar but, it being Sunday, practically everything was shut due to the French doing whatever it is they do on a Sunday – or any other random day.

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Still, we had more important things to think about. Ireland and Germany were playing that afternoon and we had to hightail it back to Ribeauvillé to find somewhere to watch the matches. In Berlin, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Every bar, restaurant, café and even Döner stand has a TV set up so you don’t miss a minute of the action. The only place we could find that was showing it was Bar Streng, our saviour yet again.

Allez!
Allez!

We made it just in time for kick-off, ordered some wine and settled in for the afternoon. The French were out in full force to cheer on the home team and cries of “Allez les bleus!” rang out from every corner. I waited for a pause before loudly interjecting, “Allez les garçons en vert!!” After a brief stunned silence, the French took it in their stride and some good-natured banter sprang up. I guess they knew that the Irish were never going to be any real threat… Sure enough, they won it with relative ease and I didn’t have to take on a bar of angry French football fans. Phew.

If this had been Ireland or Germany, the bar would have been packed for hours afterwards, but the French cleared out tout de suite. In fact, by the time Germany kicked off, there was only me, Manfredas and one other guy left. Still, we didn’t need much company to enjoy watching Germany hammer Slovakia. At least one of my home teams was through.

Since the town was pretty dead, we picked up some takeaway and headed back to our little garden for a chilled evening of wine and conversation. I must be getting old.

The next morning, we found the one patisserie that was open – maybe the French had continued celebrating in their own homes? – and popped in for breakfast.

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I ordered a pain au chocolat and a cup of tea and Manfredas, a coffee and a couple of croissants. This was clearly too complicated for the girl behind the counter. She proceeded to painstakingly write everything down, longhand, then look up the prices for each item and add them up on her piece of paper, carrying the one wherever necessary. While it was a little embarrassing to watch, we got our order in the end.

Yum :)
Yum 🙂

On the agenda for our last day was a trip to Kaysersberg, another ridiculously pretty town not far away.

The French are pretty chilled about road safety
The French are pretty chilled about road safety

We passed through glorious countryside along the way and finally rolled into town about an hour later.

Pretty, pretty
Pretty, pretty

We spent a wonderful few hours strolling through the town, marvelling, yet again, that places like this still exist.

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Sadly, after some lunch, it was time to hit the road and head back to the airport. But, not without accomplishing one of my dreams along the way. Yes, we stopped in the baddest of all the BAD towns – Baden Baden.

BAD hotel :)
BAD hotel 🙂

The town itself is quite lovely but the crowning moment for me was this one:

BADASS!
BADASS!

Merriment achieved, it was time to head to the airport. Karlsruhe-Baden Baden is probably the only airport I’ve been to where there were no queues and you could practically sit on the runway while enjoying a last glass of wine.

Note the extraordinarily relaxed man in the hammock
Note the extraordinarily relaxed man in the hammock

Thankfully, this time round, our flight existed and we were soon airborne, waving goodbye to all of the prettiness below and wondering how we were ever going to readjust to being back in Berlin…

A bientôt!
A bientôt!

We coped.

Hat, heels, Hochzeit (1)

“Hochzeit” is the rather unromantic-sounding German word for “wedding” and, as you may recall, I received an invitation to my first German wedding some time ago. Kat and James’ big day arrived last Saturday. I’d been looking forward to it for months so I was a bit surprised when a fit of nerves kicked in at the last minute.

I was going to a wedding where I knew nobody except the bride – and had only met her once.

Me: What if nobody talks to me?

Han: You’ll be fine. 

Me: Oh God. What if they put me at the virtual table? 

Han: What?

Me: You know, all the guests who couldn’t make it. It will be me and seven iPads shooting the shit over champers.

Han: (Sigh) You’ll be fine.

My mother had told me fascinators were all the rage so I decided to go with the biggest, floppiest hat I could find. I slipped on my 6-inch wedge heels and, at that moment, realised how crap clutch bags are. My flip-flops, wallet, hair brush, perfume and make-up would have to go. Luckily, living in Latvia had trained me well in the art of staying upright in high heels for extended periods of time.

I teetered my way to the Park Inn Hotel where a coach was waiting to take us to the wedding venue. The groom was English so the coach would contain me and around 65 of his nearest and dearest. Everyone else seemed to know each other and I had a premonition of being “that strange Irish girl who knows nobody and writes a blog” for 14 hours or so.

I needn’t have worried. Chatty Charlie sat down behind me and proceeded to talk my ear off for the next 45 minutes. Keeping the conversation going wasn’t an issue as he did that all by himself. He didn’t even realise I wasn’t German until around minute 44. Eventually, we pulled up outside Villa Schöningen in Potsdam.

The rather lovely gardens
The rather lovely gardens

The groom (I assumed from the pictures I’d seen on Facebook) was greeting people on the steps so I hung back a bit until most people had gone inside. This gave me the opportunity to have a quick chat with the bride’s aunt and her friend. I could tell they were Berliners from fifty paces – brightly coloured hair, sparkly outfits and dirty laughs. Maybe I’d be OK after all…

We made our way inside and took our seats. Unfortunately, there would be a slight delay as the taxi that was due to pick up Kat’s parents hadn’t shown up. Her mother bustled in around ten minutes later, all smiles, bright red hair and shimmery blue dress.

BM: HALLO! I AM THE… (that pause when you start a sentence in a foreign language then realise you have no idea how to finish it) BRIDEMAMA! 

The bridesmaids followed shortly afterwards and then Kat walked in, looking stunning in her white dress and accompanied by Santa Claus – no mean feat in the middle of June.

The beautiful bride and her dad/Santa
The beautiful bride and her dad/Santa

Kat and James kissed when they met at the top of the room, only to be reprimanded by the rather stern registrar with a “NOT YET!” The room erupted and the tone was set for the rest of the ceremony. I have to say, it was probably the nicest, most personal ceremony I’ve ever attended. There was no religious nonsense, just the story of how they met, fell in love, what they love about each other, and their hopes for the future – all delivered with classic German directness, in English and German.

While the registrar was talking, the rings were passed around the room so that everyone had the chance to instill their best wishes for the couple in the rings. I thought that you probably wouldn’t be able to do that in Ireland as someone would nick them, but what a lovely tradition.

The happy couple
The happy couple

Once they were married (and allowed to kiss), we all made our way out to the gardens. We were each given a little cup of confetti which I managed to throw all over the head and shoulders of the man in front of me. Ho-hum. Another German tradition was about to begin – the releasing of the doves, or Taubenwerfen in German. (I just made that up.)

They both looked a little nervous as the doves were handed to them. I can’t say I blamed Kat. If I was wearing a white dress and had a Scheiße-risk in my hand, I’d look a bit nervous too.

Putting a brave face on it
Putting a brave face on it

Kat’s aunt in my ear: Oh! Maybe we can make “puff puff” (while making a shooting motion with her finger). 

I may have snorted some champagne out of my nose.

Fly, my pretties!
Fly, my pretties!

The two birds were released without incident and then another five or six were let out of the wicker box at their feet.

And they're off!
And they’re off!

Everybody cheered and nobody got shat on. Total win.

While I was sipping my champagne, a couple approached me. I remembered them from the bus; they’d been giving me sympathetic glances as my ears nearly fell off. They turned out to be South African, living in London, and knew hardly anyone at the wedding either. They were really good fun and interesting, well-travelled people. We decided to stick together as none of us wanted to talk about the England match or Brexit.

The wedding planner rounded us up and we were off to our next adventure – a 2.5-hour boat tour. As we walked over Glienicke Bridge (the Bridge of Spies), the Bridemama stood in the middle – the  old divide between East and West – stopping the English guests and giving them a quick history lesson.

The Bridge of Spies
The Bridge of Spies

Germans never miss the chance for a bit of education.

Part two coming shortly – there will be cake. Oh yes, there will be cake…

The BAD little town that’s so good (2)

I woke up on Easter Sunday to another beautiful day. The sun was shining, birds were singing, a cock… was crowing in the distance, and I was awake at 9am – unheard of.

I cheerily hummed my way across the yard to the breakfast room, where Herr Scherr was playing the host with the most. While I was shambling around trying to locate spoons, napkins and tea, he presented me with a surprise gift.

What a lovely gesture!
What a lovely gesture!

I wanted to grab him by his manly German braces and plant a smacker on him, but his Russian wife could have been lurking nearby and that could have meant big trouble. Instead, I asked him for a pot of tea.

After dining like a queen and taking a shower, I popped back over to Herr Scherr to enquire about renting a bike for the day. He said he’d meet me outside the garage in around 10 minutes which, in German time, meant a minute and a half. He unlocked one of the garages to reveal a range of bicycles, choosing one that he thought would be a good fit for me. After hammering on the saddle a bit to lower it even further, I hopped on.

My bike
My bike – a ridiculous €2.50 for the day

I wobbled around the yard a couple of times in front of him, he told me to have fun, probably mentally wrote the bike off, and I was on my merry way.

I didn’t have any real plan; I was just going to cycle around as much of the lake as I could manage. I am what the Germans refer to as a “Schönwetter-Radfahrer” so I was a bit out of practice and had no desire to kill myself on such a lovely day. I cycled towards the lake, where the Germans were out in force doing what Germans do best – walking, running, biking, eating, and drinking beer, though usually not all at the same time.

The man on the right is demonstrating how to get into the perfect sitzpinkelling position...
The man on the right is demonstrating how to get into the perfect sitzpinkelling position…

In case you hadn’t gathered from the previous post, BAD Saarow and Scharmützelsee are rather beautiful. In fact, it was hard to stay on my bike for any amount of time as I kept on jumping off to take photos of pretty things, which was virtually everything. The houses dotted around the lake are so cute, it’s hard to believe people actually live in them.

But the absolute winner had to be…

How cool is that?!
How cool is that?!

I cycled on and on, proud of myself for not having fallen off or killed anyone. There were cycle lanes most of the way and it was pretty flat so this wasn’t really much of an achievement. Eventually, hunger started gnawing at me so I began keeping an eye out for a likely establishment. After a while, I happened upon the charming Café Dorsch.

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I nabbed the last remaining outdoor table, ordered soup and a glass of wine, enjoyed the sun on my face and took in the view.

Could be worse...
Could be worse…

It was in the bathroom after lunch that I realised one leg of my tracksuit bottoms was still tucked into my sock but it was a bit late to do anything about it at that stage.

With my legs complaining only a little, it was time to head back to town, with a few photo stops thrown in along the way. It was lucky I was by myself as I’m not sure anyone else would have had the patience for all the hopping on and off I was doing.

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Once back, I noticed a small beach that I’d somehow missed before. I sat down at the beach-side café, taking the only table that wasn’t reserved.

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At the beach – in March…

As the soup had only half-filled a gap, I decided to order some Apfelstrudel and a cup of tea.

That would definitely finish the gap off.
That would definitely finish the gap off.

With the sky starting to cloud over a bit, I hauled my strudelled butt back onto the bike, wondering if I should now have a sign that said “Wide Load”. After a nap in the comfiest bed ever, it was time to eat – again. As I was still belching garlic from the night before, more garlic was out of the question so I opted for the pork medallions and croquettes in mushroom sauce.

Another massive feed
Another massive feed

If Herr Scherr was surprised that I was still alive and that the bike was still in one piece, he Germanically didn’t show it. Back in my room, I poured a glass of wine and settled in for a night of fiddling about with the photos I’d taken. My phone vibrating made me jump. It was Fireman Sam.

Fireman Sam: Do you want to meet up?

Me: Ugh, I’m so full and so lazy.

Fireman Sam: I’ll be at your hotel in ten minutes.

Me: Urgh. (Belch) 

I put on some perfume to try to mask the garlic, onion, pork and mushroom aroma and walked outside. There he was. Now, if you think I’m mad for getting into a car with a virtual stranger, don’t worry – he was a German virtual stranger. I knew I’d be safe as houses.

He drove to the lake and we spent a lovely hour or so walking around in the moonlight, watching the lights reflecting off the water. I spoke bad German, he spoke good German and we somehow made it work.

All in all, the perfect end to the perfect weekend.

The BAD little town that’s so good (1)

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.

Blink.
Blink.

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…

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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.

Spring! Finally!
Spring! Finally!

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.

Who wouldn't?
Who wouldn’t?

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.

Herr Scherr to the rescue
Herr Scherr to the rescue

15 minutes later, I was standing outside Landhaus Neu Golm.

Is this the real life...?
Is this the real life…?

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…

Spuds! Woop!
Spuds! Woop!

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.

Have some trees...
Have some trees…

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.

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Oddly, they were closing up the outside section.

Me: Can I sit outside?

Waiter: Sure! 

Job done.

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?

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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.

It was bigger than my torso.
It was bigger than my torso.

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.

Bonfires and dodgy drinks - the backbone of any German celebration
Bonfires and dodgy drinks – the backbone of any German celebration

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…)

We did the Münster mash (Part Two)

We left while I could still walk under the weight of all the food and headed for the Altstadt (Old City) of Münster in search of German prettiness. I have to admit, from the area we had been in the night before, I was starting to think that the internet had lied to me about Münster being so scenic.

NEIN!
NEIN!

But, fear not. Yet again, Germany did not disappoint. For those interested in a little extra information – the rest of you can skip this paragraph – Münster is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia and is considered to be the cultural capital of the region. Münster was where the treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648, putting an end to the Thirty Years’ War in Germany. Today, it has a population of around 300,000 and is known as the bicycle capital of Germany.

For good reason
With good reason

With Manfredas periodically sweeping me out of the cycle lanes, we wandered around while I took photos of the beautiful buildings. Considering he’s been there umpteen times, Manfredas wasn’t much of a tour guide. Instead, he read the plaques on the sides of the buildings to me which, really, I could have done myself… (Ungrateful much, Linda?) Seemingly, there’s also a Latvian high school but, tragically, we missed that…

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Anyway, after walking around for hours under an hour, we’d worked up a bit of a thirst. We found a likely-looking café and, as it was a mild day, sat outside. Germans and their love of Luft and lüften… as long as it’s not lashing rain or below freezing, you’ll find them sitting outside. I huddled up under a blanket and we ordered some wine.

Don't ask me why I'm looking in the wrong direction. That was only my first glass, I swear.
Don’t ask me why I’m looking in the wrong direction. That was only my first glass, I swear.

The great thing about being in a smaller city is that you’re really under no pressure to rush around visiting all the “MUST-SEE” sights. We had had a nice stroll and now we were more than content to relax and chat with a few glasses of vino. The perfect day. Until the sirens started.

Me: Oooh, a demonstration! 

Manfredas: Ja.

Me: What’s it about? No more refugees? 

Manfredas: No, the other side. 

So, I dashed off to take a photo of the 20-30 people in Münster who think taking in more refugees is a good idea.

Not a German flag in sight
Not a German flag in sight

With darkness starting to fall, we decided to head back to the B&B for a power nap before dinner.

Clearly, Barbara had been up to her old tricks with the lüften again and the room was like an ice-box. Still, once I thawed out, I managed to get in a bit of shut-eye and, after a quick change, we were off out for dinner. Café Garbo picked up where breakfast had left off and served me my own body weight in Frikadellen (German meatballs) and fried potatoes. This time, I was too in shock at the size of the portion to take a photo… or I just ate it. You decide.

Manfredas rolled me into a taxi, and we drove to Kittys Trinksalon to meet up with a couple of his friends from the night before. Outside Kittys, I spied what is possibly the best invention I have ever seen…

20160123_235724

You dirty-minded bunch of…

This is what it actually was.

20160123_235747
Still pretty cool, right?

They even have their own website –

tail.de
tail.de

Having laughed myself sober, we headed for Münster’s Rock Factory where, I was told, no tourists ever go.

You lookin' at me?
You lookin’ at me?

We were stamped on our way in and didn’t make it out until around 4am. Well, I had to keep the Berlin side up, after all. The next morning, I woke up with a very fetching imprint of the stamp on the outside of my thigh which will give you a brief insight into how I sleep – if you ever wanted it.

We had booked breakfast for that morning so we went downstairs to see the ever-cheerful Barbara.

This is not Barbara
Not Barbara

Scrambled eggs, fruit in Greek yogurt, more bread than you could shake a stick at, juice, and as much tea and coffee as you could drink. I would definitely stay at Barbara’s again.

Barbara: Say “Würstchen”. (Würstchen = little sausage)

Me: Würstchen.

Barbara: (peals of laughter) I love getting foreigners to say that word!! 

Me: WüüüürstCHEN!

Barbara: (hysterics) 

Manfredas was clearly about to crack a smile but then realised that he would have to spend five hours in a car with a potentially annoyed Irish woman so he held it in. Germans are very sensible people.

Once Barbara had picked herself up off the floor, we hugged goodbye and Manfredas and I hit the road again. Luckily for him, I was exhausted after the night before so I slept for most of the first couple of hours. We stopped off at the Marienborn Memorial, the largest border crossing during the division of Germany. A bleaker, grimmer place would be hard to find.

Luckily, there was a truck-stop restaurant and shop nearby so we popped in for a Sitzpinkel and some food. It seems that where Germany depresses you one minute, it instantly tries to cheer you up in the next…

Mission accomplished
Mission accomplished

Little did I realise that the best was yet to come…