Tag Archives: Cake

The Secret Life of Binz (3)

The next morning, I was sitting on the loo, doing my business and minding my own business, when I noticed something rather odd – there was a bench right outside the bathroom window. I sat there, snickering to myself, imagining some garden party guests suddenly showing up and getting an unexpected eyeful. Thankfully, it was a Monday and not exactly garden party season so I figured I’d be safe enough.

Then the garden party showed up. Eight or ten jovial Germans stopped right outside the window, with two men so close they were practically touching the glass. Dear God, please don’t turn around, please don’t turn around. They turned to face each other so now I could see their profiles. Another inch or two and they’d be looking directly at me. I did what any normal person would do in this situation – I stopped praying, snatched up the toilet roll and scuttled, crab-like, over into the corner, where I hoped I could wipe without being watched. I wasn’t quite ready to perform “LO’G Drops a Log” in front of an audience…

View from inside
View from outside

Safely back in the kitchen, I had a nerve-calming cup of tea, waited for the party to move on, showered faster than I ever had in my life, and walked into town. After a “not strictly breakfast” breakfast, I made my way to Pauli’s Radshop to rent a bike. Poor Pauli.

Pauli trying to make a run for it.

After several abortive attempts on a bike with back-pedal coaster brakes…

“Pedal forward! Pedal forward!”

“I’m trying! I’m trying!” (Thump)

…Pauli and I decided that this option was definitely not for me. He found a bike with normal brakes, made it “Linda-sized” and I wobbled around the yard on it a few times. Success.

Next up came the issue of me not being German, therefore, not having everything neatly packed in a bicycle-friendly backpack. Nope, I had a whopping great handbag with me. But not to worry; Pauli was a total pro and had attached a basket to the back of the bike before I could say “rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” (which has absolutely nothing to do with riding a bike – I just thought I’d scare you with a terrifyingly long German word).

After paying my €8 and signing a contract (Germany), I sailed off confidently down the street. Ah, this was great. So much more relaxing and civilised than Berlin – lovely cycle lanes, hardly anyone else on wheels – perfect.

Unfortunately, I was so busy trying to blow falling leaves out of my eyes, I went wrong somewhere and ended up on a main road. Not to worry – the Binzians are sweet, patient folk, I thought. They’ll understand.

Opa thundered by shortly afterwards in his black cab, roaring at me that there was a cycle lane, beeping, and making rather a rude gesture out the window. Sweet old man. Ah yes, what I’d thought was a pavement on the opposite side of the road was actually dual function. I dismounted, wheeled the bike over the road through a couple of ditches and carried on.

Finally, I reached my destination – Prora.

Anyone fancy a dance?

Prora is quite the fascinating place. It was built by the Nazis as a beach resort between 1936 and 1939 – sort of a Nazi Butlins, if you will. The original structure was massive – stretching 4.5 km along the beach front – and was meant to hold up to 20,000 holiday-makers as part of the “Strength through Joy” programme (Kraft durch Freude (KdF)). The idea was that every worker deserved a beach holiday – they’d come here, relax and recuperate, then work harder than ever when their holiday was over.

There’s a documentation centre you can visit where they show a very interesting video on the history of the place, on loop all day, with English subtitles. For obvious reasons, construction was never completed, and since 1945, it’s been used as a Soviet military base, an East German Army restricted military area, a Bundeswehr military technical school, and a refugee centre. Plans to sell the whole structure for development failed so now it’s being sold off to investors bit by bit.

 

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This being Germany, cafés are obviously a priority and so I found myself here.

The Horn family strike again.

After a relaxing cake break, it was time to hop on the bike again and back into town. If Pauli was relieved to see that me and the bike were still in one piece, he didn’t show it. I parked up and walked next door to his brother’s fish shop where they sell Glühwein for €1.50 a cup. I also got to sit in my first ever Strandkorb, which I think makes me officially a German. 

Happiness is…

It seemed that, for once, I was ahead of the German schedule. Four or five couples arrived shortly after me and all asked for Glühwein but it seemed I’d got the last of it – take that, Germans, haha!

After a rather brilliant night out with a fun Italian, two South Africans, and quite possibly the most boring Englishman ever to have lived, I woke up to my last morning in Binz. After a furtive visit to the bathroom, I packed up and braved the gale-force winds and torrential rain to go and get some pastries from the closest bakery.

The Horn family really have baking sewn up in these parts.

After a deliciously gooey Schokobrötchen and cup of tea, sadly it was time to leave. My new German mum and dad dropped me to the station to catch the Flixbus. But, of course, it wouldn’t be Binz if there wasn’t one last bit of kink to see me on my way.

Mr. Karsten Breast – you couldn’t make this stuff up.

Oh, Binz, you weird and wonderful place, I’ll miss you.

 

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The Secret Life of Binz (2)

The next morning, I woke up full of the joys after the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages. I dawdled around my lovely flat and eventually made my way into town. It was a beautiful, sunny, autumn day and I had to stop myself from singing out loud with happiness at how pretty Binz was in the sunshine.

La la la la la, I am so happy!

I made a beeline for a café I’d noticed the day before, in hopes of a nice hearty breakfast.

Me: Hi, can I still order breakfast? 

Ute: (looking rather horrified) No, it is too late. 

Me: Huh. 

To me, wanting breakfast at 12.30 on a Sunday isn’t unreasonable but then I’m not German. As I looked around the place, I realised that the Germans (who’d probably been up since 5 a.m. and hiked or biked 50 km already) were already on rounds of Aperol Spritz and beer. I had some catching up to do.

Me: OK, I’ll have a Toast Hawaii and a cup of tea. What time does breakfast finish then? 

Ute: 11.

Me: Oh. 

I knew then that I would never eat breakfast in this town.

When my sandwich arrived, I’ll confess to doing a double-take. I looked at Ute for some sign of humour or even the vaguest twinkle in her eye but there was nothing. I stared at what was on my plate.

Wouldn’t you?

It was, quite unmistakably (to me at least), a titty toasty. Was there more to this idyllic little town than met the eye? Or perhaps Oma was moonlighting here and had brought a touch of her kink to the Küche? Maybe everyone in Binz had a little kink in them? This might turn out to be the best trip ever, in that case. It was also rather a good sandwich, once I got over the pine-nipple thing.

I had decided that today would be a day of walking so I headed for the promenade and the beach, looking forward to taking some cheerier photos that would do the place justice.

I walked along the edge of the water until I came to this rather interesting structure.

According to my extensive (ahem) research, it’s called the Müther-Turm, an old rescue tower (is that the correct English term?) which is now used as an observation tower. Seemingly you can even get married in there. I guess it’s only for quite unpopular couples though as you could only fit a handful of people inside. I still can’t decide if I like it or not. Eye-sore or eye-candy? You decide…

I strolled back along the promenade, admiring the rather spectaculous autumn colours…

Oooh…

…making new friends…

Yeah right, Binz. You’re not fooling anyone with your wholesome woodwork…

…and having a right old chortle at what is definitely one of the most German signs I’ve ever seen.

It’s important to keep your dogs and your dangly bits separate.

I meandered my way back towards the lake along the “Art Mile” where I was (unsurprisingly) accosted by more titties.

Flying titties!

After all of the excitement of the afternoon so far, I decided I was definitely ready for a glass of wine before continuing on my journey of discovery.

This looked like a likely spot.

Unfortunately, I’d missed the German boat yet again. Now that I was ready for an alcoholic beverage, all of the Germans had moved onto Kaffee und Kuchen. Sigh. Can’t keep up with these people.

And you’ll never guess who owned the place…

More horn.

After relaxing in the sunshine with my book for a little while, I set off again. The lake was also rather gorgeous – like everything else in Binz.

As it was still such a beautiful day, I thought I’d keep going and walk through the woods for a while. Yes, you may call me “Linda Nature von Grady” from now on.

I walked and walked and before I knew it, I was outside the sand sculpture exhibition which I’d been planning to visit the following day. Oh well, as I was there, I decided I may as well go in.

I wondered if this was part of it. I call it “Butts in Sand”.

I paid the rather exorbitant €8.50 entrance fee and in I went. The theme this year is “A Journey through the Whole Wide World” and it delivered – even if it was a rather quick journey. I was done in 15 minutes so I went back around a second time to get my money’s worth. While the sculptures were very impressive, I didn’t really feel it was worth €8.50.

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On the way out, you could buy a wooden horse’s head for around €10,000 but I figured I could probably buy a real horse’s head for that – if I was so inclined – and kept going.

Neeeeeeeeeeee.

I headed back into town just in time to catch sunset over the beach…

…and then it was time for food again. As I was eating my dinner, I had the strangest feeling of someone looking over my shoulder but it was OK – it was just a massive arse.

After all of my exertions, I thought an early night was probably in order but, as it was only around 8 o’clock, I thought I’d make a stop at the Rasender Roland restaurant to break the journey home.

Old Roland was just pulling in to his resting place for the night so luckily, the restaurant was still open.

Raging!

I’d just about finished my first glass of wine and was debating another when my bill was placed in front of me. Huh. Seemingly they were shutting up shop for the night. It was 9.20, after all. Still, from what I’d seen so far in Binz, these two homely-looking ladies were trying to kid the wrong woman. I had visions of them breaking into Roland and taking him on a joyride to the secret Binz Swingers Convention. And I’d lay bets that Oma and Opa are the ringleaders.

 

Part three to follow…

Holy Orders

Since my last ranty post, I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough.

I’ve found Jesus.

Christ…

I’m as surprised as you are – turns out he’s been sitting in a souvenir shop in the Alte Münze all this time. Will wonders never cease?

Anyway, since it seems that Jesus has chosen me to be his earthly representative here in Berlin, instead of complaining about what bugs me (though I do enjoy that too), I’ve decided to be more proactive and put together a short list of commandments which, if everyone gets on board, should make life easier for all of us.

The First Commandment: Thou shalt do right (or left)

The first working escalator was installed in 1896 so you’d really think people would have figured out how to use them by now. Not so. In Berlin, the system is really very simple: stand on the right, walk on the left. Yes, that’s it. Right, left. TWO options. Rechts stehen, links gehen. Jesus people (sorry, Jesus), how hard is that to remember? Luckily, I’d polished my aggressive Berliner “HALLLLLOOOOO!” long before I started polishing my halo so a few chosen souls have learned their lesson. Clearly, however, my work here is not done.

Instructional photo – two people are going to be struck down by irritated Berliners. Can you guess which two?

The Second Commandment: Thou shalt pocket thy smartphone

For some people, the stupidity doesn’t end when they step off the escalator. No, they choose to stop dead at the bottom or top of it and pull out their phone, causing mini pile-ups where’er they go. And it’s not limited to escalators. I’m sure you’ve all seen the incredibly bright sparks who walk around a city, glued to their phone, completely oblivious to anything or anyone around them.

Well, I’m here to tell you – you’re not that important or interesting. Nobody is sitting on the edge of their seat waiting to see what you’re going to post, tweet, like, share… If you’re lost and need directions, move over to the side of the pavement and look them up. Better yet, ask a real person – if you look around you, you’ll see that they do actually still exist.

The Third Commandment: Thou shalt deal with thine own trash

When I first got to Berlin, one of the signs on the train windows made me laugh. It’s a picture of a hand throwing a bottle out the window with an “X” through it. “Who would actually do that?” I thought to myself. Well, you’d be surprised.

So brethren, if you’re drinking a beer on the train, take the bottle with you. If not, it rolls up and down the carriage, spewing what’s left of its contents and stinking up the whole place. If you’re finished treating the rest of us to the smell of your Döner, bin the wrapper on the train platform when you get off; don’t stuff it down the inside of the seat. You’d think that these things would go without saying but I guess there’s a reason Deutsche Bahn has started a Whatsapp “Reinigungsteam” (cleaning team) service. Shame it wasn’t in place when I saw someone taking a shit on the U6 platform at Friedrichstraße station. What a treat that would have been for the team…

On a bigger scale, if you have a broken printer, rickety wardrobe, holey shoe, etc., it’s not a “gift”. It’s an eyesore. Someone dumped a bed frame on our corner on Friday. By Saturday, two mattresses had joined it. If it continues like this, soon it will be like living in a Dänisches Bettenlager.

Stop the madness!

The Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt wear sandals

OK, I’m not fussy about the type of footwear but, in the name of all that’s holy (I’m getting the hang of this), please wear something on your feet. I think I’ve given you all a little taster of what the streets around Berlin can be like. What would Jesus wear? He’d wear bloody shoes, that’s what.

The Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt act like a parent and stop pissing everyone off

I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s ever been in a cafe in Prenzlauer Berg has had the same experience. You’re in kind of a hurry (or not – it’s irrelevant) so you pop in to pick up a tasty German treat to go. Brilliant, you think, only one woman and her toddler in front of me. I’ll be in and out in a flash.

Ha.

“So darling, what would you like?”

“I don’t know.” 

“Would you like a doughnut?”

“Ummm…”

“Or maybe a fruit cake?”

“Ummm…”

“You like chocolate, right? How about one of those?” 

“Doughnut.”

“Which colour? They have pink, white, yellow…”

“Ummm…”

“Or would you like the one with sprinkles? Or with little hearts? That would be nice, wouldn’t it, darling…” 

Jesus Christ. (Oops.) Give the kid anything. It’s two. It will eat it. Or not. Who really gives a damn? (Double oops.) Certainly not me or the tortured cafe worker.

You like little hearts, don’t you, dear heart? (ARRRGGGGHHHHH!)

I know there were originally ten commandments but people have shorter attention spans these days so I’m going to stop with five – for now. How wonderful it would be if people actually took note.

Without me having to smite them, that is. “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger…” Hmm, might be getting a bit carried away now. Back to being holy.

Blessed are those who wear shoes for they are also blessed with the gift of common sense.

 

 

Digging up the dog in Rheinsberg (Part 2)

Here it is – the long-awaited, “exciting” second installment.

You’ll be relieved to hear that I did eventually manage to get my cup of tea to my mouth, by adopting a new technique I like to call the “Wurstfinger-out manoeuvre”. I might patent it.

I am a genius.

While elegantly sipping my exquisite Netto own brand tea, I spotted Oma emerging from the tool shed in the garden and decided to pop out to say “good morning”. This was just after 10 a.m. and I was feeling rather pleased with myself for simply being up, even if I was still in my pajamas with bed hair. Oma, however, looked like she’d been up for hours and was suitably full of the joys. I raised an eyebrow at the toolbox she was carrying and she threw back a cheery, “So ist das Leben!” (Such is life!)

I couldn’t even imagine a life that would involve me chirpily carting around a toolbox at 10 a.m. (or any time of the day for that matter) but then I’m not a German Oma; she’d probably built the shed while I was sleeping.

Feeling a little underachieving, I went back inside, showered and got myself ready for the day. I figured I would probably have enough plasters to get me through.

Now looking slightly more presentable (and appropriately plastered), I set out in search of food. Before long, I hit the jackpot – a cosy little café that served… Käse-Schinkenbrötchen! The nice lady behind the counter even offered to heat it up for me. (I think there must be something gormlessly endearing about me, or my accent, that Germans find appealing as she just glared at everyone else who came in.)

Gold.

On the way out, I discovered that there must be some live dogs* in Rheinsberg as dead dogs don’t poop, as far as I know.

The dump dump.

Satisfied with my morning so far, I set off for the palace and lake. My plan was to take a few photos of the palace and lake, walk around the lake to the obelisk, take photos of the palace and lake from the other side and then walk back again. Just when you thought this trip couldn’t get any more exciting, eh?

I set off, convincing myself that I was enjoying the (freezing) fresh air. Along the way, I passed a few other brave souls out for a walk, all very clearly German in their sensible footwear and all-weather clothing. Most of them gave me a cheery smile and a hello. It could have been the even more gormless, half-frozen look I was sporting at the time.

Brrrr.

Anyway, I achieved my goal of making it to the obelisk, taking a lot of pretty photos along the way.

At this point, I was feeling so “at one” with nature, that I decided to carry on walking for a while. After ten minutes or so, I noticed something odd. I was completely alone. I hadn’t passed any Germans since the obelisk. Did they know something I didn’t? Had I missed a sign or something? I sent Manfredas a quick message.

Me: Are there wild boars in Brandenburg? 

Manfredas: Hmm, I think you’ll be quite safe in the middle of the day. 

Pfft. What did he know? Maybe the wild boar had never smelled Irish meat before and would disrupt their nocturnal habits for a nibble. Feeling more like eating than being eaten, I headed back towards town for some cake.

Unfortunately, I came to a Glühwein hut first.

Actually, there was nothing unfortunate about it; it was bloody brilliant. My cockles warmed, I continued on for around three minutes until I hit a likely-looking café.

A mandarin, cream and sponge concoction that was just as delicious as it looks.

Naturally, after all of this wild adventure I was exhausted, so I walked back to my apartment for a nap. A few hours later, I was ready to eat again. (I know – it just keeps getting more exciting…)

I’d spied a reasonably-priced restaurant on my earlier travels and, this being Rheinsberg, had no trouble getting a table. A lively foursome were sitting at the table next to me and thankfully, they didn’t look like they were about to leave any time soon. This was good as we were soon the only people left. We ended up having a nice chat but soon they were also ready to leave. Determined not to be the last one in the restaurant again, I downed my wine and left with them. We parted ways and I headed to the only Kneipe in town.

OPEN! YES!

While it wasn’t the most salubrious of joints, I’m generally quite at home in these places so I plonked myself at the bar and ordered a glass of wine. The heads around me turned. Ah, “strange face in a local bar syndrome” – fun.

Me: Huh. Am I the only woman here? 

Holger: (nodding behind the bar) She’s a woman. 

Me: (casting a dubious look at the barkeep giantess) Oh, yes, of course she is! I meant, you know, as a customer… (eek, bad start)

Holger: Hmm, you speak good German but you don’t sound like a German. Where are you from? 

Me: Ireland. 

Holger: Oh, right then! Shot? 

Me: Yes, please. 

And so began a merry night of shot-drinking, bizarre conversations and terrible dart-playing. It seemed there was some fun to be had in this town after all.

Day three got off to a rather later start and was pretty much a carbon copy of day two, apart from a nice glass of wine on a (currently non-touring) tour boat – and skipping the Kneipe; I was worried I might have some damages to settle from my slightly erratic darts skills.

And, while I may not have dug up the dog, I did find where he’s buried.

Woof.

All in all, a perfectly enjoyable few days. I can definitely recommend it – especially if you enjoy having entire restaurants to yourself at the outrageous hour of 9 p.m.

*If you’re confused by the dog references, you probably need to read the previous post.

Digging up the dog in Rheinsberg (part 1)

Me: I’m going to Rheinsberg for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s. 

Ze Germans:

“Where?”

“Why??”

“Da ist der Hund begraben.”

Me: The dog is buried there? What?

Ze German: Ja, this means it is a very boring place where nothing ever happens. 

Me: Oh, good. Perfect! 

After a pretty hectic year, a few days in a sleepy, picturesque town in Brandenburg sounded ideal. I’d booked a beautiful apartment a few minutes’ walk from Rheinsberg Palace, Googled how to get there and was good to go. It was while I was on the last leg of the journey, a bus ride from Neuruppin to Rheinsberg, that my phone decided I was roaming. But not to worry – unbelievably, they have WiFi (that actually works) on the buses in Brandenburg. A true post-Christmas miracle…

I texted the owner of the flat to tell her I was outside and, a couple of minutes later, was being warmly ushered in by a jolly German granny. After she’d shown me around the flat and we’d had a jolly chat, I decided that I would like her to be my new German Oma.

The flat was even better than I had hoped; really cosy, newly renovated and adorned with twinkly Christmas lights.

My very own garden

This being Germany, of course there was some form-filling to be done. Rheinsberg is one of the areas that charges a Kurtaxe (visitor’s tax) of €1.50 per person per night. I’m not sure why some places charge it and some don’t but again, this is Germany so there doesn’t necessarily have to be any logic.

Urgh.

Form filled in, Kurtaxe paid, Oma left me to it. At this stage, I was pretty hungry so I hit the town in search of cake. Unfortunately, most places I liked the look of were either having their Ruhetag (day of rest) or closed until March. Hmm. I wandered on and eventually found what I was looking for, settling in with my book, a cup of tea and…

cake!

I decided to take a walk back through the town to the palace and Lake Grienerick. It was around this time that I noticed how much Brandenburger folk like to stare at people, or maybe just me. In a town of only 6,000 inhabitants maybe I stood out a bit but I don’t think I’m that odd-looking. After one gawp too many, I alternated between beaming at people (instant confusion) or hitting them with the Latvian-Girl-Death-Stare (instant cowering wreck). This is how I like to entertain myself sometimes.

The palace and lake were pretty impressive, even in the already dimming light. I decided to leave most of the walking and photos until the following day but managed to snap a few pics before heading to the charming Ratskeller Restaurant (nothing to do with rats) for a glass of wine to warm up.

After that, it was off to Netto to pick up a few essentials (shower gel, tea, wine and crisps) and then back to my apartment for a little nap. I woke up a couple of hours later, feeling wonderfully refreshed and ready for food.

Unfortunately for me, my packing skills are a bit Irish, i.e. fecking everything into a bag with no particular rhyme or reason. While rummaging for my make-up, I felt something prick the index finger on my right hand. What the …? I withdrew my hand and watched with fascinated horror as the blood started flowing. Oh shite.

A quick (very quick) look in the bag revealed that my razor had landed blade up and that I had gashed myself quite badly. Then it was time to run. In the bathroom, I tore through sheets of toilet paper, wrapping the offending finger, waiting for the blood to soak through, binning the blood-soaked tissue and repeating. After a few minutes, the sink and surrounding area looked a bit like the bathroom in SAW. How could something as small as my finger bleed so bloody much!?

ARGH!

Swathed in half a roll of toilet paper, I found my handbag and tried to locate a plaster. In the chaos that is my bag, you never know what you’ll find but luckily, there was one plaster. I stuck it on, thinking that would be the end of the matter.

But no, blood started seeping out above, below and even through the damn thing. I thought about tearfully calling Oma at this point but decided she probably had enough to cope with as she had around 20 family members staying with her.

By now, it was 8.15 p.m. and Oma had told me that the supermarkets closed at 7. My last hope was the Späti (late-night shop). I waved my bloody stump at the Späti guy, while asking calmly and politely if he sold plasters. He did not. BUT (Gott sei Dank) LIDL was open until 9 p.m. I raced down the road, squeezing excess blood into a tissue as I went and located the plasters.

With three more plasters wrapped around the original plaster, I figured things would probably be OK. I found a nice Italian restaurant I’d seen a poster for earlier in the day and ordered. Little did I realise how difficult knives were without a fully-functioning index finger. Every time I pressed on the knife, blood started seeping out again until I’d gone through another four plasters and created the ultimate Wurstfinger. I was so focused on my finger that I failed to notice I was the last one in the restaurant. It was around 9.30.

I finished off my wine and hit the town. Unfortunately, the town was shut. Oh well. I guess I had been looking for a quiet few days; it didn’t get much quieter than this. Back at the flat, I fired up my laptop and started chatting to my Irish friend on Facebook.

Me: Aw crap, my finger is bleeding on my keyboard. Hang on…

Sinéad: Did you put pressure on it? 

Me: If shouting at it to stop bloody bleeding counts as pressure, then yes.  

Sinéad: Erm…

The next morning, I had a new problem.

Massive sausage finger vs tiny, tiny cup

 

Did the bleeding ever stop? Did I manage to get that cup to my lips? Did I dig up the buried dog?? Find out in the next “exciting” installment… 

Hat, heels, Hochzeit (2)

Everyone filed (in an orderly German fashion) into the front room of the boat for the 2.5-hour tour that would take us around scenic Potsdam and Wannsee. This was probably the most painful part of the day for James as, at 6’9″, he had to stoop just to fit into the boat. Still, I had more pressing things on my mind, namely THE CAKE.

YESSSSSS...
Yogurty, moussey, fruity, spongy, creamy, biscuity goodness…

Luckily, Germans aren’t known for scrimping when it comes to portion sizes so, after queuing for a couple of minutes, I had a slice of cake roughly the size of my head. It was practically a meal in itself and would definitely keep me going until the actual meal later that evening.

Yum.
Yum.

I settled in with my new South African homies out on deck, taking in the views, listening to the tour guide and chatting to whomever came along. The Bridemama emerged and pulled a well-used piece of paper out of her bosom.

BM: Are you relative or friend? 

It turned out that she’d written down several conversation openers – I’m not sure she could understand the answers but she somehow managed to pull it off. I later learned that Kat’s brother had, in recent weeks, been teaching her a few expressions in English but that she’d forgotten them all on the day. Hence, the cheat sheet – more German genius.

The boat docked after 1.5 hours to let the wedding party off for photos but not before I got a quick pic with the beautiful bride. The bright orange dress was deliberate as I’m not much of a swimmer (I sink like a stone) but I knew I’d be visible if I happened to go overboard.

The biggest hat in the world
The biggest hat in the world

The rest of us continued on, munching on our tiny traditional “English Afternoon Tea” sandwiches as we went. At 17.30, the boat docked, around a 5-minute walk from the reception venue. Taxis were available for those who wanted them, but most people chose to walk.

Schloss Glienicke
Schloss Glienicke

You know, villa, boat, palace… just an average day in the life for this expat.

The courtyard was decked out and champagne service beckoned. A bagpipe (Dudelsack haha!) player was standing off to the side waiting for the bride and groom to show up so I asked him if I could take a photo of him.

Me: What is the German word for “bride” anyway? 

BP: Die Braut. 

Me: Not to be confused with “das Brot”. (bread)

BP: Ha ha ha, NEIN! 

Hamish the German
Hamish the German

I grabbed a glass of champagne and tottered around on the cobblestones a bit. A table full of kindly English people took pity on me and invited me to sit with them. Again, I had to explain my tenuous connection to the wedding party but thankfully, everyone seemed to think it was cool rather than downright weird.

The palace courtyard. Or a typical Saturday afternoon for me...
The palace courtyard. Or a typical Saturday afternoon for me…

In typical German fashion, an AGENDA for the evening was set out.

So German...
So German…

We all gathered to watch the German wedding tradition of log-sawing. Seemingly, it’s a demonstration of the couple’s abilities in teamwork. They were both given workman’s gloves, which really set off Kat’s dress, and then they got down to it.

German log-sawing
German log-sawing

I can’t say either of them will ever make it as lumberjacks but I hope they won’t have to. There probably isn’t much call for lumberjackmanship (I went a bit German there) in London anyway. We all gathered for the group photo and then it was time for the 4-course dinner. 13427974_1122601124449930_158288312928114469_n

I was seated at the same table as my new English buddies so chatting was easy. The girl beside me was a teacher so we had something in common. She was also alone as her husband was the best man and, therefore, seated at the top table, beside Santa. He looked like he was about to pass out from nerves at any second so his friends took it in turns to go up and distract him. At 6’7″, he would have gone down hard.

Dinner was delicious, and wine and conversation flowed. The waiter copped on pretty quickly that we were the high-maintenance table wine-wise and was always ready with a bottle.

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Then it was time for the speeches. Santa Claus went first with a short speech in German. An English translation was distributed to the English-speaking guests. Then it was James’ turn. Bless him, he read his speech first in English and then in German. I admired his balls while mentally correcting his pronunciation (because I’m a bitch like that). Finally, it was the best man’s turn. He delivered his speech in English and there was a German translation given out to the German-speaking guests. More great organisation. He also didn’t faint, which was good.

Dessert
Dessert

Dessert (Riesling champagne ice-cream soufflé with strawberry and mint salad) followed and then it was time for the party to begin. A band was getting set up in the next room so we all headed in that direction, ready for the couple’s first dance. “We’ve only just begun” by The Carpenters. Perfect.

Awwww
Awwww

The band played all of the 60s and 70s greats, everyone danced (except me because I have two left feet) and a free bar ensured everyone was well-lubed. The night ended with a midnight Currywurst and Pommes snack and then buses were waiting to take everyone back to the city centre.

All in all, it was an amazing day. The way they integrated the two cultures/languages and made sure that everyone was included must have taken so much planning. There was no dead time, everyone had a ball, and most people saw something more of Berlin than they normally would have.

Kat and James, I tip my big, floppy hat to you and wish you all the best. Thank you both so much for having me (the random Irish blogger) at your special day.

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And, if anyone else wants to invite me to their wedding, the answer is YES.

Oh, Vienna! (2)

After a quick freshen-up at the hotel (and a chance for me to use one of the thoughtfully-packed teabags), we caught the bus to Kahlenberg, a hill which offers the best views of Vienna. The bus ride alone, up winding cobbled streets with views of forest, vineyards and glimpses of the city, is well worth it – just don’t eat too much before you get on.

Suitably shaken and stirred, we hopped off at the last stop, just in time to catch sunset over the valley. The views of the city, although a little misty that evening, were spectacular.

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With the sun gone, there was a decided nip in the air, so we got back on the bus to Grinzing, the most famous of Vienna’s wine villages – and so pretty it’s hard to imagine real people actually live there.

I’d chosen one place but, just as we were about to go in, a coachload of Spanish tourists showed up – NEIN! No way was I listening to that for the night. Luckily, you’re spoiled for choice in Grinzing so we just went across the road to the next ridiculously picturesque restaurant.

Crushed, no less. I like their no-nonsense approach.
Crushed, no less. I like their no-nonsense approach.

We found a table and ordered some much-needed food – and, of course, local wine. I had the goulash, which I ate too quickly to take a photo of but, I can assure you, it was delicious.

Grinzing - where men wear Lederhosen unironically
Grinzing – where men wear Lederhosen unironically

With some local musicians now in full swing in the bar area, we moved to another table to be closer to them – and ended up sitting beside the mayor, as you do. He took a shine to me immediately and every time Manfredas’ head was turned, he took the opportunity to give me a come-hither gaze I found rather amusing – and also declined.

Still, he and his party were friendly enough and we chatted away for a while; the only problem was his dog who had a tendency towards rather smelly ausfahrts. As soon as another table cleared, we hot-footed it over and, by now, were right beside the musicians.

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While they might have looked a bit Latvian on the outside, they were really nice people and, in no time at all, we were nattering away. It turned out that the musicians aren’t professionals; they’re just a group of locals who get together once a month to keep the old folk tunes alive. We just happened to get lucky by choosing that particular bar on that particular night. The lady on the right and I became pally as she loves Ireland, visits regularly, and sings Irish traditional songs with her local choir. For anyone interested in instruments, a piano accordian like this one will set you back up to €15,000.

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Pricey hobby

All in all, we had a fabulous night. We were the only tourists there and there was something really cool about being welcomed into a local tradition that we’d wandered into purely by accident.

Dinner: €8

Wine: Can’t remember

Listening to actual yodelling in a bar in Austria: Priceless

We got off to a slightly later start the next day (as you can imagine). After several cups of tea and a bite to eat, we took the train one station past Schloss Schönbrunn (Palace “Beautiful Spring”) so we could walk back through the palace gardens. The day turned out to be much nicer than we had expected and the gardens were beautiful.

This is probably down to the scary man cycling around, who shouts and blows his whistle at anyone who dares to go near the grass. Despite there being signs everywhere, people are stupid so I can’t blame him for being snarky.

If you think the gardens are impressive, wait until you emerge into the massive courtyard between the palace itself and the Obelisk Fountain. While it’s hard to take photos while your jaw is dragging along the ground, I did my best.

We felt like we’d definitely earned a Spritzer (or two) before heading back into the city so that’s exactly what we did. Feeling like I needed to work that off before indulging in the famous Viennese Sacher Torte, we had a wander around a park and took in the awe-inspiring buildings that surrounded it.

Me: Gawp.

Parliament Building
Parliament Building

Me: Gawp.

The Rathaus
The Rathaus

Me: Gawp.

KK Hofburg Theatre
KK Hofburg Theatre

Me: Gawp. Sneeze.

Yes folks, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for – THE CAKES. When in Vienna, it doesn’t pay to do things by halves on the Kaffee and Kuchen front so it was off to the famous Café Landtmann. (Well, if it’s good enough for Sigmund Freud, it’s probably good enough for me.)

Caaaaaaaake...
Caaaaaaaake…
People eating caaaaaaaaaaaake
People eating caaaaaaaaaaaake

We found a nice outdoor table and waited for the menus. OH. MY. GOD.

Caaaaaaaaaaaake...
Caaaaaaaaaaaake…

They looked even better in person (or “in cake” – how does that work?).

Dear lord...
Dear lord…

DSC00635While I wanted to try everything, I felt that, this being Vienna, I should have the Sacher Torte. While we waited, I tried to figure out the pecking order of the waiters. (Manfredas probably missed awe-struck, silent Linda at this point.)

They have guys in black jackets and guys in white jackets. I think how it works is the “black” guys take your order, the “white” guys do all the carrying, and the “black” guys bring the bill and take the money at the end. I could be wrong though.

Who cares?! Caaaaaaaaaaake!
Who cares?! Caaaaaaaaaaake!

Feeling magnanimous and hopped up on chocolate, I offered to foot the bill for this one. Smugly loaded with a €20-note in my hand, I waved it at the snooty (but funnily so) waiter. He asked me for another €2. Erm, WHAT? €22 for a Sacher Torte, Apfelstrudel, a coffee and a tea bag in water… OK, it was worth it for the experience but I may have had a little weep.

This is turning into a Lord of the Rings-style epic – apologies! Part 3 coming soon!