On New Year’s Eve, I was out of bed by 9 for breakfast. Much as I love being a “Continental European”, I will never get on board with the continental breakfast – especially not in the depths of winter. Someone else could have the slabs of cold meat and cheese. I was having cereal, raisin toast and a lovely big pot of tea.
After that, it was back to my room to shower and psyche myself up for my first ever walk in the forest. I toyed with the idea of going full-on Latvian and wearing heels but the Germans might kick me out for that. Sensible footwear it was.
I’d seen people heading down a little lane opposite the hotel, so that was where I started. The skies were ominous but the walk was actually quite… pleasant. I’d pass the odd dog-walker every now and then and we’d exchange smiles and hellos but apart from that, it was was perfectly peaceful. And very tree-full.
After I’d been walking for a while (keeping an eye out for wolves, naturally), I stopped a likely-looking, Jack Wolfskin-clad German couple in very sensible shoes.
Me: Hello, my fellow forest nymphs. Is there a lake around here somewhere?
They gave me a rather dubious look up and down and were probably thinking, “What the hell is this Arschloch doing in a forest?”
Horst: Well, there IS a lake, but it’s around a 7km walk in that direction.
My face must have dropped slightly, as his wife chimed in.
Hilda: But there’s a river around 400 metres that way.
Me: Right, be on your way, my feisty forest faeries…
I trotted off in the direction she’d pointed in, but I think maybe the famous German sense of humour was at play here.
I decided to follow a man out walking his dog and three-year-old for a bit. I figured that if there were wolves, they’d probably go for the mutt or the toddler first. This, however, got annoying fast as (what are the chances?) it turns out they were English speakers and the daughter couldn’t get the names of the Seven Dwarfs straight. Before I started yelling, “Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and DOC!”, I needed to get my zen back. I climbed an embankment and did the unthinkable. Yes, it’s the photo the Latvians thought they’d never see…
After sending the pic to a couple of people and enjoying the virtual “thuds” as they fell off their chairs, I sauntered back to the hotel, river-less, wolf-less but happy.
I enjoyed a quick red wine nap-cap and then went back to bed for a couple of hours. Turns out trees and fresh air are exhausting… When I woke up, I decided that there was no harm in being sociable for a while and hopped on a bus into Lübeck. The bus dropped me off outside a rather suspect-looking bar – you know the kind of place that you’re not sure if you’ll come out alive but you’ll probably have some good stories if you do? In short, perfect.
As I walked through the fug of smoke, every head in the place turned to look. At this point, it’s important not to show fear so I marched to the bar and asked the 80s hair-do behind it for a glass of wine. The man next to me immediately offered me a chair, shook my hand and introduced himself. In no time at all, we were gabbing away like old friends.
I thought the guy on the other side of me could be trouble as there seemed to be some tension between him and my new buddy – I would have ended up on my back on the floor if he’d lunged for him. But then, dream boat that I am, I got a toothless smile from the tattoo-covered trouble-maker and knew that I was going to be just fine. (In these kinds of situations, it’s always good to get the scariest-looking person on side.)
A guy came around selling roses and my new buddy bought me one. An hour later, he came around again, and my new buddy bought me a second one. Two white roses also appeared from somewhere else in the bar and soon I had a veritable garden in front of me.
After the drunkest man in the world accidentally smashed a pint glass on my jeans, it was time to head back to the hotel. Germany on New Year’s Eve is characterised by the sounds of rocket launchers and ambulance sirens so, rather than wait 50 minutes for the next bus, I got a taxi. I gave the cute Cypriot driver one of the roses and he almost teared up as it was the first time a woman had ever given him a flower.
Back in the room, I poured myself a glass of wine and settled in for some (probably) classic NYE entertainment, German style.
At midnight, I watched the supremely baffling German favourite “Dinner for One” and wished myself an excellent 2016. All in all, it was the perfect day.
The next morning, I woke up full of the joys and, after another walk in the forest, fairly skipped to the bus stop. I made my way to where I thought the bus to Berlin went from with a song in my heart and feeling all kinds of goodwill towards mankind.
Me: Tra la la la la are you going to Berlin la la la?
Random stranger: Can you speak in English?
Me: Sure! Is this where the Berlin bus goes from?
Random stranger: I am not ticket.
Me: Yeah, clearly the English thing is working out great for you.
And, just like that, I was back.