Yet again, I’m very behind with this blog. It’s a good thing that I have the memory of an elephant; otherwise some important moments could be lost and forgotten forever.
We had some downtime one afternoon, so we decided to go for a day trip to Heidelberg. It’s about an hour and a half drive from here, and is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe! It is famous for a castle ruin that sits on the side of the town’s hill.
On arrival, I was quite excited to see both a Starbucks, and a TK Maxx. We grabbed an iced soy chai latte (as the weather was good) and set off for a walk down the delightfully busy walkplatz. The TK Maxx (the European version of TJ Maxx, for American readers) was a great size and had some wonderful things. Unfortunately I didn’t buy anything apart from a pair of tights, but we will be back!
We passed a shop with some interesting food items. It was impossible to pass by without trying what was obviously a local delight. It ended up not being great – I expected it to be more Danish like, but it was actually sweet bread rolled together. Disappointing! We actually threw it out as it wasn’t worth the calories. We tried some delicious liquors at a bottle shop, which brewed Absinthe which was something like 80% alcoholic – phew! We didn’t try that.
We briefly considered walking up the hill to see the castle ruins, but I wasn’t dressed for a 350 step hike up a hill, so we admired it from the grounds. Heidelberg was a delightful place just to wander on foot, and we will definitely be back, simply for the shopping!
I’m just hoping that in the mean time, I figure out how to pronounce Heidelberg the correct way. It drives Nick nuts that I get it wrong every. single. time.
Kiwis come to town
Thankfully Erika wrote about this same topic on her blog, see her post at this link (and read the rest of her blog while you’re at it!):
One Thursday afternoon, I received a message from my friend Erika. Erika and I met on my first night out in Perth when I moved there in 2011. We were introduced through a mutual friend, Chris, who I went to university with. Erika and I hit it off, and we hung out a lot (along with her boyfriend, Jons, when he wasn’t at the mines). One of our fun occasions was a great trip to Margaret River where we went on a wine tour, celebrated Halloween, and had a few too many red wine & cokes. (Not to mention we had one too many in our room at the backpackers, so poor Jimmy had to sleep on the concrete floor on top of our clothes).
That afternoon, I received word that Erika and Jons would be arriving by tandem bicycle that evening! I was so excited. I had hoped like crazy that they would be able to stop by on their tour, but with the nature of their adventure, I understood if they weren’t going to be able to make it. They arrived armed with some beer and stories, and we had a good catch up before going to sleep.
The next morning, it was time to do a little sightseeing. Thankfully Nick had the weekend off, so the timing couldn’t have worked out anymore perfect! We decided to head to base to pick up some Margarita supplies for the evening, and to show them around.
To get on an overseas military base, passports must be shown at the local visitor’s office. The German military police member took Erika and Jons’ passports and said very dryly the following dialogue:
German: “You arrived een Europe on zis [date], yes?”
E & J: Nods
German: “Vell now, that is oh-vehr nyn-teeee dayz ago, yes?”
E & J: I guess so?
German: “Vell, zis means you are now illegal, yes?”
Me: “No, they went to the UK for a month”
German: “So, zat is still part of zee European Union. It counts az part of zee nyn-teeee dayz”
E & J, N & E: Sweating
German: “You must go to zee local Rathaus und zee if there iz anyzing they can do, but you may not enter zis military base, ok?”
E & J, N& E: Run to car
Here’s something light hearted and related, and worth the 18 seconds:
I knew something wasn’t right with his argument. We set off to the mall in Neunkirchen as Erika wanted a dirndl (a German maid costume) for Oktoberfest, and while everyone was biting fingers, I researched the issue on my painfully slow 3G connection. Meanwhile, poor Erika and Jons were trying to figure out if they had to do some extreme country hopping to avoid any major penalties!
Turns out, my argument was correct, I just didn’t have the information to back it up at the time. The UK is part of the European Union, but the German military policeman failed to be educated in the fact that the UK is not part of the Schengen agreement. The Schengen agreement allows citizens of certain countries to travel freely around Europe for a total of 90 days. As the UK is not part of that agreement (you have to pass through passport control when you enter the UK, unlike all the other countries we have been to,) the time spent in the UK was not part of the 90 days. He should have realised that when seeing their second entry stamp.
Armed with the knowledge, and putting my lawyer hat on (even though Erika actually did her professional exams, whereas I didn’t), I was ready for a fight. We went back after lunch, after visiting the mall, having lunch and buying dirndls (lol) – ready for a disagreement. Sadly, after all that, it didn’t come. The second German policeman gave the day passes over with no issues. Everyone breathed a big sigh of relief as we drove through the gate. The German guard at the gate commented on Erika and Jons being from New Zealand (“very far away”). I miss having my kiwi identity. Recently I’ve only shown my US passport. It makes it easier since we share the same last name in those, and it has my visa to live in Germany. I feel like a traitor.
We showed them around the base, taking them through the mall and through a C-17 aircraft. This time we wore appropriate shoes (when we showed Laura through one, we all got told off for not wearing covered shoes – oops).
That evening, it was taco time! Somehow half of a 2.5L bottle of Tequila was consumed – between the four of us. It was a good night!
The next day was the big day. First off, it was Jons’ birthday. Happy birthday Jons! I made a kiwi favourite – lolly cake – before the ‘champagne breakfast’. The old college habit of pre-gaming before an event hasn’t worn off just yet. Erika and Jons put on a great spread.
It was time to head off to the wine festival. Apparently it was the biggest in Europe. We met up with some of Nick’s workmates, and off we went, after an hour delay which we spent at the local Ramstein bar. We had a drink each there. I’d forgotten my sunnies and instead only had my pair of sunnies that I purchased as a bit of a laugh. I was mortified to discover that I’d have to wear them all day! The train ride was interesting – it was packed once we got on the right train. The wrong train was eerily empty. I said that I thought we’d got on the wrong train (the ICE fast train in Germany) and it turns out, we had. Thankfully we didn’t get fined. We only wish that old German men would wear deodorant. I don’t get it. Especially not on a hot day on a crowded train.
The wine festival was like a massive carnival. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was surprised at the size of it, and the amount of activities. There were things for families to do, as well as young people, as well as middle aged people, as well as the elderly. I’ve never seen a festival like that.
We set off for our first try of the wine. Each vineyard had it’s own half of a semi-permanent tent. There were probably around 10 full size tents in total, as well as a large tent for beer. They served wine in beer glasses, which were huge. A deposit of about €2 was paid on each glass, and you got it back if you handed the glass back, but if you wanted to keep it as a souvenir, you could. We ended up with 4, which were awesome. We traded up until we found the one we wanted.
The tip of the day was to go half wine, half water spritzer. Well, it turned out that it wasn’t quite half spritzer! The men loved filling up the wine and just topping it off with spritzer. It didn’t take long until we were all feeling the effects (especially after the champagne breakfast) and hungry.
The version that was the best was mixing a rose wine with the spritzer. It made it deliciously sweet and far too easy to drink. I recommend even trying this at home – the wine goes further that way too!
It was then that we discovered the deliciousness that were potato pancakes. We had many plates of them over the day. There were amazing delicacies all around the fair grounds. There were big things of bread, that were like Indian naan breads, and you could spread your choice of toppings on them – making them savory or sweet. An American we sat next to could not control his hunger after seeing mine and rushed off to get one of his own. I’m sure he wasn’t disappointed! Erika got quite excited seeing all the gigantic hotdogs. I wrote down this quote of the day:
Erika: “I am so ready. I was eyeing up that guy’s weiner.”
After a few drinks and hours we went and did some carnival rides. I’m shocked that I did anything other than the he extreme ridewater ride. I hate heights, I dislike carnis, and I don’t trust any rides that have you spinning in the air. Well, I did. I’m not sure if this will ever be repeated again in my life, but it happened. There’s photographic evidence of two of them, and the other one was too extreme to take photos on. Unless you’re Erika, who did.
As the darkness descended, so too did the German youths. I was ready to go at around 7.30pm, as I was completely sober and getting tired. Nick would say grumpy, which is also true. We missed that train, so we had to wait another two hours. That two hours was an eternity for me, as the others kept drinking, and I was the sad sap. Thankfully this time was more enjoyable than it would otherwise have been as I met up with two American friends, Keila and Melannie. It was so good to see them, and despite getting separated later on, I’m glad they got to meet some of my kiwi friends.
Around 9.30pm we headed to the train station. There were confused people everywhere. Drunk people everywhere. Youths everywhere – and yes, the fact that they can drink at 16 legally really was no different to seeing 18 year olds staggering around Christchurch. We all know fake IDs are rife in Christchurch anyway. Funnily enough, it was grown American adults making the scene. I saw more than several 30-ish year old American men in diabolical situations. Maybe if they learned to control their alcohol consumption at 16, they wouldn’t be such a mess in their late 20s. Nick and I have 4 ½ years between us in age, yet we only have a year between us in how long we’ve legally been allowed to drink! But I digress.
The train ride was interesting. Some American military men were making idiots of themselves. A particular two-some decided to stand up in the back of the train and have a very meaty make out session in the back of the train, while elderly German women and small German children looked on in disgust. I was so embarrassed. Of course, when American army members have alcohol in their system, of course things heat up (in more ways than one, clearly). Before long, Nick decided to get in the middle of a potential fisty cuff and tried to break it up. He ended up in the next train cabin and all I saw were fists flying and someone getting pushed up against the door. I was sure he was going to get himself hurt (or worse), so I ended up standing in the aisle crying my eyes out (of course, poor Erika and Jons tried to console me, and people looked at me like I had leprosy or something).
Nick survived. The fists flying were from a German local who decided to punch the guy that was causing trouble. Why? Who knows. It took us 3 ½ hours to get home, and that included a taxi ride. Moral of the story? Next year we will be going to the festival early and leaving early. And by early, I mean by 4pm, when the families start leaving. It was sad that fellow military members ruined the end of the day.
The next day, everyone was recovering from sore heads and some raw emotions. We all sat around and watched Netflix for the next couple of days, watching an entire series of a new show called ‘Orange is the new black’.
It was a sad day when my friends left on their journey to Oktoberfest. We waved goodbye in the morning, but they promised they would be back before we leave to in 3 1/2 years back to the USA, and I will hold them to it!