You know when you have that sneaking suspicion in the back of your mind, subtle as a bee sting in the ear, that your life needs some changing up? Well, that bee has been in my bonnet for a while and I recently fixed things so that I could do more of something I love… travel.
I was recently away for about 7 weeks and visited 6 countries adding up to an experience that is hard to put into words. But I’ll try anyway, starting with the first leg of my journey. Deutschland.
We have family in Germany, so the main event was a wedding, which I’ll touch on later. I’ll just start by saying that Germans know how to celebrate.
Because we were visiting family and close friends, the timbre of the trip was rest and relaxation punctuated with soft, buttery rosinenbrötchen that would make you cry and unforgettable adventures.
One venture was a hike in the Sächsische Schweiz or Saxon Switzerland, a national park named by Swiss artists for its similarities to the Swiss Alps. I never get over relatively flat land and calm waters giving way to these impressive rock formations hiked, climbed and biked by many.
After a short drive from Dresden, the capital of Saxony, we loaded up on a ferry and took a ride across a narrow apart of the river Elbe that was so slow, it took me a minute to realize that we’d begun moving. Once we’d disembarked and had scurried past a Bavarian-esque “village” littered with souvenirs and ice cream shops, we were in and surrounded by Mother Nature’s incomparable monoliths. One thing I love about the scale of this park is that you can make a hike here as easy or as swear word inducing as you like. And if you like to rock climb (nope) this is one of the meccas (double nope).
One of the highlights of this trip was riding in and driving a Trabant.
This is an East German era car made of plastic and full of special quirks. Like being mindful of checking the amount of gas in the tank with a dip stick as there is no gauge. And requiring a special fuel that is not longer made, necessitating adding the right mixture of gasoline and motor oil in a tank under the hood that is then fed to the engine via gravity, as there is also no fuel pump.
And don’t even get me started on shifting because I would have no idea how to explain it with without a life-sized replica and a drink. Did I mention the “door” to the convertible was what effectively amounted to a bungee cord with which my friend cheekily instructed me to “buckle up for safety”? It sounds bananas but it was SO MUCH FUN! After a short lesson, four of us were off through small towns, stopping at a random farm… I mean random. Like with species of bunnies I did not know existed and a Golden pheasant, random.
We stopped at a shop full of one of my Christmas favorites, the pyramide, that use the rising warm air from candle light to spin. Then we headed to the town of Stolpen, where we visited the eponymous castle that served as a fortress, torture chamber and almost 50 year holding cell for the Countess of Cosel. Its history is bonkers, you have to read it!
Eventually, we stopped in a little restaurant nestled high in some hills for a traditional German meal. I had to have my goulash with special dumplings called böhmische knödel.
Well, I suppose if we’re being technical, it’s traditionally Hungarian and Czech but one of the perks of being so close to the Czech border is that this must-have meal has been incorporated into Saxonian cuisine, which means I get to have it whenever I am here! Huzzah!
That’s a nice segue into things I must ingest whilst in Germany. My folks know to have two things on hand when I’m there. Almdudler, which I first tasted after an 6 hour hike through the Austrian Alps and have loved ever since; and mittlescharf Bautz’ner senf, the ONLY mustard I have ever liked and that I would probably eat on watermelon, if left to my own devices.
Despite growing up in a beer township, now living in a beer principality and having family from a beer kingdom, I do not like beer which flows like honey mead here. But Germany knows its cocktails and I had a sip or several because, when in Dresden, as they say. Or as I say, anyway…
This marvelous trip ended with a wedding celebration that started at 2 in the afternoon. I was already balking because what were we going to do with all that time? Well, there was such an organic, relaxed quality to the day that made it so special. There was no rush to catch up with friends over pie and coffee or tea because we had time. There was no rush to sit and enjoy the ambient sounds of the piano in the background because we had time. There was no rush for the bride and groom to eat and visit when they wanted because we had time. We did not have to worry about out food being whisked away by staff on a tight schedule. We did not have to rush through a rowdy game of musical chairs. We did not have to cram all our dancing into 2 hours. This day was representative of why I say the Germans, at least the Saxonians, know how to celebrate an occasion. There is no strict agenda. There is no pressure. It was so lovely and we did not leave until midnight and I had no idea where the time went. P.S. I asked how much this unbelievable day cost, being a relative newlywed myself and needing to know and I almost fell over when I found out. Suffice it to say that if I renew my vows, it would be less expensive to fly my American contingent out there and rent a castle with all the accoutrement to celebrate. Bitter food for thought.
Anyhoodle, even though Germany has turned into a home away from home, I never tire of visiting. This particular trip was one of my favorites. I highly encourage you to visit (and take me with you). There is so much beauty packed into such a small country and I have not even seen a quarter of it. And I’m already itching to go back. Until then,
Auf Wiedersehen Yinz,
Associated video: here