We have had a wonderful time staying with Arthur and Jane in Gemünd (in the Eifel), and Andy and Kerstin in Ulm. It has been a real treat (and has spoiled us a tad) being able to speak English for over a week! We are getting lazy with even trying to speak another language. Actually it seems the longer we are away the less of the ‘other’ language (whichever one that may be at the time) we are managing to pick up, and it’s not because we aren’t trying! This will get worse as we go into the former eastern block countries as, apart from Latvia, we don’t even have a little phrase book to help us. Maybe it’s because we have been to so many tourist-friendly places where locals make a real effort to speak English that we don’t have to learn the native languages ourselves. We are still managing the basics for politeness, but that is about all!
Went to a fantastic Greek restaurant in Ulm called Paradise (the first time we have strayed from local, traditional food of the area the whole time we’ve been away). We had the most wonderful, juicy, tasty grilled lamb cutlets there (Barbara’s mouth must be watering just listening to this!). We were quite a hit with the young waiters because we are Australian – both wanted desperately to visit our beautiful country. When we raved about the Greek food in Oz, one of them went and got a flash magazine with a whole piece (in English) about Greek restaurants in Australia, and featured Omega (even had a picture of the table we sat at when we went there). He was very impressed that we had eaten there.
Ulm is a very nice-sized city, not too big, but certainly a variety of shops, department stores and restaurants. Being right on the Danube is also a bonus, with little waterways in the older part of town flowing past very cute houses, almost cartoonish in their crookedness. Ulm is also home to the tallest church spire in the world. But being a tad ‘churched-out’, we only looked inside, we didn’t actually climb the 768 stairs to the top. Popped into an Italian coffee shop/delicatessen to ask about coffee grinders and the owner tried to sell us his own old industrial one – bloody huge! We declined.
Throughout Ulm there are many gigantic wooden sparrows over shops and in other outdoor areas – the sparrow is the city’s bird, and recently they had a bit of a celebration of this. We captured some of these cute feathered (or wooden!) friends digitally to share with all of you.
We visited Rothenburg – the most perfect looking German town that must have inspired Walt Disney and every picture book and fairytale ever written. Absolutely gorgeous in all its German clichés and exquisite detail.
A particular highlight, and source of amusement for us as well as on-lookers, was the four of us trying to share a ‘schneeballen’ (a snow ball) – a ball made of light biscuit dough rolled into a layered ball and covered in all sorts of yummy stuff: cinnamon, chocolate, icing sugar, pistachios…A tad messy with the ones covered in chocolate. Also visited one of the many Christmas shops which was like going into the Disney ride “It’s a Small World” only without the boat ride and water and the annoying song (Simon knows what we mean).
It is tempting to move to Ulm for one particular chocolate shop alone. It is owned/run by this very wonderful old woman who knows everything there is to know about chocolate and the many exotic possible additions to it to make it so fabulous – whether it be the many liqueurs from champagne to absinth (!!) or the variety of nuts or cream centres. Very old fashioned in décor and atmosphere – delightful. Apart from the unfamiliar delicacies of the area, there were the standard fine chocolates that we are familiar with – LINDT! Found a fantastic new limited edition block of Lindt – dark with lime cream centre. So scrummy!
Andy and Kerstin took us on a bike ride to Blaubeuren – over 20km away – more than 40km total on tandem bikes for the inexperienced was an intriguing idea! But we had the most wonderful time. The first half of the ride was very interesting. We went from being quite uncoordinated and giving verbal cues to each other so there were no accidents, to just being able to read the situation and location and each other. The whole four of us were glad the expedition didn’t end in divorce for all – which is apparently a big possibility when couples first attempt tandems!
The town we rode to had the most beautiful natural pool that led to these amazing underground caverns – ‘Blautopf’. This vibrant blue water hole is fenced off and lovely to look at but there is a limited number of licensed divers even allowed in the water due to the depth and the danger of the caverns. It actually looked a lot like the Blue Pool in the National Park at Glenbrook. There was also a fantastic ‘Gummi Bären Paradies’ shop – no, the gummi bears are not into satire, it was ‘Gummi Bear Paradise’! They had the best gummi bears ever tasted – and the ones we bought were non-gelatine ones!
We had a very nice (and huge!) lunch – fantastic roast pork (the Germans know how to cook their pig!), gravy, salad and spätzle (sounds like schpetzla – a kind of local homemade pasta, unique to the area, almost tasted like deep-fried pasta). Also had the bike-riders tradition of a ‘Radler’ – basically a huge shandy (half a litre). They don’t go the full strength because they have to get back on a bike afterwards! Big girls blouses! We found it amusing to discover the Germans don’t ‘ride’ their bicycles, they ‘drive’ them!
Getting back on the bike after lunch (and after 20ks!) was not a pleasant experience. It’s amazing how quickly your butt gets really sore! We were quite buggered by the end of the whole thing, but felt rather chuffed that we had managed to do it, AND on a tandem!
Went to a German wedding the day before we left. Quite interesting to learn that in Germany every couple has to be married in a registry office before any other ceremony can take place, so when the couple arrive at the church together, they are already married! There is no ‘giving away’ of the bride tradition. They also aren’t real big on the speech making section of the reception, but rather unusual ‘skits’ or jokes are played out. They still do a bridal waltz (which for this couple was ‘Que Sera Sera’), but there is no joining the couple on the dance floor after it, by bridal party, parents or anyone else. And, as with in any other country, the bride was beautiful, of course.