Greetings from Prague (although I am still in Germany for the sake of this post).
So the Kehres family had a very interesting holiday season. By that I mean that none of us have seen each other the entire time. My brother is currently on a month-long extravaganza traveling around Asia while my parents had jet off on a sunny cruise round the Mediterranean. Hence, I found myself crashing at a dear exchange-friend’s house in Hamburg, Germany for 10 days.
BUT, before that I was in Dusseldorf.
And before that I was in London and nearly missed my early flight into Germany. I was set to take a 4:15 am bus to the airport from the house of a friends where I was residing, yet I did not wake up until 4:45. As you can imagine, a mad dash to the airport ensued and I am eternally grateful to my friend’s parents for driving me over an hour to get there.
So there I was, landed in the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany, and the spontaneous woman in me had no idea how to find the bus to get to the train station TO even make it to Dusseldorf. I persevered and finally found my way to Dusseldorf and to the very pleasant A & O Hostel. It was one of the nicest hostels I have stayed in as it basically was like a hotel (private bathroom and TV included). From there, I bumped into a lovely girl from New York who I then proceeded to have my very first German mulled wine (gluhwein) and bratwurst with. I have yet to find more lovely of Christmas markets to those in Germany!
Dusseldorf was a whole lot of gingerbread, coastal buildings, and attempts to not get lost. Soon it was time to board my early train and head four hours north to Hamburg where my lovely England exchange pal Zoe met me. After getting settled in it was time to bake ALL the traditional German cookies. By far, my favorite to make as well as eat were the cinnamon stars. The other 3 types we made were also pretty good yet, as I do not feel like looking up their complicated German names, we shall end this here.
And then it was Christmas Eve already!! Germans do the bulk of their celebrations on the 24th, so the day was full of relatives, gifts, church, and me attempting to look like I wasn’t completely lost during every conversation. I really enjoyed going to the Eve church service because ,although I could not understand what the pastor was saying, I knew the songs; just in English rather than German. It was kind of a surreal experience singing in English while everyone else around me sang in another language. Uniting somehow. Although we come from different places, some thing are able to transcend boundaries. To end a lovely day we had the traditional dish of… sushi. It was wonderful.
Christmas and Boxing Day were a blur of chocolate, family, and rousing renditions of various tunes (mainly featuring Michael Buble and Adele). Also teatime. Germans are quite intense about their bread and cake.
One day Zoe and I spent the afternoon painting some pottery. I made a gift for her parents saying ‘Hotel Hamburg’ as they seemed to always be graciously accepting a never-ending stream of visitors and lodgers in and out of their house.
Another night after Zoe and I had dinner with the family, we fancied venturing into town for a casual drink. Let’s just say one drink turned into a few and together we dominated that party street, ate 2 euro pizza, and had a quick nap on the metro back home.
Before new years, Zoe and I decided we should shed our old skin and come into the new year fresh. We meant this literally. We went to a Tas Hamam Spa which went a little something like this:
Step 1: De-robe
Step 2: Go into steam sauna and proceed to pour warm water onto self with metal pan
Step 3: Lay like a lizard for a long period of time while basking in the heat
From here it was relaxing until we were called across the large steam-room and unceremoniously thrown face up on a table. Internally I said a thank you to the lord that I had unknowingly signed Zoe and I up for a day that was ‘women only’. From here I was scrubbed with a harsh glove, ‘washed’ with soapy bubbles in a pillowcase thing, and rinsed again with the metal pan. Oh I also endured a rather painful massage. Most of it was painful to be honest. And the washer who did not speak a lick of English took great pleasure in showing me all the lizard skin I had shed (much to my disgust-TMI I know).
Afterwards it was onto the tea room for some delicious mint tea and wonderful Turkish food. While I had some mixed feelings about this experience, I could still see myself making it a New Years tradition. Plus I am now baby soft.
New Years Eve was crazy. Let me set the scene.
- There is no speed limit for cars on highways
- Anyone can buy fireworks
- You can set said fireworks off literally anywhere
- Drinking on the streets is legal
After a meal at a friends flat, we queued up to get tickets into The Docks (a 3 story electro-club). We danced until it was close to twelve and then it was a mad dash to the harbor to watch the main fireworks display. When that clock hit twelve, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Fireworks had been shooting off all day but this was utter mayhem. All across the city you could see explosions, and they came at you from all angles. No picture I took would do the scene justice. Running back to the club felt like I was in a war zone. Thankfully no fireworks ended up in my hood (hence why I was informed to keep the hood up).
The day after new years I was lucky enough to go to a symphony with Zoe and her parents. The symphony was so wonderful, I really do have a grand appreciation for the cello. Check that off the bucket list.
Overall, Germany was wonderful and spent in such wonderful company. I tried a lot, ate a lot, and laughed a whole lot more. As I finish this post I have just arrived in Budapest (and its snowing [slushing] cats and dogs). So until my next update, Tschüss
Movie Recommendations from this leg of my trip: The Holiday, The Pursuit of Happyness, Brooklyn
P.S. Here is Zoe’s grandpa making a type of mulled wine by lighting sugar on fire with whiskey over a pot of red wine. Delicious.