I have shamed myself!
Our German neighbours, Jenny and Marco, invited us over for a beer before dinner. I took over a couple of bottles of Weiβbier. “In plastic bottles? You don’t drink beer from plastic bottles! At least not the first beer…!” Marco reprimanded and provided us with ‘proper’ beer in glass bottles.
He explained the German Purity Laws. “Just three ingredients are allowed in beer! Malt, hops and yeast. And water. Four ingredients.” Clearly plastic did not come into it. “I know you bought these in Lidl!” he laughed. Just as I started to try to justify myself, saying that we wanted Weiβbier and Lidl only had Weiβbier in plastic bottles, Mark decided it was a good time to add that I was formerly a professional beer taster! “You worked in a brewery and you bought beer in plastic bottles?!” Marco was aghast.
I didn’t even know that you could get beer in plastic bottles. It is typical that the only time I have EVER bought beer in plastic bottles ended up being the occasion where I not only socialised with a connoisseur from a country where beer is a revered National drink, but was sold out by my husband as having a professional palate!
Marco said that he worked in some sort of Dating Hall in Berlin. “Old people want to have sex too! HOO HA HA!” he chuckled mischievously. The set-up seemed to a hall with old fashioned phones on each table which enabled potential suitors to ring across to ask someone that they liked the look of to dance. It all sounded very civilised.
Sandra and Christoph from Bavaria joined us as did our other two neighbours from Heidelberg. They were all very sweet, speaking in English for our benefit. Marco told us that Sandra and Christoph have been secretly hankering after a look in our caravan! I don’t know if this was true; it might have been Marco being naughty – or wanting a look himself…!They looked embarrassed as we told them that they were welcome any time.
Conversation got on to ‘The Vikings’ and Marco shattered one of my illusions. He told me that axe-wielding hero Ragnar Lothbrok used to model underpants for Calvin Klein! He even showed me pictures on his phone. It has RUINED it for me!
We crawled home about midnight and wondered what to do with two uncooked trout that we had got out for dinner! We ate a handful of peanuts, always the sign of a good night and put ourselves to bed.
Storms & a Sitting
We looked at a weather map of Europe. The whole of Germany is stricken by storms. There are severe weather warnings; floods and landslides in places – and it is worse in the Czech Republic. We decided that we would sit tight for a while!
Marco and Jenny came over for a highly praised treat – a cup of ‘English Tea’, along with their daughter, Anna, who set up her easel. She wanted to paint us, it seemed, as well as Ruby! It ended up being a long sitting, not that we were doing anything else. It poured with rain all day. Jenny and Marco had promised to play Talisman with the boys, Otto and Willy, so they left but Anna was so patient. She sat there for hours sketching us then painting us. I couldn’t wait to see the finished product! She is a such a sweetheart!
Jenny had said that it was her ambition to come to England and see Stonehenge. We pointed out Stonehenge and Bournemouth, where we live when not travelling, on the map.
We told them we are related – Saxons! Marco agreed “Wessex, Essex, Sussex!” We told him we lived in Wessex. The flag of Wessex, a gold Wyvern and cross on a red background is based on the ancient West Saxon standard, which was carried into battle by the English until the 15th Century!
The sitting got a little bit cold, but since Anna was so patient, we felt honour bound not to abandon it! The finished product was unveiled around 6pm and it was absolutely brilliant! Marco told us that Anna wanted us to have it as a gift. She had made a lovely composition of Mark and I sitting together petting Ruby. She captured details of my dress, Mark’s shirt and even the colour of the blanket on which we were sitting.
The Saxon Swiss National Park is a home for painters. The Malerweg, or Painters’ Way is one of the main walking routes through the area. Canaletto was here, among many others, so it is lovely and very fitting to have been given such a personal souvenir from a real Maler. Anna’s painting has been given pride of place in Caravan Kismet and from now on, will accompany us on all of our travels!
We did manage to eat our trout but Anna came over twice to ask if we were coming to visit – and could we bring the dogs? We were shattered. “Shall I go over and see if we can do a rain check?” Mark asked. He came back and said that they were all ready to receive us and Anna looked desolate that we might not come over. “We will go over for one…!”
I am so glad we did. Marco produced Weiβbier “We got this especially for you. From Bavaria!” Christoph leapt up. “He is from Bavaria. He says it is a sin to drink Weiβbier from the bottle.” It seemed that my German beer drinking education was not yet complete. Christoph duly returned with two tall glasses, which looked like they had just been washed up. “The glass have to be wetted with water. Not dry.” Marco told us.
He then poured the Weiβbier. There is a whole art to this. He put the bottle deep inside the glass and upended it. The beer welled up the sides of the glass and the bottle. Marco reserved a tiny amount in the bottle, which he then rolled between his hands before tipping the very last drop from the bottle right in the middle of the head. “It’s like sex!” Marco giggled. “You have to get the very last bit out!” He chuckled michievously as he shook the bottle to expel the very last drop. The head on the Weiβbier rose majestically above the rim of the glass and, a thing of beauty, it was ready. “Prost!”
“30-years’ experience as a barman.” Marco told us. He explained that the German toast “Prost” is all about trust. It is always one-to-one. You must look the other party directly in the eye and you never cross over someone offering or accepting a toast in order to toast others. It is always direct and one-to-one. The sloshing of the ale as you clank together your stein or glass is a further gesture of trust. Some liquid jumps from one stein to the other – so that if one drink is poisoned, the poison would be transferred.
Christoph and Sandra are leaving for Berlin tomorrow. Marco was handing out tips from his home city and telling us that there is a slang in Berlin but it is banned, because the authorities want ‘High German’ to be spoken. I told them about Cockney Rhyming Slang and said it was often used by criminals to hide their intentions. Christoph laughed and said that Berliners were criminals! Marco said that Christoph was a criminal for taking his children away so that Otto, Willy and Anna would have no-one to play with.
We suggested that Marco should tell Christoph and Sandra all about the highlights of Berlin, then give them some phototgraphs to show the people at home. Then, they wouldn’t need to leave!
Otto was in a particularly cheeky mood. He came in and announced “I have to go poop!” complete with squatting action! Anna was again so sweet – she made beds for all the puppies and covered them up when they curled up and went to sleep!
Tempting as it was to stay, we did manage to stick to just one beer. It was made up for with the milk of human kindness. Tired or not, it is important always to enjoy what we’ve got while we have it.
And I think Mark wants to adopt Anna!
To redeem myself from social shame, if you want some Firkin facts and a barrel of brewing wisdom gleaned from my beer tasting days, I did once write a blog about beer, windsurfing, nuns on 8 pints a day and what the Romans did for us! Click here to find out more!
Join us next time as we FINALLY get round to doing THE BIG WALK around some of the most stunning sights in Saxon Switzerland!