1796 words on Travel
Friends of mine got married this weekend. So I borrowed a suit from my flatmate. And Gandalf and me went on our way to start our journey early Saturday morning… as the friends who had offered us a lift expected to not make it in time, we went for the five hour train ride. Surprisingly many people populate trains at nine on a Saturday morning. And they’re all busy eating, musing about beer or having random chit-chat on topics like their neighbour’s trees which just tend to be far too big.
As Gandalf is having his big exam next week, we added some functional analysis to the conversation topics and I could quiz him a bit on stuff like Hilbert spaces, self-adjoint operators and the spectral theorem. Not my area by any means – so it was a bit tricky to turn the stuff from the book into reasonable questions.
At our first stopover in Uelzen with the strangely decorated (i.e. arty) Hundertwasser railway station we indulged in a rather crappy breakfast with all the beauty of Nestlé machine coffee (how do they make it smell so yucky?) and rather dried out pastries. And on we went, changing trains again in Hamburg where luckily the connection train was already waiting at the platform half an hour before its departure time. So we could sit in there and play Armagetron [strangely, GLTron which we prefer didn’t launch – it’s always the open source stuff seeing that happen – also don’t send your computer to sleep while running Armagetron, OS X is too buggy to let you enter your password when to computer wakes up while the game is in its crappy full-screen mode], Puyo Puyo in the meantime.
This way we could sit in the warm instead of having hang out in the railway station or on the platform. It was starting to rain as well – which nobody appreciated. A friend picked us up at the railway station and took us to Claus’ sisters’ place where we were going to stay – she was cool enough to give up her whole house for the night so everybody who didn’t mind sleeping on the floor could have a place to crash. The ride there was done in our friend’s somewhat pimpy oldish Mercedes coupé, which has funny little arms built in that push the seat belts forward so they’re easy for the people sitting in the front to grab. Quite funny design for better usability, I’d say. Not bad for car makers.
The car was quite old, but our friend had it upgraded so it could run on gas as well as on regular petrol. Apparently gas is cheaper, so it saves quite a bit of money when you’re driving a lot. Assuming that you actually find a petrol station selling gas. As the usual tank is still present in the car and the engine can actually run on both types fuel (with there just being a little switch to flick to change that), you can apparently go well over 1000km without refuelling if you want to. On the other hand, places selling gas for cars are quite rare… and as we passed one we refuelled, which made strange noises in the boot (but obviously nothing bad happened).
Then came the wedding in a local church. Naturally I’m not a big fan of that. And I still fail to understand how people whom go got to know as modern and intelligent scientists without a particular – if any – knack for religion fall back to those old rites. Being in northern Germany had the benefit of the ceremony being held with a nice northern accent and the church looking quite light. There was a bit of singing which I found quite horrible. It may have been the guy playing the organ – but my bet is more that those church songs are just strange with the ‘wrong’ syllables going for long or short notes, that there isn’t a real flow to the text. But what do I know.
For better musical entertainment they also had a proper singer who sang a few songs and an oboeist who played together with the organ. That was quite cool. And much better than the stuff to sing along with. What confused me a bit was that the ‘you may now kiss the bride’ thing didn’t happen. While my lithurgical knowledge comes from TV, I thought that was a standard. And later I heard people saying that apparently the priest had forgotten it something. What!?
And then the priest was also the guy was talking for several minutes about love and god and all that. And pretty much went saying things like god is in love and love is in you and god is in you and you are in love and god is in …, for long enough that I lost track of things and starting thinking that everything is in everything as far as ‘you’, ‘love’ and ‘god’ are concerned. But then again what do I know… I’m the guy who was smirkingly told to please behave properly in church even though I’m atheist.
So I kept that request in mind and promptly started wondering about manners in church. They have these benches and for some reason there’s a little step at the back of the bench in front of you. As people aren’t catholic here and it’s too small for kneeling down on anyway, I wondered what this is for. My intuitive idea was that I could put my feet on it – which was quite comfortable. And judging from what I saw around me everybody else thought (or non-consciously acted) along the same lines. But then I started wondering whether sitting comfortably in church and putting my feet on their nice little steps was in line with me being on my best behaviour….
After the ceremony and some more ambitious organ playing while we were on the way out we soon went over to the reception. At first we got some drinks and bruschetta to warm our appetites. I was a bit scared after that as I had fully expected my friends to come up with an excellent meal for us and those bruschetta just weren’t. I wouldn’t just say “I could have done better,” but rather “I have done significantly better than that.”
After the first bites and drinks some people had prepared postcards for everyone to fill out with their name and some little extra gift for the couple which we then fixed to helium filled balloons and let fly. I think this is some fun tradition – the postcards carry the couple’s address and whoever finds the card is asked to mail it to them, so they can claim their extra goodie. And it was nice to let them fly of course.
Then we went for dinner. Luckily it soon became clear that those bruschetta from the beginning must have been an accident or a new apprentice. When the main course came, all my grudges were forgotten as we were being served fantastically soft beef fillet. And – keeping in mind my Dr. Zoidberg genes – what could I consider to be even better than incredibly soft beef fillet? Right! The same with people running around and asking whether you want more of it.
I didn’t really know what to do when they first came as I wasn’t even close to finishing my first serving. And those new pieces were less cooked and nice and red in the middle. So I was torn between wanting not to look overly greedy and letting to opportunity of having more of the same (or even better) pass. My compromise was to ask whether they’d possible come around again. Which they did – more than once. Perfect!
Dessert was quite interesting as well. We got a mix of little bits of different things. One of them looked like Tiramisu but the cream was fresher and more sour and instead of the sponge fingers there was some kind of coconut mass. Not like Tiramisu at all, but quite a yummy and refreshing thing to end the meal with. Before having some of the local Apfelbrand (apple spirit) that is – they are growing apples in the region (and in the family) after all –, that is.
Of course there were a number of talks or presentations of childhood photographs in between. None of them was too bad and two of them were quite well done and entertaining. Although I still wonder why people using Windows computers aren’t able to (a) turn them on before hooking them up to a video projector (b) run their computer in a way that it doesn’t show a little speech bubble popped up at the bottom of the screen every single time the machine is used (c) choose a different desktop background and (d) get the damn machine to actually display things properly on the video projector without having to fiddle.
People really made an effort. In between the couple also got a wine cellar where everybody contributed a bottle with a custom made label. (I couldn’t resist playing with Zapfino for the occasion. All the sophistication of TextEdit at your service…)
Time just passes so quickly when you’re meeting even just a few people you haven’t seen for a while. And soon many hours had passed, loads of bad (think 1980s) music had been played and the sun was rising again. As everybody was staying within a few kilometres and was wasted at the time, there was cleverly a guy to drive people home as they left the party rather than having people do dangerous things, get lost or have to struggle with calling a cab, which is pretty much impossible at the weekend in the countryside.
After returning safely and sleeping too few hours we started the trip back, getting a lift from our friends this time. That was great and brought us home much quickly and comfortably than going by train. Even with the small coffee break we had in between (Yikes, that Rasthof at the Autobahn freaked me out. It actually looked quite newly renovated and wasn’t dirty or so. But it was full of old overweight people in strangely coloured clothes who ate Bratwurst and suchlikes.) After that I drove the rest of the way back to Göttingen. I am not an enthusiastic driver, but strangely felt least tired of all of us. Those new cars really are more comfortable than the older ones. When you’re going at 100km/h it feels like you’re going 60, when you’re going at 160, it feels like you’re going 100… that might be a bit dangerous.
sven, bring doch heute abend bitte ein paar von deinen leckeren bruschette mit, mmmm ….
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