So I went to Bavaria this weekend…
…but not for Oktoberfest*.
I accompanied Svenja and Luzian (two of my roommates), along with another guy (Chris) from Trier, to visit my Vorzwischenmieterin in Northern Bavaria, “near” Nuremberg. Vorzwischenmieterin essentially means she was the person who was subletting my room in the apartment here before I came along. Now, I know Mark Twain had a thing or two to say about long German words (viz., that some were “so long that they have their own perspectives”, or that others are merely “alphabetical processions”), but there’s something to be said for being able to create a word that makes sense in German (even if I just made it up) that takes an entire sentence to explain in English. Anyways, it was her going-away party, as she will shortly be leaving Germany with her American husband to move to the United States. Though I didn’t know her, I jumped at the opportunity to go on an epic road trip across southern Germany to Bavaria.
We left Trier on Saturday afternoon and headed for Heidelberg, where we picked up another fellow who was also coming to say farewell. To get to Heidelberg we set out south from Trier through the Hunsrück region of Rhineland-Pfalz, briefly crossing into Saarland (buh) before hurrying back over into RP. The red sandstone cliffs of the Hunsrück and the Pfalz gradually gave way into the river-basin of the Rhine and Rhine-Hessen, then to the block grey-stone hills of Baden-Württemberg. The setting sun behind us lit our journey eastwards, throwing shades of pink across the sparsely clouded sky and making the greens and greys of the landscape all the more vivid as those grey cliffs merged into the rolling fields of Franken (Northern Bavaria).
(Topography alone does not mark regional difference, but architecture as well: in Rhineland-Pfalz buildings tend to be roofed in grey slate, while in northern Bavaria, as seen in the photo, red clay tile is more the norm.)
Often along the Autobahn you’ll see decrepit castles precariously set a-top hills, especially along the Rhine, or the Bergstraße in Hessen. At one point in Baden-Württemberg, as we hurtled up and around a hill, we came around a corner and found ourselves a-breast of a mostly ruined castle only a few hundred metres away on the next hill, across a small valley. Some castles have been refurbished as historical or cultural sites, while others remain largely empty as testament to a distant past. Occasionally you can buy a castle, often for a small token fee, but only if you agree to refurbish it and retrofit it as a residence (a matter of a few million Euro I think).
After all this poetic landscape business we stopped for dinner a gas station Burger King. The gentleman behind the counter then proceeded to tell us, in local dialect, just exactly what he thought about Dutch tourists. We put on our best middle-class smiles, nodded, and left as soon as we could.
Back on the road I found myself gazing out the window at small villages in Franken, the houses usually clustered around an onion-doomed church (as is the style in Bavaria I guess). I ask myself, is there perhaps a poor, lonely language assistant stationed there? Perhaps one of those (unfair) stereotypes of British language assistants, who request Bavaria because they want to party? Like Trudeau driving through Saskatchewan, I glimpse into their world and wonder, “What do they do here?”
At some point (all different, mind you) we realized that we weren’t actually going to Nuremberg, but 100km to the east, basically on the Czech border. For awhile we considered driving over the border, just to say we had, but sadly time constraints prevented us from doing so, the shame of it all.
The next day after the going-away party we all ate breakfast together, along with the other guests, in a more or less Bavarian style: Weißwurst (boiled white calf sausage) and Brez‘n (large oven-fresh bread pretzels). Some emotional goodbyes followed and we hit the road westwards towards Heidelberg.
Luzian dropped the rest of us off in Mainz (which is gorgeous at this time of year by the way!), as he had to head to his parents’ place. From Mainz we made our way home with the train, traveling with a Rhineland-Pfalz Ticket, which allowed us three to cheaply travel through-out the state on the regional trains (read: the Bummelbahn) via Koblenz to Trier. As wonderful a city as Trier is, at times like this you regret being stuck way out west on the Luxemburg border, 1.5 hours away from the next city. Na ja, I guess I’ve already lost my Canadian humbleness with space, as 1.5 hours is nothing back home, but here it’s the end of the world. Still, we arrived soon enough in Trier after a wearying 9 hour trek, 4 hours by car, and 5 by train, spending most of the time talking and telling jokes (English word-play jokes don’t translate well into German).
*Re: Oktoberfest – I had the option of going to Munich next week while Oktoberfest is still going on, but accommodation starts right now at 80 Euro a night for a hostel bed. No thanks.