6 January 2006

The Black Forest & New Year

We had met our friends P&M in 2004 when we were all holidaying on the same island in Greece. After meeting us at the train station, they took us through more snow than M had seen in her life.

Overnight, it snowed again and we woke to a brilliant blue sky with the landscape sporting a crisp new coating of snow. We wolfed down breakfast, as we were keen to get out into the Black Forest area for a bit of sight-seeing. It was -12°C, and the first time that M has ever gotten into a car where the moisture inside has frozen: the car seats were covered in white patches of frost, and the windows were iced on the inside, as well as outside!

We travelled through beautiful snow-covered everything, along roads that had been well-cleared of snow but were still a little icy due to the freezing conditions.

M experienced a surreal moment when, as we drove along, she decided that life couldn’t get better than this. Here we were, 4 friends: travelling in amazing scenery; laughing our heads off; singing out of tune; enjoying the ride and each other’s company – it was one of those defining moments that she will remember for the rest of her life – the feel-good feeling that comes when you wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else at that very moment. Your mind, heart and soul speak with one voice – it doesn’t get any better than that!

We visited castles, palaces, small towns – and walked until our toes felt as if they would break off from the cold. The temperature never rose above -6°C the whole day.

A highlight of the day was our last stop in the town of Kinzigtal. A small river ran through the middle of the town, and a few brave ducks were still swimming in the near-freezing water. We walked through the maze of old typical German-style houses which were built many centuries before. To our relief, we found a café that was open and serving hot drinks and cakes, and we were quick to take advantage of that!

It got dark around 4pm, so we bundled into the car and headed home to Herrenberg, where we stopped for dinner at a wonderful German restaurant in the basement of a house. The original house and basement were built in the 1400s, but the top of the house had been rebuilt a couple of times over the centuries due to fires. The food was delicious and washed down by a beautiful bottle of the local red wine. An interesting feature of the wine bottle was that it didn’t have a traditional cork – nor did it have a screwcap which is becoming more common. Instead, it had a Perspex stopper, and it is a great idea, as it looks classy and still allows for the bottle to be sealed – just in case all the wine is not drunk during the one sitting!

The next day – New Year’s Eve - J was eager to catch up on some business emails (work never stops even on vacation), so we left her at home and went into Herrenberg, where we visited the cathedral that dominates the skyline. We climbed the countless stairs to the top of the belltower, only to be thwarted by a locked door at the very top which meant that we couldn’t get out onto the viewing platform! At this stage, P&M realized that it was almost mid-day, and the bells would soon start to chime. There were a lot of them – and we were in deafening touching distance of them! So it was a mad dash down all the stairs. We were on the last flight when the bells started their 10min sequence – we were very relieved.

Heading home again after coffee in a café, we prepared for our big night out for New Year’s Eve. 2 more new friends joined us – S&U – and we headed out the door at about 7pm to walk to the train station to catch the train to the town of Tübingen, where we had tickets to a dinner dance at one of the local clubs.

First mistake – never trust a friend to read the train timetable! We found that we were 40mins early for the train, so we stamped our feet and tried not to get cold before the train arrived. We were entertained by some of the local youths setting off fireworks – so we were still in a good mood.

Upon arriving at Tübingen, we had some confusion as to where the venue was, but once we found it, all was ok. We headed up the stairs and had a delicious dinner. After dinner, it was back down to the dancefloor, where we all cut loose for a few songs. Unfortunately the DJs had NO IDEA about what to play – as soon as the dancefloor was crowded, they’d play some obscure song that no-one knew, and the floor would empty again!

About 5 mins to midnight, the place just emptied out, as people were making their way outside to stand in the snow. This had M puzzled – she had no idea what was going on – why were people leaving the party before midnight?

It all became clear. On the stroke of midnight, from the surrounding neighbourhood and all over Germany, a barrage of skyrockets was launched into the sky, and the sounds of bangers and crackers reverberated through the air for the next 40 mins. It was like a warzone – there were even crackers that sounded like the ack-ack of machine guns. It was a surreal experience – being in Germany and surrounded by buildings that you see in war movies, and hearing the ack-ack of machine gun fire!

After the fireworks, we decided to go home as the party was not great.

Mistake #2: don’t try getting cabs in the hours after midnight at New Year. We entertained ourselves by scooping snow off the parked cars, making snowballs and lobbing them at street signs to pass the time. This quickly deteriorated into a very lopsided snowball fight, where the 5 Germans took on the 1 Kiwi! Luckily, 2 of the Germans took M’s side, and what followed was a battle royale! We were having a ball – and if anyone had seen us, they would have smiled at the sight of 6 30-40 something women battling it out in a Tübingen sidestreet!

Taxis were finally acquired and we headed home to play charades until 4:30am.

We woke at mid-day, showered and packed – and we were taken to the train station to catch the train to Munich, and then the plane back to Dubai.

Our Christmas and New Year vacation was over, and we have a ton of memories and good times to laugh about and reminisce over. Plus the images too, of course!


moryarti said...

I am very impressed and extremely jealous in the same time.. :)

And from the way you describe the place you've been to, you make me wanna to pack my bags and head straight to it.

one problem though, you describe every place in such a tempting way, you make me wanna visit each and everyone of them. Having said that, could you PLEASE make a list of your most preferred places to visit? because i surely visit all of them :) :)

nzm said...

Hey Moryarti

Do you know how hard that would be for me to list my favourites? :-)

I haven't really seen that much of the world yet - just visited some isolated patches here and there.

New Zealand is DEFINITELY a place that everyone should see, and New York is a must-do experience - just to say that you've done it. Tokyo for the same reason - it's a culture shock to go there, but a very cool city.

I loved Whistler in Canada (1999 for Christmas), and the Maldives is awesome if you like diving - but very expensive.

Oman has been a recent favourite - we love going there.

I haven't done much of Europe at all, so far - just some of Germany and a couple of Greek Islands.

So I guess that my list of favourite places will keep growing as I experience new countries!

Hopefully, we're going to Jordan for business at the end of Feb, so will take in a few days of R&R to see a bit of the country - we hear that it's beautiful.

And I'd love to visit Shanghai and China.

The things that stick most in my mind are not necessarily always the places, but the people that I travel with, or meet along the way. They can make or break a good vacation! Luckily, most of my experiences have been blessed with good company and fun times!