The One Party You Don’t Want An Invite To: The German Work Christmas Party

Fun and games at the German Work Christmas Party.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The British work Christmas party typically involves two things; alcohol and sexual shenanigans between people who shouldn’t be having them. So I had high hopes of finally seeing some Germans shed their inhibitions and – dare I say it – lose control when I was invited to a German work Christmas party last year.

How wrong I was.

The first thing that should have told me this was that I was invited at all. For I am just the partner of someone else who works for this company. Partners, at a work Christmas party? These annoying specimens don’t even get a look in at the English work Christmas party. There are two reasons for this: One is that companies claim they can’t afford to invite partners of employees anymore, particularly after the credit crunch (which never existed in mega-rich Bavaria).  The second and real reason is that there’s no way Fred in accounts could finally get his dirty way with Jane from Human Resources if his wife was there, could he?

The second thing that screamed “this is going to be The Worst Christmas Party Ever” is that there were CHILDREN there. Honestly. Children at a work Christmas party. At that point I guessed there wasn’t going to be any cocaine or strippers either then. Oh God.

All work Christmas parties vary in England. I have been to ones in pubs, clubs, bars, the work canteen, you name it. But in all cases everyone gets rip-roaring drunk, women in slutty, ill-fitting dresses dance to bad music and there is plenty to gossip and laugh about the next day.

English women on their way to the work Christmas party.

When we arrived at the Worst Christmas Party Ever however, there was no music. A small group of people were stood awkwardly around a table in the boss’ showroom, which had been stylishly turned into a pretty winter wonderland. That’s right – no traffic light-style disco lights here.

Whoop whoop!

None of the women were in slutty dresses either. Instead they were wearing Jack Wolfskin t-shirts tucked neatly into khaki-style trousers. And there was to be no dancing around handbags tonight – for these lot had brought their rucksacks. We were going on a hike afterwards or something? I manually adjusted the hem on my little dress by yanking it down a bit, and wished I had at least put a vest top on under the laciness of my dress and over my bra. Then I prayed there would be no hike.

German women on their way to the work Christmas party

The Worst Christmas Party Ever consisted of the boss, Ludwig, a successful young family man with long floppy hair and one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen. Then there was his wife along with their two young children who clearly didn’t want to be there either. Then there was Gert, my partner’s colleague and his wife, both aged in their fifties. Gert is from the former communist East Germany, so you can forgive him for being a bit weird. Then there was the apprentice, Stefan, who stank of B.O. and had the social skills of an ape. Then there was the straight-laced secretary, Hilda, who had brought her nine-year-old daughter along. This was going to be a long night.

Sensing this too, the boss’ children suddenly started acting ill and their mother had to leave and take them home. The rest of us sat down to eat a beautiful meal prepared perfectly by some local caterers, albeit in the quietest and most awkward surroundings ever. It didn’t help that my German at this stage was at the same level of the average German two-year-old’s, which made it very hard to join in any conversation that did dare to take place. No one seemed to speak English because, well, this is rural Bavaria where people speak a funny form of German. As many expats will know, you often feel like a deaf mute in these situations.

One thing that did shatter the awkward silence however was the secretary’s daughter sat next to me. She ate and ate as though she had never seen food before. She pigged out so much that her podgy little stomach couldn’t handle anymore, and she started – wait for it – farting. As she was sat next to me though no one could really tell who had let out the farts, despite my obvious ‘you just farted!’ glances I threw hastily in her direction. She just sat there seemingly oblivious to her torrential gas situation. The little bitch.

After the most excruciatingly long few hours of my life, the Worst Christmas Party Ever was finally over. No one got that drunk, no one fell over, no one made a fool of themselves to YMCA on the dance floor, and on one shagged someone they shouldn’t have. But in typical German style the food and hospitality was amazing and no one lost their dignity, jobs, or knickers down some cold alleyway somewhere on the way home. Boring!

Unfortunately the following day everyone who had been at the Worst Christmas Party Ever came down with a vomiting virus so severe we were all chucking our guts up for two days. The little girls who had been taken home ill by their mum got it from school first, then their mother must have picked it up from them before passing it on to all of us by handling our cutlery before we ate.

And that’s why kids really shouldn’t be at Christmas parties. One because they are farty and annoying, and two because they carry disease-ridden germs most of the time.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. It was very nice of the boss to invite us and feed us all with such lovely food. But I really hope we don’t get an invite again this year.

Advertisements

How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days: Drag Him Around All of King Ludwig’s Castles.

After almost two years in Bavaria, I can finally say that I have been to all three of King Ludwig’s ridiculously over-the-top castles.

And so can my boyfriend, who pretended to be as impressed as I was as he was marched around them all.

When I first arrived in this barmy little part of Germany I couldn’t help but notice that the name and face of “Konig Ludwig” was everywhere. Here he is:

English: photograph of King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Dashing chap. Photo credit: Wikipedia

From beer bottles to beer mats, from pub signs, to pub lanterns, and from bread bags, to fridge magnets; the late Bavarian King is on all of them. There’s even a signposted walk that goes through our town called the King Ludwig Way. He is clearly Bavaria’s most famous person, besides that Pope who did a runner.

Hundreds of thousands of people a year come to this part of Germany to visit Ludwig’s castles, and it’s not hard to see why. The thought, craftsmanship, attention to detail and money Ludwig II ploughed into these beautiful palaces is beyond belief. And kind of depressing when you think that most of our stuff comes from Ikea.

Sadly Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances at aged 40 in 1886 and barely spent much time in his eccentric creations or live to build more he had planned.

The King is said to have had a very sheltered childhood with little contact with the real world. This led to him being ill-prepared when he became King of Bavaria aged just 18. He developed a fascination with the operatic composer Richard Wagner, and was at odds with his catholic beliefs and supposed homosexuality. He was shy, felt misunderstood, and built his dream castles as a way to escape the pressures of his life.

After whittling away most of the royal family’s fortunes on his castles, Ludwig was declared “insane” by doctors who had never examined him in person. He was banished to Berg Castle on the Starnberg Lake. It had once been one of his favourite residences but was practically turned into a prison after his arrest.

The following day Ludwig and his doctor were found dead, floating in the lake after going for a walk. It is not known whether they were murdered, if they died accidentally, or if Ludwig killed the doctor then committed suicide.

I have developed a bit of a fascination with Ludwig myself, and have been captivated by his remarkable and tragic story. As a result I have not only visited his palaces, but also his summer holiday home, the spot where he died and also his tomb (morbid I know). I saved my German guy from the tomb visit, but the rest he has most definitely seen. “I would never have bothered if I hadn’t met you,” he added cheerfully.

The castles now belong to the Bavarian State, although some of the entry fees still go to Bavarian royalty.

Here’s my insider guide to the castles and other locations associated with the ‘mad fairy tale’ king.

Neuschwantein - scaffolding hidden

Neuschwantein – scaffolding hidden

Neuschwanstein: No I can’t pronounce it either. Sounds like “Noishvanstine”.

If you’ve ever wondered where the hell everyone in Bavaria is, they are here at Neuschwanstein. Germany’s most popular tourist attraction heaves with people from all over the world even on a quiet day, but even at its busiest, it’s well worth a visit. The palace sits in a gorgeous setting in the mountains and is believed to have been the inspiration behind Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Construction began on Ludwig’s dream medieval palace near Fuessen in 1869. He dedicated it to Richard Wagner and many of the artworks inside depict scenes from his operas. Sadly the castle wasn’t finished before Ludwig died, and he only spent around 170 days in it.

My favourite bits inside were the King’s wood-panelled bedroom and his bathroom, where his toilet is actually disguised as a very regal-looking chair. The water from the taps here came direct from a nearby spa (as you do). The palace also features an artificial grotto and an amazing kitchen beautifully advanced for its time. Ludwig loved technology, and he also had one of Germany’s first telephones here. Sadly you can’t take pictures inside any of the castles.

The palace is about a 40-minute uphill walk from the town of Hohenschwangau. (There are horse-drawn carriages for those unable to walk and lazy people). You need to buy tickets from the ticket centre in the town for a 30-minute tour of the palace.  As these get booked up you may have to wait a few hours for your tour, so leave plenty of time. In the meantime you can also visit 12th century Schloss Hohenschwangau, which was renovated by Ludwig’s father Max. There are lovely views from here of the green hills and stunning alpine lake below.

The views from outside Neuschwanstein of the Bavarian countryside below is also great, plus you can take a walk along Mary’s Bridge for that all-important photo of the castle nestled in the mountains. Unfortunately it was really foggy when we went so we couldn’t see said castle. The castle was also undergoing renovations on one day we visited (I’ve been twice) and it was covered in scaffolding in parts. Hardly the fairy tale we were expecting, but still.

You can catch a train to Fuessen from Munich and catch a bus to the castle. For latest ticket prices and opening times, please see the official website here.

Charming Linderhof

Charming Linderhof

Linderhof: My personal favourite.

Much less touristy than both of the other castles, stunning Linderhof in Ettal is the one I would most recommend seeing if you only can do one and you’re blessed with decent weather.  Although this palace is smaller than the others, it is set in a stunning green valley with wonderful gardens, forests and a few out-buildings including a Moorish Kiosk. This was Ludwig’s private retreat, where he hardly had visitors, and it just feels much more personal than the grander palaces of Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee but nonetheless extravagant.

You could easily spend a day here exploring the gardens and surrounding land (only open in summer). But if you’re pushed for time you could see Linderhof and Neuschwanstein in the same day, as they are about an hour’s drive from one another and looped together on tours. Again Linderhof, inspired by Versailles, can only be seen by joining a tour of the inside but you can wander the grounds in your own time.

If taking public transport you can catch a train to Oberammergau and then a bus.  See the official site here for more information.

Herrenchiemsee at the back

Herrenchiemsee at the back

Herrenchiemsee: The one Ludwig only spent 10 days in.

Built on an island on the stunning Chiemsee with the Alps in the distance, this palace was also modelled on Versailles and dedicated to King Louis XIV of France. Ludwig went to great lengths to ensure that this palace was similar or even better than the one in France. The most famous room is the Hall of Mirrors, which also features more then 2, 000 candles. The palace also boasts a 60,000 litre capacity bath and one of the world’s finest porcelain collections.

What’s more surprising than the extravagance of this place is the fact that Ludwig only spent 10 days here and even then it wasn’t complete as his money ran out (this palace cost more than Linderhof and Neuschwanstein combined). He never intended to really use it for anything either. It was, as the knowledgeable guide said, just a ‘time capsule’ for him to escape his everyday life. There is also a great museum on site telling you all about Ludwig’s life and a self-service restaurant with a terrace on the palace’s forecourt. Nice touch.

To get to the palace you need to catch a boat to the Herreninsel from one of the departure points on the Chiemsee. We caught the short boat trip from Prien, about an hour’s drive from Munich and on the Munich-Salzburg train line. It is then a 15-20 minute walk through countryside and woodland to the palace (horse-drawn carriages also available). Again the palace can only be seen by joining a tour, lasting around 30-minutes.

For information, visit the official site here.

Ludwig’s Island Retreat: The Casino, on Rose Island, Starnberg Lake.

This is nothing like a casino at all, so gamblers don’t come disappointed. Instead the Roseninsel is a romantic little island with a very sweet-smelling rose garden and villa, where Ludwig used to hang out with his friends. You can catch a tiny boat to the island from the small town of Feldafing on the Starnberg lake, then spend a couple of hours wandering through the gardens and touring the inside of the summer house for a few Euros. Starnberg is about a 15-minute drive from Munich, with trains stopping at Feldafing from Munich on the S6 line.

We attempted to tour the house with our 18-month-old son in tow. Ever tried doing a historical tour with a loud little man and a group of unimpressed Germans? Big mistake. I dropped out, leaving my boyfriend to go it alone while I entertained our little chap in the garden. “Take some pictures” I instructed. This is one that came back.

Fortunately he did take some more, revealing the intricate and sometimes simple interior.

Although no where near as grand as the castles, the villa was built without a kitchen (that was situated in a building to the side of the villa instead) so the cooking fumes did not overcome the smell of the roses from the garden. Tall trees were also planted around the garden to stop the rose smell from escaping. The smell is amazing and I would recommend visiting in summer when the flowers are in bloom.

It was a lovely afternoon out, and one that can be combined with a trip to….

The spot where Ludwig Died: Berg, Starnberg Lake.

Marked by a simple cross erected by his mother, this is where Ludwig was found dead. Although Berg Castle is closed, you can wander through the woodland leading to the cross. There is also a pretty neo-Romanesque memorial chapel built in honour of Ludwig. Berg is about an hour’s walk from the town of Starnberg (one of Germany’s richest areas. Look out for women dressed as Cruella De Vil).

For details on the chapel, call +49 (0)8151 5276. For details on catching the boat to the Rose Island, call +49 (0)171 722 2266.

Ludwig’s final resting place. The crypt of Michael’s Church, central Munich.

Drawn in to the Renaissance church from the busy shopping street of Kaufingerstrasse, I discovered this was actually where poor Ludwig was finally laid to rest – in a rather creepy crypt besieged by visitors and worshippers (entrance 2 Euros). The crypt is full of tombs of late Bavarian Royals, but there’s no second guessing who the largest and most decorated one that sits behind iron gates belongs to.

King Ludwig's tomb

King Ludwig’s tomb

It’s also ironic that the king’s tomb is in Munich because he grew to hate the city’s residents for their opposition to his close friend Richard Wagner.

It seems the troubled King, who in the end just wanted to cut himself off from the world bestowed upon him, will never truly be left to rest in peace.

Awards and shiz.

Me AKA Auds

Collecting one of my awards. Thanks Wikipedia.

There I was enjoying a nice cup of tea as I put away my tweeds following that morning’s hunt when up popped a message: “Brit has won an award”.

In fact, it isn’t just one award, but three. People must like reading about Germans a lot more than I thought.

I only started blogging about life as a Brit in Bavaria 10 months ago, as the harsh German winter plus my first stint as a stay-at-home mum threatened to override all of my brain cells and make me spontaneously combust.

Waaaaaaaa!

Since then I have connected with many other bloggers, travellers, expats and wonderful Bavarians whose support is what makes the effort to blog worthwhile. A big thanks to them all!

The awards I have received are hardly the Oscars of the blogging world. In fact, they have been given to me by other bloggers who I paid a neat sum to say they like me. I in turn have to nominate other bloggers who I feel deserve the awards too (thanks for the cash my dears) and they also pass them on. Some may see these awards as an annoying chain, like those letters you used to get at school in the eighties.  But I like to look at them as one big happy cyber conga that just keeps on growing.

Some may choose not to accept the award and the rules that come with doing so. And that’s fine.  But on the plus point the recognition is about awarding up-and-coming blogs and increasing the number of links to them. Plus I thought I better get my arse into gear and nominate after reading how those who have refused to accept these ‘chains’ have seen their blogs die slow horrible deaths.

Germerican Denglish nominated me for three accolades – The Liebster Award, The Sunshine Award AND the Versatile Blogger Award. WOW. Germerican Denglish is all about an American dad, a German mum and their young son ‘who most definitely speaks Denglish.’ As the mother of a bilingual young one, I feel their pride and pain. Thank you for taking the time to nominate me, not once, but three times!

Meanwhile, Deanna of From Casinos to Castles also thought me worthy of the Versatile Blogger Award. A big thank you to her too! Deanna is a Vegas girl who now lives in Germany with her German husband and their child. My partner is German too (violins please) and we have sons around the same age, so I can really relate to her blog about expat life as a mum (DON’T DO IT).

Definitely give both of those a read if you have a moment.

The rules for receiving these awards include posting random facts about myself and answering a set of questions. To spare you from a long post with too much information about me you can read my answers for each award on this page instead.

So, with no further ado, here are the blogs I would like to pass these awards on to. The recipients will either love me or hate me for it. The first I hope. If not, then just take it as a way of me saying “Thanks for taking the time to create a great blog.” As I said, don’t feel that you have to acknowledge the award. But remember your blog WILL DIE if you don’t.

In line with the rules these are all rising star blogs with less than 1,000 followers. See this page for details on how to pass them on and annoy lots of other bloggers. In all honesty I don’t read too many blogs due to time constraints (a toddler, a home, part-time work, this blog, and a Bavarian to pick beer bottles up after). But the ones I’ve listed here are the ones I look forward to reading when I see they have posted something new. They mainly make me laugh and/or inspire me to travel.

So spread the BLOVE.

Word.

The Liebster Award: (Liebster is German for dearest, sweetheart, kindest, nicest. Yes this is slightly embarrassing. Germans use this word sparingly. Well, no one’s ever said it to me. )

Homesick and Heatstruck For an entertaining, touching, and laugh-out-loud blog on life in the Middle East.

Tricia A Mitchell For a great,  insightful travel blog that really makes you feel as if you are there on the journey with her.

James and Pierre For cycling the west coast of the USA for charity and creating a superb blog to match their efforts.

hayleylyla For being so wonderfully Liebster-like and bringing a touch of glamour into my cold, Bavarian, fashion-starved world.

Germerican Denglish Right back at ya! For a funny and sweet blog about life here in Germany.

The Sunshine Award: (For those who have brought sunshine into my life. I might be sick now.)

Living in the Langhe Funny blog from a fellow Essex lad living in Italy (although he doesn’t admit he is from Essex in his ‘about’ page).

Had a Few Beers For being really crude. That kind of humour is really missing here in Germany.

Observing Hermann For keeping me up to date with Germany’s current affairs in a deadpan style.

Englishman in Italy For being so downright hilarious (English).

Good Day to Live Written by a Bavarian who shows that life enriched with travel doesn’t have to be rich.

From Casinos to Castles For being brave enough to share her struggles as an expat mum in a humorous way.

Versatile Blogger Award: (As it says on the tin.)

Well I have now run out of blogs to nominate. I clearly need to get reading more before I die a slow horrible death for breaking this chain. If you don’t hear from me for a while, you know what happened.

So I Won’t be Borrowing the Car in Germany Again Anytime Soon.

Honey I crashed the car.

This is the kind of thing you really hope won’t happen when you move abroad and attempt to drive on the other side of the road. Particularly in Germany, where on some roads there is no speed limit, and you literally feel like you’re dicing with death when all you really want to do is pop to the supermarket.

I was coming home two weeks ago from a nearby town when I had a head-on smash on a major road with a woman probably doing 100kmph (just a leisurely drive by German standards).  The force of the crash shunted our car backwards and into another two vehicles, leaving a somewhat chaotic trail of destruction.

I don’t remember the crash as I didn’t even see the other car coming. The last I remember I was preparing to turn left across the road and into another at a pretty hazardous junction (where I have heard accidents are pretty common). There had already been a car accident on the road I was about to turn down. Nothing serious, just a shunt up the backside, as the locals seem to love driving right up people’s backsides at high speed here, as much as us Brits like to moan about the weather.

I often wonder, why the hell are people in such a rush on the roads here? Particularly in Bavaria, where there really is nothing worth rushing too? It’s the first thing I noticed when I moved here. How crazy overly sensible, law-abiding Germans become once they get behind a wheel.  And that’s really saying something considering I lived in Malta for four years.  Where is everyone so keen to get too? Are there amazing parties  on every day near German autobahns  with free alcohol and sausages that us foreigners don’t know about?

From witness reports it sounds like our accident was actually my fault though, and that I turned across the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle that I somehow didn’t see.

One moment we were driving along without a care in the world, then, bam! The next thing I knew I woke up on the side of the road, with a load of strangers peering down at me, muttering sweet German. “Sie ist in shock!” one woman said.  I looked to the right, saw our smashed up car and another person sprawled out in the road, and I realised there had been a terrible accident.

We all got off extremely lightly considering. I believe the other driver broke both of her legs and is probably still in hospital. I broke three ribs and suffered a bruised lung and spent a week in hospital. My 15-month-old son was in the back and he was completely unharmed, by some kind of miracle. It makes me sick to think that things could have been a lot more serious and I really have been counting our lucky stars.

The poor little mite must have been so traumatised at the time, but mighty Max has been his completely normal, happy and boisterous self since. Which is a right bugger when you’ve got broken ribs. The car is a complete write- off, and we only had third party insurance, but the money means nothing when I feel totally lucky to still be here and to have my son. I just hope the other driver gets better soon.

In England there are speed cameras everywhere, particularly in Essex, the county where I’m from. Here in Bavaria you certainly don’t see as many.

About a week before the accident I was walking through our picture perfect Bavarian village, thinking of how safe it is. “The only danger here are the roads,” I thought to myself.

I think I’ll be sticking to the train for a while.