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.

Funny Things I’ve Heard Germans Say

One of the best bits of mixing with foreigners is their hilarious grasp of the English language.

And while I commend anyone for learning and having the guts to speak in another language, it’s still really funny when they mess up.

Here are the top ten clangers/laugh out loud things I’ve heard during my time in Germany.

  • “My B.A. smells.” I think the German guy in question meant B.O.
  • “I have pins and nails.” That would be pins and needles then.
  • “Yummy. Lamp!” It’s lamb actually. And on that note, “vegetables” is not pronounced  “veg-e-tables” like the piece of furniture.
  •  A German doctor: “Would you like the anti-baby pill?” A pill that stops you from getting pregnant and repels all other babies? Brilliant!  Ja bitte!
  • Same German doctor, about to carry out a vaginal examination: “And now let’s check the situation in your vagina.” And upon finishing: “The situation is good!”
  •  A woman about to have some stitches in her arm taken out: “I’m going to have my ropes removed.”
  • A typically direct German guy – trying not to be direct – to my American friend: “I don’t know how to say this nicely but I really want to f*** you.”
  •  My mother-in-law when I asked where her son was: “He is outside having a sh**.” She meant smoke.
  • My German midwife, while I was giving birth: “Press! Press!”
  • An inquisitive German: “What’s a muff?”

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.

Top Twelve Reasons I Love Living in Germany

Like many people who live abroad, I often think about moving back home. But then I remind myself what it is I like about living in Germany, and life isn’t so bad after all. Every wobbly expat should keep one of these lists to get them through the ‘sod it, I’m out of here!’ times. Here are twelve great things about living in Bavaria.

The EidseeClean living: The air that we breathe feels so clean in Bavaria some nights I don’t even feel the need to wash my face. Okay, so I’m a lazy cow at times, but still. The air is REALLY clean here! I can see the difference in my skin when I go back to England. The tap water doesn’t taste of chemicals either. In fact, the tap water in Munich comes direct from the mountains.  No need for mineral water here. If you fancy a detox, come to Bavaria!

Bavarian health food/medicineCheap beer: So maybe a detox isn’t such a great idea after all. Beer is very cheap in Bavaria, and there are over 4,000 brands to choose from.  My Bavarian neighbour starts drinking beer at about 10am. He also looks about 60 when he’s probably only 30, but at least he’s happy. Munich’s Oktoberfest is a great way to pay homage to Bavarian beer. Don’t miss it.

Amazing nature: Germany feels like one massive forest. This is where Forest Not sunbathing weather thenBoy claimed to have been brought up, remember? There are probably another thousand ‘Forest Boys’ living in Germany that no one knows about. The nature here is really beautiful, with lots of rolling green hills (the greenest green I’ve ever seen right now after all the snow and rain we’ve had), snow-capped mountains and emerald lakes.  Deer and storks are just some of the wildlife I see when I walk near our home.  Amazing.

Smack bang in the middle of Europe: France, Italy, Austria, Eastern Europe, or down to Slovenia and Croatia…all can be reached on the same day by car from Bavaria.  If you live here, you literally have the whole of Europe at your feet. This is great news for a travel ho like me. The Germans think nothing of popping down to Italy for a short break. Or driving to Austria to stay in a fancy hotel for the night. Bloody brilliant, like

Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporati...

Even women work in Bavaria! (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

No recession doom and gloom: Bavarians don’t even know the meaning of the word ‘recession’. Unlike when I go home to England, the crippling financial crisis has barely caused a ripple here. Germany has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU. Our local newspaper is full of job advertisements each week. Public services are not suffering from huge cutbacks. People feel secure, even if they are not earning very much. It will be interesting to see if that continues.

Mountain stops to admire its reflection in lakeThe mountains: Not only do they look great, the Bavarian Alps provide plenty of opportunities for a day-trip or more. In the winter months there is of course, skiing and snowboarding, plus sledging tracks, climbing and lots of other things mentalists do on ice. In the summer you can hike on them, or run around in a dress pretending to be Maria from the Sound of Music. Ace.

English: photograph of King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Great Mo! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

King Ludwig: This is the fairy-tale guy who brought us Germany’s most popular tourist attraction, the Neuschwanstein Castle. The late king also called a number of other majestic Bavarian palaces home, all of which are remarkable to visit. But Ludwig was more than just king of the castles. He was possibly the most interesting German who ever lived. Secretive, eccentric and mad (according to some), he was sadly and mysteriously  found dead in 1886 after being declared ‘unfit to rule’. I’m kind of fascinated by him.

Cat Burglar

Photo credit: Feral Indeed!

Safe as houses: Bavaria has the lowest crime rate in Germany. The police must be really bored here. Unlike where I’m from in England, the local newspaper isn’t full of stories concerning burglaries, muggings and rapes. Which is nice! It’s so safe here that when I couldn’t find our front door key recently, I propped the door open with a mat and went out for the afternoon with no worries at all.  Here’s what a Bavarian burglar would look like if they existed:

Bavarian fashionistasFriendly people: Because they are drunk on beer most of the time, Bavarians are extremely friendly and hospitable people (except in Nuremberg). Despite being a dirty foreigner with terrible German language skills, I have been welcomed into our tiny community with open arms. Unlike when I lived in London, I know all of my neighbours, and I could count on them if I ever set the flat on fire etc.  When our son was born, three of them brought presents even though we didn’t know them that well at the time. Wunderbar!

The bread: German bread is so dense you could knock someone out with a loaf on the first wallop. And there are so many different types of bread here you never know what you’re going to get on a visit to the bakery ( of which there are two per every one person in Bavaria). We must have about 20 different types of breads at our local bakery, from round loaves made with potatoes (yes, potatoes!) to long sticks made with seeds and spelt. Delish.

Nice traditional towns: Colourful, historic, and with cute, traditional shops. This is what a typical high street in Bavaria looks like. In England most of our high streets have faced ruin thanks to the likes of huge supermarkets like Tesco and online shops. Not in Bavaria.  Here you can still find toy shops selling real wooden toys nestled among butchers, bakers, and clothing boutiques. Twee.

Good education / health systems: You know you’re becoming old and boring when ‘good schools and hospitals’ become an essential reason for living somewhere above ‘hot men and free condoms’. But it’s re-assuring to know that if the worst was to happen here in Bavaria and we ended up in hospital, we are probably less likely to die, catch gangrene or contract MRSA than if we were in an English one. The education system in Bavaria is highly rated too, even though school kids finish their day well by 1.30pm. With those hours, no wonder every German I meet is studying to be a teacher.

The Great Bavarian Get-Away: Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Lago Maggiore

Lago Maggiore

Another reason why we should all be jealous of Bavarians besides their stinking riches is that they can drive to Italy in just a few hours. Northern Italy is therefore a very popular holiday destination for the Bavarians, with no hassle of catching flights, boats, or trains required. Just jump in your car and go!

The Great Italian Lakes are a top spot, with many Germans popping down to wonderful places such as Lake Garda for some rest and relaxation. Yep that’s right. While us Brits have the windswept Isle of Wight, the Germans have Lake Garda. No contest there then really.

British seaside

The Great British holiday

Beach Fun

vs the German one. Photo credit: Ozgurmulazimoglu

On the day we left Bavaria just a few weeks ago it was 6C and raining so heavily half of Germany flooded. When we arrived in Italy four hours later it was sunny and 22C. It’s consoling to know after such a long harsh winter in Germany that warmth and sunshine is just a drive away.

The journey there took us to the very south of Germany, then through Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, then over the border into Italy. Five countries in just a few hours! With a one-year-old! Needless to say Max wasn’t in the best mood after that trip.

Lake Maggiore is not one of the better known lakes, and that’s why we decided to head there. Italy’s second largest lake straddles the border of Switzerland and Italy, and is just an hour’s train journey from Milan. Its beauty is immense, with its clear waters framed perfectly by the mountains, rich green peaks, and picturesque rustic towns, some hundreds of years old. Historic villas, palaces, botanic gardens, and crumbling churches add to its allure. The colours and scenery are among the best I have ever seen. I truly fell in love with it.

We were surprised to find that somewhere so close to the Swiss border was still so enthusiastically Italian, with passionate people with the fiercest hand gestures in the world, lots of designer handbags, a plethora of pizza and pasta, and the smell of rich coffee filling the air. For someone who loves nature and has forever longed to be in Italy, this was my dream world!

I could have spent every day of our week’s break sitting in one of the many cafes watching the Italians go by. ‘Ciao!’ ‘Prego!’ and ‘Bella!’ seem to be the only words you really need to learn in Italy. The Italians all seemed to love our son Max too. Here is a little old lady in a bakery doing a dance for him, and blowing him kisses. Italians are the opposite of Germans – crazy! I loved them.

There were so many little towns and sights to see around the huge lake, we sadly couldn’t do it all. These were our favourite bits:

Villa Taranto: A spectacular 16 hectare botanical garden that really isn’t as boring as it sounds. The plants and trees here are from all over the world, with seeds collected by a Scottish captain on his travels. Neil McEacharn created the garden on a whim after buying the villa in the 1930s. He left it to the Italian Government when he died aged 80 in 1964 to carry on his work. What a great travel legacy to leave behind.

Stresa: Beautiful town where old-school Italian glamour meets relaxed, lakeside charm. The magnificent hotels overlooking the lake here have welcomed kings, princes and the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to put on a nice dress and heels and sip pink champagne. Unless you’re a ‘real’ bloke.

The Islands: You can catch a boat to the islands on the lake. We went to Isola Bella, and toured its remarkably opulent palace and wonderful gardens. We also visited Isola Pescatori, an island popular with fishermen and lots of German tourists in socks and sandals.

Lake Orta isn’t too far away either. We found it to be a mini Lago Maggiore, but much quieter and less touristy.

I am already planning my next trip to Bella Italia – the country, not the awful chain restaurant. Until then, Tutti Frutti!

Regensburg: Bavaria’s Coolest City?

I love Regensburg.  For a city that boasts some of the best-preserved medieval architecture in Europe, Regensburg is young, vibrant, fun, and cool. The University City is also stunningly beautiful and full of really really interesting places to devour food. The world’s oldest sausage kitchen? It’s in Regensburg! Germany’s oldest chocolate shop? Yay, in Regensburg! One of the oldest hospital breweries in Bavaria? Yep, Regensburg. (Why would a hospital need a brewery? Contrary to popular belief Bavarians, beer only cures confidence issues).

But back to Regensburg. It’s easy to explore the German city’s main attractions, colourful squares and cosy alleys in a day. It’s also just 90 minutes on a train from Munich, and well worth the trip.  (It’s been declared a World Heritage Site, don’t you know.)

Regensburg. What an alley!

We arrived by car from our little part of Bavaria and spent a full day soaking up the best of Regensburg. The first thing that struck me about this city is how similar it is to Prague. From their narrow winding backstreets, to their huge gothic cathedrals, and their old bridges over the rivers, the two medieval cities are somewhat in sync. While it’s not as large as the Czech city, Regensburg crams in over 700 spots for eating and drinking – minus Prague’s huge crowds and drunken stag parties. Hooray!

It also has lots of cool shops, a buzzing street market, and a relaxed, laid-back vibe. Me loves.

The temperature was a whole 1C on the day we decided to visit. But the sun was beaming down on the cute, cobbled streets, and it seemed everyone was out visiting the market, drinking in cafes, or simply wandering around like us.

Regensburg street scene

Regensburg is very different to where we live in Bavaria. We live in a small village where people generally have one eye and women get beaten with a stick every time they leave the kitchen. Ok, so it’s not that bad, but you get the picture. I love it here really, but we all need a change from time to time. A day in Regensburg was just the very fresh and fricken cold blast of air that was needed. Sometimes you only need to take a little trip up the road to enjoy a break from the norm.

Don’t miss:

  • Lunch at the Historische Wurstkuche, the world’s oldest sausage kitchen. While these little beauts look a bit small, what they lack in size they definitely make up for in va-va-voom flavour. The restaurant makes its own sweet mustard too and it goes really well with the pencil sausages. The Wurstkuche is situated right on the banks of the Danube River near the Stone Bridge, but it also has an inside area for those cold German days. How lovely! Unless you’re a veggie, which I was when I first came to Bavaria. Kind of given it up now.

Sausages

  • Having a sweet at Germany’s oldest chocolatiers, Prinzess Cafe. Praline heaven. 

DSC_0457

  • A stroll across the Stone Bridge, which was built between 1135 and 1146. Great spot to enjoy views over Regensburg.

Stone Bridge

  • A beer at Spitalgarten, one of the oldest hospital breweries in Bavaria. Sit outside in the biergarten under the trees, right on the river. 

Spitalgarten

  • The Dom, Regensburg’s awesome Cathedral. Now I don’t usually go all gooey for churches and all things holy, but this place has to be seen. It’s huge. It has magnificent stained glass windows. And it feels very eerie inside.

The Dom

Do you live somewhere with a completely contrasting area just up the road? Or do you have any experiences of Regensburg to share? Make my day and leave a comment! And here are some more pictures of Regensburg.

The German in England

After enduring the German in-laws almost every weekend for months, it was time for my German other-half to stomach his British ones on a visit to England. Payback time! Yeah! To make it worse for Markus, where I come from in England is the complete opposite of where he grew up in Bavaria. 
He is from a large rural village populated by clean-living, middle-class folk, situated on a beautiful lake with the Bavarian Alps as its backdrop.

I grew up near Southend-on-Sea in Essex, a large working-class town situated on the murky Thames Estuary, with the industrial works in Kent as its backdrop.

February at Southend Sea front

Photo credit: garyt70

As we neared Southend on Markus’ first visit, I explained that it was a bit of a “sh**hole.” “That is such a strong word!” he replied. “How can somewhere be a sh**hole? That is like…..a hole……full of sh**!” One thing I love about having a relationship with a German is that they take every word you say so literally. Their language is extremely descriptive, which probably doesn’t help matters. (For example, gloves in German translates as hand shoes. Their word for bra translates as bosom holder. I think you get the picture).

I usually stay at my nan’s house when I visit England, as she is getting older, has a nice big house, and a fridge full of food. By Essex standards her abode is very posh. But by Bavarian standards it is a pokey old chaotic hovel full of lots of weird objects called ornaments. A startled horse rearing up on its back legs? Yes she has one of those – in green. A dog sadly staring out into the distance wondering what’s for tea tonight? Yes she has one of those too, in fine cream china. A tea pot in the shape of a man doing the splits? Yes of course! As Markus said on arrival: “It’s like a museum.”

Now we loved staying there and I love my nan’s house. But the German isn’t used to English houses, which usually come complete with – every German’s nightmare – CARPET. “We gave it up years ago in Germany!” Markus quipped. “It’s unhygienic.” And there was worse to come for my poor little German. CENTRAL HEATING. Germans are obsessed with fresh air. Even if it’s -10C outside the windows are open most of the day to ‘change the air’. Despite the cold and the lack of carpet, I have never found the heating on in a German house. Sod that. I’d rather be warm and confused. In addition to the heating on full blast and all of the windows closed, the fire in the lounge also comes on at my nan’s if the temperature outside dips below 20C. Markus almost died.

One morning,  the warmth, lack of fresh air and good old English dust clearly got to the German. I came downstairs to find the front door open, the back door open and all of the windows open. I could smell fresh air! Had my nan been kidnapped? She was nowhere to be seen! I eventually found Markus. He was frantically hoovering the lounge, like a teenager on speed.  “What have you done with my nan?” I  shouted, with visions of her being tied up and gagged in a corner somewhere. Turns out she had gone for a walk, and Markus had taken the opportunity to Germanise her home as much as he could. “The cleaner comes tomorrow, so there’s not much point,” I said.  “Yes!” he replied, all wild-eyed, with sweat dripping down his brow. “And I will tell her where to clean!”

Over the next week I proudly showed Markus around my home-town, trying to make his experience there as British as possible. We had fish and chips. We had a traditional Sunday lunch in a quaint old British pub. We walked along Southend seafront, taking in the colourful beach huts, tacky arcades, and the litter, syringes and dog poo scattered on the beach. We shopped in the high street, which has been taken over by chains like Primark and pound shops and doesn’t appear to boast a single independent trader.

We strolled past the town’s many grey seventies-style office blocks, which now stand empty because of the recession (another British pastime that doesn’t seem to exist in Bavaria). We dodged a lot of fights on a great night out, and read about numerous burglaries in the local paper. By the end of the week I had forgotten about the beautiful, natural, safe Alpine haven that we live in in Germany and I was happy to be in Southend in Essex. It may be a craphole. But it is my home. My craphole full of treasued memories.

What’s more, my family managed to get through the week without cracking a Hitler joke. My pride was immense.

Alas, the time came to leave England and to head back to squeaky clean Germany. Boo!

“So,” I said to Markus, with that glimmer of home-town pride still on my happy little face. “What did you think of Southend?”

“Yeah,” he said with a sorry look. “It’s a sh**hole.”

For once we agree on something.