With some birthday money burning a hole in my bank account, I decided it was time for a mini-break. And, as any country that takes its sausages (almost) as seriously as I do is just fine by me, Germany was my destination of choice.
On Saturday morning, I stepped off a plane, onto a tram and, in exactly 11 minutes, found myself in Bremen’s city centre. It seemed that I’d picked a great day to arrive as I was immediately engulfed in the huge crowd that had turned out to see the 29th Annual Samba Carnival. Swarms of participants milled around in technicolour costumes and face-paint with all manner of odd objects perched on their heads – from cows, to houses, to globes. The atmosphere was fantastic and the constant beat of drums had everyone clapping, stamping or just jigging about happily, and madly out of time.
I took advantage of the fact that everyone else was distracted by the Carnival and managed to get a clear shot of the Bremen Town Musicians, unmolested by Japanese tourists.
After a while, I decided that I should probably try to find my hotel and set off down the first street I came to, mapless and clueless. In Bremen, however, relying on the kindness of strangers is really all you need. One nice couple pointed me back up the street I’d just walked the length of, then a pleasant security guard guided me in the direction of the train station. There I found a tourist information office where the lady told me the hotel was very close by. She helpfully circled it on a map (then pointed in the right direction when I still looked confused) and I took off again. I managed to walk past the street I was actually looking for, but a smiley German girl soon had me on the right track again.
While this might sound maddeningly circuitous to some, in a city the size of Bremen (and because I’m me), it was actually the perfect way to start the trip. In the space of about an hour, I had discovered that the locals were charming and helpful, and having walked down all the wrong streets, I now knew the right ones. And oh, the joy, the sheer joy, of being able to walk without spit, shit, crater or zombie-dodging.
I arrived at the hotel at around 12.30 and strolled into reception, where the receptionist regarded me with suspicion. In fact, if she hadn’t been black, I’d have thought she was Latvian. But her suspicion might actually have just been confusion, as it turned out I couldn’t check in until 3pm which, in Germany, does actually mean 3pm. Not to worry. With my bag deposited in the luggage room, I hit the streets again – this time in the right direction.
After a wander around, I decided to leave most of the photo taking until the next day as it was supposed to be sunny. Plus, it was next to impossible to get a decent shot of any of the buildings in the main square with the Carnival going on. At this stage I was starving – walking around looking at lots of German sausage can give a girl quite the appetite, believe me…
I found a likely-looking sausage provider just off the main square, and on descending the stairs, found a cosy restaurant filled with German chatter and laughter. Perfect. I ordered the bratwurst (obviously) and sat back with a nice glass of Trollinger wine. When my food came, I admit I did a double-take. Not one, not two, not three, but SEVEN sausages. If this place wasn’t heaven, it was probably the closest I’d ever come.
After a little sausage coma back at the hotel, I set off to check out Bremen’s nightlife – and made it as far as the bar next door. The barman was alone and watching The Dark Knight so I figured I’d keep him company for a beer. He immediately turned off the TV, and one beer turned into four as we chatted about everything under the sun. I found out that the best bar in town was, unfortunately, the Irish bar – Paddy’s. I always dread the inevitable conversation:
Stranger: So, where are you from?
Stranger: Ahhhhhh, of course, Irish person in an Irish bar…
Still, it had been recommended by a real live German so that was my excuse. I eventually bade farewell to the lovely Florian, but not until after he’d persuaded me into doing a shot with him.
Florian: One shot before you go?
Me: Well, I shouldn’t…
Florian: It’s a German shot…
Me: Oh, go on then…
It was delicious. He also only charged me for 3 beers instead of 4, which I pointed out but he insisted – with a wink. Who can say no to a winking German?
In the next bar, a friendly older German man instantly struck up a conversation with me. He regaled me with tales of how he and his wife had sailed, yes sailed, to Australia, upon his retirement. I’ll take that over snow-shovelling any day. After returning from the loo, I found that my bill had been paid and in spite of my protestations, he also insisted.
Finally, it was time for Paddy’s, which was teeming. Again, conversation was instant and I had a great laugh with some very jovial Germans.
At around 3am, the sausages wore off and it was time to round off the first night with what was quite possibly the most delicious gyro ever tasted. Or that could just be the beer talking.
Stay tuned for Part 2!