24.02.2009 - 01.03.2009
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That's right, three towns for your money this time around. Bargain, eh? After the utter craziness that was Karneval, a bit of relaxation was in order. Ruwan (known henceforth as "Ru") joined us for this leg of adventure, a good German friend of mine and Volker's whom I met in Australia, and the only dude I know that actually understands the rules of American Football.
We headed from Cologne to Aachen, a town right on the border separating Germany and The Netherlands. Unfortunately, no trips over the border to a cafe to order an...erm...mocha, but Aachen was entertaining nonetheless. Aachen is very much a student town - the entire place revolves around The University, which is famous for the engineering grads it produces. Let noone make any sort of connection between engineering stereotypes and Aachen's proximity to The Netherlands, ok? I'm sure there are other reasons it attracts engineering types. Aachen is also famous for printen, which is a kind of sweet, fairly hard sort of bread which reminds me a little bit of the texture of gingerbread - but cooked properly and eaten fresh, none of this Arnotts rubbish. It's delicious, but eat too much and they'll be rolling you back down the hill.
It was also in Aachen that I had my finest linguistic moment. We passed a choclatier in the main street, reputed to be the best in town. I spied an espresso machine inside, so I thought I'd have a crack at ordering my first mocha in Germany. Yes that's right - up until then, I had not yet drunk a single mocha! They just don't seem to do them in Germany. So, the exchange went kind of like this:
"Ich hette gern shokolade kaffee, bitte"?
- Gesturing towards chocolate and coffee and making pouring motions*
- Confused nodding from barista*
- Hopeful nodding from me*
A few minutes later she emerged with what was more a Cappuccino with chocolate added than a true, lovingly made Mocha, but it was still the closest I've come sofar. And the chocolate and coffee were of damn high quality, just not properly matched, that's all. Still, I was proud of myself
We stayed overnight in Aachen with Sarah, Ru's sister. And damn did she look after us - tea, coffee, snacks, breakast in bed. Thanks Sarah! We left her the next day to her exam studies and backtracked somewhat to Bonn, which is where Ru grew up. Ru is of Sri Lankan heritage, and one of the biggest reasons for me stopping by his parent's place was to taste his Mum's world famous home cooking. I say "world famous" because, well - I heard it first in Australia, so that counts, yeah? Sure it does. We had a good walk around Bonn (the old capital of West Germany) and the surrounding areas to work up an appetite, and I refrained from having anything to eat all day. I'd been warned - finish your plate OR ELSE. Those of you that know me (presumably all of you minus the two google searchers I logged) will know that "plate finishing" is not really my forte. However, on this occasion I managed to "man up" and wolf down one of the most delicious dinners I've ever had the pleasure of being served. I'm sorry to say I can't quite remember the names of the many, many dishes that were served, but you'll just have to imagine the spicy scents, the succulent meats and the plethora of tastes and colours. Jealous? Good. Thanks (Ru's) Mum!
After a few more days hanging around, next stop was Drolshagen to visit Katherin, another good friend of mine whom I met while she was visiting Australia. Now, I'm grateful for every place I've stayed at on this trip - it's immeasurably enriched the experience of travelling by staying with friends, eating real German food (mostly) and hanging out with Germans.
Yes I've loved every place I've stayed, like I said. But Katherin's parent's place is not only six star quality, it's damn palatial. Ok, so I don't really know the true definition of six star accommodation, but I'm just going for emphasis here. Four floors, heated tiles, waterfall showers, rooms the size of small apartments. It's a beautiful home, and I sincerely thank Katherin and her folks for letting me stay.
Seeming as we'd all had enough of hitting the town for the time being, Volker, Lena, Katherin and I decided to go for the "big night in" thing. Homemade pizza, good German wine, and waffles with chocolate and raspberries for dessert. Dinner and good friends - nothing beats it. Well, except when you break the friendship with Monopoly - the board game that can break marriages and ruin rock-solid relationships. You may have determined from my tone that I lost dismally. On the plus side, I learnt more German from trying to read the Chance and Community cards than I have on any other part of the trip
Katherin, Ru and I spent today wandering aimlessly around Siegen - looking at The Castle, telling bad jokes and reiminiscing about old times in cafes. Again, all this was just to work up an appetite, because the spectre of having to finish yet another plate was looming - Katherin's mother was preparing wild boar for dinner! Shot by Katherin's father on the family hunting grounds and lovingly prepared by her mother. And yes, I managed to finish yet another plate. Huzzah! Perhaps I should keep an Excel spreadsheet and take photos so you all believe me.
I'll be heading back to Cologne tomorrow and looking around now that Karneval is over, and then on Tuesday I leave for London - a few kilos heavier for all the delicious food, no doubt.