“About three months, Sir.” “Well it couldn’t have been you who took my order then!”
Merry Christmas everybody, and a Happy New Year! I really hope that you’re all enjoying the season’s festivities and are able to spend lots of special time with family and friends; please do not work too hard over this next week! This is my first (and only) Christmas that I will be spending away from home, and I’d just like to quickly apologise to Grace and my own family for being abroad, I miss you all more than words can describe. I promise that I will make it up to you all (even if that means giving into Grace’s every command :)). Anyway, I started writing this blog instalment on the morning of Christmas Eve, but whether I’ll have it finished by the end of today is, well, a completely different story! Christmas is certainly a period here at Gasthof Stern where there is lots to relay, in fact, so much has happened here over this last week compared to my usual lazy Christmas spent in Stanford-le-Hope that I don’t know where to begin.
I REALLY did speak too soon when I was fretting about the lack of snow in Göβweinstein come the beginning of December, I really did. Not that there’s much here today mind you; thanks to the typically wet rain from the last two days, the snow has been successfully flushed away (much to the disappointment of Charlie who I always find eating the white stuff). In fact, it was snowing for about 5 days straight recently, although only approximately half of it settled, yet despite that there was a nice blanket full that covered the village from top to toe. I’ve got to say that Göβweinstein looked very, very pretty. However, the novelty of the (at the time) incessant snowing wore off immediately after I’d finished clearing for the first time Gasthof Stern’s part of the public street and then laying salt everywhere. Just like those damned leaves which the Germans get a huge kick from clearing away, the same applies for the snow. Funnily enough, German law states (although not directly), that it is our responsibility to clear the snow from our street to maintain public health and safety (this is doing nothing to dispel the “German efficiency” stereotype I know!). After a while it got really annoying, rushing outside with my broom every half an hour to sweep away the snow which had YET AGAIN covered that patch of street which I’d cleared moments earlier :). Every morning and evening this happened (even on my days off), and to be honest, I’m pretty relieved that the white curse is gone momentarily. Now I understand why so few of the people here shared my enthusiasm concerning the snow a month ago…
What you can see above, you may be wondering, is officially the World’s biggest advent calendar (minus the chocolate). This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Rathaus (which means town hall, not the rat-house) of Forchheim, the nearest ‘big’ town to Göβweinstein. Each of the twenty-five windows of this side of the Rathaus are used as an advent window, one being opened each evening at 7pm, with a large crowd of the townspeople gathering directly below. A designated Weihnachtskind (Christmas child) then does a little spiel / poem, and everybody cheers and claps and takes a chug of their Glühwein. Last week I was treated once again by Lutz and family, as they took me to the Forchheimer Weihnachtsmarkt, where I experienced the delights of this extravaganza accompanied with Eggpunch, a rather tasty drink considering the name, and more worryingly, the contents. It was a really nice evening, with lots to see, and lots to eat. I also rode a pony for 5 minutes which I wasn’t expecting. It seems you can find anything and everything at a German Christmas market!
Now it goes without saying, accordingly with being a student, that I am not a morning person. In fact, even if I wasn’t a student, I still wouldn’t be a morning person. I’d go to the extent of claiming that being awake at 8am, God forbid 7am, feels like a parallel universe to me. Hence, with this in mind, you can probably imagine (probably not vividly enough), the state of shock that I was in for a good 3 hours upon discovering that I was on breakfast duty for 4 days in a row; including Christmas and Boxing day. This would mean that my alarm would be set for 5:45am, with work scheduled for 6. Horrible. After calling the Samaritans and my mum for some advice however, I slowly came round to the idea, and to be honest I wasn’t dreading it too much. In fact, I’ve been finding it quite fun working in the mornings, especially because it means I get a longer break and to finish work earlier in the evenings. I’m on duty with Lutz and Petra because there are currently 50 house-guests with us for Christmas, so there are a lot of people to cater for. Admittedly it’s hard waking up in the mornings, in fact it’s against Human Rights rights in my opinion, but on the upper hand I’ve already completed two of the four days. With all of these house-guests there’s a really good atmosphere in the lead up to Christmas, and it’s nice knowing that we’ve got an opportunity to make it special for them, even if it means waking up at a God-awful hour.
Of this current group that we’ve currently got staying with us, most of whom are very lovely (and very old), there are a couple of memorable characters. One of these is a lady who is 89 (as far as she remembers), who is always very enthusiastic about talking to me when I’m trying to clear everything away. Admittedly, she’s very sweet. And unsurprisingly, she has lots to talk about: 90 years worth of stories, ballads and re-enactments. Unless the caffeine kick from my coffee has worn off, I find it quite fun listening to her and finding out about Germany in 1950. She’s had a husband who died as a result of the Second World War, which I found interesting, and used to live in Berlin. On the other hand, there is another elderly couple who I can do nothing to please. I try my best with everybody at all times, but this pair are simply never satisfied! Whether they’re still bitter that good-old England have won two World Wars and one World Cup against Germany (I wasn’t involved in either of these), I don’t know. Either way, I seem to be able to do absolutely nothing right in their eyes! They always complain at dinner time that I’ve written down their drinks order incorrectly, (which I know for a fact that I haven’t), and subsequently make a point of ordering from Christian the next time. They whinge that I can’t speak German, something that I find completely unfair considering I’m trying to learn by living here! And the most trivial of all, they moan to ME about where they’re sitting in the restaurant (they can stand when eating next time). I would absolutely LOVE to accidentally spill some scolding water over them…
It’s not because I couldn’t contain my excitement that I’ve already opened some of my Christmas presents, no, it’s because Germans traditionally open their presents on Christmas Eve! I’ve made a point of opening my German presents today, and I’ll be opening my English ones tomorrow (juggling with traditions!) It’s been lovely to have received gifts, especially because Stefan, Christian and Petra really treated me! Stefan bought me a German translation book of “Bavarian to German,” so funny yet so true. He also bought me a mini nativity set and some traditional German Lebkuchen. What a star. Christian and Petra know that I’ve at least one sweet tooth, and pandered to that by buying me lots of chocolate, and one other funny gift. This gift was in relation to something that Florian once branded me because of my hair; the “English toilet brush.” So, what did Petra and Christian give me along with the chocolate? Yes, you’ve guessed it, my very own toilet brush. I will use it especially to wipe the diarrhoea from the toilet caused by all that chocolate I’m about to eat! Thank you you guys :).
So, with that I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Also, a massive thank you to Kev and Jane Remmington, Bev and George Stylianou, and Camilla Swan for the brilliant Christmas cards. They were lovely! I hope that everybody gets the rest and love and warmth that they deserve. Jesus Christ was born this time tomorrow sometime two thousand and eleven-ish years ago!