“Waiter waiter, this egg tastes rather strong…

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Never mind, Sir, the tea is nice and weak.”

Now it wouldn’t be very English of me if I didn’t dedicate at least one blog to discussing the weather, would it?! Well, I’ll keep it rather brief in order not to overdo it, but I must say that if the wintry chill across Europe can hit BBC News headlines then it is most certainly worthy of a mention in my blog! To be honest with you all, when I arrived here in Germany, I thought that I was already partially hardened to less-than-comfortable temperatures, what with having resided in an under-heated student house for a year last term in Exeter (financially it was always better to just turn the heating off!). I freely hold my hands up and confess that I certainly over-estimated myself! Temperatures here in Göβweinstein have recently taken on a new meaning of the word “fresh,” and although not a patch on the cold lows that Jack Levent has been experiencing in Siberia, it’s definitely not been shorts weather.

Safe to say the snow reaches above my ankles!

Yesterday during the afternoon, although beautifully sunny and blue, the temperature was lurking around -10 (something that I’m really not accustomed to). In the night it was obviously nearer -15, whilst today at 12 o’clock, sunny again, but around -12. The air is so FRESH! The scenery has been absolutely picturesque because of the sun, what with the Basilika and the Burg standing out beyond everything else. The snow has remained, and well, has been quite deep compared to the thin layers (at best) that we experience in England! As the student, and unsurprisingly bottom of the food chain, I get the honour of clearing up the snow when needed :).

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Every household in the village has one of these specially snow-tailored shovels which are quite light, which makes the job of clearing the street a little bit easier (unfortunately not any less cold). I’ve used this shovel so often of late that I’ve started sleeping with it under my bed as if it were a gun.

"Officially" my job this year.

It's harder than it looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This little device that you can see is an old machine that Bernd found at the back of the shed, which had been out of action for a good few years! It functions a bit like a lawn mower, except that there’s a big spinning brush on the front which is intended to clear away the last bits of snow and ice from the street. It makes lots of noise, hitting top speeds of 2mph, and doesn’t fail to get the user covered in snow. Bernd and Christian took great pleasure in filming me struggling with this device whilst tractors were driving past doing a much better job than I was.

I've definitely earned German citizenship.

How efficient can one be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So yes, it’s been blue, sunny, cold, and snowy, all at the same time. A proper winter if you ask me! My advice is to avoid going outside and keep your fireplace burning at full throttle, at all times. If all else fails, make sure you’ve got a decent coat! Finally just to say thank you to everybody for birthday wishes, they were all really lovely and much appreciated. I had a great birthday considering I was away from home, and was in for a nice few treats from work colleagues, so all in all, couldn’t have asked for any more. It’s just 4 days now until I’m visiting Grace and the family for a week, and, well, I am even more excited than in my last post :).

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“Waiter waiter, does the band which is playing take requests…?

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“Yes, Sir.”

“Please ask them to stop playing and go home.”

Well hello everybody and welcome to another instalment of my year abroad blog. As I glanced out of my bedroom window just a moment ago I noticed that, once again, it is has started to snow. The figure is now so high, that I can’t count with my fingers the number of times that I’ve slipped (and almost fallen over) on my 100 yard journey to work each morning; it really can be quite hazardous! Don’t be silly enough to think however that these kind of conditions would for one moment hinder Gasthof Stern in its attempt to assume the role of World’s most hard working hotel, oh no. Despite the smaller amount of “opening times” the restaurant has offered of late, the Gasthof Stern team has somehow managed to find itself with more work to do than most weeks (I wasn’t even surprised this time ;)). Anyway, I’m still really enjoying the work (maybe a bit less by the end of the day), and I’m still learning, learning, learning. Amazingly enough, I’m officially over half way through my 8 months in Germany. Needless to say, the time has flown!

Where the feast will take place.

We kind of knew beforehand that despite the hotel being closed for the majority of this week, that we would still be quite busy, as there is a rather big event coming up tomorrow evening. In a nutshell: Gasthof Stern will be briefly transforming from a modest family restaurant, into a no-strings attached, party arena on Saturday night. One lucky gentleman has a 60th birthday to be celebrating on that day, and as a surprise (or at least I think it’s a surprise), some of his friends have rented out the whole building all to themselves (until 3am) as the venue. Now we all know how jolly and carried away these older folk can get, so I can tell right now that it’s not going to  be an early night for me. Anyway, it’s not simply a matter of catering for the group (around 40 people) in terms of food and drink, it goes further than that. In fact, they’re going all out. They’ve requested specifically, that we transform one suite into a massive royal table where they can all dine together, while the adjacent suite is to be made into a huge dance-floor. Basically, this means, a lot of organisation and preparation from us!

Somehow needs to be transformed into a dance-floor.

Admittedly, it’s taken us a few days to get everything sorted. However, the one thing that consumed a heck of a lot of time, was shifting all of the tables from the Bamberger suite into the barn (it’s the only place where there’s any room). It gets better. The entrance to the barn was blocked, e.g. we were unable to shift any of the tables inside, by 4 pallets of breeze blocks (as in the really heavy ones I used to deal with at Travis Perkins back in the day). So, naturally, we went to go and start up the tractor (with the fork arms), in order to temporarily move the pallets out of the way. You can imagine the despair that came across Stefan’s, Christian’s, and my face when we discovered that the tractor was broken. What really rubbed salt into the wound however, was when it dawned upon us that we were going to have to shift every block, by hand, to the back of the dusty barn. Instead of wallowing in our despair, we whacked on the radio, and like good old Germans, didn’t stop moving until all the blocks were removed (3 and a half hours later).

Anyway, I’m on a nice long break at the moment, and I’m recovering quite nicely! It’s still to be seen how mad these group of golden oldies are going to be, but if they’re anything like the usual crowds we get in here, they’ll be quite noisy! Still, it should be quite funny. In 10 days I’m coming back home for over a week and will be spending the whole time with Grace and my family, as well as attending Nathan Ellisdon’s 21st birthday party. To say that I’m excited is a downright understatement! I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone, and that I’ve only just under 4 months left. So, all that said and done, I should probably go and talk some more German whilst I’ve still got the time!

Bis bald!

“Waiter waiter, there’s a frog on my plate…!

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Sorry Sir, it was toad in the hole you ordered wasn’t it?”

Good morning my lovelies, a big thank you to you all for tuning into my next blog instalment, especially when there are probably plenty of other more pressing engagements that are crying out for your attention :). I’m certain that you’ll all be pleased to hear that I’ve acquired some new batteries for my camera, hence the level of visual interaction within this instalment is significantly higher than in my most recent blogs! Currently writing, I’m absolutely hooked to the song “Welcome Home” by Radical Face, the song used on the Nikon Camera advert, therefore it’s on repeat whilst I type away. Anyway, back to life in Göβweinstein and all that has been going on.

“It’s like we’re an old married couple. We both fall asleep in front of the TV during our breaks whilst the fire is blazing away.” This, and variations on this (in reference to her and me), is what I’ve noticed Heike telling lots of visitors to Gasthof Stern of late. Not that this is either untrue or something that I find offensive, it’s simply that I’d like to clear up the reason behind my out of character midday naps. I would normally lay the blame on simply being too hard working (which sometimes can be true ;)), but ironically it has nothing to do with that, well, not over the last two weeks any. Pure and simply, I’ve been sleeping during the day in order to forget about how cold it has turned outside! Of late it has been absolutely FREEZING, and the now bare and white landscape is testament to this. I have been rather enjoying my periods of Winterschlaf (hibernation), particular when the fire is burning at full throttle; nothing is more gemütlich (cosy). About four or five days ago however, we had some absolutely glorious weather; complete blue skies, dazzling sun, but with temperatures that would make even the toughest Scotsman shiver. It looked a little bit like this…

The busy shopping centre

Not a bad sight first thing in the morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This rather picturesque weather, soon turned into this, and to date, has stayed like this…

Just leaving the house.

Can you spot the Cross overlooking the town?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s quite normal at this time of year that business is quiet in the town, and due to the presence of the snow there has been hardly any coming and going at Gasthof Stern. It really is a massive contrast to what we were experiencing up until December! Not that we’re disappointed about this, as it gives everybody a chance to recuperate and re-charge their batteries. Christian has been on a long holiday, as has Bernd, whilst Stefan and I have been opening the hotel reasonably late into the day and shutting incredibly early. The last two weeks has consisted of the following: Waking up in the mornings around 8:10, in order to clear away all the things from breakfast. Then I will proceed to lock up at approximately 10:00am, meaning that I can have a pleasantly long break (which consists of going back to bed, keeping up to date with the news in German, reading and chatting with Charlie the dog) Around 3pm it’s time to open up the restaurant again. I’ll have around about 2 hours to just sit down, read my German novel, and serve Roland a beer or two (who is nowadays our most regular customer!). I’m not going to lie, I’ve been loving this relaxing sensation. I haven’t experienced being lazy since the summer!

All of this spare time means that we have had more opportunities to go out and enjoy ourselves. Most recently, Bernd, Stefan, Christian, Johannes, Balloo (Johannes’ dog), and myself, went to Bayreuth. Whilst there we dined at a top-notch Vietnamese restaurant, where the food was absolutely brilliant. There was also a really amusing drunkard there who kept trying to talk to the Vietnamese waiters in Spanish, which to me, underlined how drunk he was! We then moved onto an Irish Pub where I drank my first Guinness in absolutely AGES. And what a taste it was :). We had a cheeky game of darts and table football (which ended up 5v4 to Germany), and then cheekily stopped off at Burger King on our way home (as if we weren’t full enough already!).

One thing of significance that I have noticed recently at the restaurant, is the number of customers who have come in with really cute dogs. It always makes a waiter’s day when a customer has a dog (I don’t know why, it just does!). I got a cheeky video of a puppy that was running about the place the other weekend. Needless to say, everybody was lining up to stroke it!

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In terms of my German, nowadays I feel so confident when conversing with people. Doubtlessly the constant interaction with friends and colleagues has helped overwhelmingly, but I feel that I’ve also helped myself by reading German books, reading the German versions of the BBC website, and generally trying to steer clear of English (except for Facebook of course!). I’ve received so many compliments about my standard of German (although everybody still notices my accent ;)), and this has boosted my confidence immensely. Obviously this has been a massive challenge to me so far; being away from home, in a new, foreign environment, working full time. But now, half way through my year abroad, I feel that I am really reaping the rewards. Florian has given me some really authentic German books to read, so once I’ve finished with my current novel, I’ll begin with those. Thomas Mann and Kafka, here I come!

I was considering recently the idea of an image to sum up Gasthof Stern and my time here. Finally I came to the conclusion, that there is no better motif than the typical Krug (flaggon), used here to serve the local beers. I have used this type of Krug countlessly, and in my eyes, it’s so stereotypically German! It’s a shame in my opinion that we don’t really use them that much back at home. Lowenbrau Buttenheim (the font on the front), is the local brewery (and I mean local), that produces the beer.

Traditionally, when the lid is up, it means "pour me another!"

"Keller Bier" is normally served in this Krug.

 

 

So, until the next time folks, I bid you farewell. I hope that the winds aren’t still too vicious back at home! I’ll be visiting Grace in just over two weeks time, which I am particularly excited about! In fact, I literally cannot wait! Remember that I’m turning 21 on the 31st (hint hint ;)). I leave you with a couple of photos of Charlie the dog and Cleo the cat. Undoubtedly, two of the cutest pets around!

Doing what cats do best. Absolutely nothing.

One of his favourite pastimes; chilling in the snow.

“Waiter waiter, you’re not fit to serve a pig…!

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I’m doing my best, Sir.”

Good evening everybody! I hope that you’ve all settled in nicely to the year 2012, and additionally for those who made New Year’s resolutions, that you haven’t been rubbish enough to have broken them already :). I, myself, had indirectly implied (trying to stress here that I didn’t explicitly promise this) to Stefan on the 31st, that I would try my best to work to my hardest at ALL times for the rest of my internship; in other words not to unconsciously slip back into that lazy student mode that I am so accustomed to. However, I think that I may have failed him already (that’s if you include whining to him about certain tasks I’ve been given!). Anyway, there’s lots to tell concerning Christmas and New Year. It was a very busy period here at Gasthof Stern (I didn’t really expect any different), but luckily this included lots of celebration within the hotel to help ease the pain of working and being away from home on the 25th. Göβweinstein was particularly pretty throughout, and surprisingly loud on New Year’s Eve considering the relatively small size of the place. So, before I begin, I would quickly like to wish you all the best for 2012!

As you may remember from my last post, we had two separate Reisegruppen (travel parties) staying with us over Christmas and New Year (not simultaneously mind you). I made pretty clear that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to being on breakfast duty from the 23rd -26th, but in the end it didn’t turn out that bad (and Lutz and Petra weren’t even grumpy considering it was so early!). It meant that I had more opportunities to converse with the guests, which, whilst helping to stretch my German, also enhanced my chance of receiving some festive tips (monetary ones that is). The 24th of December, it turns out, is the main day of celebration in Germany, rather than back home where everything happens on the 25th. So, I turned up for work during the afternoon on the 24th, to find a rather amusing scene. All of the Vogl family; e.g. Bernd, Heike, Anna, etc, were dressed up especially in traditional Bavaria attire (see above), serving all the house guests Lebkuchen, who themselves were sitting around tables, singing in unison the stereotypically German Lied (song) “Oh, Tannenbaum.” To add to this very German scenario, there was a local lad playing the squeeze-box as an accompaniment, all of which I found very funny! Anyway, after all of this was over (much to my disappointment), the guests all went for their Christmas dinner, which, might I say, we served to them very elegantly indeed :). Despite having to work most of the day, once all the guests had finished eating, we let them know that we, the staff, were going to celebrate Christmas for an hour privately, so if they needed us, then it was tough. All of us, Heike, Lutz, Ingrid, Ingo, Johannes, Christian, Stefan, me, all sat around in a separate room and dined together (yes you guessed, sausages), exchanged a few presents, and wished all the best for the coming year to one another. It was a really nice, intimate feel, and I felt proud to spend Christmas time with my colleagues.

On Christmas Day, other than having to work, I got to open the MASSIVE, and I mean, MASSIVE parcel that my mum had sent me. It contained very many wonderful gifts, and a lot of thoughtful ones too might I add! It was really lovely, after having spent an enjoyable Christmas Eve with the staff, to experience a little bit of home, and I also had a really nice skype conversation with the fam, including Nan, during my break. What you all want to know, yes I know you want to know, is what I got from my family in terms of presents! Well, the list included: Mock the Week box set, a Lee Evans DVD, a quality and warm jumper from my nan, a personalised calendar with pictures of all my favourite people, some bouncy balls (I’m addicted to bouncy balls, don’t ask why), LOTS of chocolate, and lots of loving. I was very happy! So a massive thank you family Sproson for all of that!

This photo above is that of Mannfred Haeckel, e.g. the Nachtwächter zu Göβweinstein (The night-watchman of the village). Also a regular at Gasthof Stern, included in the group package when staying at the hotel is having a moonlit guided tour of the village, led by Herr Haeckel, who as you can see, has a big horn.

New Year’s Eve at Gasthof Stern was one for the memory books that’s for sure, and I must apologise profusely that I didn’t get any photos of it; I’ve only just got new batteries for the camera. Anyway. The whole restaurant was decked to a T; candles, balloons, special table cloths, colourful lighting, champagne glasses, the whole shabang. I was excited before the party had even kicked off! There was a 5 course meal for every guest (of which I was particularly jealous), all of the highest quality, and although I had to spend an hour (which felt almost like a lifetime) doing the washing up, I was having a really good time. The music was going, the drink was flowing. It was funny serving everybody drinks (once I finally emerged from the kitchen), as everyone was in high spirits, making jokes with me, appreciating the token Englishman. At 10 o’clock I was outside in a marquee with Christian, pouring everybody champagne and controlling the three individual fires that we had going to add to the atmosphere. Around 11:30pm, alot of people began moving the chairs and tables out of the way and started dancing. I was finding it all quite funny witnessing this, when I was asked on two occasions by two of the houseguests (both elderly, very elderly women), to dance with them individually. I honestly did try to avoid this embarrassing scenario, me being caught with an OAP on the dancefloor, but alas, Florian and Christian caught onto what was happening, and encouraged / forced me to go through with it. It wasn’t too agonising, but I won’t lie, I’ve been in more comfortable situations before. Anyway, I eventually managed to wriggle my way out of the situation!

Come 12 o’clock, we all did the big countdown. As soon as the clock struck 12, everybody started cheering, throwing firecrackers. Bernd let off hundreds of (extra loud) fireworks in the front garden. The bells from the Basilika were ringing out, piercing through the night as if it was an emergency. There were drink glasses being raised, everybody was hugging and wishing each other “Alles gute” or “ein schoenes neues,” it was really, really nice. We workers were allowed half an hour off to party with everyone, although to be honest we hadn’t been acting that work-like for most of the night, e.g. Christian was making cocktails for us behind the scenes and we were lavishly drinking them! One of the most striking moments of the night, was when one of our house guests (who was luckily outside at the time), pulled out a gun from his bag, and started firing it into the night sky as part of the celebrations. As well as deafening virtually all of us, it added to a quite wild scene already, what with fireworks going off left, right and centre, so having a random man firing a gun in the middle of this, it resembled almost a battle scene! Anyway, what I have concluded from that evening, is that the notion of ‘health and safety’ certainly does not apply in Göβweinstein, as I can vouch that approximately 70% of the people letting off fireworks on the 31st were definitely under the age of 14.

So, all in all, despite missing home (which was only natural), a very eventful Christmas and New Year. I’m glad I’ve had the experience, it was definitely one to savour. I promise my next blog instalment will be ready sooner than this one was. Just quickly, I’d  like to thank Camilla Swan for her home made Christmas card that she sent me. It was very brilliant! Back to school, back to uni, back to work (for me, I never left in the first place), good luck on returning to wherever. All the best until the next time 🙂

“Waiter waiter, how long have you worked here…?”

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“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!

Frohe Weihnachten!

Kit

 

“Waiter waiter, this food is disgusting…!

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Well Sir, it does say eat dirt cheap outside.”

Greetings from Göβweinstein! I’m sitting writing this latest blog instalment from the confines of my (comparatively) warm house, where the fire is working in approximately 3rd or 4th gear in a valiant attempt to prevent us all from freezing to death. No, the temperature here has not dropped to the brutal level that some of my year-abroad friends in Russia have been braving, however it most definitely hit -2 yesterday evening (what British weather reporters would call “fresh”). If you need empirical proof then just spend 10 minutes with Charlie the dog (you know how furry he is) who seems to have developed some sort of variation on the annual winter flu, coughing every five minutes noticeably loudly (Heike reckons it’s because he’s been eating wood from the fireplace!). My concern about the lack of snow was dispelled a couple of days ago when we were blessed with a rather generous 3 / 4 centimetres worth of the white stuff one night; although it’s disappearance was almost as swift as it’s arrival. My new jacket is keeping me sufficiently warm, so you guys needn’t worry about me too much for the next couple of months :). Exciting news from England: firstly, the family have just posted a number of Christmas presents to Germany (do you reckon some of them are for me?!), and just as gratefully received, an email from The Times newspaper offering me a week’s worth of work experience on their foreign news desk in July!

Now, if there’s one term I’d normally use to describe myself, then it would probably be “laid back.” Not that generalising is particular popular with our ultra-P.C. world these days, but if you would give me the benefit of the doubt just this once then I’d like to label England also as a rather “laid back” kind of place. Now we all know that the Germans are quite efficient people (definitely more efficient than the English), very much into their cleanliness and their orderliness. Well, I must say that some people around here take this orderliness to its very limits, and frankly I think it’s a bit O.T.T. To elaborate. Last week the hotel received a letter of notification from the Bürgermeister (mayor), making us aware that a local had complained about some gravel laying on the path of the high street which is joined adjacently to the hotel’s car park. Now, bare in mind that the hotel car park has a floor laden with gravel. Furthermore, at least 50 cars drive into and out of the car park every day (it’s a busy and hard working hotel). And lastly, when I looked myself for this ‘runaway’ gravel, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I could see merely 3 feet of the path, looking reasonably in order, with around (I swear I could’ve counted the specks of it on my hands) 22 tiny bits of gravel dispersed. It was unbelievable how little there was. With one sweep of the broom, all of the gravel was gone. How petty (I thought) that somebody had complained about that! A) Who cares? B) Is gravel poisonous? C) Is it affecting anybody (the answer to that is no)?, and D) what normal person has enough time to write to the mayor and complain about such a trivial thing?! These Germans eh!

Anyway, enough of that rant, just needed to get it out of my system! On a pleasanter note, we had a really lovely group of about 50 Berliners come and stay at the hotel for a long weekend last week. They were all a really friendly bunch, and my attempts at being equally as friendly back were vindicated on their departure when they left me a 30 Euro tip. After that weekend of endlessly serving them drinks (by the end of it I could probably guess correctly what most people would order), if my shoe prints are not eternally moulded onto the restaurant carpet, then I’ll eat that 30 Euros. What I reported the other week about that elderly lady (she must have been really old) mistaking me for an East German must have been an anomaly, as no matter how hard I experimented with a Franconian accent to the Berliners, they all guessed that I was English! I always get really annoyed at that, but they all say that it’s good to have a neutral and clean accent, maybe I should just stick with picking up the language :). Two exceptions to the group (in the respect that they weren’t as jovial), was an elderly / VERY GRUMPY couple. If they couldn’t find anything to complain about, then I’d be damned. If it wasn’t the food, it was where they were sitting in the restaurant, if it wasn’t because (speedy) Stefan was too slow, it was that they simply wished that they were back home. To be honest I found it quite funny, I just hope that they couldn’t read what I was saying in my smile: I CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO GO HOME EITHER!

A new experience to add to the record book: I’ve discovered what it’s really like (and it’s not brilliant) to be a proper Putzfrau (domestic / house wife / cleaning lady). It all happened this morning when I was asked by Heike to help Magda clean the hotel rooms / suites as a one off because all 50 rooms had been used the night before and Magda needed to get home early to organise her son’s birthday. Now, wanting to keep up this pretence of being the perfect “English gentleman,” I enthusiastically accepted the challenge. How stupid was I. Not that I should have expected anything else, it wasn’t as if I’d be asked to be interviewed on TV or anyway, but basically all I was doing was stripping the beds of the sheets (gross) and hoovering up. Due to the huge number of rooms, it took FOREVER! And it was so boring! I was talking to myself so much that people probably could’ve mistaken me for being  a slightly disturbed individual :). So, in conclusion, I really couldn’t hack doing that again! I love the waitering business mind you, but that cleaning task was something else.

I’m not too clued up on politics, but I understand that England and Mr. Cameron have been slowing down Ms. Merkel’s and Mr. Sarkozy’s plans for the future of the European Union of late. All I can say is, is that the Germans here are slightly annoyed at Dave’s reluctance to go along with their economic proposals, and some have even been calling for England to be shunned! Either way, I hope that it’s all resolved fairly soon (without too much blood shed), as I’m worrying that I and my fellow year-abroaders may be kept here as hostages / prisoners-of-war, if tensions soar any higher! Anyway, of slightly lesser importance, Christian is on holiday this week, meaning that it’s Stefan and me in charge of the restaurant (peace of cake). I’m sure that most of you will be breaking up / finishing for the Christmas holidays very soon, so I wish you all the best and a special stay at home :). I’ll be reporting for blogging duty again very soon.

Adieu!

“Waiter waiter, do you have asparagus…?

Standard

Sir, we don’t have Sparrows and my name isn’t Gus!”

I say it just about every year, and since about 1:37 PM today, this year has been no different; I can’t believe that it’s almost Christmas already! All the decorations have been pinned up in and around the hotel, hence the place is looking very festive indeed. Glühwein (basically mulled wine) is now officially on the menu, though I fear only temporarily. Der Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree) arrived today, and now decorated its very presence reminds everybody of what a special time of the year this is. There is one thing missing mind you, and if you’re British then I’m sure that you can guess what it is because we very rarely have it ourselves on the 25th of December! Yes, you clever ones have guessed it, there’s no SNOW! Yes, I’ve been reassured by almost everybody here that we are expecting a white Christmas like always in Göβweinstein, it’s almost guaranteed. But is it? I’m sure that most of you have noticed that it’s been incredibly mild of late for November / December, and Heike also happened to mention that it was one of the mildest Novembers on record for years here. Have I (curse myself) inadvertently brought the curse of the Englishman to this quaint little village? Will we just have to settle with British-esque rain on Christmas day?!

Now despite the lack of snow, there was no excuse for the traditional German Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas Markets) not to open their doors all over the country on the 1st (well, at least in Bayreuth I can vouch for this!). Now I’ve already mentioned previously that it’s always something of a treat working with Senior Chef Vogl, and yesterday he once again vindicated my beliefs. As a reward for helping him repair some insulation in the roof of the guest-house during the day, he obtained permission for me to leave work early in order to visit the Christmas Market in Bayreuth with him and his wife. Obviously as a typical German stereotype, I’d already heard of the Weihnachtsmarkt. However, I really wasn’t prepared for how pretty and interesting they are! I mean, the best that Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex can do for Christmas is display a few festive price reductions here and there in the shop windows, so to be honest it’s not very hard to go one better! Yet I really was impressed with what a special atmosphere there was in the Christmas Market. There’s so much food (good food at that!) to be bought, special festive food as well, that it’s actually a challenge to resist buying anything. Christmas decorations and lighting cover the main street of the city, to make Bayreuth appear like one of the most colourful places on the planet. There are so many different varieties of stalls all around that it’s really cosy despite being chilly at night, and if you’re still cold regardless of all the hussle and bussle of the people, then take my advice and try some Glühwein. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not my most favourite drink in the World, especially since I’m more a beer man than a wine man, but it certainly warms you up! Anyway, feast your eyes upon some of the photos to get a taste for it. My camera battery ran out half way through the trip so unfortunately I had to settle with a minimal amount of half decent photos! Enjoy :).