Ok, I didn’t really run away. We had agreed previously that Dasha would have some time with her girl friends road tripping around Latvia, leaving me with a couple of weeks to spare. So many options. Was keen to go to Egypt and Israel to hang out with Unca Funka, but it was too expensive to get there and back. The black sea beaches of the Ukraine sounded enticing, but needing an invitation from a local and the embassy in Riga closed for a week made it very easy to put it in the too hard basket. So, why not fly to Germany (for the 7th time) to hang out with my mate Zhenya (Eugene), a couch surfer that stayed with us and Pete in Melbourne for a few months between us. He lives in the far North of Germany, Husum, about 150km North of Hamburg. He would be working during the day giving me plenty of time to relax by both the North Sea and Baltic Sea for 12 days or so… right? Wrong. This turned out to be, as most ‘holidays’ do, a flat out adventure from one day to the next.
Day 1 I arrived in to Hamburg airport with the odour of sparrows’ previous nights dinner still fresh in the air. Only in Germany can you walk from the airport to the central park in 50 minutes. Fantastic. Saw a wild white rabbit and a bloke trying for a couple of hours quite unsuccessfully to paraglide on flat land. He must have been bloody hot, struggling to run into the wind in all of his gear. I was hot just watching. By the time Zhenya turned up of course I had found myself a beer. He and his mate Mason had apparently found a few on the train ride down too. It was Saturday. Germany was playing Argentina in the world cup. If you can’t be at the world cup, be in Germany! They love a party. We watched the game on a massive outdoor screen with several thousand other people. The atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was a friend that day. It was very hot though, and there was two ways to cool down; drink beer and stand under the fire hoses. I tried both, repeatedly, but still struggled. After the game it was straight to the Reeperbahn where even more thousands of people continued the celebration of a 4-nil victory. After suffering severe heat stroke I had to call it a day while the other boys went to a nightclub until 6 in the morning, although they spent 4 of those 6 hours getting lost in transit.
Next day we had brunch at some friends house. It was amazing to have such an oasis of a backyard in a city. Next thing we were at another massive party in a park by a big lake. This place doesn’t stop. The music was a bit too dancey for me, but a swim in the lake was fantastic. We had left our bags in a mates car, the day was coming quickly to an end and we still had to get back to Husum. Abandon bags (everything I had in the country) and they’ll bring them to Husum on Tuesday. Just meant I got to steal any of Zhenya’s clothes that were too small for him.
Zhenya’s family history really is quite amazing. About 200 years ago, a whole heap of Germans moved to Russia and either started or took over a small town near Omsk. This town remained as a German town throughout this period, although everyone could speak both Russian and German, even in one sentence. After the Berlin wall came down, Germany became a much more inviting place to live. Through the 90’s, most of the town moved to Husum, Germany, and the new suburb that they live in is essentially the old town moved inter-country. Family friend next door, uncle across the street, best mate over the fence that way, cousin over the fence the other way, grandmother around the corner and so on. The best thing for me though was that with a combination of German and Russian I could communicate quite well with Zhenya’s parents. And just to make it a bit more interesting, there is another language that is spoken in Northern Germany; it’s somewhere between German and English, due to the trading that used to happen in the region, so Zhenya’s dad would throw in some of that which also helped.
They had a scooter for me to borrow, so I shot out to the North Sea. Not exactly golden sands and blue waters, more like a massive tidal range exposing kilometres of mud. Apparently tourists around this area and into Denmark have been known to go wandering long distances with the outgoing tide, then having no chance of outrunning it as it comes back in. I couldn’t just stand there and look, so flip flops off and went for a stroll with the mud oozing between my toes. Fun fun fun!
After the magnificent victory on the Saturday, Germany were playing Spain on the Wednesday night. We got a lift with a mate up to Flensburg to watch the game at another outdoor viewing. Unfortunately, the game didn’t go so well for Germany, so the atmosphere was nowhere near the same. I guess everyone had to work the next day too. After the game we went for a bit of a stroll around the town, and it really is quite a nice place. Would have liked to spend more time there. It had a big pedestrianised area, which I think is important in any city.
For the Thursday night I tried to organise a couch surfing event with all the locals since they seemed a little inactive. Massive failure, but we had our back up plan – to the coast! A few beers and an intense game of 3 on 2 shirts off soccer, which ended in a 12 all draw, followed by a loose game of volleyball against some other young people who were just hanging around too. Was a very beautiful sunset and atmosphere, but unfortunately I have no proof. Called in at one of the blokes houses for a cheeky bottle of jaeger before heading out to the one nightclub in town. Was going right off, partly because school finished the next day, so all of the 18 year olds were out. Was wearing my “SPRECHEN DIE SPRAHGEN” t-shirt, which confused the locals real good and got a lot of attention. Was a big night, and I remember seeing daylight on the way home, if not how we actually got home.
Friday Zhenya knocked off a little early for his last day of work. It was his grandmother’s birthday, so we walked 100m around the corner to her house for a barbie with all the family. She might have had an early night, but that just meant it was time for Zhenya to play what I can best describe as a piano-accordian, with his dad and uncle singing along. Good times.
Saturday we drove across the country to Kiel. The beach here is much nicer, but extremely busy, so no room for football, volleyball or frisbee. We were staying with Zhenya’s sister, Sveta. We called in to her work for a few drinks and to catch the end of some football game before heading out to the Russian club. It was a very quiet night in the club, but still good atmosphere for relaxing and chatting with both new and old friends. On the way home in the cab we saw the most amazing sunrise. I have never seen the sun that colour before; a crazy bright pink/orange/purple. Of course a photo cannot capture something like that. Had a couple more drinks at home outside in the pleasant morning air, before Sveta had to leave to work and we decided to call it a night…or…morning?
We got a lift to Berlin, through a fantastic website, where people can offer seats in their car for cheaper than a train ticket, later in the afternoon. We got dropped off somewhere near the centre and heard what sounded like a football match. Sure enough, we caught the last 2 minutes of the final. We found our couch surfing host a little after midnight and then stayed up chatting and juggling and whatnot until 2 or 3 in the morning. It really was too hot to sleep anyway.
The next day was really hot. About 30-35 and extremely humid. We visited the university and the lake for a swim. We spent the evening at a beach bar (not actually near a beach, just decked out with a lot of sand) kicking back with a few beers on the sand, watching the magnificent lighting only a few kilometres away, while staying completely dry ourselves. The storm did lower the temperature a few degrees more comfortable though.
Tuesday was our last full day in Berlin. We went on a walking tour for 3 hours, learning some of the history and famous buildings and places around part of the city. Was really interesting, but also hard to take in so much information. We also hired some bicycles and went riding around some of the parks. That night we went on a local pub crawl around the suburb we were staying in with our host. It’s an up and coming arty/alternative suburb, with lots of very small but trendy pubs and bars. Was really cool and saw some good live music and met our new best friend, Schwarzhog, Jaegermeister’s younger brother (of course we all know that the younger brother is always better!). The highlight of the night was at the last bar, which was quite pro same sex relationships, where an impersonator of Mel from Flight of the Concords appeared keen to get to know us both (Zhenya and I)very, very well. We had to go in search of another bar to save ourselves.
Wednesday morning we had a few hours to spare, so thought we would just hang out in the local park by the lake which was on our map. We rode around the whole park about 3 times, getting various directions and confused responses from people whilst trying to find this lake. Turns out it was some kind of private lake. From the outside and some signs we saw it seemed that some hippies were protecting it. More like stealing it. We were quite hot from all of this, so decided to find some shade and brown grass for a snooze. A dodgy dude wandering around the area made it impossible to sleep, so we got out of there. Another car pool to Hamburg and that was the end of my relaxing time in Germany!