Sunday, January 4, 2009

Christmas and New Years with the Germs

Now for the festive season, where the weather matched all the songs - for once!
So we decided before we left that we would try as hard as we could for a white Christmas. As Timo (our old German flatmate from Wellington - featured on the left over there) owed Steve a German Christmas for the Kiwi one he attended in 2005, we thought Germany would be a good place to try. As we found out later Germans celebrate Christmas for three days, so it was quite a good choice in the end. We were pretty nervous about "making" Timo's family have us for Christmas, and as we found out later - they were a little too.

So we went to Peine to celebrate Christmas with the Rubienzik family. We had the BEST TIME EVER!

Despite the language barrier, Timo's parents (Klaus and Karin) were wonderful hosts, and Julia (Timo's sisiter) was such great company - her being able to speak English better than both of us really helped here! Both her and Timo did lots of translating as Karin (Timo's mum) spoke about as much English as we speak German. There were a few things over dinner that did not need translating though, like "Timo, you need a haircut" and "no mum, I like it the way it is". Pretty sure mum's around the world are all the same...

So we ate and drank for three days solid. Some of the delights served were, salmon trout (I really cannot explain it better - looks like trout and tastes like salmon), raw pork mince, liverworst (like pate, but more chunky), cheese soup - Sarah's favorite, and Steve's favourite blood soup - which he and Timo at at midnight. Blood soup for the curious is cooked ducks blood, with bits of heart and kidney thrown in for texture.

Three things we did not know about German Christmas:
They open their gifts on Christmas Eve after dinner
They ring a tiny bell before you can get your gifts - not too sure what this is for
You must have tea or coffee with your cake.

We saw snow on boxing day in Goslar, the home of witches and the Harz mountains.

We also went to the Goslar Christmas market, which was neat!

Then we zipped back to Hamburg on the train and stayed for a few nights before we went to stay with Timo's cousin Kulle in Berlin for new years. And what fun we had in Berlin!

A friend of Timo's - Thomas and his partner Antje (both of whom we knew from New Zealand) had us round for dinner with a few of their friends on new years eve. We then went to this crazy party in a huge villa somewhere in Berlin. The music was not great but the atmosphere was amazing.

Just before midnight we went outside to light our fireworks. Germans have fireworks for new years like most places, except its more like Guy Fawkes, the 1980s version, with sky rockets and fire crackers as well as the big public displays! The German fire crackers were a little bigger than the Double Happies and Tom Thumbs we used to get back home when we were kids. To be accurate, the bigger ones were more like small sticks of dynamite than "crackers" - and we got the legal ones from the supermarket! It turns out that like most of Berlin, Timo and Kullah enjoy fireworks like we do. So we bought a few. Our few combined with everyone elses few meant that for most of new years eve and the following night it sounded like world war two - with running street battles, occasional artillery fire and exploding flares. This all culminated at midnight when it really did seem like the sky was on fire. And to top it all off it began to snow at around 2 in the morning. All really quite exciting and a very dramatic start to the year!

We also did a quick tour of Berlin with our fantastic tour guide Kullah.
The highlight being the holocaust memorial. It is a very subtle monument from the outside, but once you get to the heart of it it is breathtaking, not only for its significance and sheer size, but for the way the intent of the architects message creeps up on you.

We then went back to Hamburg and Timo showed us the shadier side of town, the other tourist attraction in Hamburg, the Reeperbahn. That was really interesting with all the peep shows, erotic toy stores and working girls.

Look at that happy Germ!

OK enough of the boring bits, here are some photos...

Sarah at the Christmas market in Hamburg, where we had yummy mulled wine.

Timo also took us to the beach - so it felt like a proper January, except a little colder.

We got there on this boat...

Steve really like all the space needles. There was one in Hamburg

...and another in Berlin.

Mmmm more mulled wine in Hamburg

Steve and Timo with a drink, maybe it was mulled wine??

The three musketeers in the snow.

The Berlin wall - some of what is left of it anyway...

More from Berlin

Timo and Sarah - rock and roll stars in Hamburg, wishing you all a kick ass new year! - Steve hopes that it goes well too :)