Authie et Mi

And the grooms wore blue

15th April 2016

Wheeze, wheeze ! The blossom has come early to Bonn (or perhaps it is just earlier than northern France) and that may well have been what set my hay fever off last night.

I haven’t slept much but have gone through lots of tissues. Deary me it’s 0630 and time to get up. It has been raining and looking pretty black out there. What’s the weather forecast ? Even though I do not understand German I recognise the symbol for Crap! It probably gets spelled with a K over here.

Shower and a breakfast of yesterday’s croissants and I am feeling a bit more human. Now, the important decisions. We are going to be out and about all day so should I wear a waterproof ? But that will only get in the way. I’ll settle for the umbrella and no sun-glasses.

Hotel card — all important because in these fancy places you can’t even get in the lift without being scanned. Wallet, check. Phone, check. Good. Lets put some clothes on so that I have somewhere to put them all.

Outside it is still grey and a wee bit damp but so far, touch wood, not too bad. There was a tram within a few minutes of my arriving at the station and I was outside the Rathaus by 0745. Nobody here apart from somebody opening the doors so I’ll just wander about and look in the shop windows.

Next thing I know I have Vytautas beckoning me over to the Rathaus. When did they arrive ? Must have beamed in (he says they arrived by vehicle but I don’t remember a horse and carriage complete with Swiss cow-bells).

I was rather surprised to find the interior of the building to be very plain and functional. There was little in the way of decoration suggesting that it had been here for centuries apart from some portraits hanging on the walls.

Evaldas’s mother and gran were already there and as the minutes ticked by the gathering, gathered. More introductions were made, most of which went over my head. I have to admit that when it comes to groups where my hearing is at its worst I work better on trying to remember faces and who is with whom. Names in German and Lithuanian, especially by the half dozen proved a bit taxing. “Hello I’m Paul from Malta” “Yay! an easy name. Good man yerself”.

Our two leading men, neither of whom is wearing white or looking the least like a lumberjack, were ushered into a large room by the registrar and we, the well wishers, followed on.

We all sat down and the registrar bade us welcome. The ceremony is obviously being given in German which Milda is then translating into Lithuanian. Understanding neither, I’ll just sit here and follow along as best as I can.

Hmm! The registrar is definitely giving a history lesson about the building and points out the portrait of somebody whom I presume to be her great-uncle. From what I can gather he had been caught smuggling canary-yellow paint into the building and as a punishment been forced to redecorate the entire building in grey. Or was it rose-pompadour ? I may have mistranslated that bit.

Will the prisoners rise ? Vytautas and Evaldas stand, looking very solemn. The wee red box “Break glass and push button in case of panic” is outside in the hallway and out of reach. The question is put to each of them in turn and I am reasonably certain that Evaldas replied “Ja !” and Vytautas definitely replied “Taip !”

Sign those registers lads. Pink copy to the Rathaus, blue one to Inland Revenue and youse get the yellow one. Happy days, we can all applaud and wish the newly weds long life and happiness.

It may still be a bit grey looking outside but the room is well lit by the smiling faces of our two Cheshire cats as we pose for a group photograph and then head downstairs into a hall where bottles of bubbly are opened. Upstairs, no doubt, the registrar was already greeting the next couple.

It is only now, that I realise: there has been no music. In the land of Wagner, Treulich geführt from Low-and-groan didn’t even get a look in.

Once we all have a filled glass in hand it must be time for Evaldas to give us another speech, he has been quiet for at least fifteen minutes. The next part of our day (allowing for the fact that it is not yet nine o’clock) would be the photograph session outside on the stairway and balcony of the Rathaus, followed by a short but healthy trek to a cake shop where we were being treated to coffee and cakes of our choosing. Now is this civilised or what ? An entire cake shop to pick and chose from.

The virtual icing on the tort was that there was also a heart shaped strawberry flan as a wedding cake. Two slices of gateaux and coffee then, and all before ten o’clock. This beats cornflakes for breakfast any day.

However, you do not remain as skinny as this group by not then having to work it off by walking around the town. Our target was a run of side streets where the cherry blossom was out. Making our way down the aptly named Dorothy Street the sun came out and although we had the odd cloudy moment, for the best part the weather was to remain kind. Nothing like the doom and gloom that had been forewarned. Isn’t it great to know that even the Germans can’t get the weather right ? I thought it was only the French (The only nation that gets it right everyday is the Irish — Rain).

Our short walk brought us down to the banks of the Rhein and our boat. Vyt-Eld-as had not stinted on imagination in order to make, not just their day, but also our brief stay in Bonn special. Lunch was going to take place over a three hour cruise down the Rhein as far as Linz and back again. The party had been given all the tables at the bow of the boat so we had fine views as the world drifted past.

Some of the places were familiar to me though I had never realised that they were this close to Bonn. Not sure where I thought they were but there again it had never occurred to me that Bonn was nearer my house than Strasbourg.

Within a few minutes we were in view of Königswinter and the Drachenburg , celebrated by Lord Byron in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

The castled crag of Drachenfels
Frowns o’er the wide and winding Rhine.
Whose breast of waters broadly swells
Between the banks which bear the vine…

Talking of vines, ve haf decided on vite vine for lunch.

My table came to the conclusion that we were the most international coming from the UK, Austria, Malta and Lithuania, but adding actual domiciles in France, Germany and Palestine. Within two bottles (between us, let me hasten to add) most of the world’s ills had been discussed and put right.

You can learn all sorts of new things — like cats in Germany not only have a licence but also have to carry the surname of their owners. The first Milka cow was called (in translation) Swallow. I bet the German doesn’t have the double meaning.

Although the sun continued to make brief appearances up top it was not exactly warm once it went back in again. The town of Remagen came into view and that rang a bell — something to do with a bridge. And there they were, the remains of the Ludendorff Bridge which collapsed in the aftermath of heavy fighting between the Americans and German defenders.

Interestingly I noted that the German commentary described the invaders as ‘The Allies’, which might have been true from our point of view but seems a rather odd notion from theirs.

A few more kilometres down the river and we turned about to make the return trip down river. Our party got off at various points along the way, heading back to refresh for the evening meal, not far from the family home in Bad Godesberg where most people were staying.

Back in the hotel I battled with the hotel’s wi-fi internet connection trying to listen to some music. The Internet in Germany is, I am told, expensive and not very good. For a four star hotel the Maritim’s was rubbish. Worse than Chatham’s and that is already pretty much the pits.

I dozed a bit; got up; had a shower; collected the present from the car and found a taxi. I had contemplated walking to the Schaumburger Hof restaurant on the banks of the Rhein, but was glad that I didn’t. According to the French theoretician, Montcul, all packages have a virtual, as well as physical, weight. Whilst the physical weight does not change, the virtual weight increases exponentially by the distance the object has to be carried. This is something you need to know before setting out to do the week’s shopping with only one shopping basket.

My taxi driver gets lost. We can’t be far away because we just passed Wurzerstraße which I have to confess I had read as Wurst-straße on the map. That slight error aside, I know we are close and a one-eighty and turn right brings us down a very narrow street to the restaurant.

Apart from some Americans on the terrace (who else uses Awesome every other sentence ?) I am on my tod. The gentleman in charge of the restaurant assumes that I am the photographer and points out some good locations. The setting sun will be perfect in fifteen minutes for views towards the Petersberg.

Oh look another guest. “I am late, is everybody already here ?”. “Au contraire, we are the only two so far”.

Le voila ! Raucous noises coming from the towpath — the Bad Godesberg brigade have arrived. Let the feast commence.

In keeping with what had gone before the meal was very informal. There were no speeches, apart Evaldas with his tour-group hat on explaining tomorrow’s hike through the vineyards, we sat where we wished, ordered from a very flash menu that Vytautas had compiled and enjoyed the wine.

Between courses we mingled outside on the terrace, glasses in hand, the few smokers in the group occasionally huddling together in their own little haze. I don’t think that we got rained on once throughout the day and the evening sky was almost clear which put a wee chill in the air as the night progressed, but hello ! It’s April in northern Europe, what do you want already ?

Midnight approached and it was time to take our leave. Time to pay for the meal. I presented my bank card, the machine whirred and — did nothing. So we tried again.

Connecting ! a-n-d c—o—n—n—e—c—t—i—n—g. Start again. Same result. Try a different card, though I don’t think it is me it seems to be the Internet. Second card not going through either. Switch machine off, switch machine on. Go outside and wave it about whilst shouting German oaths at Telekomm. Yes ! we have a connection. Run back inside to process the payment. You have lost the connection.

Fine. I will pay by cash. Vytautas, you got any money ? What better way to finish off a marriage by having to borrow a tenner off the groom to pay for your meal. It took me forty minutes to walk back to the hotel, and I didn’t feel the least bit guilty all the way. I’ll sort it out tomorrow.

Posted : 15 April 2016

Travel, Germany