Greta is a friend of my wifes
and is German. She is married to Karl and lives in a little hamlet about
30 miles from Munich. My wife has known her for years. On this special
occasion we were invited to spend a long weekend with their family to
attend their eldest sons wedding.
I had visited Germany before, but never on a social occasion. My limited
contact with this nation was always strictly business and my impression
of Germans was of stiffness but without the upper lip. This time was
different. I was going to spend a few days in northern Bavaria. This
included a night in a beautiful mansion of a hotel at the base of the
Alps, near the Austrian border. Huddled between nature and four hundred
German wedding guests I was bound to broaden my knowledge of foreign
Karl picked us up at the Munich airport and immediately took us back
to his house along the motorway doing the usual 100mph in his Audi A6.
We can do this here he giggled. In England, they still
crawl along the roads. I paused for a moment. How right he was.
But then German road discipline is something else.
We got to his house and were greeted by his wife and an army of dogs.
After plenty of hugs and kisses and much patting of animals, we went
inside and were shown to our room for a brush up before dinner. I
wonder if the dogs have their own bedrooms? I muttered to my wife.
I was determined to pick up on possible culture discrepancies but so
far everything seemed quite normal. So they gave us a lot of different
kinds of sausages, cheeses and sauerkraut to eat on our first evening
meal, instead of ham and cucumber sandwiches. This was followed by plenty
of rich sugary cakes, no different to plum pudding or ice cream. We
were even offered a choice of beer or wine to slosh it all down with.
So far so good.
Johan and Maria will be married at eleven on Sunday morning. She
is three months pregnant, you know? said Greta. Hey, thats
great, I exclaimed. It would be their second child.The next day
was a real treat. Beer time! We went to Munich to have lunch but first
a middle aged pub crawl to savour the best beer in the world.
According to the Germans, that is. The procedure is quite a ritual.
The brew is poured into a mug very slowly and allowed to settle. It
is then topped up at least a couple of times before being served. Now
this was definitely different. I know, apart from bitter, we have plenty
of lager in most pubs back home. But to caress the beer with such love
as they do. Thats something else.
After a quick snack we spent the rest of the day visiting and enjoying
the city before going back home for another evening of sausages, cheese,
sauerkraut, pudding, more beer and wine.
Next day was wedding day: the day of beer and roses. I was sure that
on the most cherished day of any parent anywhere in the world, something
would be different.
The religious ceremony took place in the local Lutheran church in this
lovely little town a few miles from our final destination. The guests
turned up in twos and threes and 4x4s. There was much hugging and kissing
all round before entering the chapel. Standing at the pulpit was this
huge burly priest that looked like a Hartlepool rugby player and had
a strong deep baritone voice. Once we were all nicely seated, the wedding
march started and slowly but surely the fortunate couple began walking
down the isle. I must admit, it was a great show although I didnt
understand a word.
I was now standing at the reception desk of this magnificent hotel filling
in my registration form when a forty something blonde lady approaches
me and asks in perfect English: You must be Karls friends
from the United Kingdom. Welcome to Bavaria. This is not like the rest
of Germany, you know. It is very different. Just like us - arent
we always bragging of being Cornish, or Londoners, or from Yorkshire?
So why cant Bavarians be proud of their region? It is very
beautiful, I replied.
In the evening, after polishing up and putting on our best bib and tucker,
my wife and I entered the Grande Salon to mingle with the
wedding guests. How impressive, they could all speak to me in English.
Hang on! Why cant we all speak German or any other language for
that matter other than English?
I now found myself tucking into the various hors doeuvres, canapés
and other goodies, washed down with plenty of assorted drinks and cocktails.
I could have been anywhere in the world. By this time I was really getting
hungry. Thankfully, I was assured our hosts had laid on a superb once
in a lifetime wedding feast. Finally the newly weds arrived.
Hallelujah! Clapping of hands, another round of hugging, kids scuffling
in and out from under long dresses, balloons, rice, confetti, but still
no announcement of food. All goes silent. What next I thought. Suddenly,
in comes the wedding cake. So, its a wedding cake. So what. Wait,
Ive got a plate with a slice in my hand. So what happened to dinner?
Karl grinned. Dont worry. The fun has just begun.
Im on the return flight back to Heathrow, wallowing in the after
thoughts of a great few days in the Bavarian Alps and all I could recall
as odd was: Germans eat their pudding before their main course.