My lovely mother described me as a “fluffy bunny that has just arrived from another planet and started bumping into things” and with that I begin my first blog of the month of May. But first we must hark back to April, at the end of which two harrowing accounts of the weekend have been written by good friends Nath and Adam. Both blog posts are definitely worth a read if you want to gain more depth to the weekend. Links to these can be found at the end of this post.
Friday > Travel to Stuttgart
Nothing finishes off a week quite like a leisurely lunch at the astonishing BMW-Vierzylinder building. Wolfgang, Emmanuel and I opted for a five-star burger and chips, after we’d eaten our fill we went for a stroll as the sun was finally shining unashamedly in manufacturing heart of our beautiful city. Wishing Wolfgang well on his holiday in France and wishing Mannu a good rest of the afternoon, I left my colleagues and headed for the U3 Olympiazentrum with a spring in my step. A hop, skip and a jump and I was sitting in Marienplatz with Nath who had gathered necessary supplies for the weekend, namely sunglasses, sure for men/fauns, sausages and bread. This shopping basket was in many ways very predictable. Perhaps with hindsight, the purchase of sunglasses was tempting fate and in accordance with Sod’s Law the clouds began to darken as we embarked on our journey West across the border into the next federal state.
The transfer from Munich’s coach station (Hackerbrücke) to Stuttgart Flughafen was comfortable even if we were travelling on some stinky commuter bus with a bunch of plebs. During the journey we almost managed to convince Simon that Nath had been involved in a scuffle with police and was being held in custody in Munich over drugs charges and had consequently not been able to travel thereby tragically missing the connection and waving goodbye to a 15€ for DeinBus.de. “Was any of that actually true?” interrogated Simon knowingly and before we knew it the story had fallen apart.
I’d be lying if I wrote that beer hadn’t played a central role in brewing of the Year Abroad adventure. Some are now coming to then end of their placement years and their stories will come to an end. This group of German studying friends are called The Berlin Six. We’re a team and just like in all teams, substitutions have been made along the way as members have fallen by the wayside, but in spite of this we remain a sturdy sextet. Members of the Berlin 6 are strewn across the Fatherland living in major cities or at the very least in their suburbs, with the exception of Adam in Blankenburg and perhaps also Euan, although Wolfsburg will always be well-known as long as the headquarters of Volkswagen.
As part and parcel of the Year Abroad experience we, the six, can whole-heartedly say we’ve participated in lavish reunions starting in Munich, taking us to Hamburg and of course Berlin, and as of last weekend, what I assume was the last of our “great reunions” to celebrate Simon’s 21st at the Cannstatter Wasen in Stuttgart. For those who don’t know, the Wasen (pronounced “vaah-zun”) is Baden-Württemberg’s feeble attempt at mimicking the world famous and unbeatably original Wies’n (pronounced “vee-zun”) know to most as the Oktoberfest. The rivalry between Bavaria and Baden-W is clear, the two states being similar both culturally and geographically by which I mean both are predominantly catholic and together make up the south of Germany. Baden-Württemberg can be described as a New Mexico, if Bavaria was the Texas of Deutschland. As an honorary Bavarian, I am supposed to turn my nose up at the mention of Baden-Württemberg disregarding the lot of them as a worthless inferior bunch of losers. But I’m nice so I don’t mention anything. However, competition is rife and competition is life: Stuttgart is the home of both Menacing Mercedes and Pretentious Porsche so I took my BMW keyring with me to keep me safe.
If I’m honest we didn’t feel welcome amongst the Swabians (don’t worry Simon this post will get positive at some stage, I promise) we were greeted by disgruntled weather very soon after we left the heavenly Holy Free State of Bavaria and slipped into the marsh that is Baden-Württemberg. Perhaps the Gods were taking revenge on me for the sheer havoc Ludo and I wreaked in Tübingen during our school exchange way back during the Easter of 2009, the upshot of which being that along with an inexcusable number of our peers were raided by Polizei as we partied on an island in the middle of a river, causing one of our friends to be found too drunk and then being hospitalised and diagnosed with alcohol poisoning. In light of this desperate story, in which no-one appeared more heroic than John Hewitt-Jones, I was determined to show the Schwabens that we were ready to behave now, having spent five years on the naughty step.
After a pleasant journey, we arrived at the airport. Nath was first to look out of the coach window and spot Simon, whom again seemed to be pursing his lips and looking like a man with a plan. The way Simon was dressed in black and clutching his rucksack and looking at his shiny watch, I deduced that the weekend would involve a high frequency of “quick turnarounds”, “chivvying” and many a “rendez-vous”.
We checked into the hotel, where Simon had placed chocolates on our pillows in anticipation of our arrival, reinforcing my Mum’s belief that he will make a great husband. It looks like she might be onto something. We were introduced to Simon’s friends, Colin, Joey and the Italian girl, Mazza was it or Mazzi. Sorry Italian girl you were important to me but I forgot your name because it wasn’t an easy one to remember. Colin and Joey kept us entertained with their stories involving Simon speeding in Switzerland and with occasional updates about Stuart the office melt. Who actually, even though we were fed propaganda to persuade us that he was a volatile personality, he actually turned out to be a really nice guy who needed a bit of a hug. We were impressed with all of Simon’s lovely friends and we all knew that if we’d been in Stuttgart with him, we would have got to know them really well.
Simon managed to maintain a comfortable balance between sticking religiously to the timetable thereby making sure we met the objectives outlined and also at the same time his gentle nature ensured we Gentiles were all able to enjoy ourselves, even if some members of the group didn’t know where to draw the line and wound up sleeping in a bed of pringles (Adam Shaw, I’m looking at you). Unexpectedly but thankfully, Sara would also make an appearance and act as the Robin to Simon’s Batman for the course of the weekend, radioing in different sections, establishing ERV’s and coordinating attacks on some of the city’s most visited cocktail bars.
Saturday > on the Wasen
As previously mentioned it’s sort of like a post-apocalyptic take on Oktoberfest, or Oktoby as Barney lovingly calls it. Adam said it reminded him more of Hannover Volksfest in terms of size and I think I vaguely remember Euan nodding in agreement. That said the rides were extraordinary, noteworthy was an astonishing haunted house with a fountain of blood in the front garden. The weather was pretty dreary if we’re honest but Simon didn’t let that dampen spirits. He led us to our tent: the Göckelsmaier tent which had some inexplicable fetish involving chicken, which then justified decorating the entire place with them. Beer was flowing, music was being played and the atmosphere was starting to pick up. The best thing about these festivals are the difference between people drinking their first beer and people drinking their second. During the first many were still cursing themselves and nursing the hangover, but during the second we were all dancing on the tables as if it was perfectly acceptable, which of course it was. Then came the strange conversations. At one point we got onto the topic of Harry Potter, no-one dared question that Nonie would have been in Gryffindor, and Sara seemed to fit nicely into Ravenclaw which was all completely reasonable. I then almost dropped my Maß and looked around me in horror as I heard that everyone, everyone was synonymous when they agreed I would be in Slytherin. Upsetting stuff indeed, although I took it as a slight compliment, I mean, hey, at least I wasn’t in Hufflepuff with Euan.
Eventually, German punctuality gave us the boot and we were kicked off our tables like common criminals because our tables were strictly reserved from 11am until 4pm. Shortly afterwards we became caught in a sea of people and Scouse, Adam and I clung to each other like lions caught in a stampede of wilder beast When we floated out the other end we were greeted with a cold shower but nevertheless pumped full of desire to ride rollercoasters. Dodgems were a highlight as Adam was flung about, eventually realising that reverse wasn’t the only gear that could be utilised. We then thought it would be a great idea to go very high up on some swings which was the equivalent of paying 5€ to be put into the heart of a tornado. Which is quite good value the more I think about it, but we were very cold as the wind and rain ripped into our skin and our leather shorts began to chafe.
A few missed calls, a train journey and a walk later, Scouse, Adam and managed to find the rest of the group Adam making only a slight detour to kick a pigeon that took a quick dislike to him (fair enough). With a little help from Simon and Sara, winners of Mr. & Mrs. Stuttgart 2013, we found ourselves sitting comfortably in a tapas bar in the city centre. We made the natural transition to the place to be in Stuttgart on a Saturday night: a cocktail bar called Mauritius, where Adam angered some nearby Muslim women having purchased some ham from LIDL and started to fashion different varieties of jewelry with said slices of pork. What he was doing was far from halal, but the ladies can’t have been all that religious sipping cocktails at 4,99€. Shortly afterwards our drinks we then briefly returned to the ‘fest and those who had missed out on roller-coasting were able to scream their heads off once again.
Sunday > Back to MUC
All to quickly the weekend was over. We checked out of the hotel and the next stop was Vapiano’s. Afterwards we had time for a little sightseeing and what better tour guides to have than Simon and Sara.
Many thanks to Simon for literally sorting everyone out and buying us presents even though it was his birthday, what a man. A very happy birthday to a great man and a fantastic friend, we’re lucky to have him. Thanks to his friends for integrating us nicely into the group and a massive apology to the pigeons of Stuttgart, we promise Adam will not be thinking up any more ways to practice avian athletics.
As promised the links to my friends’ accounts of the same weekend 26th-28th April 2013.
“Snonie White & the Seven Dorks” ~Nath Thorpe 02.05.2013
“Simply the Fest” ~Adam Shaw 30.04.2013