Monday, 15 July 2013

The weekend of wandering, will-power, and well-flipped crepes.

What a weekend! Some of you might have seen my facebook status kind of summing it up, kind of keeping you hanging... "happy memories of this weekend! tested our will-power, experienced what overcrowded transport is like, walked the streets of cologne at 2am, and had a super-quiet Sunday marked with reasonable culinary success and a taste of alphabet soup." 

Well, here you go! (a rather long post, I suggest coffee in hand!)

Friday: (remember, I said Friday counts as weekend!) 

Malcolm came home from the CDC and we were super-excited that he has finished A1, and this next week he moves onto A2. If you want to know what that means, you can click here to get a PDF that explains what one can do at each level. Just by the way, what he's done in 6 weeks is what I covered in French in a semester (4 months). Jealous! 
Seeing as he had no homework, we baked cookies and sat on the kitchen floor watching them rise. When we realised that that would not entertain us all evening, we decided to head out and see the sites in our Dunnwald book. We ticked off some of the places already, so we chose a few more to find. 

germany to-do dunnwald wald forest baum-pfad haan haus
1. Malcolm and I chilling on the kitchen floor, deciding where to go. 
2&3. In the Arboratum, a whole bunch of different fir trees sectioned off. No dogs, bicycles or football allowed - typical! 
4. We went to where the old Walkmuhle was, it's no longer there, but there is an old closed down restaurant or beergarden by the same name. 
5-8. We walked down the Baum-Pfad... a little trail with various trees that Malcolm knew a surprisingly large amount about. He could tell me something interesting about nearly every one. (pic6 is him showing me the tree that helped the English take on the French... yeah, that's general knowledge.) 
We also went to the old Haan House (the oldest in the area, from the 1300s I think), but couldn't get a good picture. 

Happy Birthday, Granny!

The day started with us doing mega-grocery shopping for the next two weeks, in the hopes of saving money by doing it at once. We'll see if it works. 
Then, at about one o'clock, we set off the the Rhein. We got a little lost but eventually found where we wanted to be... a nice little spot on the wall just next to Deutz brucke, with a view of the Cathedral. We got there at 2 o'clock, and sat there for the next 10 hours. Yep, 10 HOURS we sat on the wall. That's longer than our flight from SA to Dubai, though at least we had more leg room, but no cushions. 
While sitting there, we had a fair amount of time to take photos of ourselves. (ya, we took nothing to do. Not smart. Only food which we rationed carefully, scout style.)

rhein sunset waiting love

The picture of our feet shows them dangling off the wall, then a steep paved slope with bushes growing, then the rocks on the edge of the Rhein. We had to be really careful not to drop anything!! The photo second from the top is me with the candyfloss we bought - I've waited patiently since Cars in the Park in PMB to buy some. 
We also had a beautiful sunset to watch, though it only started at about 9:30. I know, we should have taken sunscreen. Fortunately I only got mildly pink, and Malcolm just looks more exotic. It was cool though, watching the hot-air balloon, the blimps, helicopters, cargo ships, ferries and speed boats. For ten hours. 

Rhein sunset Koln lichter

So, you may be wondering WHY we sat there for ten hours. Ok, I'll explain. It was the night of Kolner Lichter, the biggest firework display set to music in the world, and one of the biggest fireworks displays in Europe. We'd heard that it's best to get there early, and somebody told us they had a "really good spot" last year where they were tall enough to see over a wall, and they could see past a tree if they tilted their heads a certain way. We thought this did not sound like such a great spot, and decided that if we're going to go early to get a spot like that, we might as well go super-early and get a really good spot. Which we did! Our spot was as perfect as it could be without paying a cent! Hooray!

The time did drag, but we had some entertainment...
koln lichter bachelorette rhein energie candy shop germany
Top left: Rhein energy had guys like this with water tanks on their backs and little cups to go around and keep people hydrated. Yes, I felt like a creepy tourist taking this photo. 
Middle left: A sweet shop! The only time I left the wall was to go buy candyfloss there... they also had heart-shaped cookies on ribbon and lots of other tempting treats - I felt like Gretel. 
Bottom left: A poor bride-to-be had to walk around selling things, flanked by her bridesmaids. There were about 5 bride-to-be's having their bachelorette party there, all equally embarrassingly-dressed. It did look like they made good money though! 
Middle bottom: We were right opposite the puppets that were used later in the fireworks display, they walked around during the day interacting with people, it was pretty good! 
Bottom right: teenagers started sliding down the bank below us to sit on the rocks (there were so many people that finding a good spot was tricky by 6pm!). I have no idea how they all managed to scramble back up again in the dark later. 
Main picture: The crowd by about 8pm (the show only started at about 11pm). Both banks of the Rhein were packed, and newspapers just give the number of people as "hundreds of thousands". 

Eventually, the fireworks began...
fireworks rhein Germany
Top left: waiting for darkness...
Top middle, top right, middle right: The ferries had all cleared away, and then when really epic Gregorian chant music started, a boat with fireworks came from up-stream, followed by numerous ferries with partying people on them. It was so spectacular watching them all lit up and sailing by. Along the banks of the river they had distributed sparklers that you could see twinkling all over, a great source of amusement for the kids next to me, and a great source of anxiety to me because my hair was pretty close (middle right). 
The fireworks continued and the ferries returned to to the Deutz bridge (which is the bridge on our left), and then there was a long pause while another boat got into position for the REAL fireworks to begin. 
They were beautifully choreographed to various kinds of music. I read in the news that about 20 000 fireworks were set off, over 4 tons of explosives that is! We were really happy that the smoke was being blown away from us! They were absolutely beautiful, and BIG! Really, I just ooh'd and aah'd and kissed Malcolm (I'm still holding a grudge that our first kiss was not at the Royal show during a fireworks display, I mean, come on.), despite the crowd that was behind us. Our patience had paid off and it was really special that we could see so clearly and with nothing obscuring our view at all. 

Here's a video I took of the opening... You can also access the full show here

It was totally worth the wait, and the whole thing finished at midnight. The next obstacle was getting home: remember I said hundreds of thousands of people? 
After walking in a tight crowd (me close behind Malcolm so that his backpack couldn't be pick-pocketed - there were a few pick-pocket incidents in the stations, as well as somebody getting pushed onto the tracks - he's ok though), we eventually got through to the Ubahn. The main station had been closed due to overcrowding and people were being let in gradually, so I'm glad we weren't going by train! We got to the platform and saw that the next tram in our direction was only in half an hour, and many others would be there by then. Cue Malcolm's Superman moment
He suggested we walk to the station before the one we were at so that we could get on before the crowds. So we walked really quickly for a km or so, and arrived on the platform 2 minutes before line 4 arrived. It was practically empty and we got a seat quite easily. When it pulled in to the station we'd been at previously, I was SO thankful for Malcolm's suggestion... the platform was packed and everybody looked desperate that the tram should stop with the door in front of them so that they'd be able to squeeze in before others. The driver had to announce that people needed to clear away from the doors so they could close and we could move. At every station after that there were people wanting to get on that just couldn't fit in! 
At about 1:45 we arrived at our stop and walked home from there. Even in Dunnwald it was it was still quite busy and people were still out, getting back. 


As you can imagine, we woke up pretty late. Malcolm woke up with a billy-goat-gruff voice and a cough. It had started Saturday afternoon but we thought nothing of it. With my wikipedia-medicine-degree, I diagnosed Malcolm with laryngitis and made him tea with honey. He said his last words, and stopped talking for the day. It was a very quiet Sunday, but at least his phone was once again a communication device (yep, we still don't have simcards. lazy.) and he typed messages to me all day.
In the spirit of Bastille Day, the French's day of independence, I made crepes with nutella and hazelnuts... and they worked!!! :D I could even flip them in the pan! You can tell how shocked and surprised I am in these pictures! (rememeber my last attempt?)
nutella breakfast flip pancakes

Because of Malcolm's sore throat, I thought it would be a good day to try the alphabet soup I bought... it was lots of fun playing with our dinner! 

All in all, spectacular weekend. Now, a new week and a new level for Malcolm to tackle. (starting A2 with only whispering, but he knows how to whisper that his throat hurts when he speaks and that he can only whisper.) 
Hope everybody has a great monday and a wonderful week ahead! I'm looking forward to sharing our list of "the good, the bad, and the "I don't get it" tomorrow til Thursday :D