A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the cold spell known as the Eisheiligen (read about it here). Well this year it really has come true. Today is officially the last of the 5 Ice Saints’ Days and they have been cold, wet and windy – coinciding nicely with the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend. We drove down to see a friend in the Allgäu. There was lots of snow on the mountains and the temperature was just above freezing in the valley.
It didn’t really matter, we were staying in a warm house with an excellent wood-burning stove. The stove not only heated the house, but also had a section where we able to cook pizza – a wonderful invention. We went to visit an old friend of mine, Nico, who we hadn’t seen for probably at least 10 years. Nico lives in the shadow of the famous castle Neuschwanstein – literally. His family has lived in the village below the castle for some generations and Nico runs one of the companies which ferries tourists around in horse-drawn carriages. So not only does he have a view of the castle from his balcony, but there is also a stable full of 26 horses right next door. My kids loved it.
I used to live and work just down the road from Nico’s house and we met over 20 years ago. After an unlucky accident, he has been paralysed from the waist down since he was 16. Nevertheless he was a common sight around the area – whizzing around in a motorised wheelchair or driving around in his specially converted van. He spent a few years coming to terms with life after the accident and when we met he had never been outside Bavaria. We got more and more adventurous over the next few years – until we (another friend, Ludwig and I) finally flew to New York and Las Vegas with him. It was a great trip – we even all got to the top of the World Trade Center.
Then I moved to Stuttgart, started a family and at the same time Nico got together with his partner, Margit. Then before you know it, ten years have passed and we had hardly spoken. So yesterday we all got together (Ludwig came too) in his house for a heavy dose of beer, “Brotzeit” and memories. Inevitably we soon fell into the rhythm of trading old stories, pulling out old photographs and probably boring our partners* and my kids* to death.
As the evening wore on, Margit got the stove going and started preparing pizza and kept us supplied with a local cold beer and plenty of Brotzeit. Brotzeit (literally Bread-time) is what the Bavarians call a cold meal usually consisting of bread (pretzels, rolls, black bread), cold meat cuts and different sorts of cheese. If the atmosphere is right, and the beer flows freely it’s a great way to spend an evening. Last night was just right. It all tasted so good, the house was warm and smelled lightly of burning wood and baking pizza. As the evening wore on our stories became more and more animated until we literally couldn’t keep our eyes open any more and finally fell into bed in the early hours.
I do like a good evening just eating, drinking, telling and listening to stories. It’s why I like pubs and it’s why I like Bavaria. Let’s hope the weather is better next time.
*to their credit, they were very patient and let me indulge myself.