From about friday lunchtime onwards any business calls or e-mails you receive may well end with the sign-off “schönes Wochenende” – have a good weekend. Because so many people go to work early here and the labour laws are very employee-friendly, a huge percentage of the working population are no longer at work on a friday afternoon. I usually work normal hours on a friday, but I join in the fun and wish everyone a schönes Wochenende from noon onwards anyway.
Well it turns out that so far this weekend has been “schön”. We had arranged to meet some friends of ours at an amusement park about an hour north of here. Normally going to an amusement park is a mild form of torture for anybody sane over the age of 25, but today wasn’t so bad. The weather was perfect, the kids looked after themselves and the place, Tripsdrill, is quite spread out between meadows and vineyards in the countryside just outside Stuttgart. The amusement parks in Germany are certainly a lot easier to stomach than Euro Disney. I made the mistake of going there with the family a few years ago. What a nightmare. Non-stop happy Disney music all day and the most healthy food we could find was a hot-dog in a spongy bun. The children’s menu in the evening was Pizza – with chips. At Tripsdrill, things weren’t so bad. We even managed to find a restaurant that served salad.
In the middle of the park, there is a large grassy field where people sit and have picnics and have a rest from the rides and attractions. As the day wore on the kids seemed to have more fun doing cartwheels and playing a silly game which involved hiding coins in the grass than actually going on the rides. A large stork also provided some entertainment by wandering around and picking up scraps of food. Quite a few of the pic-nicking families were largely comprised of women wearing hijab headscarves. It’s a sign of the times that even in such an incongrous setting (near the entrance to a ride called the Gsengte Sau – racing pig) that nobody gave them a second glance. It seems so normal now.
We had agreed to meet our friends at 10:30 which meant that we had to leave at 09:30. With this in mind, I decided to boost my popularity rating at home by doing an early-morning shop at our local village supermarket. I did a quick google search and found out that the supermarket, Knittel, opens at 7:00 on a Saturday. I imagined that it would be very quiet and so set off in high spirits, unaware that I was about to experience a hitherto unknown side of Schönaich weekend life.
It seems that the more mature residents of Schönaich also pick early Saturday morning to do their shopping. I was surprised to find the car park clogged with vehicles which were either badly parked or manoeuvring very slowly indeed. I eventually found a slot in which I was nearly able to get my door open enough to exit my car. But as slow as my fellow shoppers were in the car park, they were switched-on and aggressive once they got behind their shopping trolleys.
One of the quaint things about Knittel is that the staff in the fruit and veg department pick out the goods and weigh them for you – like proper grocers used to do. It’s a bit strange in a supermarket, because everything is within reach for the customers and the staff just punch in a number and stick a ticket on the the bag just like we are used to doing for ourselves. Anyway, it lends the shop a bit of olde worlde charm and should make a pleasant change. I say should, because it doesn’t actually work out like that. At least not on this particular Saturday morning. The shoppers around me were all hard-core grocery shoppers and they seemed to be on good terms with the supermarket staff. So while I dithered between the vegetables several other shoppers managed to butt in front of me. A couple of times the staff already knew what the customers were going to ask for and started loading up tomatoes before I had a chance to squeak “errr… actually I was here first”. I have been overlooked a few times trying to get served at a busy bar, but not being able to impose myself over a group of pushy elderly ladies at the fruit and veg counter was a particularly chastening experience. Things could only get better. Surely.
Wrong. Next up was the cold meat counter. By this time my nerves were frayed, but I was heartened to see that there was at least an orderly queue at the counter. I positioned my trolley diagonally so as to make absolutely sure nobody could get past me. But this time I needn’t have bothered worrying about people pushing in, the problem was that the queue was barely moving. The hopped-up fruit and veg shoppers had now downshifted into “social mode” and were taking ages to select their cold meats and catch up on local events by chatting to the butchers staff. I’m an impatient shopper at the best of times but this was almost unbearable. It occurred to me that this Saturday morning shop was probably a key part of the weekly ritual in earlier times when the working week was a lot longer.
On Thursday evening I had made a quick visit to our local Penny discounter supermarket to get some emergency supplies and was amazed that the youth in front of me was using his bank card to pay his bill of 1.54 Euros. At Knittel, though, things couldn’t have been more different. My fellow shoppers were strictly cash customers. Normally, that should speed things up. However, if you pack your basket (in many cases an actually wicker-basket) first, and then get your purse out, and then insist on finding the exact change, then things slow down a bit. Oh well, patience is a virtue.
Eventually, I paid swiftly using my bank card and headed for the car park. In the meantime someone else had parked next to me but I was able to get the passenger door open and climb across and after doing a fifteen-point turn exited the car park and headed home. It was a tough start to the weekend, but since then everthing has been “schön”. Let’s see what Sunday brings.