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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Stuttgart - The reason why

German Christmas markets are fun - see, even I'm smiling. What wasn't fun was the apartment we hired, eighty-plus steps up, the same going down - unless you fell, of course.



Although not as large as the market at Cologne (Köln, to be nigglingly precise) Stuttgart's was huge, taking in two of the city squares plus the interconnecting streets. On the advice of a Stuttgart resident we sought a change of pace by taking the train out to Esslingen where the Weihnachtsmarkt was cosier, jostling among buildings which seemed original, seemed to have survived WW2. Note the church with its twin towers linked by a strangely rackety bridge. Note too the characteristic town structures as we got nearer.




OS (Occasional Speeder) was masterly. Found a restaurant with comforting worn woodwork, the door opening on a shabby interior which was just what we wanted. Alas it was full of Germans aware that Mittagessen starts earlier than we had expected. Quickly we found another but our hearts still dwelt among the shabbiness.

Never mind, there was adjacent entertainment. Two German businessmen, hosting two youngish Japanese functionaries, had cruelly ordered them gigantic pork knuckles. How gamely the young men chewed on food that couldn't have been further from sushi.

Outside men in medieval costumes re-enacted history, a juggler tossed flaming torches, a blacksmith hammered red-hot iron. We wandered among stalls offering sausages, wheat beer, eternal Glühwein, strangely dull lollipops with a bread roll replacing the sweetie bit, carved wood, and a piano-accordion player rendering an impossibly rapid version of the William Tell overture (or was that in Stuttgart?)

The best time is when the offices disgorge men in suits, carrying brief cases, to mingle among us commoners. Worth the trip, even a flight from Quebec.  

6 comments:

Sir Hugh said...

You look as though you have just won the RAC Rally in that jacket.

Ah! What a smug satisfaction to watch career employees going about their stressful business whilst knowing you have many years of pleasurable retirement behind you on a comfortable pension with no chance of being thrown back into that hurly-burly.

Stella said...

Enough visual salve there to last a good long time. My kingdom for a rail pass.

Rouchswalwe said...

Did you drink your Stuttgarter and Esslinger Glühwein "mit Schuss"? I just saw a report that at the Ulmer Christmas market, "Schuss" is banned this year.

Ach, I'm so glad you all went together. What fun!

Those steps look as treacherous as a pile of slippery leaves! Please be careful, especially after drinking Glühwein.

Laughed out loud about the pork knuckles.

Avus said...

Yes, the pork knuckles was a delightful sketch, RR. Did they, I wonder, take photographs of each other attempting to eat them, as is the Japanese wont?

I think your elegant, happy portrait in the first pic should replace the one at your blog head - so much more flattering than the breathless seeming old fellow who is there at present.

Lucy said...

I just wandered off for a bit and come back and there's all this wonderfulness here!

Ah, German Christmas markets, I like it that they're very largely about food and drink, the tat and trinklements and candles and even the tasteful wooden stuff is all secondary to that. We went to Rüdesheim years ago, and the small family hotel where we stayed gave everyone a goody bag on their last morning, including a large bottle of Glühwein, or rather the makings of it, as I suppose it only merits the title when actually hot; this was essentially a big bottle of very cheap red stuff with some flavourings and instructions to heat and add sugar. We lugged it back dutifully on the train -along with a bottle of local brandy, which disappeared before January was out, I think - through Belgium and northern France and it stayed in the cupboard for about ten years. I feared it might be a case of what's been called the ouzo syndrome, when something is charming and redolent sur place and then when you get it home the fairy gold vanishes and it's fairly disgusting. I can't now remember if we drank it as a very last resort or poured it away in the end. The addition of rum or other spirit does of course do much to enhance it.

Anyway, the two of you look so lovely and happy and festive and so much yourselves in that photo I want to be there and hug you both till your pips squeak.

Roderick Robinson said...

Sir Hugh: Normally I would agree with your sentiments. But this is Germany and - as in the past (know your L. P. Hartley) - they do things differently. OS and VR have have been going to Christmas markets for nearly two decades, they've seen 22, and the fact that office natives do not scorn the simple pleasures of these events is thought to be a big plus. A complete sense of community.

Stella: Ah that we might all have met on what could be called neutral ground. Glühwein on its own does not intoxicate, any vestigial alcohol more or less evaporates (the addition of rum changes things, of course). In oenological terms the taste is corny, far, far too obvious. But it aids the sense of communal conspiracy. You would have fitted right in.

RW (zS): You know whereof I speak, of course. Perhaps this would have have been an event where our circle of bloggers could have met and raised a mug in Joe's memory. Or anyone else's for that matter. Glühwein is not so-called by accident, it glues social groups together. But I'm fantasing... but in a pleasing, less obsessional way than usual.

Avus: No, these were not camera-prodding Japanese. They were immensely polite, regularly pointing - laughing - at these great bludgeons of meat which in one case endured the full forty minutes I watched. The Germans couldn't have had more amenable guests.

The smiling portrait would be wrong. These days I write, it's all I do. Writing is not a happy activity. When I first installed the home page portrait (I am sitting on a great boulderstone in the Lake District) I dwelt with some relish on the sackless expression created by my open mouth. I felt I should not disdain the role of village idiot because that - essentialy - is what obsessional writers are. Contributing nothing socially, selfishly concerned with the shape, colour, physiology, political implications and history of their navel. Look, the others would say, there goes Tom Fool. And Tom Fool would deserve it.

Lucy: I would call it the Gros Plant syndrome, simple wine that does not travel, not even as far as the car boot.

Ah, that you should have gone to Rudesheim. OS and VR have been to 22 Christmas Markets over nearly two decades, Rudesheim is regularly mentioned with fondness. You might even have overlapped. So many might haves since Joe died.

Your final sentence forces a confession. You know I have expatiated readily on my social inabilities, extracted quite a lot out of the literary conceit of the modern-day Ambling Alp. Even made people laugh.

Well a year or two ago, post Brittany flight, you said goodbye in a way that seems to come naturally to you. With a hug. And since then it is fair to say I have hugged more people - mainly women, I admit, Joe was the only male exception - than ever before in my life. And on no occasion was there any sense of obligation. Although I would deny it, to others knowing me and looking on, I may even have appeared a better person. It's not true but if it were Lucy fecit.