A visit in the countryside

I spent the weekend touring the northern German countryside visiting friends and families.

Friday was the kick-off in Rendsburg, a little town of about 30.000 in Schleswig-Holstein, at the 50th birthday party of a friend. Germans love to celebrate "round" birthdays. Saturday continued in a village just outside of Lübeck, the second-largest town in Schleswig-Holstein
at around 250.000 people, visiting with relatives and Sunday was spent in Dinklage in Lower Saxony, where there are 12500 inhabitants not counting the dogs and horses, at a 60th birthday party.

This is not to be a diary entry, but I want to note down some thoughts and observations and comparisons that I made driving the 1000 km. Here they are, as yet unsorted:

  • The local Aldi and Lidl markets have replaced the churches as the focal points of the towns. They are larger, have more parking, and many more visitors.
  • Italian food is popular at the moment, both parties had an Italian buffet, with people oohing and aahing "Oh, I love Italian food!".
  • Even if you ask if there is pork in the dishes in Lower Saxony, they won't tell you. Since the major ingredient is chicken (the area is famous for its chickens, still free of bird flu, thank God), they said it was chicken. It was, of course, stuffed with ham... The noodles were in ham sauce, the meat was pork medallions, the fish lasagne tasted like it had bacon in it. Pork is a major food group in Lower Saxony.
  • You have to be fast to get some of the tiramisu.
  • Berlin is so far away in the minds of the Western Germans, it might as well be behind a wall.
  • Academics compose their own songs for embarrassing the birthday girls, non-academics use stuff they find in a book at the library or on the Internet. But both are presented with love and energy, and the recipients end up blushing a lot.
  • In Lower Saxony you have to drink a lot of schnapps. And they have very interesting types of Schnapps, not to be found in the stores on Kudamm or Friedrichstrasse (actually, I don't think there are any alcohol stores on either of these two streets....). I counted wild strawberry liquor, windmill schnapps, grappa and Ramazotti (never tried it before, just heard the advertising).
  • There is some sort of entertainment at a party that does not involve the people you are sitting next to. We had a live folk music concert and a visit to the Schweger Windmill.
  • So many people out of work, on early retirement, doing an "internship" (euphemism for real work for little or no pay).
  • So many people sick and angry at the German medical system which is falling apart at the seams as I write with doctors on strike for weeks, payment schemes changed monthly and people being denied medicine and/or medical routines they think they need.
  • I don't know where the impression comes from that the Germans are dying out. Lots of kids and youth everywhere.
  • People don't open their presents at the party! This is a shame, as I want to see their faces when they unpack something silly or outrageous or gorgeous.
  • The prize for the best way of giving money (something I don't really approve of) goes to the group who borrowed the collection box for the "Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffsbrüchigen" from the office (removing the money collected there) and stuffing it with lots of 1-Euro-coins and a pair of silk stockings (to keep it from rattling). The collection box in the shape of a ship has to be returned by Monday, but the idea was great, and the kids had fun counting the coins.
  • I don't understand much Plattdeutsch anymore.
Even in the rain, northern Germany is wonderful in Mai with the fields of green and yellow (rape seed) and the lakes. I do rather miss the place.

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