Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday January 7, 2013

German Excursion 2: Wandering the Countryside

It’s amazing how much of a hangover you can have after drinking and dancing until 5:00am at a wedding reception, especially when you’re jet-lagged and also apparently being dragged down by an atypical anti-depressant reaction.

I’m pretty sure I was the furthest thing from a ray of sunshine waking up the next moment at the hotel after the wedding reception.

I hope I remembered to apologize to anyone I may have been snippy with.

Needless to say, the Sunday after the wedding reception is something of a blur and was largely a write off in terms of anything done, other than helping with clean up.

That wasn’t the case though in the days that followed.

Again, Mrs P and I were really fortunate to have Maike and Sorën take us around for the remainder of our stay. And despite some misadventures, we had a terrific time.

One of the first and most interesting things that we went to see was the launch of a new cruise ship, the ‘Celebrity Reflection.’ At first when Maike mentioned this, she thought the name was ‘Celebrity Revolution’ which I happen to think was a much better name. Overthrowing our celebrity culture is something I could get behind.

The Celebrity Reflection.

The Celebrity Reflection.

The nearby city of Papenburg is known for the Meyer Werft shipyards which specializes in cruise ships like the Celebrity Reflection. Papenburg, like many European ports is actually inland and the launching of these new vessels requires that they be steadily maneuvered along the river to the ocean.

These launches don’t exactly follow a set schedule so we were fortunate to be able to catch this launch. The ship, although it’s hard to tell from the photo, is being towed backwards by a tug and gently maneuvered through a very narrow river.

A lot of people come out to see these launches too. The entire berm along the river was crowded with people snapping pictures of the ship being pulled along the river. It was an amazing reminder of the power that human beings have to build.

Even if it does have a stupid name.

The Tea Lady of Ost Friesland in downtown Leer.

The Tea Lady of Ost Friesland in downtown Leer.

The Ost Friesland area is known in particular for its tea rituals and the types of teas it offers. Sorën and his family showed us this ritual and introduced us to the tea, which I’ll admit I took a shine too.

The tea is a black tea and it’s traditionally served in wide and shallow tea cups. It’s served with a type of sugar called ‘kluntje’ which is basically a large chunk of sugar that slowly dissolves in the tea. It actually makes a little twinkling sound as the tea is poured over it.

Ost Friesland tea is also supposed to be served with cream (not milk) poured as a creative swirl. Personally I preferred it with just the kluntje, but that’s just me.

One of our first visits was to the nearby town of Leer, which amongst other things, has a statue of an Ost Friesland tea lady, as you can see. Leer also has a great little shopping street in its downtown area that we were happy to explore.

Standing under the scales of the Rotary Club and Lions Club.

Standing under the scales of the Rotary Club and Lions Club.

Naturally this also included a number of shops devoted to Ost Friesland’s tea habits, which allowed me to stock up on some supplies to continue to enjoy Ost Friesland’s tea for quite some time to come.

I also purchased a ceramic pitcher as a gift for my sister, which I gave to her as part of her Christmas gift this year.

We stopped to have a late snack along the shores of the river running through the middle of Leer and relaxed on what was a chilly, overcast day. I had to marvel again at the combination of old and new architecture and how this small town, in so many ways, is so much more interesting than many of the biggest of North America’s cities, with their endless repetitions of track housing and big box stores.

Not to say you can’t find the odd big box store in Germany either mind you! But unlike the ones in Canada, you can buy alcohol at absurdly cheap prices at German big box stores!

The Leaning Church of Suurhusen

The Leaning Church of Suurhusen

We also visited the village of Suurhusen which is the home to this Church with its leaning tower. The tower was recently certified to be the steepest leaning tower in the world, tilting at a greater angle than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Fun fact: when I visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it was also with Maike on a previous trip to Europe. I wonder if that means that the next time I visit with Maike if will be in Abu Dhabi, which just recently constructed a leaning tower of its own…..

Germany is, naturally, covered with Churches, most of them ancient. On my first visit to Germany I was struck by the destroyed Churches that we visited in Hamburg, Hannover, and Berlin, particularly the one in Hannover. Left in their destroyed state after World War II, they are some of the very haunting memorials of that conflict.

This trip however, was the trip of the intact Churches, those little Churches that are still more or less in one piece or were re-built. All over the countryside are these tiny, ancient little Churches.

Wandering across rural northern Germany was a very different experience for me, not like my previous visits to Europe which have focused almost exclusively on the big cities, with only a few notable exceptions.

Getting a chance to see this side of Germany was an amazing experience and there is still more to come in this tale.



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