A fresh, new Saturday is already upon me, so it behooves me to truncate the last two parts of my experiences from last Saturday, lest I get too far behind in my attempts to document the best of my daily life experiences here in Germany.
The sport of choice around here, as it is in most parts of the world, is soccer.. In the USA, outside the realm of women’s college sports, soccer is an also-ran in comparison to nearly every other recreational pastime. As a matter of fact, soccer doesn’t even make it into the top ten most popular sports in the US, coming in at number eleven, just behind running, but a notch up from skateboarding.
To be honest, I’ve never payed close attention to sports even when I was in the US, but I would get interested if an underdog team, against all odds, would make a run for the top spot in any sport. I usually try to follow the travails of any local sports team in the areas I live, (e.g. the Denver Broncos when I was in Colorado and the New Orleans Saints when I was in Mississippi) so I won’t appear totally ignorant (gay-lol) hanging around the water-cooler chatting with co-workers on Monday mornings. I’m trying to bring myself up-to-speed on the finer points of soccer for the same purpose of social lubrication that I did back home in America. It’s also a good thing to be aware of local rivalries around here, since emotions are often intense in regard to the success or failure of the local teams. When Holland and Germany play, it is a good idea to keep a low profile. My wife and I were shopping in Holland one day when a local retailer warned us we might want to “get the hell out of dodge“ before the game ended and the streets swelled with fans. We drive a Mercedes with German tags, so we would be easy targets for the rage of inebriated local fans should the German team best the Dutch this given day. We quickly gathered our purchases and headed for safe haven across the Dutch/German border to our home in Wessum.
My access to American sports on television is hindered by a six hour shift in time zones as well as limited local US sports programming. The Super Bowl is broadcast live here every year, but the game starts well after midnight!! In a nutshell, it’s rare that I see any live American sports on TV here. That said, I did happen to notice that Clemson was making a huge move in the college football league. Unrated at the beginning of the season, I began to read sports news on the Internet about their surprising winning streak against much higher rated teams. I think I first noticed a sports story about Clemson’s amazing season when they were 4-0. After that, I would eagerly check the online sports news every week after they played to see if they could keep their streak alive. When I read that Clemson was still undefeated at 7-0, having won their last game in an amazing come-from-behind victory, I shared the news with a friend of mine here in the area. To my surprise and delight, he told me that Clemson would be broadcast LIVE on his premium satellite television at six p.m. this particular Saturday evening! They would be playing an away game at North Carolina in a bid to remain undefeated and go 8-0.
After finishing with my tour of the German car lot and most-excellent zoo in Rheine, I headed over to my friend’s house to see Clemson and North Carolina battle it out. We ordered pizza at halftime (my host picked it up from a pizza place within a half block of his apartment). In the end, Clemson won by three touchdowns, going 8-0 for the season. I think Clemson is now rated among the top five college football teams in the US, and if they keep playing the way they have been, are real contenders for the national championship. Getting to see Clemson win for the eighth time in a row and continue their unbeaten season made for a very pleasant evening. Immediately after the game, I effusively thanked my friend for his hospitality and excused myself, walking short the two kilometers back to my temporary hotel apartment in the crisp night air.
As has become my custom while staying at my temporary abode in the Aristo Hotel, I dropped into the bar and ordered a nightcap upon arriving back home. I was greeted with open arms by the smattering of patrons still mingling about the bar. The single nightcap I had planned on consuming turned into several more than I had originally envisioned. Just before excusing myself and
wandering stumbling off to my room for bed, I was treated to a nice bit of performance art at the bar which I had the good sense to capture on video. I offer it here as a final peek into the closing moments of my most excellent Saturday adventures here in the Nordrheim-Westfalen region of Germany.
As we distanced ourselves from the dealership, I learned the destination of the bonus trip they had in store for me. A visit to the local zoo in Rheine. Now I’ve been around the world, and I’ve been to the Memphis Zoo, but in all my travels as they’ve unraveled, I still enjoyed the view. At my age, the zoo is always more exciting when you have a child with you. It’s just as fun for me to watch the children react to the animals as it is to see the animals themselves! I have as fond a memory as any father whose ever lofted his young son atop his shoulders for a free ride (and a better view) at the zoo. The afternoon was going to be at least as much, if not more exciting than the trip to the Disneyland of car dealerships earlier in the day!
My hosts were quick to note that their wunderkind was already aware of our destination before they ever shared it with me (or him). He’d been to the zoo enough times to know we were on the road that leads there. He was pointing out the zoo signs well before we were anywhere close to the place. His excitement was as clearly palpable as it was contagious. The combination of excellent weather, the generous hospitality of my host family and the enthusiasm of youth bode well for my afternoon activities.
Upon arriving at the zoo, the first thing I noticed was the availability of several specialty bicycle lockers placed next to the regular bike rack. These are provided for people riding electric bikes (e-bikes) so they can charge their bikes while visiting the zoo. How cool is that?!?
I was barely within the zoo when I noticed several people had their dogs with them. I’m getting used to bringing my dogs along to all the restaurants (fancy or otherwise) my wife and I frequent, but I never even considered that they would find equal toleration at the zoo!
I’ve had many of these. “Toto?, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” moments since my relocation to Europe, but when we strolled into the monkey section of the zoo, I almost went into shock. The monkeys were all sitting around within a special enclosure (no dogs allowed in there). They were not caged in any way, and you could walk right up to them (no touching).
There was a similarly interactive display in the penguin area. The signs offered a disclaimer about them biting (they will!!), which roughly translated said “You have only yourself to blame”. The concept of contributory negligence must be unknown here. In any case, I couldn’t resist my primal impulse to pet one of them.
I let several of them bite me on purpose just to see how bad a bite they would inflict. My hands are tough, but one did manage to nick my finger just enough to draw a bit of blood. Best to keep a close eye on the kids. I tend to believe that a monkey going berserk and ripping a kid’s face off is a much bigger risk than a penguin bite, and that’s obviously a risk that this society is willing to take. If you ever get a chance to walk freely alongside the monkeys, I would encourage you to do so. As we left the zoo, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were leaving the set of a National Geographic special. We strolled “Out of Africa” and back into the parking lot for the short ride home, completing Teil Zwei of my perfect German Saturday. Teil Drei – Das Große Spiel to follow.
I accepted an invitation to ride along on a visit to a huge German car dealership last Saturday. Located in Rheine, it’s a Disneyland of a car dealership and offers Mercedes, Opel, Volkswagen, KIA, Nissan, BMW, Suzuki, Chevy and Ford brands. The weather couldn’t have been more cooperative. We departed for our destination awash in all the sunshine that Heaven could muster. It was as warm and bucolic a late-October day as is likely possible in this northern European utopia.
The young German couple (and their adorable 4-year old Wunderkind), who offered me the chance to tag along with them, are looking to upgrade their Nissan Qashqai five passenger SUV to an even larger Ford model with seating for seven. They were in a ‘just looking’ mode today, but they are definitely eager to upgrade soon.
After arriving at the dealership, we entered the vast complex of glass and steel showrooms with the intention of working our way through the byzantine maze of autos to the ginormous Ford SUV’s. As our initial reconnaissance failed to land us in the immediate vicinity of the aforementioned objects of affection, and there is apparently either an ancient custom, or perhaps even a law (dam ‘nanny state” socialism) against letting your four-year-old starve to death (Hoocoodanode?), we paused for lunch. It hardly broke our stride though, as they’ve a nice lunch cafe conveniently located right inside the car dealership!.
I drank my obligatory five-sugar latte and bought a couple candy bars for the youngest member of our entourage. Right now, the strongest language we hold in common is candy-based, and is heavily enhanced in chocolate code, but we’re working together to close the German/English gap (hopefully before I push the poor kid headlong into childhood diabetes). I’m obviously taking a serious risk of looking foolish by being linguistically outperformed by a toddler. I’m already having nightmares of the little tyke dressing me down, in perfect English, on my inability to master his native tongue!
He’s a bright and spirited child, who apparently seeks the same in a friend, (even if it just so happens to be an old geezer like me – lol). Don’t try and curry favor by offering him candy right before lunch though. Sure, he”ll take it, but he’ll just stuff it in his pocket until AFTER eating lunch, without the benefit of motherly intervention, and all without a second of hesitation. I could see my chances of winning the great international language competition through forced self control alone was going to be a fool’s errand for me. This kid is a pro. Toss in an attentive German mother, already fluent in English and eager for her son to master same, and you’ve got the recipe for a looming disaster for my (stereotypically) fragile male ego.
When lunch was completed and the candy was consumed, we continued our trek towards the exact Ford SUV under consideration. Upon arrival at the promised land of Ford’s 7-passenger vehicle of perfection, they zeroed in on examining the size, fit and finish. After finishing with their inspection, we took a walk across the complex towards the Mercedes area, taking only one brief respite to let “das kinder” enjoy a moment in the thoughtfully provided kiddie play area. Getting to witness the look of pride and accomplishment on the face of a confident and enthusiastic four year old, after successfully negotiating a two meter slide was well worth the momentary disruption on the way to see the Mercedes.
Several of the showrooms are linked internally, but the place is so big you need to cross a street to get to the Mercedes showroom. The entire complex was well maintained and thoughtfully landscaped. As we crossed the road to the Mercedes building, I glimpsed a nice reflection of the Mercedes logo mirrored nicely off the surface of the Koi pond near the entrance to the showroom. This is a dealership as intelligently designed as any of the thoughtfully engineered German vehicles on display within. I lost track of the time we spent at the dealership, and of the many brands and amenities offered on the plethora of vehicles displayed for purchase. The Coup de grâce of our car shopping adventure coincided with the viewing of a shiny red Mercedes SLS (gull-wing doors). I saw no price listed. If you have to ask, you obviously can’t afford it.
A lithe and agile a vehicle like this, powered by a brutish 6.3 liter engine, is a sure ticket to an exhilarating death via heart failure for an old man like me. The viewing of the red Mercedes completed the day’s pilgrimage to the car dealer. My ever-gracious hostess offered me her spot riding shotgun in their Nissan Qashqai, as she settled in the backseat next to her adorable young progeny. As we drove away from the car dealership, my hosts inquired as to my schedule. Once confident that they weren’t interfering with any plans I might have made beyond the scope of their initial invitation to the dealership, they offered me a diversion of a totally different dimension for the rest of the afternoon that I eagerly accepted. It turned out my day had only just begun. To be continued in “German Saturday Teil Zwei-Den Zoo“.
Sorry I can’t make it to the party. Maybe someone can save me a party favor? I will drop back into the country to pick it up after the war crimes and bank fraud trials are complete.