Monday, September 28, 2009

South German Adventure Part Two: More Aggression

After Jens's warning, Wiebke and I did not knit until we were on the train leaving Konstanz. I remember that I actually left off in the middle of a row.
Following dinner, we moved inside from the terrace, and Wiebke cheerfully presented Jens with a gift we had brought him, a thank-you for his hospitality.
Wiebke is from the same city as Thomas Mann. It is south of Luebeck, a city in Germany that I really like. One of Luebeck's claims to fame is that it is the headquarters of Niederegger marzipan, which I've been told (and so far, believe) is the producer of the best marzipan in the world. If you think you hate marzipan, but have only been exposed to things like those godawful super sweet fruits, you may discover that you actually like Niederegger marzipan. It's not too sweet and it has delightfully faint almond taste. Niederegger makes marzipan in all kinds of great shapes, potatoes being the most common, and if you go to Luebeck, you can eat in a marzipan cafe, where there are wonderful cakes with marzipan in them and marzipan beverages, like marzipan cappucino. Both times I went to Germany, I returned with marzipan rooibos tea.
Wow, this is totally off topic.
Anyway, we thought a perfect gift to bring to a South German would be something representative of Northern Germany--Niederegger marzipan! And, so that it would be characteristic of Wiebke's city, it was Thomas-Mann-related. It was a box of marzipan candies in a false book. The book was Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks, but when you opened the cover, of course, it was filled with delicious marzipan!
Upon opened the present, Jens snarled something which Wiebke later translated for me as, "So, you think I'm pretentious?" That was all he said, not a single word of "danke schoen."

Jens announced that we were going for a walk. I believe the purpose of this was to retrieve some bicycles that we were borrowing for the bicycle trip into Switzerland. It was nice to be outdoors in perfect weather, in a beautiful South German city. We were walking towards the university. I remember this walk consisting of a path through rolling, grassy hills, with the sky turning pink and orange as evening approached. At the foot of a large hill, we were greeted by a brown and white cat. Wiebke and I immediately knelt down to pet it, letting out simultaneous "Awwwwww"'s. Unexplainably, Jens growled loudly, "RAAAHHHHH!!!!!!" and lunged toward the cat. It took off.
I am not making this up.
Wiebke, who generally isn't shy, said nothing in protest, though she was visibly disappointed.
We climbed a large hill to get the first bike. It was kind of old and I guess something was wrong with it, because Wiebke whispered to me suddenly, when Jens's back was turned, "I do not want to ride this Fahrrad!" Or some combination of English and German distress.
We walked on a path that bordered a wooded area. At some point in the evening, perhaps now, perhaps earlier, at Jens's apartment, Wiebke had said cheerily, "So, Jens, es ist Samstag Abend!" She elaborated that though we were tired from traveling, how about showing us some South German nightlife? After all, it was Saturday! Jens didn't seem overly excited, but suggested we go to a Biergarten. He explained to me that this was a South German invention and that he was sure we'd like it.
Anyway, as we walked alongside the wooded area, Jens and Wiebke spoke in some German that I did not understand. I remember lagging behind, feeling miserable that we had to spend a week with this unpleasant guy. Jens turned to me and spoke.
"So, Sarah. It is Saturday evening. I would like to drink. Wiebke would like to drink. You will drive us home from the Biergarten."
"I'm not allowed to drive in Germany," I replied quickly.
His response was a look of disbelief.
"I don't have an International Driver's License."
"When I went to New Zealand, I could drive."
"Well, this isn't New Zealand, and I'm American. I can't legally drive in Germany."
"Who will know?"
"I'm not insured here, either."
Jens did not think this was a problem.
"What if we get into an accident?"
The argument went on for awhile, until I finally convinced him that if we were to get into an accident, like, say, not our fault--maybe someone would rearend us--that it was not only me who would get into trouble for illegally driving Jens's father's Mercedes. He, too, would get into trouble.
"Ok! Wiebke will drive!"
"What? I don't know how to drive that type of car!"
It was an automatic, which may not seem difficult to drive, but if you've never driven one before, it's still scary! Also, the Mercedes was like a giant boat. It was difficult to navigate through the narrow streets of the city. Not to mention, it was someone else's expensive car!
Wiebke insisted that she would not drive the car; Jens insisted that she would. I'm not sure how this argument resolved, except that Jens did drive us to the Biergarten. Wiebke told him that she would not drive home.
For readers unfamiliar with German cities, I should point out something--cities in Germany (perhaps all of Europe) have public transportation. There was no reason we could not take a bus to the Biergarten, except that Wiebke and I did not know the public transportation system of Konstanz (nor did we have keys to Jens's apartment) and Jens did not want to take public transportation. That settled it. Someone had to be designated driver.

The Biergarten was delightful. After my brief experience with bars in New Brunswick, NJ, this outdoor bar with picnic tables, lit by Christmas lights and colorful lanterns, seemed magical. Of course, the beer was great. We met a friend of Jens's, who was Swiss but now lived in Germany. He was a sweet guy. I'll call him Pierre, even though he did not really have a French name. The four of us talked and drank beer for quite awhile. Well, everyone but Wiebke drank beer. I believe I stopped at two for solidarity.
In the presence of Pierre, Jens acted like a completely different person. He was friendly, intelligent, interesting, and funny. We had a great time. My unease lifted and I wondered if I had imagined everything--the aggression, the growling, all of it.
But then it was time to leave. Despite Wiebke's words of protest as he went up to the bar, Jens had kept ordering beers. Wiebke had had the sense to switch to soda. Jens had gotten good and drunk, so that no one would ask him to drive home. Wiebke had to drive.
She was visibly and audibly terrified, but she drove, and we arrived back at the apartment without incident. Shortly, we were asleep on Jens's floor.

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