Hello from Mainz, Germany (excerpts from an email sent Nov 2, 2004)

Note:
All images have alt text so you can pause on them with your mouse to
see what they heck they are of.

Hello all,

Well, today is the day I head back to London. It has been a great
experience for me and I’ve seen and done quite a lot. When I got back
to Wiesbaden from Frankfurt in the evening Mats, his girlfriend, her
friend, and I went to a house party. Very interesting difference in
Germany, you don’t bring beer to a party, only hard liquor. The host of
the party is expected to provide beer for all his guests. And boy was
there alot of beer. I had way too much Bitburger beer and Jägermeister
and had a fun bus ride home.

On Saturday Mats arranged with a
friend of his to take me on a bit of a castle tour along the Rhine
Valley. We first visited a 1871 memorial built to commemorate the
unification of Germany
and the first of many many easy victories of Germany over France. (or so Mats
says)

Memorial

The Rhine Valley is very beautiful this time of year, with all
the wine crops leafs turning red and bright yellow. Most of the grapes
have been harvested by now, but I did see some ice wine crops that did
still have grapes. All along the 70km stretch that we drove along there
were at least 12 castles that usually acted as toll houses for ships
passing along the Rhine.

The Rhine Valley

We visited Marksberg, the oldest castle that hasn’t been destroyed or
passed into ruins. We had a short tour (all in German), it was quite different than the
English castles.

Armor display inside Marksberg castle

On the way home we stopped at a restaurant for very
huge, very tasty snitzel.
On Sunday Mats had a basketball game so his mother and her boyfriend arranged to take me to France.

At the France/Germany Border

After an hour and a half drive, we stopped in Willembourg for lunch. I
had escargot served in neat ceramic snail shells for a starter, and got
to eat frog legs in a white creamy sauce for my main course.

Mmm..cuisses des grenouille..

It was really good, and they do taste somewhat like chicken.

Strange though, to eat it took about 2 hours! The French are very laid back when it comes to meal times, especially
on a rainy sunday. After this we stopped to have coffee, french eclairs
(awesome, so creamily sugary!) and roasted chestnuts! Needless to say,
I was stuffed and enjoyed the picturesque little town and had a bit of
a sleep on the way back

Monday I had the pleasure of doing
something different again, Mats, his mother, and her boyfriend and I
visited the spa. Since Wiesbaden does have a natural hot spring
underneath it, it sounded like a good relaxing change of pace. And it
was! The spa had many different saunas of different temperatures and
lighting or seating styles. My favorite was a russian mist one were you
couldnt see 2 feet in front of you.

There were also pools of
varying temperatures you could sit in after you showered and left the
sauna. There was also a very hot sauna in which every hour a spa
employee would come in and pour a different scented water on the heated
rocks (sometimes chamomille, pine, eucalyptus, orange-lemon) and fan
the mist with a towel. Now then, you must also realize that this a
European spa, so it is required that you be completely naked in any of
the pools or saunas. It was actually quite comfortable – though
strange, to be in a place like this where people of all ages and both
genders walked around nude. But noone stares or anything, so it was a
real fun and very relaxing experience.

In the evening we went
to a Brewery house for Ein Masse of Beer (huge beer steins) and pig
leg. Well, I chickened out and didnt go for the pig leg, I had snitzel
and sauerkraut. The German food and ways of eating are definately going
to be missed when I’m back in super culinary England. Not looking
forward to tasteless sausages and mushy peas again!

So today
I will be going to Mainz to take the shuttlebus to Frankfurt Hahn and
fly back to London, then train and bus back to Wisbech. It has been an
awesome time here, and Mats and his mother’s hospitality and
generousity have been 1st class.

So with that I will leave off until the next email!

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