My B&B in Mannheim was super-luxurious after the hostel grossness in Amsterdam, and was even relatively conveniently located. Mannheim is an industrial city in the south-western corner of Germany, and definitely not on the tourist trail. It’s actually the only place I’ve been in the country, despite best intentions of making it to several festivals or to go and party with friends in Berlin. I went there to go and see a performance by the band the Guano Apes, who had been my theme snowboarding music for the preceding season (oh my god—ripping it down the slopes in NZ to ‘You Can’t Stop Me‘? Freaking amazing!). It was also conveniently on the way to where I was going in Italy.
I was actually going to the concert that night, and with the help of the lovely B&B owner, figured out my bus to where the concert was happening (though, naturally, didn’t bother looking at how I would get back). I rocked up my outfit and headed off. When I got there, I fetched myself the first of several wodkas (seriously, I can’t not laugh—I get that ‘w’ is ‘v’ in German, but I like to think that everyone says ‘wodka’ instead of ‘vodka’, like a country of extreme lisps). And oh my goodness, I was so happy to be there: every time I’m in a crowd of people whose first language is not English, I get stoked, because I feel like there’s still things to learn, and still parts of the world to explore. So I was having a lovely time having a little dance in the crowd, while making the observation that I don’t look German at all. Haha I point this out, because it’s usually peoples’ first guess as to my heritage (which isn’t actually the case).
The support act, ‘Alpha Academy’, was super-fun, and then it was time for the GA. They sing in English, but obviously I had no idea what they were saying between songs: so I asked the guy next to me whether he spoke English. His name was Christian, and he and his friends were actually super-helpful. He translated (insofar as he could) what was being said. To be fair though, after another visit to the bar I wasn’t paying that much attention anyway: the bar-guy gave me a truly terrifying amount of vodka. He was practising his flaring technique, so first poured normally, then over the other arm, then behind his back: by the time he’d finished, I had a big cup of vodka. Wodka. Giggle. I also bought some chocolate, for dinner—health ftw!
After the gig, Christian offered me a lift home, which I obviously accepted. I was in the middle of freaking nowhere, with no knowledge of German and no clue (in general). It was pretty entertaining: I was listening to the GPS and learning some new vocab, while C’s two friends were talking in the front seat. They had very, very limited English, but had figured out that I have a limited passive understanding of German, so were completely fucking with me. Think horror movie script (but with more giggling). Haha I’ll never forget them talking about ‘child soup’ then looking at me surreptitiously to make sure I’d understood. *Eye roll.*
The next day started pretty hilariously, with the owner’s receptionist-son snorting with laughter at how badly I pronounce even ‘I don’t speak German’ in German. He derisively laughed that I’m as bad as his American mother. I did feel like pointing out that if he’s half-American, his English should really be a damn sight better, but I pretended to be nice instead. The day was then spent wandering around taking photos and doing work on the tender for the law firm. I did make the observation that there are an inordinate number of phallic-shaped buildings in the city (and judged it worth texting my friends in Aus about, while obviously giggling my head off. Maturity!).
Aaagh, I just remembered, I did the stupidest thing! There’s this tram which goes about the place in Mannheim, and so I figured I’d get on it and do a quick loop: it didn’t look like that many stops. I also decided to do this before having had any food that day. Freaking two hours later, I was way out of the city and starving. I’d not had a meal in a couple of days, and that’s when it finally hit me. Worst, tram-ride, ever. I saw a McDonalds (not something I usually eat), jumped off and ate everything. Then another hour or so back to Mannheim. An angry, angry hour or so. Gleugh. Oh well, I spent it watching the sign announcing the next stop, and listening to the PA to understand how each letter etc sounds in German (I really am obsessed with languages).
Apparently at some point during the day, C had driven back to my hotel and left a note at reception saying how awesome it was meeting me and offering to show me around the place, but I didn’t get it until I’d already left Germany the next morning, on my way to the Italian Alps to go snowboarding. Hells yeah!