Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Honeymoon in Heidelberg

After a month of Instagramming these photos and taking so many that I put our day at the castle and on the mountain in a separate post, I was pretty tired of them, but it's time to put this lengthy post to bed (I know, that was lame).

Ah yes, being in the dark little Immigration Office corridor waiting with an ever-growing number of equally disillusioned folks at 5:20 A.M. the morning after our wedding.. Good times.

In case you missed it or don't use the site, in February I typed a whole lengthy - and yet fairly concise considering how complicated the whole thing was - Facebook status update about what the extremely stressful 4 1/2-month process of getting married, which culminated in this last Immi visit and in me picking up my resident alien ID card a month later, was like. 
This doesn't even include finding out the hard way that I had to pass a basic German language exam without ever having taken any courses or anything, that I had to go all the way to Berlin for my marriage affidavit, or that I had to send my birth certificate back to my mom so that she could get it apostilled by the Secretary of State's office, for example. And that all of these things had to be scheduled a month or more in advance, and were not cheap.

I'll go ahead and immortalise the post about the marriage and immigration offices themselves here, but it's probably TL;DR even if you haven't read it before, and even though it says that again at the end. The documents I'm referring to below include the important ones I just mentioned above:
Okay, story time! This is faster than keeping people up to speed individually. Such hoops, many jumping, wow.
We got all of our documents in plenty of time and turned them in to our district's marriage office on the 8th. We were expecting, on that day, to do this thing where we would swear that they were true and accurate and that we were all good to get legally married; then we would get the official document that says we submitted all the other official documents and swore the oath. A crucial piece of paper in exchange for all the others to show Immi, for a temporary stay permit until we find out the soonest available marriage date and finally get fucking married.
This oath is in German, so if you can't understand 100% of it, a third party has to interpret word for word. The marriage office opens at 8 on the days that it is even open, so we walked there and were waiting at 7, along with Solvig, who kindly agreed to interpret.
The marriage office lady was a selfish cow. She whined about their being understaffed and busy, which is of course true, but like, these people only work 20-hour weeks. She whined about being about to go on vacation and insisted that checking over my documents that same day was impossible, even though her desk was empty and her phone was not ringing.
There was no arguing with her.
We were like, okay, it's cool that you're going on vacation for two weeks and don't feel like checking these before you leave in a few days, but this tourist visa is only good for three more weeks. When we told her February 27th was the day it expired, she was like, "Wouldn't it be March 1st?" This bitch was counting calendar months, not actual days.
We were like, no.
So she said, okay, come back first thing in the morning the day your visa expires.
We were like, "Are you serious?" And yeah, she was.
She thought we could meet with her at 8, get the stupid document (which was of course already ready that same day, it's just sitting on her desk right now as I type and apparently there's not a single other soul who can simply give it to me and listen to me agree to the sworn statements), and then book it over to Immi to show it to them and get me a temporary stay permit.
*That same day*.
*The last possible day*.
Let me now describe the abject misery that is the Hamburg Mitte Immigration Office.
Mondays and Thursdays, they're open from 8 - 4. Tuesdays and Fridays, 8 - 12. That's it. Today being a Friday and D-Day, Feb. 27th, being a Tuesday, we quickly understood how deeply and utterly without a chance we would have been had Hannes not spent a week constantly e-mailing and calling and finally talking to an immigration officer and asking if we could come in without that one accursed paper.
The days the office is only open until 12, like today and the last day of my visa, people start lining up at 5 A.M. There's a sheet on which you write your name that crawls out from under something at 5:30. On these days, the immigration officers *can only take about 30 cases*.
This first waiting period outside the door in the icy cold stairwell is simply to have the opportunity to go to the information desk, staffed by two women.
If for example you get there at 6:30 in the damn morning, in the dark and in the snow, and end up being, say, #34, then congratulations, you will simply not be helped today. All you can do is ask the information ladies questions.
Hannes wrote our names at around 6:10 this morning. We were #29.
If we had done what Selfish Marriage Office Cow - who clearly knows nothing whatsoever about Immi - told us to do, we would have had no chance whatsoever. My visa would be expired and I'd be pretty fucked.
We sat on the stairs being cold and reading until the numbers started being called at 7:30. A lot of people really didn't get the concept. One guy thought he was first because he was closest to the door. In all that time he stood there waiting, watching people write their names, it somehow never occurred to him that proximity to the door was not a factor. Others came up and simply lied about their names being #17. No, no, wait, #15. Like, what. You don't get to just pick one and say that's you.
Nearly everyone waiting was African or Middle Eastern, and one guy who was outside when his number was called and then came back had a full-on, full-volume shouting match with the security guy (because that door needs two security guys to maintain order) right in the middle of all of us, in this densely-packed crowd of around 50 people in this tiny space.
Security Guy told him that he was re-calling the people whose names were there but who didn't answer, and that if he just waited a few minutes, he would be called again. The dude wasn't even listening, flipped the fuck out, and started accusing the guy of being racist (another patiently waiting black man next to me was subtly but clearly mouthing something like "Oh no, no man, don't do that..") before storming off, even though he and his wife and baby had been waiting since 5 A.M.
Some people only realised once they were almost to the information desk that they had long-missed their chance to be seen/helped that day. Two other people lost it, one of whom also shouted a lot and one of whom just stormed out.
At around 9:45, 3 1/2 hours into this process, all we had done was fill out a simple two-sided form with our basic information on it, and then we were unceremoniously handed a temporary stay permit for me, good until May 15th.
Wait what.
We didn't even have to see or talk to anyone. Our (second) number was never called. They never looked at any of the hefty stack of documents we brought that might "help our case", just checked my passport.
We still need the marriage office to finish the process on the 27th, and the soonest available date might not even be for another 2 or 3 months, but hey!
TL;DR - I'm not getting deported!

So yeah, um, we were extremely relieved when that whole thing was over, even though I still had to go pick up my ID a month later, like I said, and it turned out to cost a surprise 100 euro. -_- Not only that, but I only had a temporary German stay permit in the meantime, so I couldn't travel outside the country, even though I was now married and had legal residency status and work permission.

Brief and half-hearted discussions of Lisbon, Prague, and Amsterdam were dropped pretty quickly, and we picked Heidelberg. Hannes' parents sent us there for the weekend with their credit card, after booking a hotel for us (though Hannes did end up paying for the overpriced train tickets there, straight after Immi, himself).

Vegan fruit and soy yogurt power parfait thingy, definitely recommend

Part of the reason I say that the train down to Heidelberg was overpriced is that it was a 35 or 40 year-old banana-coloured relic. Their seating reservation system wasn't working at all, so they had no way to indicate where the people who paid extra to definitely have seats should go, and we had to move two or three times. It was hot and stuffy, and not terrible by any stretch, but definitely not worth over 100 euro per person, even for a 5 1/2-hour ride.

This was the view pulling into and out of Frankfurt.

But finally, we got there!

This great stainless steel sculpture is across the street from Heidelberg Hbf, in front of the Print Media Academy. Its pieces represent those of printing presses and different steps in the process; its hooves are giant stamps, printing designs into the pavement as it walks.

This street art wall (and vacant lot) was just on the way to our hotel; I'd like to know who does the minimalistic black blobby animals around these parts.

Le lobby, with complimentary glass of wine upon arrival

Le view, which, hilariously to me, included absolutely le-none of the city's historic buildings of note even though it was beautiful and those towers are clearly attached to lovely historical somethings..

Le nuptial double bed

Le complimentary fruit platter, sekt (sparkling white wine), and mini chocolates placed in our room when Hannes' mom called ahead and let them know that it was a honeymoon trip :3

Also a single red rose. 

Turns out this hotel chain, Leonardo, will do all of this for free when you tell them it's a honeymoon trip, and just takes your word for it. So uh, yeah, there's a nice life hack for you.

We got to Heidelberg earlier than we thought we would, and were happy to still have some daylight left; we thought that, after an indeterminate span of abject misery at the Immigration Office and the 5 1/2-hour train ride, we'd end up arriving at night and just crashing at our hotel, but not so. 
We basically ended up with a half day more than we thought we'd get, because Immi went quickly and the lady was actually really nice and efficient that time (even if she did forget to mention that 100 euro that came later). So, we set out to take the quaintest and scenic-est of strolls in the old city centre and to have something to eat and drink.

As it turns out, April is also cherry blossom season in Germany (although only for this variety as far as I've seen, which is kanzan yaezakura in Japanese). Who knew?

This statue in front of a University of Heidelberg building called Friedrichsbau is of Robert Bunsen, who invented not only his namesake Bunsen burner but also did pioneering work in photochemistry and discovered cesium and rubidium. 

Heidelberg is famous not only for being quaint and beautiful, but also because it has the oldest university in Europe and to this day a lot of groundbreaking research is done there, especially in medicine and psychology. There were loads of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean students and families there, with an unusually high number of respective restaurants to match.
On either side of Bunsen here, under the blooming cherry trees, are two more really cool sculptures not pictures that represent the unawakened and the still untamed forces of nature, in dramatic anthropomorphic fashion.

Most or nearly all of the historic old city is thankfully free of graffiti and even of stencils and paste-ups, but there are a few, and they look pretty cool next to more classical elements like this.

We grabbed a window seat and drinks at a burger joint, because Hannes decided he really wanted one, and they had vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options! Which is actually pretty common if not very common in Germany! Eeee!

I didn't go vegan, though, as soon as I saw the varieties of cheese on offer..
This might look like cheap nacho cheese, but it's actually cheddar and full of jalapeño flavour!

As for my build-your-own veggie burger on a gluten-free bun, I went with: the falafel patty, romaine, avocado, manchego, caramelised onions and mushrooms, and aioli. God I enjoyed just typing that combo. It was ace. 10/10 would recommend Die Kuh die lacht.

This whole town is filled with gorgeous pub signs! 
Almost every business has one; we decided someone started it a few hundred years ago and it became not only expected, but probably a competition.

Also, a bridge monkey!
I didn't look up what the deal is with this weird yet very attractive and modern bronze sculpture until afterward, but there is an Atlas Obscura article about it. At the time I just thought its empty face was spooky; it didn't occur to me to get under it and use it as a mask!

"See? This is what I'm talking about. Look. My accidental picture of those girls taking their selfie is like a thousand times nicer than our selfie. Just look normal and smile! It's our honeymoon!"

Okay, there we go. :)

This castle though, right? Look at it up there. Look at it!

The sun setting, we wandered back into the centre of town from the bridge, 
with nothing to do except eventually find another drink at a place that looked nice.

And this little hotel's restaurant is where we ended up; it's called Hackteufel.

Nice French horns and booty butt logo, approved

This is Linie Norwegian aquavit. Hannes' dad once told him that it's called "Linie" because it crosses the equator. Like, it leaves Norway in barrels on ships that I guess are already headed in that direction anyway? goes to the other side of the planet, and crosses the equator again to come back. At first I was like, "Wow, that's interesting," but after a few minutes thought "Damn, this drink's carbon footprint is off the charts tho,"

We also ordered this little baby poppy seed soufflé with vanilla sauce, 
(real) whipped cream, and fresh fruit.

Urgh, so quaint! All of the little cafés lining the cobblestone streets are so quaint!

Look at this castle at night, though! Damn! Lurkin', loomin', not even lookin' real.

Along our stroll back through those quaint little streets and in the general direction of the hotel, we stumbled upon an Absintherie. Oh boy. I had never actually been to one or had Absinthe since the time I sought out the only full-time goth club and Absintherie in Transylvania seven years ago, only to find that it had closed down forever two weeks before (I've never finished telling that story here, but this is the first part).