Friday, June 15, 2018

Weekend (4.21 - 4.22): From Blizzard to Beach Weather in 20 Days

Yes, that's right, a mere twenty days after getting snowed-in on Easter, it was basically summer.

And this is how we felt about it.
The climate is fucked, we're well past the point of no return. Oh well!

That's what the drinking is for!

It was finally nice enough for me to enjoy Hannes' parents' veranda for the first time once we got to Rostock for the weekend after the three hours on three trains that have become the norm since the tracks have been under construction, though it did get chilly once night fell and the wind started blowing in from the nearby Baltic.

This Russian Kräuter, or herb liqueur, has a great label.

Spacing out, trying to stay awake.. When we go to Rostock on Friday nights, we meet at Hamburg's main station when Hannes gets off work, and then we get picked up by his mom at Rostock's a little after ten.

This time, we were in Rostock to eat, drink, and make merry per usual, but mainly, we wanted to check out the possible and only possible wedding venue we'd been able to find. Actually, Hannes' mom found it. The day after we started telling people that we had given up and saw no option but to cancel the whole thing and hope to find a venue next year. Lots of ups and downs in this whole moving-here-and-getting-married-thing!

I thought this flower, given to Anke by a friend, was crazy amazing.
Turns out it's a South African king or giant protea.

And once again, what the hell? It's summer now? Two or three weeks later?

Here's that before picture, because it's just not the same without a side-by-side.

Welp, aye-aye cap'n, full summer ahead, starboard and port, breakfast on the bridge served momentarily

Gluten-free bread, creamy spreads and cheeses, fruit jam and marmalade, hard-boiled eggs, homemade guacamole, et cetera! I've said it before and I'll just keep saying it: I love this German thing of just putting all the food you own on the table for breakfast or brunch.

The first item on the day's agenda, as it turned out, was actually to go to Marco's football tournament. He plays on two different teams, one for men 50+, and one for the Rostock Power Station where he works. For him this series of games was kind of a big deal; it was an annual tournament for the company teams of the city, and so we went to check it out for an hour or so after Anke had driven him there when it started.

Aside from wanting, of course, to show up for something considered important, the main point of interest for me was actually the building in which the game was being held. It was all indoors, not on a field, and the aging Sporthalle Marienehe (or Fiete-Reder-Halle Marienehe Rostock, but who can keep track of that) is an example of what things looked like in the GDR.

I like this huge amateurish painting on the wall in the expansive lobby-type area
 when you walk in, it's quaint.

Kind of looks like an old hospital or mental institution, doesn't it?

It's difficult to describe the vibe thrown off by yellowing and dilapidated (I mean, for example; that this building continues to be used regularly is great, and it is in good condition) former-Eastern Bloc communist architecture and interiors. It's just a little unnatural, sometimes sterile, sometimes ominous. Maybe that's just because it's hard to separate some innocuous inanimate thing from all the context in your head, but either way, it's interesting.

Only in Germany is there rich halftime cake and hot coffee lol

Unfortunately the power plant team lost; Marco had made a couple of rookie mistakes, apparently, but also managed one killer save, so I guess they cancelled each other out and for him the game broke even in a way, but a loss always sucks.

Afterward we just sort of played it by ear, thinking maybe we'd go to the center of town, have a walk around and a coffee, but the weather was so nice, I said, why don't we go to Warnemünde?

You know, the place with this nightmarish blizzard beach?

Yeah well:

Shoes-off weather?

Squinting in the sunshine?

A bunch of people flying kites?

Even walking in the water?!

Again, we need a side-by-side here.. Remember, twenty days.

Look at these adorable ladybug kites! They were anchored to the ground so they just filled with air and hopped and jiggled around. I loved them. Hannes said they were the stupidest thing he'd ever seen but he was smiling pretty big while he said it.

Radler and Aperol Spritz season, oh yes.. Over the last couple of years I've found that, while I do still enjoy gin and vodka, my favourites have become fruity aperitif liqueurs: Campari, Aperol, and Pimm's.


Yes, northern Germany has sand dunes. Actually, Japan does, too.

Give me a break with this though! It's so drastic!

How did all of these colourful flowers get here?!

It was second Christmas before, even Christmassier than the real thing!

Oh, a random manhole cover that's actually kind of interesting, it's been a while since I've seen one.. Although, most German cities do seem to have them, you just have to look harder than in Japan, and they never have colour.

This is the face he makes when he sees a dog (or a cute baby or little kid)..


Just having the loveliest and quaintest of strolls up and down 
the narrow boardwalk harbour area

Sanddorn stand! In English it's sea buckthorn or sandthorn, a bitter, astringent little orange berry that grows on hardy shrubs battered by the cold winds of the Baltic coast. You can find all sorts of products that use it here, like the liquors and liqueurs that you can see, honeys, marmalades, lotions, and more. 

Eel and salmon being smoked.

Urgh, charming! Too expensive, though, unfortunately.. 
This is by Bjørn Wiinblad, who was a Danish painter, designer, and ceramics artist.

Eventually, though, we settled on something pretty and charming for my mom.

We chose the little seagull wreath, with the ceramic gull handmade there in Warnemünde, and the ornament with fish and coral under glass on a little wooden pedestal.

Danische Eis!

I think we got Málaga (rum raisin), Eierlikör, maybe Rafaello again? And.. Well anyway, it was good.

Fish sandwiches are what you're supposed to eat while walking around this area..

.. and the seagulls know it. 

On the way back to Hannes' parents' apartment - because we had some time to kill before we were supposed to be at the wedding reception venue to talk to the person in charge and give it the once-over in person before confirming - I asked him to stop at this nearby church, Kirchengemeinde Toitenwinkel, which you might remember from when we took my mom there for mass the Christmas eve before last. It was much more black metal then, though; as long as I had my camera and it was so nice out, I wanted to snap a few more pics of it and of its cemetery.

I really like this one.

We had coffees and some biscuits before heading back out again, to the restaurant, bar, and event venue in Rostock's massive IGA Park.

The building itself is large, with a traditional thatch roof and quaint fence.

There's a large metal fireplace with seating in the entryway.

And of course, a full-sized restaurant and a full bar. All of those windows on the left have views of the surrounding woods, marshes, and of course the water; at the time a large colourful container ship was sitting there.

This is that area to the left, when you walk outside. I like that they made 
a dock-like walkway down the the water's edge, and that they built it around that tree.

What the food service might look like.

And finally the most important place for the garden party itself, so long as it doesn't rain and/or storm (-knocks on wood yet again-), the back terrace and lawn.

Yaaassss. Exactly what we wanted.

Finally, something attractive that wasn't already booked, is large enough for 50 people, with an actual lawn (Biergartens, despite their slightly misleading name, are not actually gardens; they're always stone, concrete, or gravel), and for a price our family can afford.

Bam, that's the place.

But, well.. Nothing is perfect. This captures our feelings about the talk we had with the woman in charge fairly well. She was a real weirdo, like a few of the other people we've talked to.

The only problem wasn't finding something with a garden that wasn't already booked and didn't cost a fortune, though that seemingly simple set of requirements in a very green city full of open green spaces and large, free-standing restaurants did unfortunately prove to be impossible enough in and of itself, much to our (and everyone else's) bafflement. But there were also all kinds of weird, minor issues that cropped up and that we never expected. 

For example, one venue, located in Hamburg's massive central Stadtpark, wanted €4000 - which was about what we were looking at as baseline for a venue - but, oh, with no food. Just drinks and to rent the tiny building on the property. On the public property, that's part of the park. Where you can do whatever you want anyway. I asked, "What's to stop us from just renting a few white event tents and putting them up in the park and having catering brought in? What would we even be paying for here? Nothing!" 

The only venue in Hamburg we physically went to see and that I mentioned in the previous post about our weekends at the beginning of this year getting to know the city looked great in photos, but was an instant no. 
Even though Hannes was being very polite and told them we expected 50 people, they refused to give him an estimate over the phone. Er.. okay? When we went there, we realised instantly that the photos were taken very skillfully, because their tiny square of garden and terrace were sandwiched between two parking lots and somebody's private property. Even if everyone were just standing and milling about, there wouldn't have been enough space for them. The first "parking lot" was really more of a cluttered driveway, with only enough space for maybe eight cars. The second, back parking lot clearly visible from the garden and terrace was the employee one, with the dumpsters and shipping crates. 
The large park next door/across the driveway road had a water feature that looked more like a spooky swamp in person, and the view of it was totally spoiled by massive industrial corporate buildings in the background. And when we tried to speak with someone there - at their invitation; we had gone when they said we were welcome to come - we found that it was impossible to even enter because there was another private party going on. Welp.

I had Hannes call a castle. An actual castle that's a hotel now, with grounds and everything. They were booked, and we would have needed to pay for a champagne reception. But it was a nice try.

We figured we could default to our local beer garden, Factory Hasselbrook, if all else failed, but nope! Not even that place was an option! On their website and on their large sign on the sidewalk right outside the station leading to the entrance it says they do weddings, of course, and there are even photos of a couple getting married in the Biergarten with the trees and everything in the background when you google it. 
But when Hannes called, the woman was like, "What? Oh no, we don't do that."
"Okay.. I mean, everything says you do that, and I'm looking at photos online of a wedding, so.. that's why I'm calling.." 
"Oh. Um. Hmm, well maybe, a few years ago, before I started here, but definitely not." 
"Maybe you should change your sign and update your website, then."

Because, apparently, they do weddings, but not in the Biergarten. But. What? Where? In the fucking kitchen? Obviously people want to use the scenic part of your property for weddings! Uggghhh!!

So here we were at this venue that Anke had found just when we had given up, the last chance to have the wedding reception garden party thing this year, and we were very happy with it. How crazy that it worked out just as we had decided it was impossible! What a roller coaster.
It's kind of a pain for us and for the four people on my side who are coming from abroad, but the overwhelming majority of the people attending live nearby in Rostock, so it only makes sense to have it there.

But the weird, unexpected difficulties weren't over. The woman we met with seemed standoffish and possibly constipated but otherwise fine; we had simply called ahead, set a time, and said that we had some questions and such before confirming. Pretty normal, basic stuff. She kept saying, somewhat cryptically and with the blank serenity of a cult member, "Anything/Everything is possible," without actually giving us any details or information, but then every simple question we had was met with something like "Ohh, we can't do that." Mmmmmkay, cool..

Our questions were about the timeframe (when can we come and decorate/set stuff up, for how long can we party here, by when do we need to clean everything up), decor, and menu. Because what else would they be about, right? When I asked about decor, she directed us to some poorly-taken cell phone pictures on their Facebook page, and we were like, okay. I asked about lighting. I think that any other human being would understand and agree that lighting is an important aspect of an outdoor party that carries on into the night. She wasn't sure what I meant. I said through Hannes, do you, for example, have strings of lights, like Christmas lights, that can be put up? She met this with a light, straight-faced, unfriendly chuckle and said, 

"Well, maybe for Christmas? No one has ever asked."



I said, alright, well, we want lights in the trees and things, since everyone will be outside as long as the weather holds; it's a garden party. Some white lights on strings, little white paper lanterns on strings, things like that. Would it be possible to have your people here put those up for us? How much would you charge?

She said something like, "Hah, well, I mean, I guess we could string lights up in the trees, but I mean, if I fell from a ladder doing it, for example, then you would be down one staff member for your party."

I stared blankly. "Yeah, and if one of us fell from a ladder putting up lights then we'd be down one bride or one groom. Ha, ha! What's your point?" I snapped in English, meeting her weird, dead, antisocial stare. Hannes looked like he wanted to disappear into the floor.

We moved on to the menu, as we were clearly not getting anywhere with this bizarre "Anything except everything is possible," game and had understood well enough that we would need to put up our own lights if we wanted to have them. We expressed our desire to change the menu around a bit, and she said that would be fine. We could make some changes and remove items we didn't want, like wurst, but since we would still be feeding the same number of people, the price per person would remain the same. Okay, cool. 

- "Did you bring the print-out they gave your, or your parents?" she asked. 
"Oh, no, sorry," I replied, "I forgot that sample menu at home. I meant to bring it."
- "Ah. Well, we can't really talk about the menu then, because I have no idea what they gave you, or what kind of offer they made at the time."
"But.. it was just a sample. Like. Printed out. And you know the cost per person. You probably have a folder full of them back there in the office. Just go get another one. Aren't you the one in charge of this anyway?"
- "No, sorry. I can't. I don't know what was on that paper."
"That's pretty weird that you're a restaurant and you have no idea what your own menu is."

Hannes looked, again, like he wanted to melt into the floor.

Yep, anything was possible, as long as it wasn't one of the basic, essential things we needed or had a question about. What. I was angry and felt like I was dealing with someone who had lost their mind. She told us we could contact her/the venue via the e-mail address on the print-out (which is of poor quality and was never proofread; two of the menu items are printed on there twice by mistake, the third page stapled to it is blank, and it is clearly a generic sample of the kind they hand out on a regular basis); there is no e-mail address on the print-out. After leaving this whole thing alone for a couple of weeks because he couldn't imagine dealing with it again, though, Hannes finally ironed out the details via e-mail correspondence. Oh but, we can't have our own music. If we don't have a DJ, it's just the radio. Because playing the radio is a normal thing that people do at big expensive parties!

UGH. What's wrong with everyone?!

But anyway, that's pretty much the whole story of us trying to find a venue for this party and finally succeeding. This is the year of moving to Germany, getting married, and celebrating it, and of spending time with Hannes' parents now that he's back here for good. We are married now and the plane tickets are bought and the party is going to happen and we're going to have a great time. 
This kind of stuff is stressful enough as it is, though; I wish weird people and businesses didn't have to make it so awkward and difficult for people to throw a bunch of money at them. 

Anyway, after arguing about all this weird stressful bullshit and deciding to put the topic to bed for the rest of the night, we went over to Nico and Andrea's for drinks around the fire in their gorgeous back yard.

I took so many photos because this was the first time I'd seen it since New Year's and the first time I'd ever seen it in a season other than winter, and I was totally blown away. It's like the kind of thing you see in home improvement store ads and magazines but that no one can ever actually do themselves. Well, they can, and they did! It's like an oasis, a retreat. It's just great.

We talked and drank, and Pasha, that big lovable idiot, stood almost in the fire wagging his tail without even noticing, so that Andrea jumped up and shoved him away from it lol.

We even roasted a few marshmallows on sticks, though they had sugar crystals on the outside and actually got pretty hard and glassy. It was still great, though.

And look! One of those pieces of wood had a heart carved into it!
Ah, what a nice night. Even though going to the venue had been stressful, all in all, 
we had done so much in just one day, and it had been pretty perfect.

One more delicious brunch before heading back to the station for the long ride back to Hamburg, as usual. Thanks for yet another glorious weekend of chatting, drinking and feasting like lords!