We might be dreaming of a white Christmas, but our Christmas Eve in Germany turned out to be a green one.
In fact, at mid morning the temperature was 8 degrees. Di did not have a great night due to an upset stomach, so Hans left her alone after breakfast to catch up on her sleep, agreed to be back for lunch at 12.30pm and then he went for a walk/hike to the nearby town of Bretten and back again.
This is how Hans walked...
Hans had no map with him and only knew the general direction to Bretten, but as he also knew that there was a local map on a signboard along the way since we passed it yesterday, he took a photo of that overview and used it as his map. This is it...
Between the village of Kleinvillars and the town of Bretten is open land and on a slightly higher altitude (wouldn't even call them hills), and despite the mild temperature, the wind was doing a good job of blowing through you there.
Of course, the open expanses also provided nice settings for landscape photography...
A barn or shelter/storage of sorts...
Hiking or walking German style seems to be mostly by using hiking poles.
A thumbs up selfie. It was really nice to be out and about, with only a few other punters along the way.
At one stage, Hans met a horse rider on the track and then this... These people were not walking their dogs, but their horses.
The hike took Hans mostly along paved walkways among farming lands and landscapes, but a short section along a horse riding school and sport fields was muddy and not surfaced. Again, it looked good.
As Hans entered Bretten and was walking underneath the train line through a tunnel, he spotted this graffiti... Is this of an aboriginal man? In rural southwestern Germany? Must be a story.
The great Mr Einstein was local from the area and this street was named in his honour. Who Otto Hahn was, we have no idea.
Well, it was good to see that Hans was not walking too fast.
Hans never really got into "downtown" Bretten, pity as its Markt Platz is from 1555 and supposed to be very nice, since he was running out of time (remember, he had promised Di to be home for lunch). He did however stop at one stage to eat the 2 bananas and the 2 mandarines that Roland has to kindly provided with him for his walk.
Another selfie from the road back...
Man made timber towers of various kinds can be found all over the region, including towers to overlook the landscapes. This one was located where the map overview could be found that Hans took a photo of earlier. Great spot for a break so Hans climbed it and sat down for a short while.
Hans was back in Kleinvillars just before 12.30pm as agreed and Di had cooked home made Monastry Lentil soup for lunch which was very nice. Of course, huge amounts of food for lunch would not be required as dinner would likely more than sufficiently compensate for that.
Quiet afternoon, before it was time to go to church...
Roland left just after 3pm as he was one of the organizers, but he told us to be there around 3.30pm for the 4pm start of the service.
Roland has reserved spaces for us on the balcony, first row, but at the far end of the wall.
That was fine except when more and more people arrived later they made themselves also "comfortable" on the front row. We knew we had the best seats but sitting like sardines was bordering on the ridiculous as we were all uncomfortable and we could not move at all. Whenever we stood, Hans had to duck under a light fitting on the wall and returning to your seat was a bit of a jostle for space as well.
Is it disrespectful to shoot a selfie inside a church and just before service? Never mind, it's done now
And so it all began... Some selection of words spoken to welcome us, by the pastor (or Pharrer in German, not priest as these are only in Catholic Churches), some psalms to read and sing but most of the time was used for a Christmas play by the children's church group.
It was sweet and quite funny, a mix of a modern story, that Christmas cannot happen as they had no more chocolate santas and presents. This was followed by children reenacting the birth of Christ with a conclusion that regardless Christmas can always continue.
Catherine, Roland's daughter was in charge of the performance and all went well apart from one or two moments of confusion with the lighting.
We would have liked to include pictures from the kids performance here, but were advised by Roland and Carherine that we needed the parents' permission to do so if the child could be identified. Hence, we will not include any further pictures from the performance.
Tim, the son of Tom and Christina, was wearing the same t-shirt as the other day and when Hans later pointed that out to him, he switched for dinner at home. Unfortunately, the pictures we had of Tim also included other children.
The pastor with Catherine, thanking her for her long service to the children and to the church.
Hans had one of those scary / funny moments as we all left church after an hour and a bit. As we exited the church, the Pastor was of course there to farewell the attendants and wish them Frohe Weinachten. Right of a sudden as Hans left, he saw the Pastor looking right at him from perhaps one meter's distance or so.
Hans was taken totally off guard (yes he shouldn't but he was), shook the Pastor's outstretched hand and mumbled some unintelligible which was supposed to be "Fröhliche Weihnachten".
The pastor could of course not understand what Hans was mumbling, so therefore issued an "Entschuldigen", pardon, as he was leaning forward towards Hans to hear better, who at this time got his Christmas greeting across. The pastor just said "yes" and moved on to shake the hand of the next churchgoer. Yes, funny and very momentarily scary at the same time.
We retired back to Roland's place for a short break while waiting for Roland to finish up at the church. As one of the church organisers, he had to stay back a little. Then it was a short walk to Tom and Christina's place, with two boxes of Christmas presents from Roland and also Catherine, for a southern German Christmas Eve.
This is a pic of the combined house / farmhouse where Tom and Christina live with their three children Magdelene, Marlene and Tim, Roland's grandchildren.
Roland still owns the farming part and its land while the residential building is owned by his daughter and her family.
After an unexpected Christmas dinner consisting of wiener schnitzel, wurstchen, kartoffeln salad and salad, (which incidentally was really nice and not too overwhelming at all) we all retired to the living room for that long cherished activity, Christmas presents.
This was a very lengthy activity as there seemed to be a neverending supply of Christmas presents, many in Christmas paper, but some wrapped in newspaper while others were not wrapped in at all. Unsurprisingly, the activity took a very long time, but with glasses of alcohol in a very comfortable setting, we sat back and observed it all.
And yes, we were given presents too. We had bought presents in Lyon for each of the three kids, but nothing for any of the adults, except Roland and Christa. Oh well...
From left to right, Christina, Roland, Tom, Tim and Marlene.
Magdalene, the oldest daughter, plays the piano (in fact, the whole family plays one or more instruments) and entertained us with the music as we, well they, sang German religious Christmas songs.
They kindly asked if there were any English Christmas carols we wanted and Di sang one verse, alone, of Hark the Herald Angels sing, hoping the Germans would join in with German words. But alas, they did not know the tune at all.
Werner and Catherine. Werner is the guy who had the good taste of listening to Nils Lofgren acoustic live album from the top floor of Roland's house the other day. And yes, we did talk music during the night.
Roland perhaps did not want to be confused with Santa Claus, or Nicholaus as he is called in Germany, as he was wearing a very yellow rather than a red jumper.
The Christmas presents are definitely different in Germany compared to Australia. The kids all got these Christmas blankets and seemed very happy about that.
Catherine couldn't help herself and borrowed one of them, and therefore did a good job of blending into the chair.
These presents for us hit the spot for Di. Not one, but two boxes of Mon Cheri chocolate. Apparently these chocolates are a long standing family tradition because there must have been about 10 on the table by the time unwrapping had finished.
Hans doesn't eat cherries but we also received an additional box of more traditional chocolates so there was something for him too.
The can of AC/DC beer, in the photo below, unfortunately did not belong to us, one each was given to Werner and Tom
AC/DC beer was news to us as we had only seen the AC/DC wine before, however given the Australian link, there had to be a photo.
Yep, old times photo albums turned up and who is the young lady in this photo if not Di's mum, Audrey.
The photo was taken on a holiday here in 1973. Tom promised to scan the photo and send it to us as an image of better quality.
After much drinking and eating and chatting, we walked back to Roland's place just before 11pm.
A final pic first from the aftermath... This is what a teenage girl leaves behind.
Well, Christmas dinner in Germany felt like Christmas dinners anywhere else, you eat and drink and chat yourself to exhaustion, so now it is definitely Gute Nacht from us.