The big move to our (much bigger) house went very well, despite the freezing temperatures on the day. Ten journeys across town in Wanda the Van-Car and a few very late nights cleaning the old house ready for our tenants… we were a little bit tired, to say the least. Probably not the best time to take a driving test – which I promptly failed within three minutes of setting off – but why do things by halves? An even better idea: why not go on holiday/business to Germany less than two weeks after moving?
Apologies for misspellings, grammatical or semantic errors in the title! Aidan and I are currently in our home away from home a.k.a the Formule 1 hotel. Tonight we’re in Bremen, but so far we’ve stayed in Formule 1s in Bochum, Etaps near Hamburg and Lubeck and the Best Western in Bremen earlier in the week. Oh yes, we go to all the classiest places when staying in Germany. The funny thing is, we’ve stayed in the Formule 1 hotels so many times that they really do feel homely to us now, despite the 80s décor and modular, shared showers. All I need is a ‘dirtbag’ (mixed up German lager and Cola – thanks Stuart, for the name!), a few books, X-Files and the knowledge that the van-car is chocka with retro pottery.
This week has been brilliant. We’re going to be returning with Wanda the Van-Car fully loaded. Her suspension is being tested today as this is the biggest haul of stuff ever. In the last two days alone, we’ve found a few dozen pots, a giant retro space age rocket lamp, three rugs, several pieces of glass and more. Add that to the haul of a giant Steuler lamp, a Tretchikoff ‘Chinese Girl’ in the world’s biggest frame, at least a hundred more pieces of pottery and glass and countless other little bits and bobs… it equals a fair amount!
As you can see from the pictures from the start of the week, the car got full quite quickly. Worryingly, we just looked at these pictures and giggled that Wanda looked so empty. Ha! We’ve found some amazing pieces though: the Tretchikoff is an obviously good one; but some of the West German Pottery is just staggeringly good. Gorgeous: from fat and crusty lava to chic, refined, delicate shell-like glazes, we’re really thrilled with the pots.
Earlier in the week, we visited Wuppertal, home to our favourite contraption: the ‘Schwebebahn.’ Just look at the pictures:
I’ve mentioned the Schwebebahn on here before but this time I actually got to ride on it. I cannot imagine that being my commute every day. Aidan was in his element with it. We rode all the way to one end and back to the central station within about forty minutes. Remembering some of the stories that we read about online, I can’t believe that somebody thought it was a good idea to put a baby elephant on it! That’s what happened though: in the 1950s, the Althoff Circus used ‘Tuffi’ the Elephant to publicise the circus was in town by taking it on the city’s public transport. However, once she was aboard the Schwebebahn, she was frightened by the odd movement of it and managed to break through the side of the carriage in her panic. Luckily she sustained only minor injuries after falling into the River Wupper.
We also took a trip to see the Grandmaster of WGP: Kevin Graham. The amount of time and effort Kevin has put into the world of WGP in astounding – as is the sheer quantity of pottery he currently houses. We saw only a fraction, yet that was fantastic enough. And what Kevin doesn’t know about it all… well, try the Pottery and Glass forum he runs! It was a really enjoyable day trekking around with Kev and insightful to say the least. Having an expert with you to go hunting makes for a very enjoyable experience; turning it into almost like a lesson at the same time. If lessons in WGP were part of the National Curriculum of course… thanks again, Kevin for the fantastic day and glad to hear how much you enjoyed the Marmite. Hopefully the Green & Black’s hot chocolate and Colman’s mustard will be just as yummy.
Today was meant to be a more relaxed day for us. The car is pretty much full and we’ve worked fairly flat out since we got here. And we haven’t really been to as many places as on other days, but it’s still been a fair bit of driving. Luckily (or unluckily if you think about my diet!), we discovered the joys of ‘Nougat Crisps’, a breakfast cereal made up of little chocolate-crème filled parcels. We may or may not be onto our second box of these things… The scenery has been much more picturesque up North, compared to around the Ruhr. Although the Ruhr does have it’s more interesting charms:
Slightly childish I know – and these pictures were taken before we spent a day with Kevin… mutual acquaintances will know what I mean! – but these signs did make me smile and they were within two hundred metres of each other. We’ve also seen a ‘Caravan of Love’ this evening: as we drove past what we thought was a camper-van pulling out, I spotted a sign saying ‘Girls girls’ on the door just as Aidan spotted some neon, red lights on the bonnet… I can’t decide if I would or would not be interested to see the kind of person who would turn up to use the ‘Caravan of Love’! Just goes to show that appearances about an area can be deceiving. This was in a lay-by off a tree-lined road in a peaceful, rural area.
All in all, it’s been a really fun week. Fingers crossed, there have been no mishaps yet with either the pottery or the car. We’ve even managed to speak a reasonable amount of German to the various shop-owners. Today, I got told that our German was very good and asked if we were Swedish as a result. The woman was very surprised when I said we were English. That’s what happens when you’re slightly ginger with a tall, skinny boyfriend, both wearing glasses. And speaking another language other than English… nobody believes you’re English if you can do that!
Now it’s time for more X-Files and some strawberry wine in bed. This is fairly standard for a roadtrip and should probably get added to our official rules. I’ll leave you with an updated copy of them, just in case you fancy the trip yourself.
Official Rules for Road-tripping Round Germany (Updated):
- Use every toilet you come across. Do not be afraid to ask for the key if necessary.
- Try not to feel too excited when entering a junky, packed looking market hall. Virtually everything will be chipped.
- Get used to the smell of cigarette smoke. Smoking and secondhand junk go hand in hand here.
- Bring baby wipes for cleaning your hands after a re-pack. We forget this time.
- Stock up on cereal you can eat dry.
- Stock up on ‘dirtbags’ for drinking once in your hotel.
- Book the cheapest hotel you can. It’s worth sleeping in 1988 to spare ten euros that might buy the best piece you could find.
- Learn key phrases such as ‘How much does it cost?’ ‘Is that your cheapest price?’ ‘Excuse me, I’m English and therefore can barely speak my own language let alone yours. Please speak more slowly. No need to increase the volume as I’m not stupid, just foreign.’
- Be prepared for a lot of staring at your car. Yes, it’s a British car. Yes, it’s a right-hand drive. Yes, it looks like a Royal Mail van. And yes, we’ve just tried to drive down the wrong side of a dual carriageway. So?
- Formule 1 might be the cheapest hotel, but it will give you free internet. Expensive hotels are cheapskates and will not.
- Sunglasses are essential for allowing you to have a catnap when not driving, without the driver realising.
- Do not read for more than thirty minutes at a time when a passenger. This causes the driver to get very cross.
- Do not ignore the driver when you are reading, especially when he needs you to look in the blind spot for cars when merging onto a motorway.
- Try not to get cross when you get told to ‘keep your eyes peeled’ for your destination when you’re still five minutes away according to the sat-nav. Particularly when it’s the tenth time that day.
- Do not take videos of your driver reversing.
I’ll try and get that video tomorrow…