Thursday, November 23, 2006

bloggers behaving badly (in Bonn, no less!)

Now that I have fully recovered from the fun I can tell you all about it. This is going to be a very me-centered report, so if you get tired of my big fat ego, go eat some turkey and come back later.

5:30 a.m. Saturday: my alarm clock went off and I staggered out of bed all tousled and bleary-eyed, wondering if it was going to be worth it. I am not a morning person. My mornings start at 10 a.m. when I reach full consciousness. Until then I'm on auto-pilot. Since I had packed the night before and organized my stuff, all I had to do, though, was shower, dress and beautify myself before we all hopped in the car. Mr. M dropped me off at he Hauptbahnhof Hannover (main train station) on his way to the flea market with the boys.

The only train combination I could get to Bonn had a mere 7 minutes between connections in Cologne. Keeping Deutsche Bahn's track record in mind I wondered if I'd be able to leap from one train to the next within that time frame. My worries were unfounded. It wasn't the first train that was late, it was the second, so I ended up having lots of time and was the last person to arrive in Bonn.

The first thing I usually do when I arrive somewhere is to get good and lost. This time I got lost before I even made it out of the train station. Was that "turn right and head for the coffee shop" or "turn left and head for the coffee shop"? I couldn't remember and ended up somewhere completely different from where I was supposed to be. I'm thinking of having a navigation system permanently affixed to my forehead for occasions like these. My cell phone had to do this time, however, and I called J who appeared out of nowhere and rescued me.

So there we were, all 14 of us (Jennifer first arrived on Saturday evening) gathered together. I knew Jen and Sparky, J, and the Haddock family from previous meet-ups but Belinda, Hamish, Andrea, Heather and D, and Christina and Rainer were new to me.

What a lovely bunch of people! Everyone seemed to get along really well and there was MUCH laughter and joking and very little whining going on. I think we all enjoyed hearing about each other's experiences in Germany and the "where I'm from/why I'm here/where I'm going" stories were fascinating. All sorts of different personalities but all connected by that common "expat thing".

After those who were staying overnight checked into the hotel, we all spent some time walking around Bonn, which is known as "The City of Beethoven" since the great man himself was born there in 1770. I'll have to admit that although I'm usually very good at multi-tasking, I cannot sightsee and talk at the same time. Talking was my top priority on the weekend, so I really didn't take in all that much of the city, other than to note that it had a very cozy feel and was a scenic place that I'd like to visit again.

who was paying attention and knows what this is?

I heard rumours of rogue bloggers doing strange things to total strangers but I wasn't witness to this and can't report on the naughtiness. Hamish or Belinda could tell you more, I think.

Lunch took place at a German restaurant where Beethoven was said to have hung out with one of his girlfriends. We must have been sitting at their favourite table, 'cause I was definitely feeling the love.

Belinda departed right after lunch, claiming an uncontrollable urge to buy some cheese at the local open air market as well as having "stuff to do" (knitting!), and the three Haddocks had a family function to attend further south so our numbers were somewhat reduced at that point.

It was quite a grey, dreary day, but that didn't stop us from walking along the Rhine River for a bit. I loved being near the water and the fall colours were beautiful despite the drizzle.

Bonn is home to over a dozen museums, like this one, the Museum Alexander Koenig, one of Germany's most important natural history museums.

We didn't visit there, but we did go to the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany) which was very well done and documented Germany's history in a user-friendly, understandable way. But as with all things, when you've had enough, you've had enough. It was way too warm inside the museum, and the ladies of the group were done at about the 3/4 mark. After watching Sparky follow through on the "I dare you to lick that post-war Mercedes" challenge (you'll have to ask him about that one!) the female bloggers decided to go upstairs to the cafe and have a drink while the menfolk kept on going to the bitter end.

The afternoon went by quickly and I got to know quite a bit about my fellow bloggers and their "significant others". Soon it was time for dinner and we headed to a Mexican restaurant back in town where our tour guide J had made reservations. Nice atmosphere (except for the cigarette smoke), good food, great people. We had a LOT of fun and the conversation covered a wide-range of topics. Going to a blogger meet-up is an education in itself, I tell ya.

The smoky environment eventually got to be a bit too much for some of us and Andrea made an early departure. Surprise guest Jennifer from Cologne joined us mid-evening and fit right in with the crowd. We made our exit soon after the meal and looked for another place to hang out because it was still early and we still had lots to talk about. Christina and Rainer decided not to stay and left for Rainer's brother's house in Bonn, so it was down to Jen and Sparky, Hamish, Heather and D, Jennifer, J and me. We found a cafe where we could sit outside under the heaters and have a nightcap before seeing off those who were headed back to Cologne.

So it was just Jen and Sparky, J and me back at the hotel and I kept expecting Jen to yell "Pyjama party in J's room!" Much to J's relief, that never happened and we all retired to our separate quarters and locked our doors for the night. I have no idea what the others did, but I brushed my teeth, put on my jammies, watched about 10 minutes of TV and then passed out on the bed until morning. I had been up since 5:30 a.m., you'll remember.

One of the high points of the hotel was the sink in my bathroom. I liked it so much I almost took it home with me. Just look at that colour! Want to make me happy? Buy me a green sink!

On Sunday the four hotel-overnighters met Christina and Rainer for a brunch buffet at a trendy restaurant/club on the Rhine. All the cool kids were there and it was great pretending to be hip for a couple of hours. After we ate, Christina and Rainer left for good and Jen and Sparky went to make their mark on Amsterdam, leaving J and I to fend for ourselves. My train didn't leave for another few hours and J had no desire to return back to boring ol' Koblenz quite yet so we decided to walk around for a bit and see some more of Bonn. The museum we had planned to go to was closed, but we finally ended up at the Poppelsdorfer Schloss (Poppelsdorfer Palace)and discovered that the Minerologisches Museum, the Minerological Museum, was open to the public.

The exhibit of precious stones, meteorites, crystals etc. was right up my alley and brought out my esoteric side, which I think confused poor J somewhat. He now knows that if you've got a rose quartz in your pocket and an amethyst under your pillow, you're set for life. And we won't even mention the sea salt purification ritual, right J?

There was still a bit of time to kill, so we chose a place close to the train station to have a final cup of tea and a chat. Like we hadn't all been talking non-stop all weekend. I really should get out more often.

But this weekend reminded me of the reasons I don't get out more often - all the smoke. Smoky restaurants, smoky cafes and bars - not really my thing since cigarette smoke causes me actual physical discomfort. Despite sitting in the non-smoking section of the train going home, I spent four hours breathing in the fumes from the smokers' section which was only separated by a glass partition with a door in it. People were constantly going in and out so the partition was basically useless. Oh well. My eyes stopped burning yesterday and I'm not coughing any more so I think I'll live, but pleasant it was not. Get with it, Germany.

However, the weekend's positives far outweighed that one negative point and yes, it was worth it. We really missed all those who couldn't attend and next time there will be no excuse not to.

Start packing.


At November 23, 2006 6:12 p.m., Anonymous Belinda said...

hah! I wish I went home to knit. Sadly it was cleaning the house time at Casa Messy. It feels like I've been cleaning non-stop for weeks :(

I literally have loads upon loads of laundry to do before going on holiday. With this weather everything is taking ages to dry. I sometimes miss having a dryer!

Errr I think that was the old Stadtmauer. I apparently can't multitask either.

At November 23, 2006 6:56 p.m., Blogger J said...

I can name it, but I think I'll see if anyone else can first. Belinda's guess is wrong.

I'm already packing for next year's Meet-Up!

At November 23, 2006 7:05 p.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

glad your computer got fixed! Wow - sounds like such a great time. Yes I do remember that smoke...

After coming home I'd always put my clothes on the radiator to get out the smoke (it always worked) and then had to eventually wash my hair most nights..

I'm glad I don't deal withthat here in Vancouver!

So much fun though! Wishing I was there because yes I need a small vacation too!

At November 23, 2006 7:35 p.m., Blogger PapaScott said...

I was excused, I had a date in Munich with Heidi Klum, along with about 600 other people.

She couldn't make it though, she was too pregnant. She sent a video, though.

Next time we should propose to meet in Flensburg. Not that I really want to go to Flensburg, but that will raise the average lattitude of the suggestions and we'll get a city north of the the Weisswurst Border. :-)

At November 23, 2006 8:25 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Belinda - I know how it is with the cleaning, it just never ends. BUT when I returned home to Casa Messy del Norte on Sunday, ALL the laundry had been folded. I was stunned.

J - I'd assume you'd be packed to go anywhere anytime, right? :-)

Expat - Yeah, the hair is the worst. I hate that stale smell. You and P will get over here one of these days, I'm sure.

PapaScott - Sure, sure, Heidi Klum always wins out. :-)

Flensburg?? That's even farther away than Bonn! Maybe somewhere smack in the middle next time.

At November 23, 2006 9:30 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was the former gates of the city?? Sorry J, honest I was listening. You'd think I'd know this since I live here!

At November 23, 2006 9:47 p.m., Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Awesome! Reading this makes me want to push you and Lady Di *extra* hard to organize the 2007 Expatapalooza for me.

But if you're really *that* sensitive to ciggie smoke, then you definitely don't want it to be in Spain.


PS: Pam gets full credit for coining the term "Expatapalooza" for next years reunion. And guess what! I've already begun writing lyrics for our official song.

At November 23, 2006 9:57 p.m., Blogger Berlinbound said...

Next year - no excuse!

At November 24, 2006 7:08 a.m., Blogger Pam said...

We suffer from the smokers too in Austria, but if we have Expatapalooza in Austria, we're booking our own room at the restaurant and making the smokers sit outside. In honor of, you know, an actually useful American tradition, the non-smoking section.

But I'm crazy with envy. I gots to get me some of that expat love!

At November 24, 2006 8:40 a.m., Anonymous Lisa said...

Getting even more psyched for the next one. I have that same riverboat/restaurant pic. Is that the club you met at later? I'd love to explore that thing.

At November 24, 2006 9:45 a.m., Blogger Sandra said...

Sounds like fun. I'm jealous. And I like that sink too.

At November 24, 2006 11:30 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me too, I like green, I like the sink. Sounds like a fun weekend.

At November 24, 2006 12:07 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Andrea - I have no idea either. Looks pretty old, though.

Sal - Whoah, not so fast there, amigo, I thought YOU were organizing it. Way to go trying to delegate authority, but it won't work. :-) And Pam's Expatapalooza 2007? Brilliant. You'll have to tell us how the offical song goes. Is it sung to the tune of "Tiny Bubbles" by any chance? - "Oh, those expats, hear them whine..."

Yeah, the cigarette smoke thing is a drag and I'm way more concerned about the immediate effects it has on me (ie ruining my meal) than I am about the long-term evils of breathing in second-hand smoke. I've heard it's not a real allergy, more like an oversensitivity but the symptoms are allergy/asthma-like and it leaves me feeling like crap. I'm not a militant anti-smoking type person at all, however I *would* appreciate having a choice of places to go outside my own home where one isn't immediately bombarded with smoke. Poor, poor me. I'll just go off in a corner and whine some more.

berlinbound - Absolutely! Such a shame you couldn't make it this year but I totally understand about tired mamas and cranky little boys. That wouldn't have been much fun at all.

Pam - Right you are! We'll make our own non-smoking section if it kills us. Austria wouldn't be a bad choice, actually. How many spare beds do you have? And kudos to you for the great name.

You may not be getting expat love right now but at least you're getting Pacific Northwest love which is twice as good, I'd say.

Lisa - Now that you know that no one got cut up into little pieces and thrown in the river you're safe to attend.:-) Next time we'll personally come to your door and pick you up! No, we didn't go on that boat, the place was called Rhinelust and had a view of the river.

Sandra - It would have been so fun if you could have been there. Any chance of getting transferred to Germany?

meredith - It was lots of fun. And green is my favourite colour.

At November 24, 2006 1:17 p.m., Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...


The "official" song is posted on my blog.


At November 24, 2006 6:17 p.m., Blogger Kurt said...

...the Museum Alexander Koenig...

Wow, a whole museum dedicated to the guy who played Chekov from Star Trek...Germany is so cool! /giggle

You oughtta have ExpatPalooza at least there wouldn't be as many smokers there hehe. And you can always climb the Tour Eiffel and flash the crowd below if Disney gets boring!

At November 24, 2006 7:07 p.m., Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

Looks like a fine weekend you had there. But I can't believe you forgot to bring the necessary tools to take away the sink!! ;-)

Although we are both smokers, if the majority doesn't smoke, we'll go outside. On the other hand, when we go out to a really smoky bar, I can't smell myself either afterwards. Go figure :-)

At November 24, 2006 8:11 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

perhaps for the next one we choose a euro city with one of those 'non-smoking bars/restaurants' (a novel thought for Germany!). i so enjoy the one i frequent in cologne. it is quite busy with both germans and non-germans alike so i'm always surprised there are not more of them around. although germans happening by and seeing the sign tend to be stymied by the concept and often step inside to glance around in amazement. although since there is no smoke i tend to stay longer and drink longer...well, my liver can pick up the slack since my lungs are so rarely happy here.

At November 24, 2006 8:12 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can Germany really be worse than France with the smoke thingy?

I am a smoker and I hate it when a room is clouded with smoke. I much prefer to go outside and have a I feel really guilty if I smoke around non-smokers.

You should see me hanging out my window in winter, puffing as snow batters my face. I don't like smoking inside..loathe the smell in a house.

Your weekend looked lovely - glad you had a smashing time. I am off to meet Doc tomorrow...I think she's invited half of France for her annual Thanksgiving dinner.

At November 25, 2006 11:22 a.m., Blogger Mike B said...

On a practical note, I have a Falk handheld navigator so I can move it from car to car, or car to bicycle, and have even used it to get around unknown cities of Europe on foot. If you don't like being lost, you should look at getting one. If you do like getting lost, never mind.

As for the cigarettes, they cause me pain as well. That is why two times out per week max is my breaking point. The Russians and Poles all seem to smoke, probably worse than Germans and even the French. But there is hope on the horizon, as more and more restaurants are going with no-smoking sections ... Block-House has one that is actually almost smoke free.

Nice recap. Wish I had been there.

At November 25, 2006 4:20 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

What a great synopsis, Christina, of your trip! So like you. :) I would have LOVED being there and just hope it works out for next year.

We were at Donica's mom's for Thanksgiving Day and then decided on the spur of the moment to go back yesterday for left-overs and more time with Donica's brother. But there was smoke in the house both days and now I have a low-grade headache. UGH.

When Donica smoked, she always smoked outside, so she spoiled me. I don't do well with smoke. You and I are are both Gemini and lungs are part of our "specialty." Makes sense to me!

At November 27, 2006 10:18 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Sal - Have memorized it already! Just wish I could sing.

Kurt - Hey, I know, how 'bout we spring for your airfare and make YOU flash the crowd from the Eiffel Tower! :-)

CanSwiss - Yeah, my plumbing equipment was in my other bag, dammit. And my lungs thank you for being a considerate smoker.

heather - I just heard rumours that they are indeed going to pass a no smoking law for restaurants that don't already have separate smoking/non-smoking rooms. We'll see how long that takes to go through.

Wendz - It's probably about on par with France. People smoke just everywhere and it's especially epidemic among young women. I don't mind if they do it outside since I can usually find a clean patch of air to breathe. Hope you had a lovely visit with Doc!

mike - Mr M borrows a nav system from work sometimes if he has to go to an unfamiliar place on business and he says it works great. Hope to see you at the next meet up for sure!

Ginnie - You would have loved it. We'll MAKE it work next year. As for the smoke - oh yes, my respiratory system has definitely always been my weak spot. Same with my dad and he's a Gemini too.


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