Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dancing on the Rhein





Every event today seemed to balance on the head of a pin; two minutes later we wouldn't have seen…, five minutes longer we would not have been..., one second this way or that and we would have missed one of the events that stacked together to amount to one of most fun days of our lives.

So we started in Munich. Leaving sucked because we loved our time there.  Yet the morning went as planned, we got a final cappuccino at Viktualienmarkt, retrieved the car from the parking garage, and even snagged the particular parking spot we needed in front of the apartment in order to load up our luggage.

The drive to the Rhein seemed to take forever, traffic and thunderstorms delayed us, yet we took turns driving and enjoyed the beautiful landscapes.  When we finally arrived it was well past lunch time, but we had snacked on fruit and nuts on our road trip, so we skipped lunch checked in with our host, and hurried to start the Niederwald Rundfahrt (round trip) in time to catch the last boat.  This consisted of parking in Rüdesheim,  taking Seilbahn (the people mover type cars) that ascended to the top of the hill on a wire overlooking glorious vineyards. Each car contained from two adults or up to four kids.  Several upper elementary aged kids were descending, perhaps as a field trip, and some of the more outgoing groups delighted in waving and shouting greetings at passing seilbahn cars as we shuttled up the mountain.  “Hallo,” “Wie geht’s?” (Hello…how goes it?) we were asked, we smiled, answered and got joyful responses from the young people.  One group flashed peace signs and we returned the greeting of peace, one girl exclaimed, “Kühle leute!” (Cool people).

The next part of the journey was hiking nearly an hour through the magical woods, seeing the deer at the zoo and then taking a chair lift down the other side.  By this time we were beyond hunger, clear of mind, soaking in the birdsong as we descended.  We had made it back down the hillside with time to spare to catch the last boat back to Rüdesheim.  We found no food on the boat but enjoyed an apartif during the 30 minute ride up the river, marveling at castles, green hills, quaint towns, and vineyards.

As we navigated the cobblestone streets in search of a traditional restaurant I had in mind, big fat rain drops began to fall.  We dodged drops, racing along under awnings and ducked into the restaurant just before the sky ripped open and it began to pour. We enjoyed amazing food including lemon balm pesto, whole fish, and a  lovely local Riesling, which when paired with the playful three piece band made for a relaxing and satisfying dinner.  As the restaurant began to fill with more patrons, the band played more traditional music that patrons sang and swayed with at their tables.  Then the drinking  games began as several large parties stood in front of a long board with shot glasses attached and on the count of, “Eins, zwei, drei!”they attempted to down these communal shots of schnapps.  One group started a German style conga line and the Japanese tourist hopped on board, recognizing a more familiar activity they could join in. Once we had seen all the wonders our dinner venue could behold, I told Greg it was time to move on  to the next place.  We both imagined that was going to be back at home, but the town had come alive.  Several bars had live music or a DJ and dancing, mostly with an older crowd slow dancing to oldies and traditional music.

We were ready to turn the corner and head back to the car,  when we heard young people singing out the window of a small pub.  They sang at us and Greg gave them the rock-on hand sign (index and pinkie finger extended, ring and middle finger touching your thumb; we will call it the rock and roll mantra.). Apparently this made us instant friends because several of them traipsed out onto the street inviting us in, and they were so friendly and welcoming we complied.  The group explained it was schnapps night and gave us a shot to cheers with and insisted on buying us drinks.  For Greg they suggested a beer, for me ein Hugo.  I shrugged, not sure what that was. One of our new friends gestured to his full glass, then flipped his straw and offered me a sip. Out of character, I accepted and agreed this was a tasty drink.  We visited for a long time.  One fellow named Karlsten said since we would only know him for one night he would tell us everything. His English was very good and we came to learn  how he loved his freedom and traveling, but his girlfriend wanted to marry and he loves her so he will ask her at his 40th birthday in October, she was 27 and spoke less confident English but was very tolerant of his tendency to chat up strange Americans.  Karlsten told us that his best friend is gay and  thinks they are the best people and that in his opinion gays should rule the world.  As if on cue, his friend Marcel danced over to us and the boys began discussing their favorite football teams. In response to the topic, Marcel lifted his shirt to reveal a tattoo of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ pirate mascot.  These guys were full of surprises.  They taught us German songs and their meanings.  One was a song from the 70s recently remade about a girl who is always smiling but only cries when she's alone, the most popular song in Germany right now.  Another one, all I can remember, “La la la…” Marcel explained this is for all the gay boys in the club. Around this time,  Marcel said something to me in German and took me by the had to the dance floor.  I noticed we kept stepping on each other's feet and realized I was not familiar with German footwork.  Marcel was too sweet to correct me but realized he was in way over his head, I tried a box step which did not work with the German dancing so he passed me off to his friend Karlsten who  was much more strict,  when I messed up. “Nein, Nein, Nein,” he would chastise.  Poor guy would  stop and start again slowly, mirror me, move my leg with his hand, even stand behind me with hands on my hips doing my steps, so I could follow. I felt like Baby from Dirty Dancing when Johnny is fist starting to teach her to dance, all giggles.  Meanwhile, they assigned a young lady to teach Greg a different dance which he claimed was harder than mine.  In the end they gave up and danced with each other, letting Greg and I practice the steps they taught us, then dissolving into hooked arms in a circle.  Marcel declared his love for us.  The DJ played “surfing USA” and announced it was for the schöne Americans.  Schnapps kept circulating on a tray, but Greg gestured to Marcel that he was driving to which Marcel gestured good thinking! This did not stop the flow of drinks in my direction.  It was clear that I was hesitant but Karlsten would say, “ I am so so sorry Melissa but you need to take that glass.”  After tapping glasses and raising the shot to my lips, I would place it on the bar behind me untouched. Luckily most of our friends didn't notice this, too busy gulping their own drinks to notice what happened to mine, except for one voluptuous blonde girl, who swooped in quietly behind me drinking down my discarded shots and winking at me.  It was creeping up on midnight and we needed to depart for holland in the morning, so we slunk out the door leaving our new friends to party the night away.

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