Travel Post: Football, Animals, and the road home

I had planned to attend A’s church on Sunday, but in the end, sleep took priority, and I instead rose in a more leisurely fashion to begin contemplating packing and what I might need to post home, before meeting A for lunch along with her friend I, last seen in costume at Barockfest two years ago.   It was really great to catch up with her again, though as she is still working with scientists, lunch quickly degenerated into scientist and grant stories.

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With my flight home only two days away, we had earmarked Sunday well in advance for a very important cultural experience.  I refer, of course, to the football again.  Not the France versus Ireland game, which we watched on A’s computer while I weighed my luggage and wondered just when I had acquired so many toys for my niece (answer: constantly and at every town I stopped in across three countries), but the far more exciting German game against… (oh that’s nice.  I didn’t bother to write who their opponents were in my diary.  Clearly, the cultural immersion.  Sorry, whichever team you were.)

Anyway, watching football at home while saying ‘Oh la la, c’est pas possible’ a lot and commenting on the attractiveness of the respective goalies (we both tend to barrack for the goalies) (this might be why we watch so many nil-all draws?) is all very fine, but this is clearly not the proper way to do things.  No, to watch football properly, one must go to a beer garden, ideally in the grounds of an old castle.

So we got into the car, and drove into Mainz, counting flags as we went.  I believe the final tally was 52 German flags, though we did spot several French flags, a man wearing an Irish flag, and a good sprinkling of other flags flying from surrounding apartments.

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The beer garden at Schloß Mainz gets ten out of ten for atmosphere.  It was absolutely packed with excited people, and a variety of stalls doing a roaring trade in the sort of things football fans might like to eat, drink or wear.  My favourite was the ice cream stall, which was selling, in addition to its usual flavours, a German flag icecream, containing stripes of strawberry, mango and chocolate.

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Alas, the score for visibility was rather lower.  They had two screens, both the size of large wide-screen TVs, and from our table we could only see one very distant screen in full, the nearer screen being partly blocked by an enthusiastic fan in a ‘Mühler’ soccer jersey, with the endearing habit of standing up and blocking the screen entirely whenever he got excited about something.  Like, for example, a German player being somewhere in the vicinity of a soccer ball.  Since Germany was winning, this happened with a fair amount of frequency.

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But the collective shout that went up at the first goal was pretty wonderful, and the ice cream was excellent, and the people at our table were friendly, and I gave up counting flags and hats and shirts and people wearing them.

Still, with the score at 2:0 in Germany’s favour at half time, with no prospect of actually seeing any football, we decided that Germany could probably win without our help, and abandoned the field in favour investigating the arts and crafts market that was part of the St John’s weekend festival.

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This was good fun, and very tempting, and, ironically, we wound up seeing more of the football there than we might have done if we had stayed – the third goal was kicked just as we passed a local pub, and we were able to watch both the goal itself and the replay with far more success than we had watched the first two.

Then we came home – somehow it was 9pm already – among a sea of excitedly hotting cars, to a dinner of gnocchi with leftover ratatouille.

On Monday morning, I thought it might be nice to actually wander around Mainz a bit while A saw her physio.

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I started by posting home a bunch of things that I was fairly sure were pushing my suitcase over my baggage allowance, and then sallied forth to look at  pretty gothic church that was sadly closed.

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I wandered across to the Mainzer Dom, instead, admiring buildings as I went.

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They were still packing up carnival-like stalls after the festival, which I was beginning to feel a little sad about missing.

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The Mainzer Dom was rather more cherub-infested than one might have wished, but I did like the Romanesque crucifix.  (A told me at one point that Romanesque crucifixes tend to show the risen Lord, and are thus much more serene and pleasing to look upon than the later, Gothic ones, which focus more on the agony of the crucifixion.  I hadn’t realised there was any other kind…) And I was also rather fond of this bishop who apparently likes picking small princes and princesses up by the hair.

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Having wandered around and been duly cultural, I headed back towards the main street, and my true goal of the morning – the dangerously extensive sheet music shop in Mainz.

Sometimes, one just has to settle in and really see what is available.

Sometimes, one just has to settle in and really see what is available.

After which I needed a second trip to the post office.

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When I was last in Germany, A wanted to show me proper European fairy tale animals, but the bears and the wolves were all hiding.

So this time around, she did her research, and took me to the Hochwildschutzpark Hunsrück, in Rheinböllen.

Behold, the European fairy tale animals that can be found in Rheinböllen!

Meeting a fellow traveller.

Meeting a fellow traveller.

Yes, that is a kangaroo.  They also had emus, black swans, kookaburras, and I think koalas…

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They did have bears, too, though I found them a little sad.

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The arctic wolves were a little too far away for good photographs, but we did manage to see a wildcat or two, staying well back in their enclosures.

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These fancy goats on the other hand, were quite willing to come close.

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Don’t worry, we said to each other.  Goats can’t climb stairs, that’s why there are no fences…

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Oh, you think?

The wild boars were very cute, and somehow both bigger and smaller than I had expected.

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We even found more frogs!

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The park itself was lovely, and I became absolutely fascinated by watching this red-shouldered kite, which kept circling overhead.  We think it might have had a nest there.

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Then we went back to A’s house, to finish my packing, speculate on just how closely my bags might be weighed, and eat a lot of French chocolate that wasn’t going to survive well in my luggage and would, in any case, put me over the limit.  Oh, the hardship.

We did make one last trip out, to watch the Saint John’s Day fireworks over Mainz.  We had initially planned to go into Mainz, but we suspected the crowds and parking would be insane, especially as we were late.  So instead, we parked on a little dirt road leading into an orchard at the top of a hill, and watched the fireworks in the far distance.  It was as good a farewell as any.

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And then we went home, where A went to bed while I, for my sins, stayed up until nearly 2am copying policy information and personal histories of independent candidates from their websites – with the election only five days away, and sixteen new candidates and three new parties registered since I had left, I had some serious work to do.  And what better way to while away a long international flight?

Yes, I am quite mad, thank you for asking.

Tuesday morning was a mad rush for the car and the train and the airport – one of those days when everything runs late and nothing goes according to plan.

But I did see a swallow about to take flight from under the eves as I was having my breakfast.

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I took this to be a good omen.  After all, the birds come back every summer.

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2 responses to “Travel Post: Football, Animals, and the road home

  1. I see you found the sangliers, but where are Astérix and Obélix?

    Thank you for sharing your adventures. [I’m reminded of lots of the madcap comedies of the ’60s, with huge casts & lots of traveling.]

  2. It has been so fun reading some of these travel posts that I am sad you have gone home now!

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