Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas draws to a close - but the parties continue!

As we were leaving for Stephs last night after the drinks at Anja and Thomas place, there were a couple of ladies with kids walking down the other side of the street. This equates to the width of 1.5 cars, so they were quite close. We heard one say to the other, ‘this house across the road has some visitors from Australia too’. Well, there was an opening line if ever I heard one so I called out saying we were from Qld Australia. Turns out that one of the women is from Clear Mountain near Samford just north of Brisbane. She is in Weiler visiting her aunt who is a good friend of Steph’s cousin Anja. Small world isn’t it!

Christmas is drawing to a close. Mass was not celebrated in Weiler on Christmas Day but rather on Boxing Day. Michael and I arrange to go to Mass with Mutti, leaving from her house at 10:10 am for Mass at 10:30 am. As Michael cannot remember how to set the alarm on his watch (any clues please sons) we open the outside blinds in our bedroom. Without this, the room would stay dark until well after 9am and we would not have time to have breakfast with Steph.

As we woke, we could see that the day would be cold. There was little colour in the sky, no cloud cover and a brisk breeze. Just enough to make your nose want to sink deep into your face for warmth. The walk down to Steph’s place was done in quick march time!
Mutti was obviously excited that we were going to Mass with her as she couldn’t wait for us to walk up to her place where we are staying. Instead, she walks down to Stephs to collect us there. For 88 and walking with a cane, she did very well. Even though, the iced puddles on the side of the road present constant hazards.

The Catholic Church was full – young people, older people and families with kids. There are heaters under the seats so inside is very warm, yet no one takes off any of their voluminous layers! No one except Maria of course. While it is easy to follow the Mass, it is not so easy to transpose the English version over the German as the cadence is all wrong. However, Mutti was thrilled when I was able to sing along with the (very good) choir when they sang one of the hymns in English. She also got visible joy introducing us to all her friends outside the Church after Mass and Michael was kept busy giving out our cards – they are becoming something of a collector item locally! After Mass, we make a quick visit to the grave of Mutti’s husband Johann and her daughter Marika (Steph’s mum). Then back to Stephs.

This afternoon we went into the television tower in Stuttgart. This is a landmark and with viewing platforms at 150 and 155 m above the ground, you get a fantastic view of Stuttgart city and all the surrounding areas. The air is very clear so the view is good. The view is very different from that of my last visit to the tower in summer in 2006. Without leaf cover, the trees of the surrounding forest look very bleak – even from this height. But with the clear air comes cold and there was a wind blowing at the top as well, so it was some degrees below zero. Funny, I never feel too cold unless there is a wind. It is not long before Steph and I chicken out and head to the relative warmth of the restaurant below to await Michael and order some lunch. Michael follows not too long after. The cold is playing havoc with my hip today.

On the way up to the Tower, we called into the Santiago del Chile Platz – a small square on the hills above Stuttgart that afford some wonderful views of the city below. This is an area that Steph would love to live in – with old (sometimes art deco) buildings with fantastic views and a sought after address.
Once we finish our pasta and salad lunches, we drive into Stuttgart West which Steph explains is one of the most densely populated areas in Europe. The area was extensively bombed in WWII and there are many new medium and high density apartment blocks here. We go to Felix’ apartment block and await his return from Uni so he can come with us to Stephs. Parking is at a premium around here and we are lucky to get a spot close to the apartment.
Steph is driving a Renault Megane convertible now and it will be interesting to see the four of us fit into this car with four seats but really built for two! Nevertheless, we manage – thankfully though the trip is only 30 minutes.

Tonight Steph and Felix are making dinner for his family, Steph’s Aunt Olga and Uncle Rudi and Michael and I. In the end, Olga just visits for a little while as Rudi is sick in bed with a lung infection. Steph is cooking venison with apples and mashed potatoes plus a green salad. It is just divine – the meat is succulent and tender, the potatoes smooth and creamy and the sweetness of the caramelised apples balances perfectly with the rich meat. The field salad is made with a lettuce leaf that is only available in winter – I have never seen it before and discover that it is commonly called lamb’s tongue. Christa (Felix’ mum) makes a huge and wonderful trifle for dessert – rich with sherry soaked cake, lots of (fresh) berries, custard and decadently rich cream. The meal is accompanied by a local wine from the Fellbach and is a medium red called Acolon – a relatively new grape style. It is all followed by coffee and the most divine Christmas biscuits called Gutzle. Go try the lebkuchen from Aldi and you sort of get the idea – but these are all home made and just SO much better with styles that include shortbreads, macaroons, sugar cookies, nougat etc etc etc – go weep!!!!! We enjoyed them!!!!

One of the conversations turns to wine preferences and everyone looks very uncomfortable when I explain that I prefer European whites to Australian whites due to the use of preservatives. The penny drops when Steph explains that in German, a preservative is a condom!!!!! The German equivalent of an Australian preservative is Konservierungsstoff – think I’ll stick with the good old preservative – no matter which type!
All in all a great Christmas!

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