The German meet has now taken place! It was a great success and we were lucky with the weather, accommodation (in most cases) and
transport. No hitches anywhere, just a pleasant weekend with friends.
STOP PRESS! GERMAN MEET IN JEOPARDY!
On 14 April 2010, Eyjafjallajokull - a volcano in the South of Iceland - erupted and spewed an ash cloud that soon covered the
whole of Northern Europe and grounded all flights for a week. Hootoo talked about it here (Talking
point). and here (Conversation in "Ask"). .
As half of the attendants at the Mannheim Meet were due to fly, we were all on the edge of our seats as to whether the volcano would calm down or it would rain or the wind would change in time to allow flights to take off again by the 23rd. U236774 was to be the first to take off, as he was leaving on the Friday from London to stay overnight with U230913 and take the train to Mannheim on the Saturday morning. All the others from overseas - U208370, U96784 and U151503 - were flying on the Saturday.
No one cancelled their flight, however, as things were picking up by the Thursday, and everything went ahead as planned, in the
- U230913 from Frankfurt
- U96784 from Lincolnshire
- U154942 from near Speyer (South of Mannheim)
- U208464 on a stopover from Mulhouse; went back to Kiel on the Sunday morning.
- U151503 from Dublin
- U9937105 from France (came by train from Paris).
- U208370 from Ireland
- U236774 from London
- U129860 from North-Rhein-Westphalia
- U154942 with husband, from near Mannheim.
How did we decide on when and where?
In a toss-up between Hanover and Mannheim, Mannheim won. The date was settled as early as January.
Trillian's Child lives nearest to Mannheim, and knows it well, so it was up to her to organise the day's visit and welcome and
entertain the visitors from abroad.
And where, pray, is this Mannheim?
It is a fairly large town at the confluence of the Rhine and the Neckar, with a fascinating and rich history, much of which
occurred during the baroque period (late 18th Century), with a cultural slant, but it is also the home of famous chemists, and above
all, inventors of modern machines and engines of note (Carl Benz is a native of the town). It has a very distinctive layout, the
town centre being so strictly divided into squares that the addresses are numbered by the block, from A1 to U6.
It is 90 km to the South of Frankfurt, 20 km North-West of Heidelberg, 250 km South-East of Cologne. Situated as it is in the
lowlands of the Rhine valley, it is nonetheless surrounded by hilly forest areas, such as the Black Forest, to the South, the
Palatinate Forest to the West, the Vosges, a bit further West, the Taunus to the North. France is only a short drive away, and the
Rhine valley transport system provides easy access to Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
More Infos on Mannheim, please!
A more detailed entry will be posted soon.
Saturday 24 April
U129860 and U9937105 were, it turned out, on the same train, arriving from Cologne at
11.01. Trillian's Child was waiting for them on the platform - the train was only 13 minutes late! The three girls then joined up
with TC's husband, who had procured street plans for everyone from the Tourist Office in the meantime. They were able to enjoy a coffee and croissant in the sun, while waiting for the rest of the party, shepherded by U230913, who were due to arrive all together from Frankfurt.
As nearly each member of the group had different return journeys, it was quite a confusing affair, ordering the train tickets at Frankfurt station. BEl was translating for everyone and somehow managed to herd the small group on to a train and to the station at Mannheim. Sho and Mr TC met them on the platform, while Stunning Frenchie and TC went and bagged the table for lunch.
The flying squad all paraded to the Restaurant that Trillian's Child had chosen (the first choices were all closed for Saturday lunch). This was a self-service vegetarian restaurant with a large selection of salads and hot dishes. We sat outside in their courtyard and enjoyed the sun and the relative quiet and renewed acquaintances, asked about how the journey was; the usual topics of conversation. U96784 and U236774 presented everyone with little presents - some lovely souvenirs of China and a . Gnomon had celebrated a Big Birthday the day before and we presented him with a nice German birthday card and sang "Happy Birthday" for him.
After lunch, it was time for everyone to check into their hotels.
That done, we all gathered in front of the station for the short walk to the huge Baroque Electors' Palace. Almost everyone chose to do a tour with the audioguide, especially as it was getting rather hot outside, and it would be cooler inside the palace. We were treated to an exhibition of intricate wall and ceiling frescoes, furniture and porcelain, as well as books and scientific gadgets from Mannheim's heyday, when it was a popular centre for both the arts and sciences.
After admiring the Palace and having done something for our education, the general feeling was that it was time for an ice cream. Mr TC left us at this point to go home and do some teachery stuff, and we were joined by U208464.
The ice cream parlour we chose is famous for its "spaghetti ice", which U151503 tried. Whilst eating our ice creams, we tried to contact the Belfast meet. We managed to get hold of Beatrice on the phone, and exchanged a few words. As both parties were in public places with lots of background noise, it wasn't easy, but it was quite a thrilling moment, all the same!
We left the ice cream parlour and walked towards the Water Tower which is the main landmark of Manheim. It shone in the setting sun and looked very pretty against the sky, which had been clear blue all day, and was now speckled with hot-air balloons and gliders. Many photos were taken with the mermaids, tritons and centaurs around the fountains a the foot of the tower.
At this point, the group split up for a while, some, needing to rest, sat at the nearest corner where there was a convenient Starbucks with some outside tables, another small group went back to their hotel room for a few minutes, and the most active of the crowd explored what was behind the Water Tower and also climbed the steps for an aerial view of the main shopping street and the central part of the town.
The evening activity was now well overdue, and we walked back towards the centre of town to find a restaurant with big enough tables for our motley group of ten. The first best was a tapas bar and restaurant, and, while it was still warm enough to sit outside, we finally decided to go in, as the tables were more suitable inside. There was meat, fish and vegetarian, the plat du jour being a selection of lamb, salmon or sour cream with baked potatoes. BEl and MMF had to leave just after 10 pm to catch the last train but one back to Frankfurt, but the rest of the group were still chatting, drinking and generally larking about until gone 1 am.
Sunday 25 April
U208464 left straight after breakfast, so, unfortunately, he couldn't join us for the Sunday activity.
As a contrast to the busy city, it was planned to spend the Sunday in the huge Luisenpark. This was newly designed and laid out for the National Horticultural Show in 1975 and is a wonderful park for children to play, splash about in water fountains, bang on things and shout down pipes in the "Sound Garden", stroke the guinea pigs, or drink unhealthy drinks and enjoy other treats. For the adults, too there are extensive floral displays and such civilised pastimes on offer as tea-drinking in the Chinese Garden, playing badminton or barbecueing sausages. StunningFrenchie, Gnomon, Sho and Wandrin Star were there for a couple of hours before Trillian's Child and zendevil joined them. (They had decided to come to Mannheim by train and had promptly missed it!). We admired the new litter of piglets and the ancient turtles, but time was running out now and one of the highlights - the butterfly enclosure - had to be given a miss. Nevertheless, we found the storks, the flamingoes, goats and small animals and had our picnic sitting on the grass overlooking the lawn where most of Mannheim seemed to be playing football and sunbathing.
We took the tram back to the station and, one by one, the party left for their destinations. Gnomon and Wandrin Star caught a train to Frankfurt at half past five, Stunning Frenchie's TGV left for Paris 10 minutes later. Zendevil had a short half-hour journey to her mother-in-law's, leaving just before 6 pm, and TC's train home went at 4 minutes past 6.
Mannheim breathed out audibly
Everyone got home safely, and, of course, immediately posted their comments:
(In no particular order)
- Sho here
- Trillian's Child here
- Toybox here
- Mazin Mad Fiddler here and here.
- Bel here
- Gnomon here
- Terri (zendevil)'s here .
Gnomon, as usual, took some fantastic photos. .
Meanwhile, in Belfast
As mentioned above, an H2G2 meet was taking place in Belfast at the same time.
Read about it here: