My Life as a Traveler

Braunschweig: Party Town

We’re in our apartment in Hahnenklee and the innkeepers said that they would bring our breakfast to the door at 9am. It’s 9:05 and nobody has knocked. Did they forget? I open the door investigate and find a little trolley cart, covered with a lovely embroidered cloth sitting outside the door. Whoa. I wheel it to the dining room and we get plates, cups, and silverware. We lift the cloth and find a breakfast feast: meats, cheeses, yogurt, eggs, cereal, breads, fruit salad, coffee, milk, and juice. We are loving this place even more. We set it out on our table and breakfast with a view of the garden and mountain.

We check out (sad face) and walk over to the skyride. It’s just like Busch Gardens, but slower, because some of the “cars” are bike carriers. In the line are some extremely muddy young men, waiting for other muddy young men to bring their bikes so they can go up together. I’m sure Morgan would really want to do this, but we don’t have the time. We just go up and then take the 30 minute walk back down to our hotel. We can’t find the pedestrian trail, so we walk down the ski run. We find a smaller trail, the mountain bike trail; there is padding on the trees. George slips and ends up stepping in the mud. Oops. Morgan and I laugh, inappropriately.

Back to our car we drive down the hill to Goslar, a beautiful medieval village not bombed in WWII. We are pretty much half-timbered out by now, so George doesn’t even want to stop. I jump out of the car and take pictures of the main square, full of action on a Saturday afternoon, people eating and drinking outside, walking their dogs, and watching some kids compete in a soccer game in a fenced-off area. As we drive away, we follow streets full of old half-timbered houses until we get to the old wall.

Tonight we’re staying at the Movenpick, the Braunschweig edition of the ultra-modern Swiss hotel chain. Braunschweig used to look like Goslar, but was bombed heavily during WWII. It was a center of German industry and didn’t stand a chance. Most of the architecture is post-war, although there are pockets of medieval and belle-epoque here and there. It’s a university town, though, so there’s a lot going on.

The funniest thing is the walking parties of young people. I don’t know if there is anything like this in the US. There seem to be two types of groups: the ones are getting married and the ones that (for shame!) are not. They roam the streets of Braunschweig like gangs looking for trouble, but really, all they want is to complete silly tasks, drink (a lot), and maybe sell you some trinkets, to earn money for their upcoming married (or single) life. In the daytime, they are fairly serious, but in the evening, they are quite um… happy.

On the steps of the city hall, a young woman is diapering a baby doll, surrounded by her friends wearing leis of polyester flowers. There’s a custom that, if you aren’t married by your 30th birthday, you must perform some silly act like this. However, before you think how sexist this custom is, you should know that the guys get in on this, too. A herd of guys dressed as cowboys dragging a covered wagon full of beer is led by the celebrant wearing a skirt. We saw groups of girls with angel wings, guys carrying brooms (they have to sweep the city hall steps), and girls with bumblebee hats. Often, the bumblebees will flirt with the cowboys and a bigger party will erupt in the middle of the street.

A group of people whizzed by on what looked like a big table with a roof on wheels, pedaling and drinking and singing. It’s hard to tell now, which are the bachelor/bachelorette parties and which are the singletons who must do penance. Some sell trinkets or small bottles of local alcohol for 5Euros (about $6) on the street to strangers, supposedly to pay for their upcoming wedding, which for some, will be sooner than others. Frank bought some body cream for Suzanne from some very cute, rather drunk girls dressed in black.

Party on, Braunschweig!

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