ack in September, at our yearly trip to Freinsheim's Kulinarische Weinwanderung,I picked up a brochure somewhere advertising another Freinsheim festival - the Bluetenfest (blossom festival) in early April. It wasn't really the flower part that got me interested, but the promise of more wine. I took it home and never quite figured out where to file it away without forgetting about it, so it was shifted around on my desk for several months, constantly reminding me how far off April was.
April finally arrived and as the Bluetenfest weekend approached, we set aside Sunday to go. Then on Saturday, I started to get a wicked sore throat that worsened over the course of the day. My husband had just gotten over a cold...now it was my turn. But, we'd already invited a friend to come along...and that brochure had been on my desk so long...I was determined to go. Saturday night I didn't sleep much, and when I did, I dreamt about being sick. But too bad, cold, we are going to this bloody festival!!
Sunday morning we figured out all our logistics and went to wait for the bus to the train station. It was a nice misty morning and we had a great view (see photos - click to see them larger!). But, the bus didn't come. We hadn't seen any notices of service interruption on the RNV (local transit service) website, so we didn't suspect a thing until it had really been a while. At that point we checked the bus stop sign, and in small print across the bottom, it said our bus wasn't running that day because of a half-marathon going on somewhere nearby. Oops. Luckily we'd allowed ourselves plenty of time to make our train, and with some great timing, we just crossed the bridge and caught a different bus to the train station right away. Whew.
We met our friend there and started the one-hour two-layover trip to Freinsheim. Everything went swimmingly until Frankenthal. We made our connection there, but then the train - with a final destination of the amusingly-named Eiswoog - wasn't going anywhere. First they told us it was going to be a few minutes. After that long, they said it would be fifteen minutes. Half an hour passed and it was almost time for the next train to show up. Finally they just cancelled the train we were sitting on and we all got out. We looked around to see if there was a bus or some other way to Freinsheim, but didn't see anything, so we waited with everyone else for the next train to show up. It pulled in to the station so slowly that everyone clapped when it finally made it. Then we waited while they hooked it up to the previous train. We boarded. There was a few minutes delay again, only it wasn't a few minutes and there were no further announcments for another half an hour. Then the train was cancelled again!!! Our friend was starting to talk about just going back to Mannheim and buying some bottles of wine to drink in the park there. None of us had eaten anything that day yet either and it was nearly 2pm. And the Bahn was actually telling us that no worries, the next train was going to get us there! Riiiight.
I was still determined to go to this festival. We got a cab. 23 EUR from Frankenthal to Freinsheim with some Bollywood music on the trip. We have no idea if the train ever went.
Our first objective was lunch! There was a bit of a line, but we were happy with our choice of Flammkuchen from Das Konsulat. I got a delicious Pfalz-themed Flammkuchen with Saumagen instead of bacon! They also had some kind of lovely girly-drink that was like a raspberry version of Erdbeerbowle.
In much better spirits, we wandered off in search of more wine and the flowers that the festival was ostensibly celebrating. (Really, everything in Freinsheim is about the wine, isn't it?) There are a lot of fruit trees in the area but many/most of them weren't in full bloom yet. Regardless, Freinsheim is a cute town so it was a nice walk with or without flowers. We got some more wine somewhere along the town wall and took it with us. The walk-around-town-while-you-drink concept is something I will really miss if we end up back in the US one day. The place where we stopped had an impressive variety of wine-mixed-with-other-stuff on offer, including wine + Fanta and wine + cola. No sane person who hasn't already been exposed to this weirdness is going to believe that so I provide here photographic evidence! I'm not going to lie, I was tempted to try the Fanta thing - but in the end I thought it would be too filling. (Less room for wine or cake!)
Next stop: cake and some hot beverages, as it was a little cool in the shade. The cafes must have been making a killing off the festival, as they were all offering Kaffee & Kuchen and every one was packed full. Like vultures, we hung around a table where people were paying their check so we could nab it. My cake was adorably decorated with a little daffodil. Germany's cakes never taste as delicious to me as American or British ones - they just don't jam in quite enough sugar somehow, even with my now-adapted lesser taste for sweetness - but they are always much prettier.
Down the street from the cafe, we wandered into a winery where they had many wines out for tasting. We never bought tasting bracelets since our afternoon had been cut short by the train problems, but the official festival hours were nearly over and they let us try the wines anyway. As someone who is still fascinated with the German fascination with Spargel (asparagus), which is just starting to come into season again now, I got a kick out of the fact that a couple of the wines were explicitly marked as "Spargelwein" - wines good to have with asparagus. (Not made from asparagus, although if anyone has attempted something like that it was probably Germans!) We bought a bottle of wine to have on our train ride back to Heidelberg, figuring we'd need it if it was anything like the ride in had been.
We got distracted on the way to the train station, though, by a big singalong happening inside the Winzerverein. So, we went there and had our wine at a big table we shared with some Germans who were celebrating a birthday. We had some Saumagen too. You can't make a trip to the Pfalz without eating that, and was the stuff on the Flammkuchen really enough? Nah. We overheard the Germans at our table refer to us as British, which is ridiculous because Freinsheim is always completely infested with Americans but I've never heard anyone British there. I'm sure there are some, but if you hear English in Freinsheim, it's probably an American. Perhaps Germans have figured out that Americans love it when you pretend you think they're not Americans. (James Fallows had a series on his Atlantic blog called "Walk Like an American" a few months ago that seemed to demonstrate this - Americans wrote in by the truckloads talking about how people in other countries thought they were something other than American, an experience which really stuck with all of them.)
After that bottle of wine I'd had enough, but the husband and friend hadn't, so they each got another glass for the road and we headed out richtung Heidelberg, this time via Neustadt instead of Frankenthal! It takes half an hour longer that way, but I'm not sure any of us wants to see Frankenthal ever again. We witnessed an interesting encounter in Neustadt. A guy in a black leather jacket standing next to us on the train platform lit up a cigarette. You can only smoke on train platforms within designated painted lines on the ground. It's silly to think that the smoke is trapped in the painted lines, but at least then the rest of us can get away from it, so it's better than nothing. Anyway, I looked over because I thought it was ballsy of him to do that on such a crowded platform, but otherwise didn't think much of it because the train was about to arrive and with all the wine, who could get worked up about anything? Well, someone did. A minute or two later, a guy started tearing into the smoker. He was incredibly pissed off that the guy was smoking outside the smoking area. The smoker refused to stop and argued back. At the end, as the smoker moved a few feet away, the pissed-off guy hurled his final words, the worst ones that he'd saved up for the very end: he insulted the smoker by calling him a foreigner. So, at this point there was no one for us to feel sympathy for in this argument anymore. The jerk who smokes in everyone's faces when there's a smoking area he could have gone to? Or the jerk who spits out the word "foreigner" like it's the filthiest thing you could call someone? Yeah, no winner here. Anyway, the smoker continued to try to keep the argument going at a safer distance, while a couple of normal Germans standing near him tried to explain nicely why he wasn't supposed to be smoking there. Then he tried to keep arguing once we were all on the train. It was weird.
After returning to Heidelberg the boys had one more drink at O'Reilly's and I had a hot chocolate, then we all crashed. The cold took its vengeance upon me Monday, but it was worth it!