Even though we both enjoy being as low key as possible during the winter holidays, we decided to accompany Levent to his home town of Karlsruhe (pronounced “Kasrhuahhhhh”) last week. We left Berlin after Christmas and headed southwest on a bus for 9 hours. When we arrived, Levent’s mother Senay (pronounced “Shenai”) sat us down to a delicious Turkish meal. Stepping into her home is like being transported to Turkey without leaving Germany.
We spent several nights in her home. We love spending time with Senay because she always feeds us well and likes to make use of our various skills. We can now add “window washing” and “houseplant maintenance” to our WorkAway résumés. While at Senay’s house she hosted a small family gathering and we enjoyed a dinner of raclette (a method of broiling and grilling individual portions of food covered in cheese at the dinner table) with Levent’s older brother Doral, Doral’s wife Florentina and their three children Elizabeth, Johannes and Gabriel. Two of Levent’s friends Sven and Nicole also joined and we all had a really fun time together. To blend in more with the local scene we both donned some traditional clothing from the region.
We spent the next 5 days with Sven in Ludwigshafen. Sven lives in a beautiful apartment with three cats and was such a generous host. In fact, his last name can be translated to mean “lovelytime”, and indeed our visit with him was just that. We walked around the area of Ludwigshafen which is separated from the city of Mannheim by the Rhein River.
We had a great New Year’s Eve with some of Sven’s close friends in their amazing converted garage space. They accepted us as family and we stayed up until 8am the next day dancing, talking, meeting, eating, drinking, sharing stories, second-hand smoking and making friends. We are sad to have missed the annual NYE dance party at Erin & Nathan’s house but we felt like we found a good second best. After a day or so of recovering from the party we reunited with the party hosts at a local outdoor Christmas market (a seasonal gathering of kiosks selling crafts and food) where we ate bratwurst with mustard and drank glühwein (mulled wine).
The next day Sven and Levent brought us to meet two of Sven’s friends who own a very special property. We visited them at their coffee shop where they serve high quality coffee and homemade cakes. The coffee shop sits beside an old wheat mill which they have restored and still functions. The property boasts impeccable gardens, bamboo groves, ponds, a stream that runs under the mill and is also home to a gallery/museum that features beautiful sculptures and various pieces of art they’ve imported from Bali.
After overindulging in coffee and cake we hurried off to Elizabeth’s birthday party to celebrate her eleventh year of life. We gifted her a homemade bouquet of paper flowers decorated with tiny origami birds made out of money.
On our final day of adventuring in southern Germany we went on a short hike to a restaurant at the top of a hill where we ate some delicious Bavarian cuisine (including wild game, bratwurst, stomach meat patty, sauerkraut and liver) and topped it all off with a gigantic slice of Black Forest cake.
Later we hung out with Doral and Levent at a respected local brewery, Der Vogel Hausbräu, where Doral works part-time for fun. We enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Doral a bit more, and we are happy to meet more and more of Erdem and Levent’s family.
We are posting this blog from the bus on our way back to Berlin. We have had a great couple of weeks and are looking forward to being “home” once again.