I have just returned from a wonderful evening in which I was taken out for traditional Odenwälder supper (the Odenwald is the region in which I'm living), and I had to write something about it, and about yesterday.
Yesterday I was in Mannheim, at the National Theater, because I had spoken with Linda Johnke, and she invited me to see a show there, since she works at the theater. The show was called Standbild Mannheim, where people from the city were invited on stage for one minute, to do whatever it was they pleased. It was an interesting concept, and although most of the acts were pretty monotone, there were some really unique and neat things, as well. It was also free, which is always appreciated. :-D But the most interesting part of the evening was the two minutes during which I was under the impression that I was going to be one of these citizens on stage. I had nothing prepared, of course, and didn't know what I could do to fill a minute (singing "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today" from Avenue Q actually only filled about 18 seconds, and I don't know many songs longer than that which don't last well over a minute). However, while I was eating dinner in a little canteen with Linda, the dramaturg came in and started talking with Linda, and asked if she knew anyone who would want to get up on stage. Linda naturally pointed to me, and I said sure (but of course), and she said, "Then you have to come with me. Now." And so we walked rather quickly to the theater, to find out that the sound checks, etc, had just finished, and that we kinda had to book it, only to then see the person whose place I was supposed to fill. Someone had been missing, and so they were looking for another act, but she showed up, in the end, so I didn't get to go on stage in my first week in Germany. Sad :-( The show was fun, though, and it was a blast getting to know Linda.
Tonight both Linda and Jutta Meyer, a wonderful lady who also teaches at the Martin-Luther Schule, wanted to take me out to eat "ein typisches Odenwälder Abendessen," and so we just combined, and all went out together: Linda and her husband Mick, and Jutta and her husband Bernd, and me. It was fabulous. We went to Linda and Mick's favorite place, where Jutta and Bernd had not been before, and Mick ordered for me, though I pretty much already knew what I was getting. I had already heard of kochkäse, though I really had no idea what it would be like when I got it. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it was a dish of more or less half-solid cheese when I got it, with a plate of schnitzel and potatoes and sweet onions, and melted rather nicely over the schnitzel, and I suddenly discovered that whatever it actually was, it tasted heavenly. I loved it. It was one of those meals where even though you know that if you keep eating you'll be over-full, you can't resist the siren-song of those delicious last few bites.
With the meal, Linda and Mick and I drank about two pitchers of apple wine (and I think Jutta had a glass), another tradition from the Odenwald, and mixed it with a little bit of carbonated water, or just a tiny bit of limonade (very lightly sweetened lemon carbonated water), or just drank it straight. And of course, we couldn't leave my first traditional Odenwald meal without a little schnapps, so the four of us who weren't driving had a shot, three of us drinking Odenwälder Bub, an herbal schnapps, and I'm not sure exactly what the other one was called, but it was made from plums and tasted a bit like umeshu (Japanese plum liquor), only less sweet than the last umeshu I had. It was, all in all, an extremely delicious meal, with wonderful company, and lots of laughter and warmth. I cannot think of a better way to end my first week in Germany. Thank you, so much, to Linda and Mick, and to Jutta and Bernd. :-)
And now, to sleep.