Sun
13
Jan

Day 51: Karneval

Ulm, Germany


Taking full advantage of the schoenes Wochenende train ticket, which allowed unlimited weekend travel on non-high speed trains for a ridiculously cheap price, I took a languorous train journey down into the depths of southern Germany, stopping at Stuttgart for a quick look around the city. I’d been here once before and remembered being impressed by its looks.
Stuttgart was a car city, being the home to both Mercedes Benz and Porsche, and it was here that Daimler-Benz invented the automobile. Mercedes had trumped Porsche in the advertising stakes, sponsoring the train station which had a huge revolving version of its three-lined circular logo on top.
Stuttgart’s inhabitants clearly liked their cars as well, especially favouring ranting them past the train station at high speed. Pedestrians were clearly second-class citizens here.
I wandered about for a quick loop of the area around the station as a break from graffiti-covered trains, and realised my opinions of Stuttgart being a pleasant place to live were just as valid ten years on. There were many grand stone/marble-esque buildings and plenty of green space, which sat at odds with the concrete grime you might expect from an industrial powerhouse of a city. On reaching as far as Schillerplatz I turned back for the station via another route and jumped on a train to complete the last part of my journey.
My destination was Ulm, the town with the Muenster spire I had passed through on my sweep of the continent before Christmas. I was back to visit a friend who had not been there to meet up with then but was assured to be around this time.
I arrived early at Ulm station, where there appeared to be some sort of rumpus going on. Exiting the place I heard a number of people shouting and laughing, and saw people dressed in kooky costumes. Ah… Karneval! Or Fastnacht as it was known down in these parts. The celebrations went back to Pagan times and were apparently related to chasing the Winter’s evil spirits from the land, but nowadays it is more a chance for the normally socially responsible German public to legitimately go absolutely bonkers, dress up in View Photo crazy costumes and parade through town, eat anything they can roast on a spit and drink in the streets til they drop – all with the backdrop of an atmosphere like a football match. (So not unlike your average Friday night in a British town centre).
At the station I finally met my friend Yan, who I had travelled with in part on my previous trip. It was great to catch up on everything; she had settled back into Ulm life and had a place shared with flatmates, a lovely boyfriend and a job in a new doctor’s practice. She had a spare room all made up for me, and had prepared a great meal too – all above and beyond the call of duty and very much appreciated by myself after a few days of dorms and crap food.
Later we popped out for a few drinks. The first couple of places we checked out that Yan favoured were closed – it was Sunday in Germany, after all – but we found a funky little place to sit and gas, and after a couple of beers Yan sneakily switched to German and we kept in Deutsch mode for the rest of the evening.


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