Getting Married in Germany: Practically Speaking

Whoops, it’s been nearly seven months since my last post. Didn’t really intend that, started a 2020 recap post somewhere along the way that I never finished, and though this feels a little bit like tonal whiplash if someone stumbled across this blog and just scrolled through, oh well, I’m going with it.

It’s been nearly a year since we got married and I thought if anyone else was looking to go through the process, I’d give a little bit of insight into how it looked for us, as well as how much it cost. As with any post here that has to deal with the oh-so-romantic aspects of German bureaucracy, it’s important for me to say this:

Via: https://giphy.com/gifs/theoffice-the-office-tv-secret-santa-BXOEmFSzNkOObZhIA3

Disclaimer: This is how it worked here, in our corner of Franconia, in the year of our Lord, 2020, for a German citizen and an American who’s been here 10 years (9 at the time), with a well-established working permit (now permanent resident), and depending on where you are, your mileage may vary. There are differences on what might be required depending on what German Bundesland you’re in, which district, which official you’re dealing with, what moon phase you might be in, and how quickly Germany gets knocked out of whatever football championship is currently ongoing. Also, pandemics are apparently a thing now so already-terrible government office hours are, surprise!, even worse than before.

Ahem. Moving on.

As I mentioned in the first wedding post, we started looking at planning in February, visited some locations, and were pretty darn close to putting down money. Thankfully we didn’t go through with it, and then the world shut down and we started to regroup. Given the fact that we had all these documents that needed renewing in October/November, we decided pretty quickly that either way we’d do the civil ceremony in 2020, and play it by ear with how we celebrated at the time.

In mid-April, BV reached out to the local registrar to see what documents we’d need, and what the process would be. Within a few days we had our list, and paid a small fee of €25 for the privilege of the information.

We needed:

  1. A certified copy of BV’s birth certificate (ordered from the city of Nürnberg for ca. €13)
  2. A long-form certified original of my birth certificate, which must be issued no more than 6 months out from filing date (ordered online from the state of Wisconsin with postage for $33)
  3. A German translation of said birth certificate from a certified translator (€35.04, and translator found via the official portal http://www.justiz-dolmetscher.de)
  4. Both of our current valid passports (or BV’s ID card would do)
  5. My current work/residence permit
  6. A sworn affidavit of my current marital status and allowance to marry (done in front of registrar in the office)
  7. Express declaration of both of our domiciles*
  8. Proof of income for both of us (i.e. pay slips for the last 3 months)

*The domicile thing had us both a bit confused, but basically what it broke down to was your birthplace and where you live now. For me it was fairly uncomplicated as the only place I lived in the U.S. was in Wisconsin, and they really don’t care how often you moved within the state or where your last address was. So when we had our appointment I said yes I was born in Wisconsin, that’s where I lived, now I live here, done.

Another thing to note: Bavaria is a bit different, in that they only require the affidavit that you are free to marry. As far as I know, in the other German states, you do need official documentation of this from the U.S. Not mad about missing out on that one.

Edited to add: upon publication I was informed that as of 2021, swearing an affidavit is allowed in all areas of Germany without documentation. Again, if it’s 2022, Venus is in retrograde, or you live in Landkreis OberUnterDorfau, they may do things their own way so always speak to your friendly local Beamter*innen.

So we gathered up our documents, I ordered my birth certificate at the beginning of May and that arrived in about three weeks, I had it translated, and we submitted everything first via email/pdf. Then, we waited.

A couple of weeks went by and we got a call from the registrar that everything looked good, so the next step was for us to come in and have an appointment to go through everything, me to swear the affidavit, etc. She was very adamant that if I was not a native German speaker, we MUST have a translator as we were doing a Very Legal Proceeding, and BV was not allowed to translate for me when necessary. I appreciate her commitment to her job and not getting accidentally sold for a small herd of cattle or something, but I know from other people that they have gotten away with less than perfect German and no translator so again… variance.

The gal who had translated my birth certificate was unable to join us, so it was back to the portal and I was lucky to find a lovely woman who was a dual citizen born in the U.S. and normally worked at conferences, etc., but was free to join us for several hours one afternoon in July at our appointment. We were there for nearly three hours going through all the paperwork, and reading in great detail, because both the laws of Germany and Wisconsin (that domicile again), the laws that apply to Wisconsin/Germany that would or would not preclude us from marrying.

Fun fact! In the state of Wisconsin, you can legally marry your cousin IF either the bride is old enough that children are no longer a possibility or the groom is proven to be impotent.

You’re welcome for this knowledge. I paid the translator €271.44 to learn it. I accept both Paypal and snacks, if you’re so inclined. But again, the translator was really great, super helpful, and said afterwards that our registrar was, in her experience… unusually detailed.

At that point all the t’s were crossed, all the i’s were dotted, and our paperwork was sent off to the Oberlandesgericht Nürnberg, or the Nürnberg High Court. Three weeks later in mid-August, our registrar got the okay from them, we submitted the final fee of €185, and were free to set our date for our civil ceremony. And that was it.

All told from first contact with the registrar to ceremony date, the whole thing took 5 months and one day, with a cost of about €557, give or take a Euro for whatever the dollar exchange rate was in May last year.

As far as the ease of the process goes, for me after 10 years here and the wealth of bureaucratic hoops I’ve had to jump through due to my own error or just life, this was SHOCKINGLY EASY. I know people have gone abroad specifically to avoid the pain of marrying in Germany, but if you’re not under an enormous time crunch, I really can’t say that any part of this was problematic for us. I’ve also never longed for a big, fancy wedding with all the trimmings, so keeping it just us was actually kind of perfect. Yes we still do want to celebrate at some point in the future with other people, but as it’s (checks watch) a year and a half into the pandemic and it’s just now maybe? a little bit? getting better here, we have no idea when that will be. For now, we’re married, and that’s what we wanted.

Bonus pic from our honeymoon. 🙂

Sound like fun? Sound like a nightmare? Leave a comment and let me know where you stand… ’til the next time (hopefully sooner than six months from now…)

Photo an Hour: A Lazy Lockdown Saturday

I always mean to do these things but usually miss them. So yesterday morning when I looked at twitter and saw Bev post a photo around 10am, I went, “hey, why not today?”

True to form though, I started a few minutes later and pretty much continued that way all day. It was a very cold and foggy day here in Franconia, and neither a walk nor a trip to the supermarket sounded terribly appealing, so it was a pretty quiet day at home.

Just after 10 and I was drinking tea in bed. Tea or coffee in bed and the New York Times crossword is my standard weekend start mode these days. At 11, I was up (briefly) for a tea refill and to check in on Marry while she supervised bird activity out the front window.

12pm and time for some yoga. My arm looks incredibly weird here, but slightly less awkward than trying to take a picture while actually doing the yoga? Finished with yoga, I was forced to take a breakfast break and catch up on my habit chart in the ol’ bullet journal because BV snaked my shower slot around 1pm.

Finally showered at 2, and got “ready” for the day. Though if you’re not really going anywhere, what are you really ready for? Anyway. I recently got this new facial cream with some points I’d saved up. It’s a bit thicker than what I’m used to, so I don’t think I’ll be using it every day but I think it’ll be great this winter when it gets so dry in here. 3pm and it was off to the kitchen to do some dishes (what else?) and refresh my sourdough starter.

Dishes finished, I was off to the living room at 4pm to figure out how to mess up the kitchen again. We had a few late zucchini from the garden that were starting to get weird, which meant I had the chance to test out a new recipe from Flavour. Marry was unimpressed as usual. My 5pm photo was even later than the others because I spent a good 30 minutes struggling to get the fire lit. I suspect the kid who delivers our adverts on the weekends (aka a giant pile of fire-starting paper) has been skipping our house. So lately it’s been a lot of struggling to get it going with strictly the pressed wood and cardboard. And ca. 52 matches per attempt.

Dinner prep/kitchen destruction underway at 6pm. Though all things considered, this recipe was pretty easy on the dish front. One cutting board, one knife, a wooden spoon, one pan, a bowl and spoon for the sauce. Plus, the simple sautéed zucchini with a harissa sauce was very tasty.

Possibly too tasty as I was too busy eating and watching a movie to catch the 7 or 8pm photos. We watched ‘Die Kleine Hexe,’ which is a classic children’s book, and had been one of BV’s favorites. I didn’t know the story, but thought it was a cute movie.

After the movie, BV retreated back to the office to continue cleaning and sorting. He’s still in the process of changing his name on everything/trying to figure out what he’s missed so far. I was still in the living room at 9, watching more nonsense on Netflix and continuing to work on this ridiculous cat coloring book that my sister brought me from Korea a few years ago.

10pm was time for an evening cup of after-dinner tea while Marry enjoyed her fire which had finally gotten the room heated up. At 11 I was contemplating going to bed, but got distracted flipping through the latest issue of Panorama, the German Alpine Club magazine. This article about a hiking trail that goes all the way across Slovenia especially caught my eye. We were there in September and I already can’t wait to get back!

I finally headed for bed around 12, but got slightly distracted for a few minutes trying to figure out if I remembered what was happening when I left off reading this book on our vacation. Nope, no clue, so I will be starting this one over. And that was it for a very quiet and cold November Saturday. The kitchen is already a mess again though, go figure.

22/52

Lockdown V.2.0: The Lightening

Germany is currently two weeks into our second lockdown, but once again, it has little to no effect on anything I’m doing. I hear gyms are closed, but as long as I can do yoga at home and go for long walks, I’m all set. I’m still working from home, minus two weeks I recently had to go to work in person. It was the first time since March, and let me tell you, it was really weird after seven months. Trying to get teenagers to put masks on before they get up from their desks or open the windows with regularity in November was… a new aspect of my job that I wasn’t expecting.

But while I was out for those few days, I did get a chance to walk through Fürth and see what was happening. The first week I went out was in October, when case numbers had been steadily climbing but there were no new restrictions yet, and the second week I was out was the first week of the new “lockdown” restrictions in the beginning of November. To be honest, I saw nearly no difference.

I had to stop at the bakery and the supermarket while I was out, and both of those places were open during the first round of lockdown back in the spring. The new restrictions came into effect during the fall school holidays here in Bavaria, so I was looking forward to emptier trains, more space, and fewer school kids than in a normal week. To be fair, there were fewer kids, but the trains when I was coming home at ca. 1-1:30 pm were oddly full. Walking through Fürth, all the stores (most of which were closed in spring), were open and people were out and about shopping. My train was full with middle-aged folks with shopping bags. I was… confused.

There were signs that masks should be worn, even outdoors, in the pedestrian areas. That was mixed at best. And since then, the numbers in our region have gone through the roof. It’s incredibly discouraging. I know there are plenty of people staying home and only going out for necessities, but it seems not enough of us.

I was expecting the government to tighten things up even more soon, but some news came out this evening that there’s disagreement among the state leaders, and they’re meeting again in about two weeks to see where the situation is. Seems like a long time with these numbers, but who asked me?

I do feel a bit hypocritical because this seems to be the price we’re paying for amongst other things, people travelling on their summer holidays. We travelled as well, but it was after peak season, we went to low-risk areas, avoided people as best we could, masked up everywhere, and got tested when we came home. Both of our tests came back negative, which helped the peace of mind a bit.

On the other hand, if we do have harder and longer lockdowns coming, I think I’m going to be really really really glad that we had that nice, long, late fall holiday. With no Christmas markets, no big village Thanksgiving, and likely the bare minimum for Christmas itself…. it’s going to be pretty dull. I was really hoping that we could go back to Tuscany for New Year’s again this year but the chances of that look like they’re slim to none. The prospect of cleaning the office instead is less than appealing.

This was all a lot less bleak-looking in March when the weather was getting warmer and the days are getting longer. Now I’m going to have to try to shoehorn walks in during my workday somehow, as normally I don’t finish until it’s already dark out. It’s going to be a long winter, that’s for sure. But at the end of the day, this is what we all have to do, or what we all should be doing, so maybe we can actually see each other in person again. At some point.

Until then, I’ll be here. In the living room. Where I’ve been. For eight months. EIGHT MONTHS.

Gratuitous fall shots, for as long as it lasts…

21/52

Eight to Twenty-Two. Somehow.

It’s been roughly a thousand and one years since my last life lately post way back at the end of the 7th week of being home. Having a computer that takes several hours to start (on a good day) has meant that a lot of days I just ran out of patience trying to get the damn thing to start. It’s also meant that my goal of a post per week this year has… not been very successful thus far.

However, I’m happy to report that I’m typing this post on my brand-new, shiny, glorious laptop! When you push the ‘on’ button, it starts! A miracle! My old one was bought way back in 2012, and has been literally falling apart for the last several years, so this is a very exciting day.

While being inside and typing away isn’t perhaps the best use of a Sunday, it’s currently about 32C (or 90F) here in Franconia and hiding inside with the shutters down during the day is about the best way to get through it. I’m a big summer fan, but as with every summer, I find myself wishing for water access!

But what’s been going on since my last update on life around here in the beginning of May? Both a lot, and a lot of nothing… which I think has been a theme of 2020.

I mentioned at the end of the last update that they were starting to open up more things here in Bayern, and that has remained the case. Around town, things got greener and greener. My usual walking route got absurdly busy for a few weeks as one of the local farms had this stunning field of big purple poppies, and drew far more visitors than I’ve ever seen out there before!

According to a sign next to the field, the farm was partnering with a local bakery chain so I guess in the future we can look forward to more poppy-seed rolls and the like. They advertised the field a fair bit in local media as well, so between that and the ‘gram, it was a hopping place. At home, tiny kitten continued to rule our garden, sometimes with her friend in hot pursuit.

We both had a week of holidays as usual in May, but decided to stay at home. Hotels and the like were allowed to reopen either that week, or in the next week or two (hard to keep track of all the changes), but since we didn’t know what travel would look like, we stayed put. We were fairly productive though, doing a lot of cleaning, reorganizing, and garden work. We also slowly started to venture out a bit, but cautiously so. We met up with friends (woo! other humans!) one weekend in the Franconian Switzerland and (while keeping distance) took a nice day hike where we got this great view of the Walberla. On the way back home, we spontaneously decided to stop at a Biergarten for dinner and as you can see, I was incredibly happy about both tap beer and a meal that I didn’t have to cook! The excitement was real.

These are from another day and another trip out to a local place. So far, every time we’ve dined out or even just gone for a beer, we’ve had to leave contact details, etc. I hear some places are starting to slack on that, but now that numbers have started to go up again, we’ll see if they crack down, or start to close more things down again. We shall see.

Rolling into June, BV’s balcony garden was popping so he built that big brown box in the background of the lavender photo to expand his planting. Tiny kitten was stalking and supervising throughout the process, of course.

The Villagers moved to Amberg at the end of last year, but since BV hadn’t had a chance to see their new place yet, we headed out there for a mini-weekend trip. I spent every Thursday last year in Amberg, but hardly got to see anything besides the stretch from the train station to the company and it was nice to 1) see other humans (again!) and 2) have a change of scenery! We walked up to the Mariahilfberg with its old monastery and also lots of old trees for the kids to run around…

Amberg is very cute. That stone building is part of the old city wall, which still runs around most (maybe all?) of the city center. There are lots of really old houses that date from the middle ages and it is really very charming to wander around.

Starting to feel more comfortable going out, we planned a full weekend away in July. However, I do want to note that though we have gone out a bit, anytime we saw friends or traveled, or had extended contact with anyone, we always took two full weeks before doing anything else. BV is still going into the office only once or twice a week, and I’m still home 100% of the time, so we’re still being extremely cautious. Disclaimer!

Anyway, in July we took a weekend trip down to the Allgäu to spend a few nights at a potential destination for our wedding, whenever that might happen. Apart from some truly horrible guests the first night, we really liked the place. Presumably, our guests would be much better behaved. Maybe.

Since we were in the area, we decided to spend our Saturday revisiting one of my favorite shelter tours we’ve ever done, and hike up to the Kemptner Hütte.

I’m very pleased to report that the hike was exactly as gorgeous as I remembered it, seven years later.

Before we left on Sunday, we stretched our aching legs just a bit and hiked about an hour up to an Alm. After weeks of relatively little activity, we were both in a bit of pain, but considering we had a few hours of train rides ahead of us, we had to move a bit first. Plus, cows.

The rest of July was pretty dull. It either rained or was ungodly hot (see, now), which meant that the garden and the supermarket was about as far as I went.

One Saturday did involve a trip over to the Gardener’s for his birthday, entirely too much cake, and some time under these very impressive blooms. But other than that, we’ve been home. Work got oddly busy, despite the impending holidays, and I’ve had my hands full for the last few weeks.

It’s been a lot of watching the pears slowly ripen, trying to keep the plants watered, Marry supervising both of us working from home, and the occasional daylight hedgehog sighting. We hadn’t seen one in the garden yet this year and I’m feeling entirely better now that he turned up.

One other recent highlight, was that we had our appointment at the local registry office to file all the paperwork in order to get married. So now, we wait. I’ll maybe do a more thorough post on that whole process in the future, but let’s see what the outcome is first, shall we?

Back in March, I don’t think any of us envisioned still being at home now in August, but here we are. I doubt I’ll be doing anything in person until maybe October or November, but given the trends the last few days, it’s really a case of wait and see. A good portion of Germany is on holiday this month, with another good portion about to start school. So we wait. And we see.

19/52

Our Germany Travel Wish Lists: A Link Up

A few weeks ago, the lovely Cynthia over at adventurings did a great post about places that she’d like to visit in the Czech Republic if (in this whole weird world we now live in), the borders remained closed but domestic travel was possible. I thought this was a great idea, and it certainly encouraged me to think a bit more about the places we might want to go if we can travel. Sure it might not be as far as before, but what was still possible? 

 

The two of us decided to make this post a link up, so I picked a few places, she picked a few places, and we thought it’d be fun to choose which of the other person’s was our top choice. As a side challenge for myself, I decided to avoid the Alps. There are still places there that I haven’t been, for sure, but at some point I should probably branch out, right? 

Having said that… my picks are after the jump! Click on…

1) Hamburg

Hamburg has to top my list as 1) I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite of the Alps, and 2) I have yet to hear anything bad about it. I’m intensely curious about what a German city with a Scandinavian vibe could be, and the maritime history, proximity to water, and the ready availability of fish stuffed into bread (for BV), definitely don’t hurt. I’ve also heard many a tale of the musical scene (Hamilton auf Deutsch, what?) or the Miniatur Wunderland, but I think I’d prefer to wander along the waterways, look up at all those brick facades, and then have to chase down BV every time he gets a whiff of grilled fish.

2) Sächsische Schweiz 

Aka, the Saxon Switzerland. We’ve spent a weekend in Chemnitz, and a day in Dresden, but more time in the wild, rolling hills of Saxony sounds like a great idea. While it lacks the high peaks, the incredible rock formations can be seen all over ze Instagram travel feeds. I still remember the first time I took the train between Prague and Berlin, and the way that the train rolled through the hills along the Elba, rock formations popping in and out of the greenery… I could kick myself for still not having explored that area more. 

3) Sylt

Ummm… rumor has it that Germany has beaches? And having seen those Strandkorb all over gardens and in the garden furniture section of the OBI for the last nine years, I think it’s time I saw them in their natural habitat? Personally, I’m a big baby when it comes to cold water so I’m a liiiiitle nervous about the possible temperatures at the North Sea, but look at that beach! I’ll probably live, even if I can just lie out and read a book or ten on the sand. 

4) the Triberg Waterfalls

The very first trip that BV and I ever took together was to Freiburg and the Black Forest. It was a quick weekend getaway, and though we’ve driven through, and stopped in Freiburg since then, I feel like it’s only a drop in the bucket. I’m especially interested to see the place that is billed as having “Germany’s highest waterfall.” It seems that it isn’t really, but it’s relatively easy to access, so that helps? Either way, it looks lovely, and I do think that I really need to revisit the Black Forest as the first time we were there, we went to the highest mountain and got to see this…

At the Feldberg summit, 1493m.

Ah yes, the good old days when I hiked in beat up sneakers and jeans. It did clear up a tad, as the day went on. But I need to see more! Preferably, of the falling water variety.

At the Feldberg.

5) Aachen

Sitting right near the border with the Netherlands and Belgium, Aachen is rumored to be another city with a great mix of culture and history. Though Charlemagne is long gone, his influence remains. I’d love to have a poke around the cathedral and its treasury, or spend a day walking the Route Charlemagne. And if you’re not in Germany, you can do it virtually

If you missed the link up at the top, Cynthia’s posts can be found right here, and as for me, I’m adding the Spreewald to my list. Berlin is always worth a visit, but I’d love to see where the Berliner’s go to escape the city life. We might even get crazy and rent a kayak. Who knows? 

Second choice goes to the Baltic coast, as the unexpected beachfront continues. Being able to smell the sea air on Rügen, as opposed to just seeing postcards of it or hearing about it, would be a welcome change of  pace. 

And you? What’s on your Germany wish list?

 

16/52

I Am Easily Influenced

…at least, when it comes to cake.

In one of my classes the other day (coincidentally, one that happens right before lunch), we spent a good deal of our time discussing desserts. One of them has worked there for years and thus has the corresponding encyclopedic knowledge of when everyone has a birthday AND which cake from their (or their wife’s, mom’s,  life partner’s) repertoire, should be brought in on said birthday.

During the course of this conversation, one of the other ones mentioned that every year he requests his mom and his sister to bake several cakes for his birthday. I asked if they had a specialty, and he said of course, it’s his favorite, but he only has it one time a year. What was it? Something called Apfelweinkuchen, or apple wine cake.*

I had never heard of this cake before and my interest was immediately piqued, but the conversation moved quickly on after that, so I didn’t get a chance to inquire more. But as soon as I had a minute between appointments, it was straight to the Google. There were no shortages of recipes for this cake, which seems to originate from the Hesse area of Germany (where my source was from, if I remember correctly).

The rest of the day was spent with visions of cake dancing in my head, so naturally I tweeted about it. I was already considering making it on the weekend when I was informed that bringing a cake to a planned weekend event would be fairly welcome. And so it was.

I didn’t fully document the process, but I compared a few recipes and found them all fairly similar. I followed this recipe, for those of you who can read German at least well enough to do the same… https://feedmeupbeforeyougogo.de/2018/10/07/apfelweinkuchen-rezept/

Hallo, creamy goodness.

Some recipes suggest using white wine (usually Riesling) and apple juice instead of Apple wine, but I went with Apple wine. The only other thing I did differently was leave the cake in the oven to cool overnight (also suggested in another recipe). This was mostly because it was fairly late by the time I finished the cake and I didn’t want to put it in the fridge to cool when it was still pretty warm.

Here’s the carnage about halfway through….

Mess.

None survived. I will be making this again. You should, too.

 

7/52

 

 

*I daresay even the non-German speakers could’ve worked that one out but just in case.

Put Some Mustard On It…

It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed an oddity of the German language, but I learned a new phrase the other day that tickled me and thought it would make a good post.

Usually my favorite German phrases have to do with animals (notably pigs, as there are at least 48309234 idioms involving pigs in German #WurstJokes), but this one is more food-based.

BV had just sent a text to our Südtirol group chat, and I was trying to decipher it. The last paragraph started with “Mein Senf zu dem Thema,” which would translate to ‘My mustard to the topic,’ and I had to laugh. I was pretty sure I got the gist, but I still asked him to clarify, just in case. 😉

What BV said was a variation on ‘seinen Senf dazugeben,’ or to put in one’s two cents. My initial thought was along the lines of ‘in my humble opinion,’ which IMHO, means I’ve been spending too much time on ze internet. Should do something about that (…as I’m sitting here writing a blog and trying to do that more often instead of like, solving world hunger or whatever people do when they’re not lurking on reddit).

So why mustard in this expression? Because people friggin’ love their mustard in these parts. I already showed you a fairly bizarre mustard ad a few years ago, and I assure you, there have been more. The mustard shelf in the supermarket is loaded with choice, and lest you doubt me on that, please enjoy this selection of all the mustards currently open in our fridge…

Full disclosure, the sweet Bavarian mustard isn’t open yet. Guess that just means it’s time for Weißwurstfrühstück…

This is perfectly normal, right? Guess I’m going to have to start serving more of my opinions with a dash of mustard…

 

3/52

Overnight Trains: 17 vs 36

Living the last year car free has given us the chance to explore some travel options that we had previously only thought about in terms of vague “somedays.” In the past, it would’ve been only too easy for us to say, “oh no, it’s so much easier to drive for 10 hours,” when we were starting to plan our Tuscany trip.

Truth is, it probably wouldn’t have been easier. When we drove there last time, we traveled with friends, so the two gents traded off driving duties. Since I still can’t/don’t drive here, BV would’ve been the only one behind the wheel. That would have meant instead of a 10-hour trip (assuming the best conditions), we more than likely would’ve needed to schedule in an overnight stay somewhere (losing valuable Tuscan time), or sleep in the car (in December), and it would’ve been more like two lost days coming and going. But as we have no car, we had no choice… to the train!

I’d been curious about doing an overnight train for quite some time. I had taken one before on our high school France trip, but BV never had. Strangely, in the 11 years I’ve lived in Europe, I have never managed to repeat the experience. The Js and I did try, once, on our ill-fated roommate Krakow trip, but were brutally rebuffed.*

So how was it? Pretty good, as far as I’m concerned. But I have to say, the experience was sliiiiightly different nearly 20 years (oh God) on.

It was the summer of 2001, I was 17. We’d been tooling around France for about a week and a half, shepherded on and off of our coach bus by my delightfully loopy French teacher, Madame Coe, and our tour guide. Madame was a school tour veteran, and had the whole thing down to a science. When she learned that we’d be taking an overnight train from Paris to Nice, she had her whole strategy in place. She didn’t count on us though.

The girls on our trip outnumbered the boys, but she distributed us throughout our sleeper cars so we’d have at least one male in each of the 6-person compartments “for protection.” Our compartment was to have four girls and two boys, but we immediately folded up the upper bunks and packed about twelve people in there for a night full of playing cards and drinking the provisions that the guys had picked up in the train station. Madame stopped by our bunk a few times before she retired, wine glass in hand, advising us not to stay up too late.

Needless to say, she was right and we probably should have listened. All these years on, I have no idea how late we stayed up, being 17 and 18, probably unforgivably loud**, but having an excellent time.

What I do remember, is the next morning. The train had metal shutters for the windows, which we had wisely pulled down when we went to sleep. When one of the guys slid out of his bunk in the morning and cracked open the door, OH GOD THE LIGHT.

We were in the South of France. The sun was BLINDING. We were all awake now, and he stumbled into the hallway and slammed the door shut. I assume he felt his way to the restroom, because it had to have taken a few minutes for his eyes to adjust.

When we rolled up the shutters a bit later, the train was rolling along the coast. The endless blue of the Mediterranean and that blinding sun was gorgeous… once we had chugged some water and located our sunglasses. I almost wish I had my France photo albums here so I could see if the evidence of the night before was visible on any of our faces.

At 36, the experience was a little bit different.

Our train was scheduled to depart Munich at 8:10pm, which allowed for a very relaxed day. We finished up packing, and were ready to go in plenty of time. Though I did once again bring too much stuff, I thought this was decent for both of us for ten days:

Not bad.

The biggest hassle was the ‘carry-on’ bag under my purse. It contained an extra coat, my camera bag, and a pile of books. It was manageable, but awkward to carry.

BV and I met with our cat-sitting friend in Nürnberg to pass off our keys, and then boarded our train to Munich. We opted for a few trains ahead, just in case, and had more than enough time to spare. Since the Augustiner Keller is just up the street from the Munich Hauptbahnhof, we went there and had a relaxed, early dinner.

Back at the train station, we picked up some completely unnecessary train snacks, a mini bottle of ‘we are on holiday!’ prosecco, and found our platform. Bang on time, there she is!

Pardon the blurriness of a moving train, and a moving Heather as BV says, “you’re going to miss it! It’s coming… awwww, I thought it would be an ÖBB train!”

Yep, despite the fact that this train was operated by the ÖBB, (Österreichische Bundesbahnen= Austrian Federal Railway), it had a DB engine. Tragic.

Still moving, sorry.

We spotted our car easily, and climbed aboard. The price difference between sleeper cars and seated compartments had been WILD when we bought our tickets, so we went with the seats. I doubted I’d sleep either way, so why pay twice as much?

About thirty minutes later, again, bang on time, the train pulled out and we were on our way. By some miracle, we had the 6-seater compartment to ourselves for nearly the entire 11 hour trip. Look how comfy I am!

Spacious! With outlets!

In Salzburg, we were joined by a family for an hour or so until the next stop. That was mostly fine, even if the woman did de-shell peanuts and crinkle plastic for the entire hour. But they got off, and we were alone again.

BV managed to doze off and on, but I hardly slept. We wound our way through the Austrian Alps, and all I could see was a bit of white snow, pine trees, and then blackness again. Occasionally, there were the lights of a town spread out in the valley far, far below us, making me really want to take this trip during the day sometime as I suspect it’s spectacularly beautiful.

Crossing into Italy, we sped downhill through tunnels at a slightly alarming rate. We were briefly joined in our compartment between Bologna and Florence, but after that, we were alone again until we got off in Arezzo.

As we rolled through Tuscany towards our final destination, the sun was just starting to come up. Light bits of fog and cloud hovered over the hills around town as the sky brightened. It was lovely.

We reached Arezzo ten minutes behind schedule at 7:20am, which let’s be honest, is nothing. Apparently those trains are regularly fairly late, so much so that G, our host, wasn’t picking us up until 9:30. We grabbed some espresso, and wandered around town until she collected us. Was I loopy at that point? Absolutely. Would I do it again? also yes.

Was the experience a hair bit different almost 20 years older? You bet. But I can’t argue with this trip. We will most definitely be taking an overnight train again. I just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years, and also, I hope I can sleep a bit the next time!***

Have you taken an overnight train? Any trips to recommend?

 

2/52

 

*TM Cher Horowitz

**Thank goodness our large group took up the majority of the car, if not the whole thing.

***I did manage to sleep a bit on the return trip, even though we had to share our compartment and had less space to sprawl. Go figure.