Weekend with Friends

14 Oct 2011 until 16 Oct 2011

As I’m writing this first part I’ve reached the fifth hour of a train ride to Koblenz, Germany. Not where I expected this weekend to take place, but so far it’s interesting. So, how did I end up in this train ride? Months ago, after I’d announced my travel plans, three of my best friends; Jan, Merijn, and Steven asked to keep the weekend of October 14 till 16 free so we could do something fun. Naturally I agreed.

Today is the fourteenth and this morning I was told to go to the Kobalt, a nice bar located close to Hostnet where we’ve spent quite some time enjoying the occasional afterwork beer. So, I didn’t see anything strange about the request, figuring we’d probably start with something there before moving on to wherever they planned to take me. However, when I arrived at the appointed time I didn’t find the friends I expected. Instead Paul and Sander, two former colleagues, were waiting for me.

Survival pack

Soon I was informed by them that they had been instructed to give me a train ticket and a survival pack consisting of two beers. As the good people they are, they did as they’d been told and handed it to me before sending me on my way to ride the train for over 5 hours.

The train ride itself went as well as could be hoped for, with the exception of my iPhone again deciding it didn’t want to stay on for 30 consecutive minutes. No train problems though, until the third and last transfer, where there was a 20 minute delay. Oh well, that happens and with only 20 minutes, that was far from a problem, so I sent a message to the guys that they should take these 20 minutes into account for their plans. After all, I’d been informed earlier that new instructions would follow once I arrived in Koblenz.

When after about 5.5 hours of traveling I arrived in Koblenz, still without any clue beyond the fact that there was probably a house or cabin rented in this neighborhood, it turned out there were no new instructions. Well, actually there were no planned instructions. Because Murphy had decided to join us as, though luckily only where it concerned car troubles. This was the first time, as on their way to pick me up the car the guys had rented got a flat tire. They changed the tire, but the spare was unfortunately one of those that only can handle speeds of up to 80 km/h. Not a very useful thing when it concerns German highways, so they turned around to get another car. This meant I had to spent about 50 minutes waiting in a German bar, tasting the beer. Oh, the horror…

Once they’d arrived to pick me up it was time to get the groceries so we would have things to eat in the evening as well. As it was about 10 minutes to 8 in the evening, this meant we had to hurry. We entered a supermarket with about 5 minutes to spare and did some serious power-shopping, until we got kicked to the counter at least, but we got almost everything that was important. The only thing missing were coals for the barbecue as the store didn’t sell those.

Then came the ride to the house, which turned out to be in a little town called Frankweiler. It was night, so I didn’t get to see anything of the environment, but would later discover that this was a rather beautiful part of Germany. Entering the house I got a new surprise as Leonie and Niki were waiting there in the living room that had been decorated as well. A Hawaiian team was obvious from the sudden appearance of Hawaiian shirts, skirts and flower necklaces making the whole thing a lot more festive. Later on Arjan and Frieda were to arrive as well, making it even more fun. But first it was time to eat a bit.

Jan distracting the girls from cooking

After some food, skillfully prepared by Niki and Leonie, we then continued with talking, drinking and in general having a wonderful evening. After Arjan and Frieda’s arrival, this naturally continued, although by that time it would also include a game of Trivial Pursuit which would last until late in the evening.

Group photo in the living room

After the Trivial Pursuit game, the next surprise was revealed. In order to prepare me for my travels it had been decided that it would be a good idea to make me spent the first night in a tent. Outside. Where it was pretty cold.

Setting up the tent

The good news about this was that I didn’t have to set up the tent myself, they would do that for me. Maybe because they were afraid I would otherwise claim I don’t know how to do it and therefore be saved from having to sleep there.

Still, once the tent was standing we continued having fun until late in the evening. I think it was sometime after 5 when I, and the three blankets I would need, ended up in the tent for some needed rest.

I spent the entire night in the tent, only to be awoken several times in the morning when people started driving agricultural equipment past my tent that made a lot of noise. The result of this of course was that I therefore had the dubious honor of being the first person to be awake. And to start noticing that despite the blankets it was still pretty darn cold out there. For a while I managed to ignore this, by trying to get back to sleep in the uncomfortable knowledge that outside of the tent it would be even colder. And I had to go there before I could enter the house and head to the wonderful hot shower that would await me there.

Eventually though, the cold inside the tent outweighed my slight hangover and forced me to cross those two meters to the front door. Yes, on that short a distance I barely noticed the cold even on bare feet, but that’s just a detail when I’m talking about the suffering my friends put me through.

Of course, later on it turned out they expected that I wouldn’t stay in the tent for more than an hour before fleeing inside into the warmth. At least that shows that with enough alcohol in your body you can ignore a lot of discomfort just for the chance to sleep.

Leonie and Steven in the woods

Once I had showered and was dressed it was sometime between 10:30 and 11:00. I didn’t feel up to breakfast yet, so I looked around a bit in the neighborhood of our house while waiting for the rest to wake up. This joyful event happened around 12:30 and showed that most of them were in a similar state as me.

So we had a nice relaxing afternoon. Jan and Niki went to get a replacement car; Arjan, Merijn and Frieda went to do groceries in a more relaxed manner; and I joined Leonie and Steven on a walk. In an attempt to find the woods. We did discover some small bits of forest, but there wasn’t much of a possibility to walk a lot inside them. Nevertheless, it was relaxing to walk through the hills and forests. We also found a lot of what were probably hunting cabins, indicating people did come here for other purposes than walking as well.

A panorama shot of the environment

Luckily the weather was pretty good during all this time, and would remain so for the rest of the weekend. After our walk, we returned to the house and spent some time there playing games. By the time the sun started to set there came a sudden push to go outside although it took some time for some people to get ready as they wanted to finish up some things for dinner.

First clue of the treasure hunt in Germany

Once we were gathered outside I was informed of the reason for this. Apparently during the afternoon they had set out a treasure hunt and I was supposed to find the clues based on pictures. I got my camera back, and aside from being told the direction we had to start I was supposed to find everything based on these pictures, and some pieces of aluminum foil that would show me the path to take.

At the location of each of these pictures there was a note containing a question or task I had to carry out. The questions either had something to do with the German part of my ancestry or with in-jokes from our friendship. One example of this is a question from Trivial Pursuit that we would always ask whether or not it actually came up on a card: “Welke wielrenner werd ook wel ‘De Das’ genoemd?”. While I knew his last name, I couldn’t actually remember the first name correctly. Luckily they took pity on my attempts and approved of my answer.

As for the tasks, suffice to say that I’m not good at either impersonating Chewbacca or doing a traditional Maori dance. Although it did provide some material for laughing. Finding everything was pretty difficult in the dark, and I have to admit that at times a sudden cough or other hint would make me shine the torch at an area again to see if I’d missed something.

The tent decorated with a Jaegermeister sign

Every time I’d successfully answered or completed the contents of the note, I would get a letter which would combine into a word depicting the treasure that I needed to find. This was to be honest the easiest part, as I’d already seen a big hint for that when we left the house. Yes, the word that was looked for was Jaegermeister, and the treasure was hidden inside the tent I’d slept in during the first night. That didn’t really matter in this regard though as it was a lot of fun to find the clues, or walking in the completely wrong direction because I’d missed something, and solve what was needed. I didn’t succeed in a couple of things, one question I couldn’t think of all the required answer, and the secret mission I got where I had to frighten Leonie. Unfortunately, there were no zombies or girls with red eyes around to help in that regard.

Of course, because they couldn’t leave out the chance to make fun of my previous travel, and included a note that only said 21. This didn’t make any sense, until Jan started dealing a game of Blackjack using his Scarface cards. I actually won the game! I knew I could do it!

Barbecue in Germany

Eventually we went back to the house again where we enjoyed a big meal, consisting of some grilled chickens, salad, fries from the oven, and of course a barbecue. After all, we had the barbecue masters there who have proven in the past that they are able to prepare great tasting food from the barbecue even during a rainstorm.

The rest of the evening went pretty quiet as most of us were still a bit tired from the first night. We played some poker, some people went to bed early, and all in all we simply enjoyed the company until at around 3 even the last of us decided to call it a day. After all, the next day we would have to drive back home again, which would once again take about 5 hours.

Jan and Niki had to leave early in the morning, but the rest of us relaxed a bit while getting everything together and cleaning the house a bit. While relaxing we were joined by a cute little kitten, but despite the pleas of in particular Leonie to take it with us, Napoleon as we started calling it stayed behind. Luckily, the photo below shows the kitten as well.

After this, all that was left was to actually go home. Which wouldn’t have been a problem at all, except for the fact that Murphy really had it in for the cars this weekend. Several kilometers before reaching the border, the exhaust of one of the cars decided that staying attached to the car was overrated. In the end we all got home exhausted but having had a great weekend.

A group photo in front of the house

All I can say about this: It’s great to have such wonderful friends. Thank you all.