Having made it through the previous installments, you – my faithful readers (all three of you) and suspicious Bundesamt censors alike – have persevered and have now arrived unsafely and scathed at the continued post about drinking in Germany. So, without further ado, let’s get down to brass tacks and to the central themes of this post: Love and weddings.
Love is, no doubt, the reason that you would even have a wedding in the first place but let’s be honest; no wedding would be complete without the reception where, due to the popularity of the open-bar, one can drink to their hearts content and can also be privy to such rare and endearing sights as your beloved arthritic Grandma going shot-for-shot with the hip-hop loving whippersnappers before teaching them how to dance the Watusi to Nicky Minaj. Removing inhibitions, while simultaneously bequeathing previously undiscovered superhuman abilities, is the power of alcohol. The fact that your Grandma (or “Oma” as she is called here) is going to wake up the next day feeling like the ample-bottomed Miss Minaj sat on her knee repeatedly like a twerking version of the pneumatic IKEA chair-testing machine is of no consequence.
I’m not quite sure who invented the open-bar but I suspect it was the Germans. Since history has taught us that it was the Germans (actually 16th century Germanic Goths living in the UK) that invented the Best Man in order to literally capture the bride and then defend the party against reprisal attacks from the bride’s family, it only makes sense that is was also they who came up with the open-bar. What better way to form an allied coalition than to feed the invited guests limitless amounts of liquid courage so that they would fight alongside them? Plus, if a few sneaky spies from the bride’s family happened to slip in undetected, they – ridden with twitchy nerves primed for battle and begging for calm – would seek a drink, discover that eight worked better than one, and thereby receive liquid lobotomies so that they would forget why they had infiltrated the party in the first place. Abraham Lincoln said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends”? Being of part German descent, and therefore undoubtedly guarding a trade secret, what he so cunningly neglected to mention is that those friends are easiest made with alcohol, and lots of it. I’m sure that all Abe did was draw up a few signs that read “Free Booze! Wear Grey And Get In Free!” and then post them around the south. Those moonshine loving confederates never stood a chance.
For the family and friends that attended – and for the same that couldn’t make it but saw the posts on social media – it is no secret that Eve and I married this year. Since I am living in Germany and was, therefore, wed here, I take no small amount of joy in telling you that there is a single not-so-slight difference to getting married in the States: Germans have not one, but two weddings which means that you have two parties, though the first is usually a bit less intense than the second. This, of course, was not the case for Eve and I. But, before I can regale you with that specific tale of unmitigated debauchery, I must digress to the one thing that precedes all weddings – except those perpetrated on Jäger-Bomb soaked whims in Vegas or Königshofen- the proposal.
Being a very understated type of individual, I proposed to Eve in the most innocuous and discreet of manners: I surprised her by pledging my undying love publicly in front of twenty-five or so of our family and closest friends. This happened under the Mondhäuschen (little moon house) in Bad Mergentheim’s Kurpark and, to make matters worse, I popped the question after singing terribly into, lest the closest towns of Igersheim and Edelfingen couldn’t hear, a portable karaoke machine/loud speaker. Judging by the older passersby that protectively clutched both their spouses and pets tightly to their bodies, I inadvertently opted for the unbelievably loud, emergency broadcast, “End of the World” model. Though it has been several decades, clearly not enough time has passed since the locals last heard an American publicly amplifying their voice and they were fretfully readying themselves for a bombing campaign. I apologize whole-heatedly for any latent PTSD symptoms that I may have caused. If it’s any consolation, I was more nervous than they were.
Because I surprised Eve with a proposal that was tantamount to public embarrassment, she surprised me by actually saying yes. A serendipitous footnote to wannabe grooms: As nerve-wracking at it may sound, a public proposal actually increases the chance that your girlfriend will say yes as she will be put on the spot, with dozens of eyes gazing at her expectantly. Unless she is a willful crusher of dreams, she will not say no. If she does, just think about what she would say when you declare that every Sunday henceforth will be known as “No Pants Day” or that you want to fulfill your lifelong dream of building a four-wheel drive sofa. You just don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. If you have to ask, “Why would anybody want a four-wheel drive sofa?”, you are exactly the kind of Negative Nelly that I just described and you should now politely remove yourself from reading any further. I can assure you that your confusion will not be assuaged by continuing and will, most likely, only grow.
Fast forward three months and we arrive at the day of our legal ceremony, the Standesamt Hochzeit. This is a quaint event where only close family and witnesses attend. It is a very quick affair where you will, if you have only been in the country for nine months as I had, not understand much of anything, even as the officiant/Klingon stares directly at you while beautifully articulating something completely incomprehensible. After you say “Ja” to a few questions (to which I thought that one may have been if I wanted to either buy his car or paint a cat) you are officially and legally married! Prost!
Now, I said earlier that the party after the legal ceremony is typically more subdued than the more American-style wedding’s, but that ours was not. This is true. Though we did enjoy the traditional and delightful lunch afterward, complete with monogrammed champagne flutes and balloons that turned out to be filled not with helium but stale Schnitzel breath (always check the buoyancy of a balloon before inhaling its contents), we all decided that we would go out that evening for a few cocktails to celebrate. Luckily, I had a new used car and so transportation, at least one-way, was not a problem though what looked like a freshly-coated purple tabby in the street did cause me to swerve.
There is a wonderful cocktail bar here in town called Sol which is owned by a fantastic gentleman named Easy, presumably named as that is exactly what his life is. I will elaborate: Spanish for “sun”, Sol is an ingenious name for a German bar as we ordinarily get only slightly less sunny days than a typical cave and so people flock to it in droves to wash down some tapas with copious amounts of liquid sunshine. In a country that sees more cloudy days than the average Berlin bus seat sees butts, the D after vitamin here stands for “drunk” and for Easy, “Dinero”. Mucho dinero.
Upon arrival, my newly appointed and thoughtful Schwager (brother-in-law) bought several bottles of champagne which were delicious. My newly appointed and extremely enthusiastic Schwägerin (sister-in-law), however, followed this up with shots of Ramazzotti and Jägermeister. Ramazzotti is the high-class Italian cousin of Jägermeister and is served with a slice of lemon while Jägermeister, more comfortable in prison orange than tennis whites, is served with a subpoena. For those of you that have never awoken in a roadside ditch and therefore don’t what Jägermeister is, I have included the Webster’s definition below:
German for ‘Hunt-Master’, Jägermeister is the world-renowned party liquor for bikers and college students alike. This black-colored libation, infused with 56 different herbs, looks like motor oil but tastes like heaven…if heaven tastes like licorice and regret”.
After tipping a few wet-ones and being joined by more than a few friends, someone (probably me) decided that going dancing would be a great idea. Having had my dance muscles primed for action by more than a couple “I can’t remembers”, I was eager to show off my signature move that looks as if I am trying to shake a live trout from out of my pant-leg. Once the small bladders were retrieved from the bathrooms and everyone was gathered, we hailed three taxis and made our way the local dance club, P2 (now called QU Club).
Side note # 10,314: QU, pronounced the way it’s spelled, would be Kuh, which is German for “cow”. I’m no expert at naming dance clubs, but surely someone could come up with a better name. Besides lonely farmers, who wants to dance at the Cow Club? Certainly not me and, if I’m ever asked to milk someone, I will immediately leave…right after I try to “tip” them. If that last bit confused you, you are not from Vermont where cow-tipping is the state sport, and you should now guzzle one gallon of maple syrup. Done? Good for you. You are now a Vermonter. Don’t forget to wear plaid and never shave.
Set inside the same building that houses a huge indoor go-kart track – which you can look down on as you make your way inside and over the walkway to see the earlier revelers fine-tuning their drunk driving skills – you arrive at QU Club and the several dance floors, bars, and multitudes of Germans “getting jiggy with it” that it offers. As there are several “themed” dance areas, and because the world – especially Germany – is still infatuated with the 80’s, QU Club still unabashedly plays Will Smith’s songs on the “Prince & Fresh Prince floor”. That may not be the actual name, but that is what I call it. Will’s compelling lyrics and intoxicating beats are not only not wasted here, they are fully embraced “Carlton-style”, or at least they were by me that night as I was still sporting my suit jacket, though sans bowtie, and danced as if I was suffering a stroke in slow motion.
Because most of those in our party were obviously older than the average clubgoer, we arrived early and the night then progressed pretty much as you might expect: We drank, we danced by making up ridiculous moves based on everyday activities like “making the pizza”, some drunken troglodyte put Eve in a head-lock because she tipped his hat after he wouldn’t acknowledge her after he spilled her drink, and I never got that damn fish from out of my pants. The one ironic thing about this evening, and it’s mention in a post about drinking, is that the place became so busy after the hour struck twelve that, because we couldn’t get to the bar, we stopped drinking, kept dancing, and thereby shed not only the alcohol from our systems, but the last shred of any self-respect that we may have had. If you’ve ever seen the “shopping cart” performed by a middle-aged white guy (who are the only ones who actually perform this move), you know what I’m talking about. If you have ever been to Kaufland or REWE, two of the grocery chains here, you undoubtedly have.
Side note #10,315: Unlike in the States where the stores pipe in smooth jazz in an apparent attempt to drive up the sale of anti-depressants and boxed wine, the Lebensmittel stores here play louder than expected top 40 dance hits. Come to think of it, as German grocery stores also have no cover charges, are well-lit so that the chaperones can keep an eye out for any inappropriate activity, and because most attendees are too shy to dance, they are nearly identical to the average U.S. high school dance. The only differences are that German 16 year olds can actually buy beer and that U.S. high schools rarely sell condoms. Well, maybe in a liberal state like California, but definitely not in Texas where half of the school budgets are spent trying to prevent students from discovering their genitals in the first place.
Now that the legal wedding and its after-party have been ticked off the list, let’s hop back in our literary time machine (all apologies to H.G. Wells), punch in the date 28/6/2014, set the clock for approximately 6:00 PM, and fast-forward to our party wedding’s reception. Upon arrival, you will gently exit the capsule and find yourself at the Deutschordensschloss, the 12th century castle of the German Order, with a “Kalte Ente” (cold cuck) in your hand. It was a balmy day in Bad Mergentheim and so the refreshing mixture of Sekt, white wine, bubbly water, and citrus certainly hit the spot, as did the 2nd and 3rd. Whether because of our less-than-manly choice of drink, or because Americans were parading around their once impregnable fortress (most likely both), certainly the stoic knights that once ruled those halls were not impressed. This, of course, explains the many glasses that were overturned during the course of the evening. 12th century poltergeists, jealous of electricity and not having to defend against wolves when they step outside to visit the loo, are even more surly than their modern counterparts. It was definitely the ghosts. Surely it wasn’t the clumsiness of the guests (or the groom).
Toasts were made, tears were shed, delicious foods were eaten, and naturally, many drinks were had. As I mentioned the open-bar at the opening, we too had one, though luckily, Eve’s parents did not try to recapture her as she was technically not kidnapped: I have found that holding your bride emotionally hostage – not by hurtful means but by the simple threat that you may break out into song at any given moment – is more effective and bears much less physical evidence. The scars conceived from having to endure countless hours of off-key “Karma Chameleon” are invisible to only the well-trained psychiatrist or by Boy George himself, which probably explains his drug problems.
As music, and the inevitable dancing that so often accompanies it, is the backbone of every reception, our DJ started spinning tracks during the last course of dinner. Evidently the sound of cutlery banging against our plates as we shoveled food into our mouths wasn’t quite rhythmic enough and so Herr Toldi thought it best to coax us tenderly into a more dance-friendly frame of mind by playing 50’s rock & roll. This would normally be a deterrent to most people under the age of, say 50, but that was not the case with our party. First, my niece and nephew from Stuttgart started shuffling and jumping around the floor (let’s call it the kinder ‘Stuggie Boogie’), followed by my dear mother-in-law who always seems to be on the verge of dancing anyway, then Eve, myself, and the rest of the attendees who had downed enough wine or beer to divert the flow of blood away from their brains and into their legs.
After the first dance – the Viennese Waltz – where Eve glided gracefully across the floor while I hopped around after her with arms flailing skyward like a fledgling robin yearning for flight, the evening kicked into high gear and it was soon time for shenanigans to begin in the form of a wedding game. I’m not sure if “Love and Marriage” by Frank Sinatra was played that night or not, but it should have been as the lyrics play well into the most traditional of German wedding games, and the one that Eve and I partook in that night, the “Kutscher” game.
“Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, They go together Like a Horse and Carriage. Let me tell you brother, you can’t have one without the other”.
I suspect that Old Blue Eyes inspiration for this song came from having had the privilege of attending a German wedding in which he either observed or took part in the Kutscher game as it involves, you guessed it, a horse and carriage. Or, to be more exact, many horses and a carriage.
The idea of this particular wedding game is that the bride and groom are called up to be the King and Queen, or “König and Königin”. They sit in a carriage which is pulled by several horses (who are in actuality women who just want to get really drunk), who are in turn driven by the Kutscher (carriage driver). There are four other people who play each carriage wheel, but it is the Kutscher himself (which was played by my best mate and best man, Marc) who really bears the brunt of this game. After everyone is seated in their chairs, which have been assembled in the proper configuration, a story is read about the king and queen’s adventurous journey. Every time that a particular player’s name is read, they are obliged to stand up. In the case of the horses, they have to stand up and wiehern (whinny). If someone stands up at the wrong time, or not at all, that player must drink a shot – or “Schnaps” – as it is called here. The reason that the poor Kutscher fares so poorly is because his name is mentioned almost constantly. As the horses continue to drink, their whinnies become, like a herd of debutantes frightened by imitation Prada, increasingly loud and dramatic. This makes it nearly impossible to hear if your name is being called, especially when it is called as often as a Tennessee caller shouts “dosey-do” at a Nashville square dance. Let’s just say that had Marc been driving actual horses that evening, he would in the hospital and the horses would be in glue bottles.
Having only been in Germany for a little over a year at that point, I was only saved as Stefan, the left rear wheel behind me, kept his hand on my shoulder and tapped it whenever “König” was said. Thank you, Mr. Rear Left. I know, since you were concentrating on helping me, that you repeatedly missed your name and had to drink several times. Your sacrifice did not go unnoticed and, though you were worse for the wear, your kind gestures invariably kept me from break-dancing and thereby ruining the evening with a trip in an ambulance: My hip hop moves are more “break” than “dance” and, though I can’t “crunk”, I can certainly “Krank”…as in Krankenhaus (hospital).
Having included almost all parts of dramatic structure like in an actual story, all I have left is the denouement which I will present with the inevitable conclusion of excessive drinking, the hangover.
Saying “I have a male cat” in the States means just that; you have a cat that is male. In Germany, however, saying “ich habe einen Kater” means “I have a hangover”. Come to think of it, I am almost certain now that the newly-painted cat in the street that I swerved to avoid after leaving Sol was a male cat. I should have recognized it then as the omen that it clearly was.
Anyway, after consuming many alcoholic beverages (as well as this post) you too may have a Kater. If this is the case, the only things that you can do are drink plenty of water, eat, and – to get you through the certainly lonely times ahead that await you while you recover – get yourself an actual cat. The only problem that you may have in your sorry and befuddled state is coming up with a name. Due to the pain you are in, you may be tempted to lash out and name it “Bastard” or “I hate you“. You should refrain from doing this as anger will only make your Kater lash out, thereby causing you pain. In your condition, you need less agony, not more. I would instead suggest naming your newly acquired literal cat after the libations that created the figurative one that has taken up residency in your head. For example, if you were out celebrating, say, Cinco de Mayo, you might want to name him Tequila Beer. You can call him T.B. for short, not only because it might be easier (and less nauseating) to remember, but also because you probably feel like you have tuberclerosis.
I know that I said in the very beginning of the first post in this series that Germans drink considerably less than we Americans. After reading through these two installments, I have realized that this is not true and that they drink at least as much as we Americans. In fact, now that I think about it, the only way that the Germans that I have encountered (like us Yanks) could drink more would be if they had gills…which might explain, now that I think about that, why German TV keeps playing “Water World” over and over. In the movie, Kevin Costner’s character has gills which leaves him perfectly adapted to live not just on a liquid planet, but under the water itself which, without land, is now the sole sustainer of life. Leben (life) is very close to Leber (liver). Coincidence? I think not.