German Hospitality and Touring the Solar System

By Mike Kerr

Steven and I were on our tour of Poland and Germany and where extended an invitation to visit our German family (the cousins of Steven’s cousin’s wife)  in the small town of Donsdorf outside of Stuttgart. Steven had been to Donzdorf for cousin Jode and Carol’s reception and I was yet to experience the beauty of the town and yet to meet the extended family.

In an earlier post we shared our journey down the Autobahn in our faithful Renaud Megane and Donzdorf was our final destination. When our trusty GPS directed us to the German family’s home, we were happy the long drive was over, of course there were a few quips from the mostly Audi employed family about the jalopy we were driving, but what were we to do? It was the only car left to rent with a GPS, and my German highway and road navigation skills aren’t what they could be, and we didn’t realize we were heading into the home of Porsche (<– Steve had convinced me this one was Italian), Audi, and Volkswagen. Luckily we brought a bouquet of flowers as a gift, so we were soon forgiven as our hosts owned a flower shop and couldn’t remember the last time someone had actually brought them flowers.

We were shown to the room we would be sleeping in, asked to drop off our bags, and our tour of Donsdorf began. Starting with a quick jaunt through their neighborhood, we quickly learned that aside from ourselves, our hosts were the only ones in town who could speak very much English at all, but what can you do when you’re in small town Germany?

Our next stop was a trip by the local flower shop (the one owned by our hosts) on our way to the local castle and church where Steven’s cousin was married. In behind the church was a beautiful open park, filled with art on display by local artists. My favourite part of the displays was a scale model of the solar system, starting with the sun in the center of the park, and continuing out through the town with each of the planets including the now dwarf planet Pluto. In elementary school, the solar system tends to be studied, and dioramas made of coat hangers and Styrofoam balls are pretty commonplace, but actually getting to see it in scale, and walking the distances between each planet really gives a realistic sense of just how big our Solar System is, and a feel for the sizes of each celestial body when the sun was bigger than my head, but Mercury is the size of a ball bearing.

One of mine and Steven’s favourite things about being in Germany is Hanuta, a delicious hazelnut cream sandwiched between two crispy wafers. It sounds kind of ordinary, but it is the best chocolate treat ever. Although it is made by Kinder, which tends to be pretty internationally known, Hanuta, the best of their products, is only available for purchase in the German market.

After getting some (a lot) of sugar in us, we decided to work it off by playing some football with the kids. Steven and I are definitely not MVPs so needless to say, we had our butts handed to us by a very talented kid. We also discovered that flip flops are not the ideal footwear for the game.

Later on we sat down for a family meal, learning more about the family itself, enjoying a bounty of local sausages and meat, and getting more drunk than I ever had before. A good point to remember when visiting your German relatives, is they have a much higher tolerance for beer than you, and aren’t afraid to fill your glass while you are distracted. After my first couple of beers (giant beers) I was starting to get a bit of a buzz on, upon telling this to the German family they insisted I have another, as a buzz in Germany just isn’t good enough. By the time I hit the bottom of my fifth bottle there was no doubt I was drunk. Now at this point I would normally have stopped, but somehow the Germans managed to convince me that I would be fine having another half (and another, and another) soaking up as much as I could in my stomach by eating some authentic soft pretzels, I managed to not throw up. Steven, having been with the family before opted for the lighter lime beer.

At some point during the night, the family heard a noise that we could not, and were up in arms running to the house for a glass of water and some dish soap. Not knowing what was going on, we had to join them to figure out what all the fuss was for. The noise was apparently coming from the ground around the family garden, a quick squirt of dish soap, and a splash of water and the scariest bug I have ever seen in my life revealed itself from the depths of the earth. Imagine a cricket with mole arms, now imagine it being ten times bigger, now imagine its face being so large that you can actually tell what it is thinking by the expression on its face. That my friends, is a mole cricket, the largest bug I ever want to see for the rest of my life.

After an amazing night, and the deepest drunken sleep I have ever had, Steve managed to shake me awake in the morning, gather me up, and get me back in the car to catch the first of our connecting flights home from Stuttgart. Out of all of the small towns I have visited, Donzdorf is my favorite, not for the sights or local amenities, but for the amazing people I met who I can look back and think of as a branch of my family.

Germany Posts:
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
East Side Gallery
Outlet City Metzingen
Potsdamer Platz – the platz to be!
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Shopping in Berlin – ja, das ist gut!
Schloss Charlottenburg the Palace of Berlin
Chic Outlet Shopping – Europe

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Outlet City Metzingen

We all have done it, crossing the border to get great deals from a factory outlet, generally a large industrial strip mall and parking lot surrounded by more of the same. Little thought is given to the pedestrian experience, and it is actually more convenient to move your car from store to store than walk from one end to the other.

Upon my first arrival on European soil, extended German family greeted me at the Stuttgart airport. I was coming to Germany for my cousin’s wedding and was not only excited for the happy couple but for my first European adventure. After the overnight flight all I wanted to do was roll up and nap but was told that something exciting was just a short drive away and (kind of) on the way to the family home.

Only 30 minutes from Stuttgart lies Metzingen, a quaint little town where fashion mega brand Hugo Boss was founded, headquartered and the location of the very first Hugo Boss outlet store.  The store is like a labyrinth, not the IKEA type where you must follow the path to find the exit, but a place where around every corner is a new discovery and room upon room of Boss designs for the entire family. I found myself in a room filled with suits and samples, in a plethora of patterns and prints including floral, stripes and every colour of the rainbow, neatly displayed on two racks, one over the other surrounding the entire room. I left with a ¾ length winter jacket for 150 Euro that was $1150 in Canada. Ask for tax exemption at the cash if you are from out of country.

The success of the Hugo Boss outlet lead to Outlet City Metzingen, what I now like to consider cross-border shopping. First off, yes there is a parking lot, but when you park your car or get off the shuttle (every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from Stuttgart), you discover a truly pedestrian experience. Wide tree lined walkways, over 80 outlet stores and restaurants, all designed to blend into its small German town surroundings, with deals not to be missed.

http://www.outletcity-metzingen.com/en/welcome
http://www.facebook.com/outletcitymetzingen
http://www.youtube.com/user/OUTLETCITYMETZINGEN

Germany Posts:
East Side Gallery
Potsdamer Platz – the platz to be!
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Shopping in Berlin – ja, das ist gut!
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
Schloss Charlottenburg the Palace of Berlin
Shopping Posts:
La Rambla is just a warm up to shopping in Barcelona
Finding Karl, Jean-Paul and Christian in Paris
Shopping in Berlin – ja, das ist gut!