Sunday, August 15, 2010

Munchen Glad-to-be-bach 2: The wedding

Here's a follow-up post to my earlier Munich post.

Following a day of exploring Munich it was time to head to Auerbach for the wedding. There were a few of us planning on getting the train from Munich to the wedding location, but we had to wait until early afternoon until our whole group had arrived in Munich (not that we were in a particularly good state to have actually done anything in the morning). When at the station we went to get special Bavarian tickets, which each allowed 5 people to travel and only cost just under €30. After some help from one of the station ticket agents, we managed to negotiate the various screens on the ticket machine and come away with enough tickets for us all to travel. A good start to the journey at least. After this we took over a station cafe for a couple of hours, whilst waiting for our the final arrival to join our group from the airport. During the wait two of the best men (there were three in total, but the other one had travelled out separately) took this time to go over there speeches and I got a sneak preview of one.

By 3:20, once everyone had arrived, we were able to get a train to Plattling, from where some lifts onwards to our hotels had been organised. The train was quite busy, especially the front half of it (which would prove to be telling later on), but we just about managed to all get seats (one of our group decided to sit on the floor, but it wasn't entirely necessary). The journey was going smoothly until we pulled in to Landshut where everyone seemed to be getting off our carriage. Initially we thought that this was good - we'd be able to stretch out round the carriage a bit - but it soon became apparent that we probably should be getting off too (a man had tried to explain this in German to us, but we'd not really been able to understand a word of his explanation). On getting of we realised what was happening - the train was splitting in two with the front half carrying on to where we wanted to go and the back half that we'd been in heading back to Munich! However due to our tardiness getting of the train there was absolutely no way we, with all our luggage, could squeeze onto any of the front carriages. So we had to call ahead and say we'd be delayed about an hour and a half waiting for the next train. Luckily the station we were at had a bar in it, so we were able to occupy ourselves there by having a beer.

We were able to squeeze onto the next train and eventually got to Plattling. The group then split as half of us were staying in Auerbach (where the wedding ceremony was taking place), whereas the other half, myself included, were staying in Hengersberg (which was the where the reception was taking place - and in my opinion therefore the sensible place to stay). We got a lift from the bride and therefore got a bit local information on the drive. Our hotel was a nice place called the Hotel Erika.

After getting settled into our room it was soon time to head through to Auerbach for the evening for some pre-wedding celebrations. Auerbach is a small and pretty village (farming and hunting country) where the bride is from, and where a lot of her family still live, so we got to meet many of them - and also some of the brides ponies. It seem that it's a Bavarian tradition that on the evening before the wedding guns should be fired to scare off any bad spirits - the bride and groom were wearing traditional Bavarian dress of a dirndl and lederhosen respectively. So, to this end we had a lot of explosions being set off during the evening, but rather than guns being fired we had milk churns - milk churns with gun powder added, then a plastic football wedged in the top, and then the bottom being lit, firing the football 50 metres or so and making a very loud bang. Unfortunately the bangs didn't scare off the many mosquitos. There was also beer.

The next morning we were up in time for the hotel breakfast and decided to have a quick walk around Hengersberg before having to head to the wedding. The weather was sunny and hot, with only a few clouds in the sky - perfect wedding weather. It's a small town, and therefore there's not a great deal to see. We walked up to a church, which had a good view over the town, and then back to the small town square where we had an ice cream. It was then back to the hotel to get our wedding gear on.

We arrived in Auerbach just before the first part of the wedding took place - the official state bit involving signing of papers and such - during which time we went for a quick drink (although I stuck to diet coke for the time being) in the local pub/hotel/butcher shop. Then came the church ceremony part of the proceedings. This was the first Catholic wedding I've been to and I was quite worried that it could last quite a while, and I didn't know if I'd be able to make it through awake - the vast majority of it was also going to be in German. I needn't have worried - we were having to stand up and sit down so many times, and there were many hymns sung and readings given, that it would have been hard to catch any sleep. I thought the highlight of the ceremony (other than the fantastic looking bride and groom) was the singer (a friend of the bride), who had a great voice - there was also a very good choir and band (we couldn't see the choir and band as they were above us, and when I first heard trumpets with the choir I thought it might be recorded until I saw one of then pocking over the balcony above my head). During the ceremony there had been several people dressed in full lederhosen sitting at the back of the church. Just before the end of proceedings they all got up and filed out - the reason became apparent when we all got out. On leaving the church there were more load bangs - the lederhosen-ed group all had big pistols (wood and metal with a big blunderbuss-like end) that they were firing into the air - this went on for about 10 minutes. There was the standard photo time and then time to head to the reception - the bride and groom had a special white Citroën 2CV to take them there.

The reception, back in Hengersberg, was held in a big converted barn and courtyard - from the outside it looked slightly like a building site as not everything seemed completed, but once inside the courtyard it looked great. There was an Oompah band and lots, and lots, of cake - I think having cake at the start of a German wedding reception is another tradition. Chocolate cake, cake with fruit on it, and all very nice too, but quite light, which was necessary given the amount there was. The groom then had to tap the first beer barrel and the drinking could properly begin!

The whole reception was great. After spending a while in the sun in the courtyard listening to the band, socialising, drinking a few beers from the barrel, and trying not to eat too much cake, we headed inside for the meal and speeches. It's not normal in Germany for there to be best men speeches (in fact I don't even know if they really have best men), but seeing as this was a multi-national wedding we had them. These were only read out in Enlgish, as none of the best men were particularly well versed in German, but they all went down very well (each of the best men had there own take on the groom from the different times of his life that they'd known him) and the bride was able to translate some of the most salient points. The groom also gave a speech, but this time in both English and German, which was very impressive and very well pitched - it got a lot of laughs in both languages. Later in the evening there was a surprise "speech" - as a way of getting round the dual language problem some of the brides friends has put together a silent play enacting out how the couple met and got together. It was very well done and everyone enjoyed it. The beer flowed quite readily the whole night - and despite apparently later that evening telling my girlfriend "I don't like dancing or singing" I was quite eager to get on the dance floor and was energetically throwing myself (and her) around, occasionally causing some near misses with other dancers, and singing at the top of my voice to the cheesy, but wedding-appropriate, band - without too much persuasion we got them to play 99 Luftballons. Not content on just having beer (which was all free) we had to end the night with rounds of schnapps (the only booze that wasn't free) - I can't say that it was particularly good, but I did manage to keep it down. I forget if this was before or after we did the limbo-ing! Unsurprisingly my memory of the end of the night becomes vague-to-non-existent, but my girlfriend managed to guide me back to the hotel despite my "outer wibbles" which threatened to wibble me into a river.

As I've already said, and without wanting to sound too gushing, it was a great day and the perfect way to celebrate the newlyweds.