The very weekend after I visited a friend down in southern Germany, I traveled with Insa to the opposite end of the country culturally, Ostfriesland, Bremen, and Oldenburg in the northwest. Although east Friesland has “east” in the name, it’s in the west of Germany because “west” Friesland is the Netherlands. The people in Ostfriesland (and the greater northwestern region) speak a language (not a dialect) called “plattdeutsch” or “low German” which sounds very similar to Dutch. The region is also home to Frisian horses, which we saw, but sadly only while driving past them:
The region is also a really big tea country with its own tea culture. Ostfriesland tea is black tea like Earl Grey, but is sometimes drank with these special sugar rocks:
Insa’s roots are in the northwest and so we were going back to visit family for Easter and for me to get the chance to see some of the region where she grew up.
Our first stop was Bremen where she was the guest star at a Slam competition. She wasn’t competing against the other authors, who each have 7 minutes to perform and then be judged by the audience, rather, she had a solid 45 minute opener section where she got to read short stories from her book. The crowd loved it (as usual whenever she reads her stories) and she sold out all her copies of her book within minutes of finishing her set!
While in Bremen we went to Osterwiese, a yearly Easter festival in Bremen. It’s a LOT like a state fair back in the US with all the rides and food, though there were no animals to see or pet. Instead, there was lots of beer and matjes brotchen. Walking around the festival having a beer felt great, since I knew it wasn’t something I was able to do at fairs in in South Carolina.
While walking to the fair, I saw a sign advertising an “Osterfeuer.” An Osterfeuer is a giant bonfire that happens on Easter. I’d get to see one on Saturday, but more on that in a bit.
After spending Thursday night in Bremen, we traveled to Insa’s aunt’s house in Oldenburg where we’d be staying for the rest of the weekend.
I’m not normally a cat person, but they have this really cute cat that seemed to like me:
Insa’s grandparents have a car but are unable to drive it, so it’s become an extra family car of sorts. It’s an automatic, so on Saturday Insa and I took it to the small waterside town of Greetsiel.
I got to drive it, which was stressful at first, but after getting used to it I was fine. I’m terrified of accidentally hitting and killing a cyclist in Germany. They were never really around when I was learning to drive, but here you always have to double check before you make a turn. While driving, I kept seeing smoke all over the country side and smelling fire. All the various towns were having Osterfeuer…
On our way to the coast we stopped at Pewsum Manningaburg. Manningaburg is a small fortified house that the local chieftain built centuries ago and that has since been converted into an administrative building where you can get married.
Next up we went to go visit a lighthouse on the coast. There’s a dyke separating the water from the land. The area is pretty windy, until you climb up onto the top of the dyke and it’s extremely windy! So much that we could lean into the wind!
Here is a link to some 360 photo spheres I took. Some of are the area on the dyke, one is in the town of Greetsiel, and the other (with the big fish statue) is just on the outskirts of Greetsiel.
After getting blown around by the wind we got back in the car and headed into Greetsiel for lunch. It’s a really cute small town. We decided to go to this restaurant/hotel “Hohes Haus” for lunch:
There I got Ostfriesland tea and Seemannslabskaus which is a local dish. It’s like a seafood corned beef hash, but better!
Afterwards we explored around the town a bit before heading back to Insa’s aunt’s house.
Later that night, Insa and her cousin took me to see my first Osterfeuer!
This is nuts. It’s a giant bonfire in the middle of a field and people go there to just hang out and drink. It’s kinda “the thing to do” in the countryside. I could not imagine this happening in the US. There’s no barrier keeping people from the fire and there are children running around all over the place. Many of them get really close to the blaze and throw things in while their parents just standby and watch. Despite this, neither Insa nor her cousin have ever heard of a single case where anyone got hurt at one of these fires. I guess American children are too stupid not to burn themselves to death. (Perhaps it follows that they’re not allowed to have kinder-egg chocolate least they choke to death on the toy…) But seriously, this was the biggest fire I’ve seen since my neighbor’s house burned down as a kid.
The next morning was Easter and so after painting some eggs for an Easter egg hunt, we all piled into the cars and drove to the grandparent’s house about half an hour away.
Easter brunch here is the same as the Easter brunches I’ve had in the US, just everybody speaks German. Oh, and they drink eggnog on Easter, not Christmas, and the eggnog is REALLY strong.
We drank it out of these little chocolate waffle shot…cones.
I also got to try Mett for the first time. It’s raw pork with onions that you spread of bread and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I ended up liking it a lot.
Insa’s cousin tells me that a lot of construction workers and whatnot eat this for breakfast. Not sure if that’s supposed to make you tough or what. Either way, it was tasty.
After brunch we got back in the cars to drive to the water and have a stroll. The tide was out so you could see the mud flats for a long way.
There’s also some strange….art… on the beach.
Yep. A giant dick on the beach. Also something you’d never see in the US. I was told the artist meant for it to be about where the land meets the water and fertility or something… I don’t know.
After our stroll we went back to hang out with the grandparents for a bit before heading home, and I took a train back to Berlin Monday morning. Insa’s staying a bit to do some more reading performances. Luckily her friend is bringing her some more copies of her book as she seems to sell out of them immediately every time she performs.
Anyways, that was my Easter in the northwest. I haven’t really had time to post more adventure blogs since Christmas because A) I’ve been really busy with work and technical exams and B) I haven’t gone anywhere much (see A).
I’ve got a little special trip in the works soon, so stay tuned!