Sunday, August 9, 2015

Leipzig

I had booked the train to Leipzig well in advance and thought I'd scored a very good deal on the fare. At the time of booking, 2nd class seats with no reservation seemed fine. Somewhere on the train there may have been unreserved seats, but we didn't find them. Luckily, there were places only reserved for part of the journey and, by changing seats at nearly every station, Eve managed to sit the whole way and I only had to stand for the last leg of the journey. Not only did she ride comfortably, but Eve managed always to be next to passengers who spoke fluent English and enjoyed rollicking conversations.

We went to Leipzig to take part in the Golden Oldies Hockey Festival. The International Harlequins are listed as a Canadian team because the current manager lives in Calgary, but the players and supporters come from all around the globe. We were very warm in Berlin, and definitely HOT in Leipzig. Temperatures climbed into the 30s every day, and on the last games day it peaked at 38oC. I can't run fast nowadays in any conditions, but many other players were also reduced to walking so it didn't matter.

The team was lodged at a smart hotel near the station. The room was very comfortable, the staff were very pleasant and the hotel has the splendid habit of issuing every guest with a pass for the city buses and trams so it was easy to get around the entire city.

Pedestrian crossing lights


The hotel did charge for WiFi Internet access, but only if you wanted the full-speed version. “Crippled” access was free. Since broadband is unknown in our part of the Motueka Valley, the free service was hugely superior to what we get at home.

Golden Oldies hockey is all about having fun, rather than overrunning the opposition, and it was a very sociable week. The official programme involves parties at the beginning, middle and end of the festival. In between we tracked down a series of pleasant restaurants. With temperatures as high as they were it was essential for good health to keep our liquid intake up. We can confirm that Leipzig's brewers maintain high standards.

At the mid-week picnic day we met a third generation Golden Oldie. Her father and grandfather are/were regular attendees at the festivals an she was delighted that she was now old enough to qualify.

International Harlequins at the picnic day

All the walking in Berlin had given Eve blisters. She had unwisely 'popped' them and in Leipzig they displayed signs of infection. The International Harlequins squad includes a professor of nursing, who deemed that a consultation with a doctor was necessary. The hotel summoned a taxi and we were amazed that the driver not only came into the lobby to find us, but shook our hands and conversed with us the whole way in excellent English. When he discovered that we were from New Zealand he mentioned that his niece and her friend were planning to visit NZ later in the year as willing workers on organic farms (wwoofers). We immediately invited them to wwoof with us and they did make email contact, but sadly their trip was curtailed and we never met them.

Ultimately we needed two visits to the hospital. The Teutonic efficiency that makes the trains run on time has not invaded the medical system, and we spent a lot of time sitting and waiting. However, we managed to see doctors who spoke excellent English and who delivered effective treatment.

Eve's sore feet rather curtailed our exploration of Leipzig, but the tram passes enabled us to get around a bit. Alas, there was no way for her to dance with her normal verve at the parties.

A shopping mall near the hotel was displaying this map of Europe constructed from Lego pieces.  It is decorated with models of famous landmarks like Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower.

After Leipzig we would be travelling on a Eurail Pass. This had to be validated at the station before we could use it. I made a second trip to the travel office to reserve seats for some of our planned journeys. I was particularly pleased with this latter expedition because I managed the entire conversation in German.

Near the end of the week we managed a trip to the Wildpark. This is essentially a large tract of pleasant forest with walking/biking trails and a few enclosures for European animals and birds. We saw captive wild pigs, deer, wisents (European bison) and owls. Truly wild birds that we saw included herons, great tits, nuthatches, assorted waterfowl and a raven.

Heron

Wild piglets

This raven made the most extraordinary noises

A wisent


To help her feet recover Eve did not come to Friday's hockey. However, she did manage to hobble to a shop recommended by another lady in the squad and buy some bras. Both the garments and the service were top quality and Eve's account of the instructions given by the shop assistant (“She was so small she didn't look as though she needed a bra herself”) was hilarious.

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