Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas in Germany Part 1: The Journey There!

Remember my Christmas in Armenia article for The Armenian Weekly? Well, this year I spent it with my friend/manager/platonic wifey Mona and her family, and had my first Christmas in Germany. Like in Armenia, it was fun, busy, and included a lot of food, but unlike Armenia, it was organized, efficient, and everyone was on time to everything all of the time. Mona's mom would even let us know when there was a 5 minute countdown when we had to leave. In Armenia, "5 minutes" is code for "shower time!".
Christmas in Germany is celebrated on the 24th of December, and I arrived in Berlin on the 17th. Mona and I had talked about some "musts" in terms of things to do and we aimed to fit it all within the time frame that included being in four different cities. We would be in Berlin until the 19th, and in the evening take a road trip to Aachen, one of the country's most western cities and about six hours away from Berlin, stay there for a softball tournament on Saturday, and leave in the afternoon on Sunday back to Berlin. Then on Tuesday we would head to Hamburg by bus, approximately a three hour drive, and from there another hour or so to get to Budelsdorf, where Mona's parents lived.

I went via Tbilisi to Germany since plane tickets tend to be much cheaper than going directly from Armenia, and it was a hell of a journey there and back. I left around 5pm on the 16th and was in a mini-van (nicer version of a mashootka), and only one other passenger joined us, which has never happened before. They both made an effort to smoke outside of the car when we took breaks which was a nice change. Both the driver and passenger were Georgians who spoke almost fluent Armenian, so luckily we could communicate after they tried Russian with me to no avail. The other passenger was super friendly and very excited to get back to Georgia, making myself and the driver excited too. He gave me his number and told me if I ever needed anything to call him and that he could show me around the city. They played Rihanna on repeat. My plan was to go directly to the airport and just wait for my flight there. I regret this.

I arrived to the airport much earlier than expected since the driver was super-fast, and got there around 10pm, with my flight being at 6:20am. The waiting area in the Tbilisi airport had a sketchy vibe to it, and I was kicked in the head by a drunk person attempting to sleep beside me and then again awoken by the sketchiest person ever trying to convince me to change my flight and go to New York with him. I moved locations more times than I could count, but could not avoid this particular person until about an hour before my flight. Still, I would see him again on my way back. My "I will sleep in the airport" plan did not pan out as planned.

I finally boarded my flight, was happy to have gotten the window seat and we went to Istanbul for the five hour stop-over. I bought water and sat separately from the main area to be anti-social, and felt like a spy picking up on simple conversations in Turkish: "Ask this girl to watch our luggage", "We don't even know who she is!", etc. It was entertaining/distracting enough--thanks mom! The customer service there during boarding was nice too, and one particular man was super friendly and chatty, and about 30 seconds after I passed him I realized my shirt buttons at the top had unbuttoned. The next flight would be the final one to Berlin, and I would get there around 1:30pm. My undereyes were beginning to sink to the point of no return but I was getting closer and closer.

I arrived in Berlin to a super friendly airport staff and when the guy at customs asked me why I was there I became super nervous and tried to be all diplomatic and then realized he was asking in a friendly way and not out of suspicion (thank you Armenia). It put me in such a good mood and I finally went to greet Mona who was worried I would end up falling asleep in the airport lounges and missing my flight(s) because when I sleep, it's deeper than the fire pit in Lord of the Rings.

Mona said the magic words soon after we saw each other: we would go directly to eat. There was a small Lebanese restaurant by her house with legit meneyish, hmoz, pickles and pita. Everything in my life was leading up to this. We got there and ordered two meneyishes, olives, pickles, and of course hmoz and everything was amazing. We then asked one of the adorable dancing workers where they were buying their zataar from and it was just next door so we went to get Mona some zataar she missed so much before heading to her house.
Trying to eat everything at the same time.
We went home, I admired her beautiful apartment and her cool room, dropped my things down, and washed my face so good. The airplane-dirt pimples were coming, but that didn't mean I wouldn't at least try to destroy them. We then tried the zataar and there had been many to choose from but we got a very coarse and thyme-centric one, so had some fun mixing in some more sumac in there and then got carried away:
We went to a close-by trendy bar and we decided to share a glass of hot wine, called gluhwein in German. I liked the IDEA of there being cloves and cinnamon in there but I had mixed feelings about the actual taste of hot wine. Normal wine is usually 50/50 with me and only if it's red and not sweet. New experiences, though!

Day one was put to an end the second I crawled into the warm inviting bed. 

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