Day two of our journey through storybook land took us a little further south, and a lot more rural. We began by renting a car, and spent the first hour decoding the foreign symbols for drive and reverse. As one of the only manual-engine vehicles they had to offer, the Peugeot was a very small car that would at times take it upon itself to slow down when the accelerator was pushed. All that aside, I was the driver and my husband the navigator as we set out towards our destination – Hamelin, home of the Pied Piper.
After weaving through tiny roads, shooting down the Autobahn, and attempting to follow German traffic signs, we arrived at our first stop of the day. Nienburg was a very small village that seemed like a good stopping point. We had arrived on a Saturday, which happened to be market day in the town square. Booths were lined down the cobblestone streets and tents had been erected selling everything from sausages and cheese to handmade sweaters and herbal cures. Although trying out local produce and homemade jams was very tempting, especially with the smell of freshly baked bread in the air, we chose not to snack on anything and wait for lunch in Hamelin.
Before leaving we searched and finally found the Little Nienburg Girl, a statue hidden away from the square next to the church. Even though she is a Nymph from a folksong, it was confusing as to why this town was put on the fairy tale route, since this was the only significant landmark. As the days progressed, we noticed this became a recurring question in many of the villages we traveled through.
Reaching Hamelin less than two hours later, we easily navigated the roads with the directions provided to us by our hotel. When we reached this tiny inn, located only two streets over from the city center, we were given directions for parking in the rear of the building and we quickly carried our luggage inside.
Hotel Altstadt-Wiege was what I had pictured when originally desiring to stay in Bed and Breakfast-type lodging throughout Germany. Unlike our stay in Bremen the evening before, we were greeted at the door by the owner and given information on our room, the surrounding area, and breakfast the next morning. After directing us towards the staircase and leaving us with a key, we made our way while taking in the details of the hotel. I noticed that each floor we went up had a different painting of a Pied Piper scene at the landing, and down each hallway were small touches like rocking horses and hand painted furniture. Opening the door to our room for the evening, I was even more impressed.
The room boasted three painted windows, all with a depiction of life in the German countryside. They were beautiful and allowed in just the right amount of light, casting a rosy glow about the entire room. Our bed was made of ornamental blonde wood, as was the matching dresser and nightstands. Hidden areas in the room were discovered to contain mouse-shaped coat hangers, door stops and drawer pulls. This Bed and Breakfast had gone above and beyond to make its visitors a part of the town’s heritage.
We then made our way down the narrow streets to the town’s center. It was at this time that we discovered that Germany may know their sausage, but they also know DESSERT. Even though I was hungry for a real meal at the time, walking past the numerous outdoor cafes filled with happy tourists and residents eating enormous ice cream sundaes made me crave something sweet, as well.
We settled into a small corner cafe across from a picturesque half-timbered McDonalds. The outdoor seating was inviting with its offering of large umbrellas to shade under, and the menu presented other categories besides dessert (although this was the main feature). I was still puzzled at the over-abundance of sweet shops, but thought perhaps the town knew what tourists really wanted; a cozy spot to people-watch while consuming loads of sugar.
After our lunch we wandered the streets, grabbing a town map along the way and following the “Pied Piper Route.” But within an hour it was completed and I was left a little disappointed in some of the attractions the town had deemed worthy of this themed map. Of course they needed to fill space, but many of the beautiful landmarks were closed or under construction, and other items listed were nothing more than souvenir shops. However, one fun aspect of the map was its interactivity. In order to help find the way, all we had to do was look down at our feet. Throughout the city, rats had been painted on the streets going in the direction of the next item on the map. We followed the rats all over the town that day.
We did the tourist thing and went to a few of the shops that offered a small discount for taking the tour, and then went to our hotel to change into something a bit more date-worthy so that we could start the evening with a cocktail. As we headed in the direction of a pre-dinner drink, I couldn’t help but stop outside a very busy cafe. Every table was occupied and laden down with at least one sweet concoction. We made the pit stop, even though I vowed to only get a drink. Unfortunately that was compromised somewhat when I discovered their ice cream beverages while I perused the menu for “research purposes”. With my decision settled, I promptly ordered a Tropical Banana Breeze. Bananas and ice cream with rum – the perfect pre-dinner drink!
It had already been decided where dinner would be that evening, and we only had to walk a block away to arrive. Mosquito was a gastro-pub with a decidedly urban feel to it; quite the opposite of most of the tourist-attraction eateries in the area. I knew we had to experience this place simply because of its irony – in a town focused on the glorification of a disease-ridden pest, what better way to combat that but to come up with your own?
We had arrived in time for happy hour, so we each ordered a drink and perused the menu. My first beverage was a Mai Tai, while the second turned out to be a Lond Island Iced Tea. These were both listed under the “Classic Cocktail” category along with an Alabama Slammer and Lynchburg Lemonade. I was compelled to forgo my usual Martini and act classy with one of their frat party-type drinks. The actual meal may not have been that noteworthy, but the beverage menu was worth the laugh.
The next morning after we had gathered up our belongings and carted them to the car, we walked into the dining area for a quick breakfast. Before we could make our way to our own table however, the hostess asked if we could sit with the gentlemen at the only occupied table in the room. Even though I questioned this and my comfort level dropped enormously, I took the plunge after she assured us they were both English speaking. It turned out to be one of the most pleasant breakfasts of the trip.
Not only was the table set with the standard European breakfast fare of many types of breads, meats, cheeses, and jams, but each item was in its own mouse-shaped container. Even the bread basket had a tail, and of course the cheese was set up on a wedge block complete with Swiss cheese holes. The gentlemen turned out to be professors at Canterbury University in England, and we had a delightful conversation regarding literature and history over toast and boiled eggs. I couldn’t have been happier as we set off in our Peugeot for the next town on our map.