They're doing engineering work on the Amsterdam- Frankfurt line. Instead of going via Arnhem, Duisburg and Düsseldorf, it's going through Eindhoven and Mönchengladbach. Giving us the rare chance to travel direct to Mönchengladbach. Which is exactly what we did on Saturday.
There didn't seem to be anything called Gaststätte in the city centre. Eventually he came up with Brauerei Jöris. Not actually a brewery, but a nice enough looking pub.
What with the diversion and all, we'd expected the train to be quieter than usual. No chance. It was fuller than a casualty department on Bonfire Night. We had reserved seats, so what did we care? I would have studied the unusual route. I would have, had I not got sucked in by a tricky sudoku. Before I knew, we were stumbling from the station onto a picturesque square. (Picturesque if low-budget brutalist archtecture is your thing.)
Living in Holland for so long has had some strange side effects. Take hills. The shallowest gradient becomes a mountain. Mönchengladbach's high street ran up what looked like the side of Everest. The steep one. As that way led to our chosen pub, we had little choice but to strap on ropes and commence the ascent. Catching our breath at the summit, we looked for the side street leading to the pub. Not so much a street as a staircase. Leading down.
"Dad, why did you march us to the top of the hill just to march down again. You're aren't the Duke of York are you?"
"If I were, we'd be in the Caribbean."
At least the walk was downhill.
The smoking ban has also had side effects. I'm so used to smoke-free pubs that it's a physical shock entering somewhere they still smoke. Not that we entered Jöris. A miasma fag smoke cloaked the entrance. Time to look for somewhere else.
Several fag-drenched Kneipes later, we abandonned our search. And went instead to an Italianish bistro. Where they at least had draught Erdinger. Not my favourite Hefeweizen, but good enough.
We then hit the towns shops. They have the best collection of euro strores I've seen outside Liverpool (OK, in Liverpool they're pound stores.) And kebap shops, Plenty of those, too.
Shopped out at half four, my thoughts turned once more to refreshment. But where? Where could I sit and have a beer without being wrapped in fag smoke? There was a solution. There were plenty of seats on the high street. And a fully-licensed supermarket. "Thee bottles of beer and an impulse schnapps, please." Job done.
There are so many things I love about Germany. Here's another one: it's perfectly acceptable to drink on the street. Just as well when you're in Mönchengladbach.
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