Winter Cold, Literally.
While I was in Ireland, I was absolutely fine – a bit cold obviously, as you’d expect from someone who’s spent the previous 6 winter months living in tropical climes. But on Tuesday, I departed for Germany, leaving Dublin Airport 40 minutes ahead of schedule, having a beer along the way, to arrive 40 minutes early into Dusseldorf. To then spend one night in relative normality before waking up the next morning with a cold that could knock anyone out for a week. I’m not impressed, by any means. Since I’m only in Germany this round for a week, before heading back to Ireland for Easter, it’s seriously looking like the whole time I’m in Germany this time, I’ll be sick. So here’s how it’s gone so far…
On the first day, we spent a bit of time looking for an apartment in Frankfurt. Like Malaysia, this is proving troublesome in the extreme too as most places either don’t want a couple, don’t want anyone or do want €4,000 in case we nick their furniture. Most of the furniture looks hideous too so that’s not much of a realistic possibility. Anyway, instead we headed out. The town Anna’s from, Ochtrup, has its own currency it turns out, called the ‘tontaler’. Needless to say, the nerd inside me has always been somewhat curious about this faux currency – if the Euro were to crash, I wondered for example, what would the tontaler then be pegged against? Or would it also sink in value? And if say I was to expect a crash in the Euro, would that make the tontaler one of the safest currencies to own since it just got converted from a deutschmark value to a Euro value with little to no hassle?
So I was very happy as you can imagine to finally have a chance to satisfy my nerdiosity when I got to finally a) see the ‘currency’ up close and personal and see what safety features prevent anyone from making a few at home (they’re actually ‘ceramic’ so I always pondered how possible it might be to cook a few up) and b) very generously see how the money’s actually made and c) contemplate how best to steal it. Along with that, we also had a chance to see a traditional Ochtrup townhouse from back in the day, when the place was famous for its pottery and ceramics and men walked as far as the Netherlands to sell the famous produce. They even, quite cleverly, have their own form of bedpan, which comes complete with 7 handles all around its edges so that when you’re legless drunk late of a night, you don’t have to try too hard to find a way to let yourself free as it were.
We always go to the Netherlands on every visit and this visit so far has been no exception. Despite the runny nose, the sore throat and the poor manner, along with my fear of Netherlands border guards brought about by me not having my passport last time we crossed (and subsequently getting caught), we went to the charming town – and I do mean town – of Ootmarsum. Ootmarsum, not to be confused with its similar-sounding neighbour of Oldenzaal (why the two A’s?) is very largely a gallery town, with more art galleries in it than shops. Now, since I’ve little concept of the ‘value of art’ but plenty of the concept of the ‘free market’, I expected in my head that with so many art galleries cramped into one tiny town, the price of art must be extremely competitive; paintings dropping to a tenner after 6pm to stimulate a few sales, that sort of thing.
In fact, it’s nothing like that. Artists pace around their galleries, looking even more admirably at their very own work than you are, almost inwardly patting themselves on the back as you look on in shock at a piece of pink glass that you wouldn’t even dare try to hang on a wall that costs €3,256, a figure which I can only imagine was arrived at by some unknown precise means. Moving along from the galleries of Ootmarsum meanwhile, I’ve also undoubtedly taken to German meat-eating ways with reckless abandon, all in the name of ‘getting better’.
Which reminds me, time for another beer, after all, I am trying to get better…