It was 2145 hrs as we pushed off for our next destination in pitch darkness. We were joking and laughing all the way unaware of what uncertainties lay ahead. Raj had called up the hotel to inform our late arrival. As we would come to know later the hotel was more of a hostel but with private rooms in a huge barn like wooden building in a quaint little village. The hotel staff leaves by 2200 hrs so if we were to arrive later, following were the instructions as understood after many repetitions:
'On ze right side of ze car paerkin du will zee a garten where we haz beerz. In front of ze garten there iz ein smalle houze which haze wooden roof. At ze extreme left of ze roof iz ein box, which izz difficult to find! In ze box we keep your keyz.'!!!
When Raj informed us of the treasure hunt that lay ahead of us we all were amused and bombarded her with questions like what's our room no.? Will the main door be open? How will we find the room? Hassled Raj replied she didn't have the patience to talk to the weird accented lady again and has already asked her to keep all the instructions in writing on a paper. Content with the arrangements Raj had made the jokes and laughter started again. But Raj had another reason for worry. Thrice she would have suggested, much before we left from the restaurant, that we need to reach the place in good time else there won't be soul to guide uit if we can't find the place. As it turned out Raj's sixth sense hit the jack pot! By 2300 hrs our over dependence on the navigator had got us to a dead end. We had just passed a cluster of houses which were all as dark as the night itself. We lay in open fields. In front of us was a silhouetted building which looked like a farm barn. Few meters away was a highway which was inaccessible and recognizable only when a car passed over it, maybe one every ten min. We pulled out our print outs and went over the address again. We couldn't find anything new for the navigator to work on. There was no point calling the hotel lady again as we wouldn't be able to tell her our location. Still we decided to call her anyways. No reply! She had probably gone off to sleep thinking we were experts treasure hunters. The call phone didn't have data facilities so as a last resort I started my Google maps on international roaming no. which we had decided to use only for emergencies. And by vote it was decided it was an emergency. Thankfully Google showed us another direction. Now following both the instructions one from the car navigator whereas the other from the Google navigator (both female voices instructing exactly opposite), I felt I was back home taking my family out to some new place. Somehow in the darkness Swati managed to read the name of the hotel on one of the buildings in an adjacent lane.
Relieved we entered the premises and parked our car in'ze parkin'. It was an open car park right in front of the hotel building, if we faced the building on our left was open space with a structure at the extreme end, on the right was the entry to the car park and a narrow path leading to the backside. The main door of the hotel was a shut with iron gates and a lock. Same thought came to all of us- even if we find the keys how are we going to enter? Consoling each other that hopefully there would be instructions we started our treasure hunt.
Instinctively we all headed to the structure on the left. We passed by the open space where we could see now were tables and chairs littered. Probably the beer drinking place. As we approached the structure in the darkness to our relief it was completely wooden which meant it had a wooden roof. Tracing it's length we reached the extreme left end where the sloping roof was not more than 6 ft above ground. Out came the smart phones with torch light applications. On closely examining the place we could locate behind a table a camouflaged box made from the same wooden material as though it might be an integral part of the wooden wall. The table in front of it was moved a little bit. Our spirits soared. I pulled on the**** and there appeared the box with nails hammered to hang keys. But there was no sign off a key! We looked at it in disbelief. The three smart phone torch lights which were converged at the box by now, started to move in random directions as if gone crazy. After 2 min of our find (or maybe no-find) and frantic search near the box we all looked at each other bewildered. The directions were so precise that it couldn't have been anywhere else. Still we tried searching other places but in vain. Someone realized there was a piece of paper stuck on the main gate and after examining it, it revealed one no. for emergency. We hurriedly called that no and after two attempts a man speaking in German picked up half asleep. Somehow we managed to tell him our position only to get an answer that he was the chef at the hotel! Why give the no. of chef for emergency?! Is he going to cook up some delicious recipe that would help us?! All the chef could do for us was to get in touch with another lady and asked us to call back in 5 min. We waited for 6 min and called him back only to find his no switched off. Abusing we called the no again but the no remained switched off. Completely at sea now people's patience started braking down. And then the silence of the night was broken by a sound 'dong'! it was the church bell indicating it was 0100 hrs. Till now nobody of us had got the creepy feeling at this lonely, dark, desolated place but the melancholic bell of the church made sure it didn't remain like that. Panic set in; Swati started banging on the gates, Sid started calling out loudly, Bhaiyya kept searching for what I don't know and Raj went into the car embarrassed as we shattered the peace of that village. Feeling left out I started to whistle in a loud screeching manner. For all efforts nothing moved. Maybe they would have secured the entrances even more safely after our rowdyness. Last thing we wanted were German cops.
As we were contemplating sleeping in the car or maybe in the structure which was supposed to hold our key, Swati and bhaiya while fidgeting with a door besides the main entrance accidentally pressed some button to the sound of a click. As bhaiyya turned the knob, to our surprise the door unlocked! Not expecting this sudden turn off events we didn't know what to do. Dong! It was 0130 hrs and as if on cue we decided to enter the building. As Bhaiyya and me stepped inside, automated lights came on all of a sudden, I almost expected many faces to pop out and scream 'surprise'! Not a soul stirred. The door had led us to a small room which had two more doors and a wooden rickety staircase going upstairs. One door led to a pantry whereas the other was locked. With no choice we took the staircase. Each step of ours made the staircase creek. Half way up we heard a sound 'tok-tok-tok' coming in fast repetitions. At the top of the staircase was an open lit room. I could see the shape of a man sitting facing away from us. The size of the man was huge, almost giant like. I didn't want to startle this giant of a guy because if thought we were trespassers or worse he could take Bhaiyya and me in one go. Turned out he was surprised to see us so late but not startled. He was the first soul we had seen post dinner, all started talking/complaining to him at one go without waiting to know whether he was s guest or staff. I guess he was a guest but looking at our desperation decided to take us to one lady. As we followed him through a maze of corridors we saw many people up. The strange noise infact was 4 people playing table tennis! Why didn't these guys here us? Didn't matter now. The gentle giant brought us in front of a door and knocked. A guy half asleep and half naked open the door. The giant asked for someone called Alex and the half naked guy went back inside. 2 minutes later arrived a girl named Alex, half asleep and very surprised. We told her everything about getting late and the weird treasure hunt. To cut the long short, she checked the register and found key to one of the rooms 105. The key to the other room 104 was not even with her. We persuaded her to let us in through her master key and sort out the problem tomorrow. We followed her to room no 104, as she inserted her master key to open the door we waited outside. Opening the door to the room Alex went inside and put on the lights and gave a stifled scream. She froze for 2 second with her hands covering her face, behind her outside the door were Bhaiyya and me, Bhaiyya was almost certain that Alex had seen some body hanging or worse! As we were about to entre the room to check out the scene a man's voice shouted back from the room ' hey what's happening' and Alex unfreezing from her shock ran out the room with us running behind her. Room 104 was occupied by some other guest and what Alex saw that night remains a mystery but your guess is as good as mine. Alex went in a shock fearing she would lose her job for intruding a guest and refused to open the other room. After much persuasion she obliged and opened room 105 knocking twice before. Thankfully it was empty. Now with just one room we 5 had to sleep on the floor that night. As we arranged for extra mattresses with help of Alex it was almost 0230 hrs but our sleep was gone. We all went out again with a bottle of wine and recalled the evenings events and returned after finishing the wine to our make shift bed s finally.