We arrived at Barbara's house on the afternoon of Wednesday 5 December to find it quite covered in snow, which was great! We unpacked our things and relaxed for a short while, and then caught a ride into town where we just browsed around while Barbara ran some errands. We all met up later that evening for another delicious traditional meal and then wandered around the streets a bit before heading home - we just happened to pass the house where Beethoven was born, which was kinda cool.
Thursday was Kevin's birthday! After a bit of a lie-in, we all gathered upstairs in the dining area where Barbara cracked open a bottle of champagne in celebration! After a few brief toasts, we all sat enjoying our drinks and chatting while the snow continued to fall outside. The rest of the morning we spent catching up on admin, and then in the afternoon we all took a trip through to the Haribo factory shop (the 'bo' in 'Haribo' refer to Bonn which is where the company started.) None of us had ever seen that many sweets in one place ever before! It was amazing! We walked away heavily laden with goodies, including some freebies courtesy of the Haribo Bear himself (he was there along with his buddy Sinterklaas. Barbara took us on a bit of a scenic drive along the river on our way home, where we started to get ready for dinner. Once all the guests had arrived, dinner was served - which turned out to be Raclette, a traditional Swiss meal of melted cheese served with potatoes, some vegetables and various meats. The cool thing is that everyone gets a mini-pan and is responsible for grilling their own portions on the central grill. It's very much a relaxed, help-yourself kinda thing, which makes for a really fun, social evening. Just as we were finished off our food, we caught a glimpse of something moving outside in the back garden and then heard a banging on the window... I thought it was a bit dodgy but Barbara didn't seem too concerned and we soon realised that she had arranged for 'Sinterklaas' to pay us a visit! He was all dressed up with his bag of gifts and golden book and everything! :-) We all had a good laugh while he called us up one-by-one, told us a bit about ourselves and whether we had been good or bad that year... Luckily we all passed and were rewarded with a little gift. Afterwards we had some fruit salad for desert and then chatted over some coffees before heading off to bed.
Friday we just enjoyed some down time at the house, with Monique getting busy in the kitchen while Kevin worked on some admin for our next leg to Italy. Later that afternoon, we all drove through to visit the German History Museum, which basically presents the history of Germany since 1945. It is really professionally done - at the entrance everyone gets an iphone and a headset with multilingual information on all the various exhibits, which themselves are outstanding - they even have an actual tank! We basically wandered around until closing time, when we made our way home for our final meal together. Even though it was late, Barabara still offered to drop us at the train station and kindly stayed with us (in the cold!) until the train arrived. We had travelled a long way together all across Germany and Barbara had been such an amazing host and tour guide! We were quite sad to say goodbye, but there were still places to see, so we boarded our train and got comfortable for the overnight trip to our next city - Venice!