A photo would never capture the atmosphere. A paragraph cannot contain the utter exuberance of the experience. But words are the tools I have to work with, so I will stumble my way through a description of how a night with friends, both old and new, in a small village pub has easily secured its place in my top 10 travel joys.
The day had offered brief sprinkling rain on and off. The wind demanded to be acknowledged. After three hours of Christmas markets and tourist shopping, I was ready for the evening's change of scenery. We traveled to a small village, the village of one of my host's birth, and pulled in front of a winery. Try to disengage from visions of rolling California hills surrounding some ranch style home at this moment because I'm in Germany and that just won't do. The building was surrounded by what looked like stucco covered townhomes and I got a sense of Santa Fe meets Greenfield (my hometown) as we proceeded to the door by passing the horses lodged where a two car garage might be positioned in the U.S. Climbing the stairs, we emerged in a room of hard woods . . . walls covered in animals and farm utensils, heavy tables, booths with small cushions that slid beneath you should you opt for that side of the table.
The table nearest the door was long and filled with heavy men with little hair and loud voices (probably made louder by the 7 hours advanced wine drinking they'd been involved in before we arrived).
We sat and then a younger version of Santa Claus . . . he of the salt and pepper beard, receding hairline and dimples that appeared with every word uttered along with an accompanying twinkle in the eye . . . arrived to welcome us. I nodded in acknowledgement though not a word was understood. ( Later after several of the aforementioned gentlemen decided to share some of their stories with me, my group commented on my ability to offer the appearance of complete understanding in what for me is simply a barrage of consonants!)
Our Mrs. Claus was no white haired version however. She was tiny, but dark brown hair touched her shoulders and she was the lead entertainer who, with her guitar, led us through a few German favorites, a parody of Downtown featuring the village's name, and then several John Denver tunes. Their son was the wine guru who in stark contrast to the older crowd softly explained the nuances of the crisp, clean German wine I could easily begin to call my favorite.
The meal consisted of sausages, pork, schnitzel, sauerkraut, and the most incredibly rich and delicious potatoe noodles carrying a name amusingly translated to 'little boys' willies' and an applesauce. I was in heaven and sang so.
We were offered the chance to blow a 20 feet horn and I took it. We were encouraged to sing and we did. Some among us took the guitars and the Devil's Violin (a percussion instrument that included a wood cutting of its name) and alternated between their own compositions and others.
The night had no agenda but enjoyment. What a divine appointment, what a delicacy.