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Bad Bentheim, Episode 2: More fun in Germany

by on November 5, 2009
 

The story continues with a view from the Isterberg tower, which is stunning. It is a vantage point in the region of Bad Bentheim and is located close to a nature reserve – Naturdenkmal Isterberg.

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Fields of cows and 58m later, We are rewarded with a view of  rolling hills and trees.

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I love the symmetry looking under the tower….

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And the aspects and perspective are stunning in part too. I LOVE sepia!

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And that’s just one day. On the others, while we’re out and about, I spot mushrooms everywhere in the forests and fields. I crouch down on my knees to capture them.

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There is an amazing variety and now I understand what  French forests must look like. We don’t have to delve deep into mud and trees…these ‘fungi’ are over all. From white to brown, orange and red, the variety in the fields were stunning! Sometimes, they were in clusters….and other times, they were solitary.

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I even spot budding ones…as tiny as needles, growing on a leaf.

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All the damp and sweat of Autumn is fodder for their growth. I don’t attempt anything more than looking and photographing, I wouldn’t be able to tell edible and inedible apart. And I have had my wild mushroom fix this year so…..I can move on…to rock and fossils.

Digging through the rocks, we came across fossilized shells – ammonites

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and ostracods. I haven’t actually been on a rock hunt for about a year!

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Dinner on our last night is a dark secret. All we’re told is to come dressed down and with clean hands! The venue is at the foot of the Bentheim castle where we spend the afternoon.

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At nightfall…it appears we are destined for a medieval feast….without cutlery. I laugh. We are a very diverse group and  my curiosity is aroused. How will the Brits (most of all) fare without cutlery? As you are well aware, these are prim and proper eaters….but soon, we find out.

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We arrive to maidens clad in white bonnets and aprons and knights in ancient dress.

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Already seated are other diners on long tables. Infact the resturant is FULL….testimony perhaps that this is going to be a very interesting night! 

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The menu reads so….

Bread and pig lard for starters…followed by creamy potato soup. The menu is in Dutch….almost for I can read it. This part of Germany is very close to the Netherlands so this is not entirely a suprise to me. The piece de resistance is the main: MEAT! All sorts with veggies and potatoes and to finish of…some Ice-cream.

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Our place settings are there – a wooden pig-shaped board, a terracotta bowl which resembles the drain saucers for flower pots, a tea towel and a sharp knife. Thoughts run riot in my mind. Perhaps we will have to carve up a spit-roasted pig…..why else would we have just knives? Not a fork or spoon in sight.

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In the middle there is some herbed pig fat, perfect for spreading on bread. Of  course when bread arrives no one is disappointed. It resembles pide (Turkish ‘flat’bread) to many of us at the table. Few things in life smell as good as oven fresh bread – banana bread is one! Smell-o-vision. The black and brown sesame seeds that crown the upper crust of the bread are deliciously toasted and the  bread itself is superb.

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Our soup  hot potato soup. P kindly ladles our bowls and we drink it, as we would from a mug. R, my British colleague is uncomfortable. She describes the soup bowl as being in her face. She doesn’t like it but I implore her to think of it as a cup. She can’t even think of taste of the soup at first but then she eventually drinks it all up.

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I assume as many others, that we will get straight to business but that appears not to be the case.. Between this course and the next is almost 120 minutes. In the interim, music and singing take centre stage. Somehow the groups at the tables establish unspoken agreements. The wave is passed along from one table to the next….as are songs and more.

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Then come the bierdeckers……each one populated with the prices of drinks at this restaurant. Should you lose it, a 100 euros is payable in lieu! Harsh penalties. Each order is noted on the card and on departure, the card is taken to the till, accounts are reckoned and the bill is settled. Interesting system.

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The waiting period is ‘economic’ most people think. Enough drinks are sold……till the food finally appears. Did I say appear? For lack of a better word to describe the half barrel of food which is toted by 2 able-bodied women!

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 The whole meal is there – from potatoes to your sprouts and the meat – chicken, rabbit, pork.

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We all eat till we are stuffed….literally. The food is well cooked and tastes pretty good. Potato wedges and boiled tatties are eaten with voracious delight. I place a shank on my platter and it falls of the bone with such tenderness. Mouthful after mouthful is consumed till I am FULL and yet the barrel is not at all empty. Contrary to my expectations.

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When no one can consume a single slice of carrot anymore, the barrels are taken away…

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…and bottles of some sweet liquor are held in the hands of the maidens and knights. They go from person to person and table to table, offering a sip or gulp. If you want a taste, you head is tipped back and this juice is dripped into the mouth. In case of accidents, table napkins are held under the chin. I’m not a big fan of drink and so politely decline.

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Finally dessert arrives and even though I am full, my dessert stomach is open. You do know that every one has 2 stomachs don’t you? One for desert and the other for the rest? Anyhow, dessert is an ice-cream log with a sparkling sizzler on the top arrives, surrounded by fresh fruit pieces. It is a nice enough way to end the meal.

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And all for  23 euros a head….excluding drinks. Great value for money and definitely an experience worth having.

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It was a fantastic end to the trip that has included visits to open air museums, filled  with sandstone and fossilised sandstone,

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open air theatres featuring Robin hood,

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sightings of yellow ladybugs/ladybirds,

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and hot coffee in the field on a cold autum’s day. 

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That’s most of it….time for bed. Guten Nacht!

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