As anyone who's ever been to Cologne (aka Köln) should know, the city's famous hallmark beer is a brand called Kölsch. There are several competing brews available, but all of them are served in tradional little "shot glasses", completely fresh and straight out of the barrel. After dinner this evening, my friend Regine took me to one of the better Kölsch bars in town, and we had time to down a few glasses of the stuff and to have a little chat, before Regine had to head back home to Bonn. Great-tasting stuff.
While visiting Freiburg's Christmas market this evening, my friend Killes introduced me to Glühwein: that is, traditional German mulled wine. Glühwein is a central European specialty particularly common around Christmas time, and it can invariably (in December) be found in a town's main market, served steaming hot inside an ornate mug. It's quite delicious, it warms you up, and apparently the fact that it's hot only serves to make the alcohol stronger. I didn't realise it at the time, but this was to be the first of many cups of Glühwein (and the first of many Christmas markets) that I'd encounter while in this part of Europe.
I had a mad pre-dinner Venetian adventure this evening: I attempted to go to the supermarket and buy some wine (to do with dinner), and to find a public call centre (for ringing my Uncle in Switzerland, who I'm supposed to be visiting tomorrow); however, I failed to do either of these things. Instead, I narrowly missed various shop closing times, got extremely lost in the bowels of Venice, and ended up completing an epic run through the cobbled alleyways — and miraculously finding my way back to the hostel — in order to get back in time for dinner. Anyway, it all ended well: I collapsed back into the hostel in time for another night of delicious pasta (plus more wine — not everyone missed the shop closing times); and after that, the crew (some old faces from last night, some new ones tonight) went out onto the streets, bought a large quantity of beer, wine and sangria, and got wasted by the Canal Grande: what a bunch of yobboes we were, drinking on street in Venice! Nothing quite as fun as doing something completely uncultured and improper, in one of the great cultured and refined cities of the world.
For my first night in Venice, we at the Fish turned out to be quite the crew tonight. As the evening wore on, and as four drinks started to follow the previous three, names and faces started to get blurred and mushed-up a bit. But I do remember most of the gang. There was Canadian Scott: very funny guy, and the two of us ended up rebounding comic stupidity off each other for most of the night, and inflicting it on the others. USA Scott was quieter, but also a fun bloke. There was Kaie from Texas, who's been to Venice three times before, doesn't know how long she's staying this time, and professes to be in love with the city. There was the hot blonde American chick, who was a little limited when it came to deep intellectual discussion, but who fortunately had plenty of other redeeming features. There was the quiet Aussie girl from Melbourne, who said little and drank even less. There were the random Aussie westies with the private room, who we saw only briefly during the evening (they piked on dinner). And of course, there was the Persian. Together, we engaged in much fun and revelry during the evening, there was much singing and telling of rude and inappropriate jokes, and it was good.
After hanging out, meeting and greeting many of my fellow guests at Gulliver's House, this evening a few of us ventured into the city, for a bit of a night out. Pei, two of the Yanks and myself found a rather fancy trattoria restaurant at which to grab some dinner (the pasta was delicious, but small and quite expensive — this is why I generally avoid restaurants in Italy), as well as a nice jug of red house wine. As the night progressed, Pei retired back to the hostel, but myself and the two Yank boys met up with the remainder of the Yanks — the group of three girls — and together, we grabbed a few (massively overpriced but good) beers at a nearby Irish pub. I thoroughly enjoyed the night out. It gave me some much-needed socialising after my lonely ride through Sicily, plus it provided some (equally much-needed) relaxation after today's nightmare.
When I had dinner with Conrad this evening, it was over nothing less than a bottle of authentic Sicilian red wine. Local Sicilian wine is quite unique, as far as my wine-tasting experiences thus far go: it's quite light, and extremely sweet and fruity. Almost tastes like it's made from strawberries or from raspberries, than from grapes. Can't say it's the best wine I've ever had — Argentinean Mendoza wine still takes that award hands-down — personally I much prefer a heavier, more full-bodied taste from my reds. But for the mild, laid-back climate and atmosphere of Sicily, nothing could be more fitting.
Ran into the Dutch couple here at The Generator this evening, so I went to the bar and shared a few drinks with them. Now, I've been to plenty of hostel bars on my trip, so I kinda know what to expect these days — but the Generator bar surprised and disappointed me. Not your usual friendly crowd at all. Unlike all the "gringo bars" down in South America, this place is more like being back home in Sydney: that is, clicky and unfriendly. None of the usual "hey dude, where you from" greetings — in this place, you stick with your little group, or you get out. Plus, the music and the DJ'ing were up s$%# creek. And the drinks were hardly the cheapest I've ever slurped on this trip. I hope that this isn't how all hostels in Europe are: if it is, then Europe is going to really, seriously suck.
When we returned from our Dos Rios hike this evening, the Italian guys invited us back to their guesthouse, for some drinks and a barbeque. Well, as with today's hike, the get-together turned out to be as late as it was chaotic: but in the end, it happened, and it was a great night out. All six of us from the hike showed up, as well as my mate Tom, and Larissa (who was feeling better by the evening), and a few other random friends of the group.
I told myself that after Argentina, I was done with massive all-you-can-eat barbeque dinners. Well, so much for that — tonight's sizzling grill at Aquario was simply too good to resist. Juicy cuts of steak, phat chorizo sausages, and blackened local fish was just the beginning — we also had a line-up of every accompaniment you could ever ask for, and more. My final bottle of Argentinean Malbec red wine went down great with the BA girls. And the free caipirinha went down great with me.
If you went to Brazil and you didn't have a caipirinha, you must have been living in a cave. It's the national cocktail of Brazil: and like most things in this country, it's sweet, lethally strong, and divine — all at the same time. Made with lime, sugar, and cachaça (fermented sugarcane), the caipirinha tastes a bit like the lime cocktails you can find up in the Caribbean, such as Mexico's margarita, or Cuba's mojito. Only it's better.