Somewhere in the Middle of Fricking Nowhere
Empelde (near Hannover), Germany

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Okay, this is not exactly one of my favourite watering holes … this is more just a hole. And unless your idea of a good session is drinking moonshine in the hallway of a boarding house, I don’t recommend Empelde.

But there’s still a story. Empelde is at the end of one of the Hannover tram lines, and the first year that we did the CeBIT trade show, we stayed in a private residence in Empelde.

For technology geeks, CeBIT is quite an experience. Twenty some halls full of computer technology exhibits … several times larger than the largest COMDEX event. It has to be seen in order to be believed.

But for exhibitors at the show, CeBIT is more than a week of hell. Long days, and long journeys to and from the fairgrounds. The only refuge is beer, and despite what the Germans would have you believe, there is a lot of horrible beer in Germany, with Hannover’s own Gilde Rathskeller a shining example of how the Reinheitsgebot purity law of 1516 must have stifled beer-making innovation. But that’s another story, there are a number of good German beers, just don’t believe that they’re all good.

Speaking of other stories, and the Reinheitsgebot … it reminds me of a happy hour at the (now defunct) Baltimore Original Sports Bar … back in the days. It was the day that I realized that I was psychic (or maybe it was psychotic, I don’t recall exactly). A group of us were hanging out drinking beer on a Friday evening, and my beer of choice was the 25oz Beck’s Bomber (what can I say, quantity over quality was the rule of thumb in my more youthful days … dare I recall as far back as when my brother and I used to drink the Miller King Kan).

So, I’m drinking my Beck’s Bomber, and this guy comes up to our table. He’s the husband of one of the girls from our office. I turned to my friend and asked what he knew about déjà vu. Yes, I had met this guy before, in a dream. I explained that to my friend that he would ask what we were drinking. That I would tell him it was a Beck’s … and he would ask what’s go good about Beck’s … and I would explain that it was about the Reinheitsbegot, the German purity law of 1516. And then a fight would break out.

We got as far as my starting to rhapsodize about the Reinheitsgebot when Mr. Wilson interrupted and suggested that we should go to the bar and get another beer. Of course, this was when I still believed in the Reinheitsgebot … before I realized that this law had actually stifled creativity.

So we left the sports bar, and decided to go somewhere a little more adventurous. The details get a little sketchy after that point, but what I do recall is that we ended up meeting up with an old friend of mine from high school at another bar, and she introduced herself to Mr. Wilson by biting him on the neck. Some people say she was a vampire, I think she was just trying to make an impression. (Okay, that was a bad pun.) Then later that night, I almost burnt the apartment down. I used to enjoy Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza as a late night snack … just 33 seconds in the microwave. That night, 33 seconds became 33 minutes and 33 seconds. In my stupor I laid down on the couch while it cooked. The next morning there was a charcoal brick in the microwave and scorch marks on the cabinets above the microwave. Fifteen years and many moves later, that microwave is still in my kitchen … they just don’t build products like they used to.

Now what does any of this have to do with Empelde? Well, not much really, but your mind really wanders when you’re drinking moonshine in the hallway of a boarding house.

But I do have one good Empelde story. By the end of the week, we were so sick of meat at every meal. Cold cuts for breakfast every morning … and the endless parade of sausages and pork products for lunch and dinner. It gets old real quick. So Mr. Wilson and I head out for another lovely dinner in Empelde at the local gasthaus. However, Mr. W has his mind set on a soup and salad. We start with a couple of hefeweizens (the only good part of that trip, aside from the Jever Pilsner we shared with Olaf the smiling Viking mid-week … no story there, just possibly the only truly good pilsner in Germany), and its time for the food order. Mr. W opens the menu and turns to the waitress, pointing out a soup, and then a salad. The waitress shakes her head. Mr. W points out the selections again. Another shaking of the head and muttering of something in German as the waitress simply walks away. She returns with another waitress, and Mr. W tries the point and order approach one more time. “Zoop und Zalud … bos togezher?!?!” And several tables erupt in laughter as Mr. W nods in agreement.

Ah … the best thing about CeBIT 1995 was that it was there that we first met one of the gits, although we did not realize the significance of that chance encounter yet.

And the second best thing about CeBIT 1995 was that we spent a couple of days before and after CeBIT in Amsterdam. I’ll never forget that mad race along the autobahn to get to Amsterdam before Café Belgique closed, but that’s a story for another watering hole.

Come to think of it, the best thing about CeBIT is always leaving it … and if its not to return to the Belgique, it’s at least to get one more McKroket in the Netherlands before heading back home …

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