All my recent trips in Europe have had a hint of war to them. I have been debating with my fellow travellers about why there was a need to keep the wars so alive. When my university announced an excursion to Flensburg, I had the same idea in mind. So I got my writer’s arsenal ready: a mini scribbling pad, pen, and my camera gear. I was ready to drink up every single word my tour guide uttered about Flensburg’s history and its role in the World Wars.
In Flensburg, an icy blast of wind welcomed us. We walked on the wet cobbled stones shoving our hands into the pockets to keep ourselves warm. Our American-German tour guide, Ann Jenson, gave us an ear to ear grin and said “the weather is in your favour today”. I thought it was a joke and laughed as the temperature was six degrees. Later I found out that the typical weather during mid-November would be colder, rainier and darker. Fortunately, our mood was lightened up by the sight of Christmas market decorations. Traditionally, Christmas markets set up starts four weeks before the Christmas.
Ann announced, “no one will ever get lost in Flensburg”. It’s only 54 km in width with 90 thousand denizens. It was like a fish; we just have to remember the head and tail of the fish, which were big churches at the either end of the town and we will be able to navigate around the town.
Streets getting ready for Christmas market
After the introduction, she casually announced, “we will start our excursion by spending time in a Rum museum”, and my jaw dropped. “Are you kidding? Are we not going to talk about the war?” was my reaction. And then I thought it was perhaps about Rum’s crucial role in the war.
Rum museum that makes you wiser in no time
Rum Tasting in Flensburg
When I heard Rum started out as a medicine in the ancient times, Especially, for a soar throat, toothache and to keep oneself warm as it has a numbing effect on the body parts. My respect for Rum went up half a notch. And then my respect for Rum dropped half a notch when I heard it was made out of Sugar byproducts such as Molasses. The sugarcane comes from the Caribbean and the majority of the Rum production in the world happens in the Caribbean. And lo, the Pirates of Caribbean and Rum addiction, it all made sense now.
Rum distillery on display
While I was still frowning, we received glasses of Rum to sample. The strong nauseating smell of the Rum didn’t help ease my frown. Just when I was about to take my water bottle out to fill the glass, Ann recommended to savour the Rum neat. She also advised against mixing it with coke or anything else. I sheepishly pushed my water bottle back into the bag. I gulped it in one go like medicine. Then I noticed Ann enacting how one should savor the special Rum by letting the taste linger on the middle of the tongue for a few seconds, then on the left side and then the right side of the tongue for a few seconds.
My eyes watered and my face flushed. Before I recovered I got some Vanilla Rum to sample. It smelt better and tasted nicer. We finished the sampling with a special chocolate to taste as if to ensure if the sugar content in the Rum was not enough to work on our waistline, chocolate will take care of it. And this addictive special chocolate is eaten only after drinking Rum. And I already found myself rooting for it.
After the Rum tasting, we spoke a little bit about the double culture (Danish and German) of Flensburg and perhaps about the architecture but I don’t remember anything. I felt so wise and elated after just two tablespoons of Rum with some chocolate I didn’t feel the need to learn more about Flensburg’s history. And Ann only made it easy by saying it was not necessary for us to walk in a straight line after the gruelling Rum tasting session.
A painting from 1490 still intact and found on a wall of a medical store.
And then Beer tasting
After lunch just when I began to feel less elated it was time to visit the Flensburg brewery and again without any mention of the war. I know half of my trip mates were in it for the brewery, for Flensburg is one of the popular beers in Germany. And the beer owes its unique taste to the water used in brewing. It originates from the underground glacier streams of Northern Scandinavia, allegedly, it is free of pollutants. Ann added, “ask for tap water in restaurants to make sure you get the best tasting water”.
I have to admit beer brewing is a sophisticated business. While I imagined a noisy factory with soiled, scandalous looking, reeking men working underground, the brewery actually had minimal manual labor. It has tanks the size of Eiffel tower and a data center to monitor the whole process. They had approximately 40 kinds of beer. The nonalcoholic beer brews in stainless steel tanks while some alcoholic beer brews in copper tanks. And the employees have free beer accounts like bank accounts, they get 2 litres of free beer for every working day.
Here’s where the bottles are finally packed and sent out.
Love the bottles and their environmentally friendly swing tops and reused up to 35 times.
We wrapped up our tour with an unlimited assortment of beer on the house with snacks to gulp it down with. We even had the staff assisting us to choose the right kind of beer to our taste. Goes without saying what we saw during the rest of our trip was hazy and dreamlike.
The next day when I peered into the empty pages of my scribbling pad, it dawned on me, instead of drinking on the war history I ended up drinking a lot of alcohol. It was an unadulterated alcoholic trip. Definitely one of its kind.
And not all of Germany is about war, it is also about alcohol and I love Germany.