Mike's Hanover diary

From the Colonel's Regiment

Table of contents

Saturday 18th November

Reardon's tournament for mission 14 of the Colonel's weekend breaks was held on Sunday November 18th, 2007 at the Snooker club in Leamington Spa. Rupert, David, Dave and Mike all took part in the tournament. In the first round, Mike got through early on, followed by David. Dave and Rupert had a lengthy battle before Dave finally made it through.

In the second round, Mike fell behind early, with David going into the lead. David soon got through, whilst Dave eventually ground his way into another final.

In the final, David gradually pulled away to win his 5th tournament in a row. After the tournament, the Regiment went to the Wetherspoons pub for burgers. David revealed Porto as Reardon's choice for mission 15. Dave revealed Bruges as Glogg's Reardon Helpimede.

Friday, 7th December

I went to work as normal. David arrived in the afternoon and we chilled out at work for a while, chatting about the forthcoming break. After a while, we headed back to Kenilworth, depositing David's stuff in my house. We then made a quick trip over to Rebecca's flat, before deciding to head over to a little village near Stratford to deliver some DVDs for our recent show "Oh What a Lovely War!" to one of the cast members houses as he was going to record on them for us. It was dark by this time and when we arrived in the village, it took us some time to find the street. Eventually, we did find the correct street, but realised that all the houses had names instead of numbers. We had no idea how to find the house, there were no street lamps and neither of us could get reception on our phones so we were beginning to get a little worried as we walked up and down the dark . Eventually I did manage to get a signal and called Stuart to get directions to his house. It turned out we were almost outside his house. We went in, said hello to Stuart and Daniel and dropped off the DVDs, before getting back in the car and driving back to Kenilworth. We parked in the centre and decided to go for dinner at Zizzis.

We ordered pizzas and chilled out for a while. After dinner we were due to meet Ben and Alison in the Bear and Ragged Staff. David walked down there whilst I went briefly to Rebecca's flat to say goodbye to her, then joined the others in the pub. After a pleasant drink, we went home and punched the sack ready for an early start the next day.

Saturday, 8th December

My alarm went off at the relatively sociable hour of five o'clock in the morning and I got up, went through the shower and got ready to leave. Once David was ready too, we got in the car and drove to the airport. We parked in long stay car park one at Birmingham airport and, noticing a bus was pulling up at the bus stop, we rushed over and boarded for the short trip to the terminal.

We checked in and deposited our bag, before going through passport control and getting in a coffee and muffin each at Costa. I quickly phoned both Rupert and Steve, confirming that the two of them were safely on route to their respective airports. After a while, boarding was announced, so we wandered over to the gate and boarded our plane. The flight was just over an hour long and was uneventful. We soon descended into the Hanover area and landed. Once we'd disembarked, we went into the baggage reclaim area, collected our luggage then wandered through automatic doors to the outside area. The others would be landing shortly so we looked at the arrivals board. We were about to swap to another terminal, but as we were walking away, we saw Steve walk through the automatic doors. David and I greeted him. Dave and Rupert were arriving at another terminal, so we walked along a corridor to the adjacent terminal and waited outside another set of automatic doors. About ten minutes later Dave and Rupert emerged and we declared that the Experience of Everything had started.

Once we'd all arrived, we went downstairs to the station and got on a train to the city centre. Fifteen minutes later, our train pulled in to Hanover main station. We went down the stairs and arrived in an underground shopping area. I noticed a bakery called Grotbags which I pointed out to the others to much amusement. We walked through the shopping mall and emerged at the front of the station to be greeted by a small Christmas market. I decided to try to find a road sign so we could orient ourselves, so dashed across the road and looked around. Eventually, we oriented ourselves, turned right and walked through an underpass in the direction of the hotel. There were advertisements along the walls of the underpass in various languages, advertising the local centre of prostitution. We soon emerged from the strange underpass and spotted our Suitehotel to the left. We crossed a couple of roads and arrived, going inside to check in. We were allocated rooms on the third floor, so went into the lift and made our way to one of the rooms to do the room ballot. As we entered one of the twin rooms, David noticed that there was a large hole in the bathroom door. There was also a tray on the table with mini toblerones and another chocolate bar called Leo-Go. The two twin rooms were next to each other, whilst the single room was down the corridor on the other side of the lift. I was allocated the single room, whilst Dave and Steve ended up together and Rupert and David were sharing.

Having deposited our cases in the rooms, we headed out again. Deciding against the pornographic underpass, we went through the back entrance of the station instead, past Grotbags to the Christmas market at the front of the station. We got in a round of gluhweins and chilled at a nearby table. I spotted an old guy walking past and commented that I thought he was wearing a wig. At this point, David thought it was a good idea to shout, "Wig! Wig! Dong, dong, dong! Wriggler!" The man walked away, unaware that he was talking about him. Steve was embarrassed, but as the man disappeared Steve agreed that it had been quite funny. Having finished our gluhweins, we headed across the road and walked towards the centre of Hanover. In front of us there was a massive gluhwein stall with rotating Christmas ornaments on top of it. It looked quite impressive, but was crowded so we didn't stop. There was a small underpass beneath us and we descended into it, before realising it was a route to the underground, so we climbed up the other side and carried on walking down the street. Eventually we arrived at another portion of the Christmas market with a huge plaque marking the entrance. It looked huge and David commented that this was the Massive-fuck-off-Christmasmarkt. We entered the Christmas market, marvelling at the huge array of food and drinks. We arrived at a chocolate and nut stall and I noticed some bananas coated in chocolate. I decided to get one and David told me to get a round in. He said, "just get Vier Donkey Dicks". Steve then said, "We're not getting vier are we?" I, however, decided just to buy one and we shared it out. It wasn't great. Dave opted to buy some hot sweet nuts and shared them out too. We carried on walking past the stalls and, after crossing a busy road arrived in the main body of the Christmas market. There was a church here and, near the entrance, we spotted a good gluhwein stall serving half metre long bratwurst. We decided to buy one, as well as a round of gluhweins and sat at a table around the back, in the corner. David held the bratwurst out to prove that it was, indeed, a half metre long, before sharing it out. It was okay, but not fantastic. The gluhwein, however, was pretty good.

After consuming our gluhwein, we continued our walk, arriving at a stall which served hot cheese sandwich things. Steve bought one, but it turned out to be disappointing. Continuing our trek, we turned a corner and arrived at the Finnish section of the Christmas market. There were lots of white tents, including one huge one which had a fire to one side with lots of fish on it. Further down the road, we walked into the olde Christmas market section. There were lots of ploppies here and we noticed a stall where you could throw mini axes at a target. We arrived at a square and found a stall which seemed to the selling the Horn of Gondor. We thought about buying it, but decided we might have a problem transporting it home. I noticed a red line on the ground and realised that this was the line which marked out the tourist route around the city. We decided to follow it and arrived at the riverfront. The river itself was quite small and on the other side of the river we saw some rather demented looking statues. We decided to head over to check them out, so crossed a nearby bridge and walked towards them. There were several stalls on this side of the river which appeared to be selling a wide variety of junk. We examined various items and David and I commented to Steve that we didn't realise he was selling all his stuff. In front of us, there was a weir and we noticed a huge crowd of people walking across it in football gear, clearly on route to the stadium for the big game that afternoon.

We followed the route of the crowd, walking through an underpass, before taking a quite footpath alongside a stream. After about five minutes, we arrived at a huge artificial lake with the football stadium to one side of it. We took in the view over the lake, whilst David decided to pose for a photo sat on a statue. We spotted the town hall on the other side of a park to our left, so decided to cross the road and head in that direction. There was a large selection of cones in the middle of the road, but we decided that it was too risky to use them so we crossed the road and entered the park. The park was pleasant - there was a small lake in front of us with a stream leading to it. We went over the bridge spanning the stream, opting to engage in a game of pooh sticks. We all selected our sticks and dropped them, before realising that the stream had no flow. After what seemed like an age, David's stick emerged and he was declared the winner. We continued our walk through the park and arrived at the town hall, only to discover five cones arrayed in front, almost evenly spaced. Two of them were next to each other, so David decided to go over to these two with the Little Lucky Leprechaun, whilst Steve, Rupert and I each stood behind one of the others. Dave then took the picture as we all shouted "Stop telling me what to do!" The Little Lucky Leprechaun's cone was somewhat defective and drooped, so David found it hard to control.

Having replaced the cones, we made our way towards the entrance to the town hall. David pointed out that a delegation from Djibouti had just arrived. We went inside to be greeted by a large entrance hall. There were four large models in the hallway, depicting Hanover through the ages. To our right was modern Hanover, whilst behind that there was a model which showed how Hanover had been destroyed during the second World War. The other two models depicted Hanover from several hundred years previously. We marvelled at the intricacy of the models for a while, before going upstairs to attempt to find a route to the tower. We eventually found it, only to discover that it was closed for renovation. We were a little disappointed, so decided go make our way back towards the Christmas market for lunch. We left the town hall, crossed the busy road and after a short walk found ourselves at a ruined church. It was quite impressive, so we walked inside and looked at it for a bit. We were now getting hungry, so made our way back towards the Christmas market. On route, we made a brief stop so that Steve could get some bathroom stuff from a department store. We carried on walking and, after another short stop at an indoor market we passed for a pot stop, we arrived back at the Christmas market. We walked into a Christmas ornament shop and looked around it for a while, then went to the sausage stall opposite and got some lunch. Steve and Rupert went for bratwursts whilst David, Dave and I went for another type of sausage called Krakauer. The sausages were pretty good and we grabbed a table in the corner to chill out at for a while. Once we'd had our food, we decided to browse the Christmas market for a while. David and I found a stall selling pastry balls covered in icing sugar and we bought some for dessert, sharing them with everyone else. After we'd browsed for a while, it started to get cold, so we decided to head back to the hotel and chill out for a while before dinner. The walk back took about twenty minutes and, once we'd got back, I headed through the shower and then chilled out for a while, waiting for the others to be ready.

Eventually, everyone was ready so we walked back into the centre for dinner. We arrived back in the main square with the church in it and, after wandering around looking for places to eat, we secured a table in AltDeutsche Bierstube which for some reason David kept referring to as restaurant Brian Blessed. I ordered soup and a meat dish for my main course and prepared for the revealing of destinations for the mentalist list. We did a draw for order of revealing and I drew the first number, so revealed my choice as Fez, in Morocco. Our starters arrived and we tucked in. The soup was okay, but not great. David then revealed Halifax, Steve revealed Fort Collins, Dave revealed Wroclaw and Rupert finally revealed Abu Dhabi. The list was now almost complete. However, there was a new round to be added to mentalist list which was Piparus' Retrospective Draw. Each of the Colonel's men were instructed to write down a destination visited on a previous break. These destinations were then placed into a hat and eliminated one at a time. The final destination in the hat was added to the mentalist list. The destinations were put in the hat and the elimination began as our main courses arrived. Rupert first eliminated Paris, put in by David. Dave then eliminated his own Stockholm, Steve eliminated my Zurich, David eliminated Rupert's Stockholm and finally I revealed Steve's Barcelona as the winner. Barcelona was therefore added on to the mentalist list.

We finished our meal, paid up and decided to go for a drink, so we left the restaurant and walked around the corner to find a bar called Schateke. It was similar to an English pub and we decided to give it a go, so went inside and found a table in the corner. We chilled out and chatted for a while with a round of drinks. Once we'd finished our drinks, we decided to head back to the hotel, so took the long walk back to the station, through the pornographic underpass and back to the hotel. I said goodnight to the others then returned to my room to punch the sack in readiness for day two.

Sunday, 9th December

I woke up early and went through the shower, before wandering along the corridor to meet the others. We decided to head out to the station and pick up breakfast there. In the lobby of the hotel there was complimentary coffee and what looked like some stale marble cake. We grabbed a quick coffee there, turning down the cake, then crossed the road and went in the back entrance of the station. Steve decided to make for Grotbags and bought himself a pastry. David and I went to another shop and bought a couple of pastries between us and some orange juice. After some discussion, we decided to head over to the Wilhelm Busch museum, which we speculated was a museum about Bushers. We left the station and walked towards the large Christmas market. David and I stopped briefly to pick up some sweet nuts, but were disappointed to discover that they were not as nice as the ones we'd had the day before, being cold and probably left out from the previous day.

We turned right in front of the church and walked down the road, arriving at a large park. We crossed it, then paused briefly at a cash machine. David and I decided to do an application of "Whose Line is It Anyway" suggesting that we were doing, dicking around at a cash machine, with Steve playing Chris, David playing Rupert and me playing Dave. We continued walking past a demented looking statue and arrived at the entrance to a large grassy park. At this point it started to rain heavily and we began to get very wet. We walked through the park and after some time we arrived at the Wilhelm Busch museum. There were crowds of people flocking inside and it looked like we'd come on the day of some massive function. We speculated that they had arrived to see the original Bushby wardrobe. After some discussion, we decided not to go in and continued to walk around the park, past some large veranda monument on our right. We soon arrived at a main road and crossed it, entering Herrenhausen, a large ornate garden park. It was deserted and we were unsure whether we were supposed to pay to go in, but there was no one around so we wandered inside, crossing a moat as we did so. We arrived in an area with several mini gardens enclosed by hedges. We wandered in to a couple of them, marvelling at the bizarre set up of the park. We then continued walking into a much larger open area with huge white statues that looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland. In front of us there was a set of ornate steps leading up to a platform. We climbed up one side and took in the view over the park, which was very impressive, before descending the other side. To our right there was a small building with an overlook on top of it. We climbed up to the top of that and took in the view. It turned out that the building was known as the Grotte and there was a display inside it which cost three Euros to go in. We decided against going in, opting to make for the nearby park restaurant instead for some food. As we walked towards the restaurant, Dave decided he wanted to check out the Grotte, so turned around and left us. The rest of us headed for the restaurant but discovered that it was very expensive, so headed back to the Grotte to find Dave. By this point, he had gone inside the building, so we leant in through the window and shouted to him. He emerged, having got his fill of the Grotte, and joined us as we left the park via the restaurant exit and crossed a busy road to the botanical gardens on the other side. The botanical gardens were next to Sea World, but we opted against that, deciding to check out the gardens instead. It turned out that tickets to the botanical gardens cost three Euros and included a free ticket to the Grotte. It also turned out that Dave's Grotte ticket included a free ticket to the botanical gardens.

Having bought four tickets, we went in, whilst Dave gained entry with his Grotte ticket. The botanical gardens were pretty much like any other and we soon grew bored. We decided that we would head back to the centre of town for some lunch so after a quick pot stop, we headed out. However, David, Steve, Rupert and I now wanted to go into the Grotte ourselves, so we went back there first. The Grotte turned out to be not that impressive - it was some bizarre modern art display in three sections. To our left was the "day" section, with bright coloured glass and mirrors, whilst to our right was the "night" section which, unsurprisingly, was much darker. In the middle was some kind of halfway house. It was unclear what this section represented. I pretended to grope a statue whilst David took a photo. Having had our fill of the Grotte, we left and headed to the tram stop near the restaurant to get back to the centre. After about ten minutes on the tram, we got off and emerged in the centre of the Christmas market next to restaurant Brian Blessed.

We made our way to the centre of the Christmas market and chilled out at a gluhwein stall. Dave and Rupert got in the drinks whilst the rest of us went to get some food. Steve fancied pizza, so got one from a stall, whilst David and I opted to share a weird looking pizza in pastry. It turned out to be pretty horrible. We returned to the gluhwein stall, where Dave had purchased a drink called Eierpunsch for myself, Rupert and Steve, a Feuerzangenbowle for himself and a hot chocolate with Baileys for David. The Eierpunsch was some kind of eggnog based drink and was very good. Feuerzangenbowle was basically pure alcohol, but Dave seemed to enjoy it. David and I decided to get a bratwurst in, so went to a local stall and purchased one with a roll. Rupert then went to the same stall to get a Krakauer for himself and Dave, returning with two large sausages each accompanied by half a slice of bread. We thought this was hilarious, as we had got sizeable rolls with our sausages. As we drunk our drinks, David spotted a local vagabond wander up to the stall and steal all the biscuits which had been placed in a bowl to accompany the drinks. He couldn't believe it.

Talk turned to the afternoon plan and we decided that we would take the train up to the zoo and wander around there. After a couple of rounds of Eierpunsch, we returned to the tram stop and took the long journey up to the zoo. By the time we'd arrived it was after two o'clock and it turned out that it only cost 5 Euros to get in if you entered after two. We bought our tickets then went to the turnstiles. David and I blundered with our queue choice, as the people in front of us couldn't work the turnstile and were dicking around. We eventually got through and began to wander around the park. We made our way over to the monkey and ape section to be greeted by an enclosure containing a couple of gibbons. David then said, "You should have seen where we got these gibbons! They'll tell you!" We thought this was hilarious and definitely a candidate for application of the break. Behind us was the ape house, so we went inside and saw a massive orangutan climbing around his cage. In another pen there was a very cute baby gorilla. After a while we left the ape house via a different entrance and went into the small animal house. There were various rodents and reptiles in it. We then went in another house that contained a family of tapirs with babies. They were very cute. Steve commented on the rather large size of the male tapir's member.

It was starting to get dark and sections of the park were closing, so we made our way towards the elephant enclosure. This was very impressive - the whole area had been set up like some kind of ancient city. The elephants were to our left as we came in, so we looked at them for a while then checked out the area to our right, which was done in the oriental style and had a large enclosure with a tiger in it. There was also a large ballroom there which seemed to have no purpose whatsoever. We returned to the elephant enclosure and left via another route, soon arriving at a little Turkish tea shop. We went inside and chilled out for a while. I went for a tea whilst everyone else had cappucinos. The tea tasted rather strange. After a while we left and emerged into the open area again, soon arriving at an area with a large children's playground. We went through an archway to be confronted by a large snowdome which people could sit in to have their photos taken, some kind of massive slide, an area where people were playing some primitive form of curling and, behind this, a big tent. We wandered over to the tent and discovered that it was a gluhwein stall. David suggested carrying on walking, so we left. Dave was a big disappointed, commenting that he wanted to have a drink in the yurt, pointing to the large tent. We felt we still had more to see however, so carried on walking. We soon arrived at a large ice rink and were treated to a performance of Pinocchio on ice. It appeared to involve ice skaters of various abilities skating around with large animal heads on. The most amusing of these was a rather poor skater with a crocodile head on. As the performance came to an end and everyone clapped, David clapped rather ironically and said, "Come back on crocodile and carry on skating!" to much amusement.

At the other side of the ice rink there was a large area with tables and a couple of drinks stalls. Behind the stall was a massive fun castle for children to climb around in. We headed over there and got in a round of gluhweins. We all decided to opt for gluhwein mit schuss which in this context came in the form of amaretto or rum. I also purchased a food substance called kartoffelpuffer. This turned out to be a couple of potato cakes, similar to hash browns, accompanied by apple sauce. It actually tasted pretty good and the gluhwein mit schuss was good too. Disappointed that there was no Moules on ice to enjoy, we had to content ourselves with shouting "Chris! Chris! Chris!" and pretending he was skating. David pointed out that the family who had been dicking around at the zoo entrance were on the table behind us. We then noticed their kids crawling up a large tube in the castle behind us and getting stuck, causing a large children's backlog in the tube. We found this quite amusing.

After drinking our drinks we decided to check out the zoo shop and purchase a mascot. We wanted to purchase a gibbon and, after much debate, found a suitable candidate. Pete Gibbon therefore joined the regiment. We decided it was time to leave the zoo and go back to the hotel. However, Dave again declared his wish to go for a drink in the yurt. I felt that we should go there as we may not be back, so we headed back over to the children's play area and went to the yurt for a drink. Having had several gluhweins that day, we opted for a hot chocolate mit baileys instead. The stall owner said that it was only lukewarm, but we decided to go for it anyway. It turned out that it wasn't lukewarm at all - it was cold. However, Dave had had his wish to have a drink in the yurt, so that was the main thing. Once we'd enjoyed our beverages, we left the yurt and headed out of the zoo to the tram stop, to return to the hotel and get ready for an evening out. We soon arrived back at the main station and then took the short walk to the hotel. I chilled out in my room for a while and then went through the shower before joining the others in Steve and Dave's room.

We decided to head back into the centre and go to Schateke for our dinner. The walk was quite lengthy but we eventually arrived and took a table on a raised section in the corner. Our waitress was very chatty and, as we ordered burgers all round, we decided we could get a destination from her for Hel's choice. When she delivered our burgers, we asked her to pick from the list. She found the concept of the draw very interesting and after some debate, opted for Wroclaw as she had relatives there. She said we should definitely go there, not realising that she had picked Hel's choice so it would actually be eliminated from the list. The burgers were good and, once we'd all eaten our fill we opted for desserts. There was an ice cream on the menu called Nussknacker which sounded hilarious, so I went for one of those, as I felt someone should have one. The others ordered similar ice creams. The desserts soon arrived and turned out to be pretty good. Once we'd eaten them, we paid the bill and said farewell to our waitress, promising to let her know the draw result once it had been made. We left Schateke, then headed round the corner, deciding to try out a local bar. There was one bar which was illuminated in some kind of florescent orange, but we turned this down opting for a more conventional bar across the street. We took a seat at the back and got in a variety of beers and schnapps. David and I sampled a weird tasting schnapps which we ordered simply for the comedy name. We chilled out and chatted for a while, before deciding it was time to go back to the hotel. The walk back took about twenty minutes and was uneventful. Eventually we arrived back at the hotel and I said goodnight to the others before returning to my room to punch the sack.

Monday, 10th December

I woke up and, after a quick trip through the shower, I went to find the others. We decided to head over to the station to grab some breakfast before getting on a train for our excursion day, which was to be to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. At the station, Steve got a pastry from Grotbags whilst David and I grabbed a couple of pastries to share and some orange juice from another shop. We then purchased some train tickets to the town of Celle and took the walk to the platform to board the train. After an uneventful trip, we arrived at Celle station. It turned out that we had about an hour and a half to wait for the bus to Bergen-Belsen, so we decided to walk into town for a while. We walked down a long road, arriving at a park on our left with a mansion house in it. There was also a strange statue there. We took a photo of it and the mansion house, with the mascots in the foreground, before crossing the park and arriving in the town centre. After a short walk we arrived at the town square. There was a large building in the centre which turned out to be the town hall and housed the tourist information office. We went inside and looked around for a while before leaving. We popped in to another entrance to the town hall which had miniature models of Celle in olden days. Dave decided he needed the toilet and therefore used the staff one.

We left the town hall and walked down a side street, where I found a viable public toilet which I made use of. Round the corner, we discovered the Christmas market. We walked through it for a while before deciding that we should head back to the bus station. David spotted a Mike Nolan selling gluhwein and wanted to buy one, but we didn't have time so just headed back. After a long walk back along the road again, we arrived at the station. We still had a bit of time, so popped into a nearby cafe and had coffee and cakes whilst we waited for the bus. Eventually it was time to get on the bus so we bought our tickets and boarded. The bus set off and soon stopped in central Celle near the town hall. Had we have known, we could have saved ourselves the walk back. The bus journey was fairly long and stopped in various places including an army base. Eventually, we were the only ones left on the bus. At this point, the bus driver asked if we spoke German. We sent Dave up to communicate and the bus driver began to give Dave a history lesson as we drove towards the concentration camp. As the bus arrived at its final stop and we disembarked, we decided we had to get a destination from the driver. Steve and I walked up with the list and Dave asked him to pick one. David and Rupert had already got off and watched from a distance. The bus driver hesitated for a while before picking Halifax. Halifax was therefore nominated as PC Bourne's destination. We said farewell to the bus driver and headed over to the camp entrance. There was a large museum area which we went into, but David and I were eager to see the camp so we left and took a right before going down a long corridor towards a wood. The path led through the wood towards an open area in front of us. Steve, Rupert and Dave were dicking around in the museum and David and I waited for a while, but they didn't appear. Just as we were about to head off, we spotted them in the distance and waited for them to catch up. We arrived at a large open area of waste ground. There was no sign of the camp at all, except for markers telling us where various things were. A tour group were looking at an excavated area to our right, so we headed over to have a look at it. Once we'd done this, we walked through the woods at the other side of the camp, passing an area where women prisoners were kept. We then emerged at the far end of the open area. There were several large mounds in front of us, which were apparently where bodies were buried. It was very sad and hugely shocking that such things could have been carried out in this place.

There was a path to our right which led to a Russian cemetary. We decided to walk to it, so went through a gate and turned right up a road. After a short walk, Steve and Dave were worried that we were going to miss the bus so they decided to turn around. Rupert, David and I pressed on and after another five minutes or so we got to the cemetary. There were a huge number of graves and monuments, including a small set of plaques placed by people in commemoration. We wandered around the cemetary for a few minutes, before deciding to head back to catch the bus. I picked up the pace and we half walked, half jogged back to the camp. We then took a quick tour of the remaining monuments - there was a huge remembrance wall in front of us with a cross made from ashes. I hurried over to a small building and went inside. There was a large triangular table inside covered in pieces of paper with messages on. It turned out to be a small remembrance building. I paused there briefly, before leaving, walking past the cross made from ashes and hurried to catch up David and Rupert. We walked past several grave stones with pebbles on, which were left in remembrance by Jewish relatives, then arrived back at the camp entrance. Dave and Steve were waiting at the bus stop and we joined them with ten minutes to spare before our bus was due.

The bus soon arrived and we took the journey back to Celle via a different route. After some time, we arrived back at the town centre and decided to disembark to get some food and drink at the Christmas market. We headed to the core of the Christmas market, which had a large gluhwein stall and various sausage stands and purchased bratwurst all around and Eierpunsch. Much to my disgust, the Eierpunsch tasted horrible. I was very disappointed after the top quality Eierpunsch I had had in Hanover. We ate our sausages then decided to purchase some strange circular cakes called Ballon from a nearby stall. They were pastry based sweet substances covered in chocolate and came in a variety of flavours. We purchased several of them and shared them out. Once we'd eaten our fill, we walked back to the station and after a short wait, boarded a train to Hanover. The train journey was uneventful and we soon found ourselves back at the station. After a short walk, we were back at the hotel and we returned to our rooms to get ready for the stammtisch which we had decided would take place at Schateke. As I was in a single room, I would be heading out to the stammtisch on my own. I took my time having a shower, then got myself ready and left my room to walk to the stammtisch. I walked through the station, then descended into the underground area outside the station and walked through it, before ascending again and going through the Christmas market. I eventually arrived at Schateke and went inside to discover I was the first one there. I ordered a beer and sat at a table in the corner with a play script, Crown Matrimonial, which I was acting in in the New Year. I spent a while learning my lines and after about half an hour, David and Rupert arrived. They joined me and informed me that they'd bumped into Steve and Dave at the elevator so had opted for the stairs whilst Dave and Steve had taken the lift. About twenty minutes later, Steve and Dave arrived having stopped for a gluhwein on route. We got another round of drinks in and the waitress who'd provided Hel's choice asked us if we'd picked our destination yet. We told her that it was about to happen and we'd let her know which destination won. After a couple more drinks, we headed out to go to the restaurant for our final night meal. We'd decided to go to an italian restaurant on the same street called Le Arcate. We arrived at around 8.10p.m. and took our seats. I ordered soup followed by a pizza for my main course and the others ordered likewise. I then prepared everything for the first part of the draw, which was the first mascot draw.

As David had forgotton the draw tiles, this draw would take place using the old fashioned paper method. I wrote down the mascots names on pieces of paper put them in a glass then passed it around. Rupert drew the Little Lucky Leprechaun, Dave drew Barney, Steve drew Grosser Vass and I drew Shaft. David was already allocated Reardon so didn't draw from this one. The second mascot draw then took place, with David drawing Hel 2006, Rupert drawing Glogg, Steve drawing Chris, Dave drawing Kurt and me drawing Eric. We then drew numbers for orders of revealing destinations and, as our starters arrived, we began to reveal our choices.

David was up first and revealed his choice as:

VALETTA.

Rupert was next and revealed:

LARNAKA.

David and I couldn't believe Rupert's choice and there was an early preference for a veto vote. Steve was next up and revealed his choice as:

VIENNA.

He said he had been there but would probably be unable to go on the summer break thus thought it'd be a good choice for the rest of us to go to. It was then my turn and I revealed my choice to be:

GENEVA.

Our starters were cleared away and our pizzas arrived as the revealing continued. Dave was next up and he in traditionally wacky style, revealed his choice as:

SKOPJE.

Rupert wasn't sure where Skopje was and had to ask. Finally, it was the turn of Chris, who had provided his choice via text message. I passed Steve my phone and he revealed Chris' choice as:

PORTO.

It was now the turn of the Leprechaun's choice. We discussed it for some time, with top choices appearing to be Andorra and Hungary. Eventually we decided that the Leprechaun's choice would be:

ANDORRA.

David had won Reardon's tournament and Reardon's choice would be:

PORTO.

The bus driver had also picked PC Bourne's destination, which was David's:

HALIFAX.

We finished our pizzas and they were cleared away. I ordered tiramisu for desserts whilst the others ordered the same or one of the various ice cream options available. We then began the mascot rounds. First up was Glogg's round. Rupert selected a mascot to be affected and drew out Kurt. He then drew out the action and it turned out that Kurt would be helped. Two veto votes were therefore needed rather than three for a destination to be vetoed. Dave then took charge of Barney's diplomatic immunity round, but drew out a blank piece of paper which meant that no one would receive diplomatic immunity this time. Our desserts arrived and it was now time for Kurt's veto. Dave was in charge. This time there was a new rule. Thorsten would have a new bonus veto, awarded to the winner of the previous break's rehearsal draw. This honour fell to Chris so Steve, as his representative, rang him to ask him which destination he wished to veto. After some debate, he decided on Halifax. Dave received everyone's votes then declared that he'd count the votes. He drew them out one at a time revealing, "Larnaka", "Larnaka", "Halifax", "Larnaka", Blank tile, "None". Dave, David and I had voted for Larnaka whilst Steve had put in a blank tile, Rupert had voted "None" and Chris (using Thorsten's veto) had voted for Halifax. Larnaka was therefore vetoed and removed from the draw.

As we finished our desserts we ordered coffees. I then took charge of Shaft's round and blundered as I shafted PC Bourne's Halifax. Steve took charge of Grosser Vass and made nothing Grosser. With all the mascot rounds completed the stats so far were:

9th LARNAKA - Rupert (vetoed). 8th HALIFAX - PC Bourne (shafted).

7 destinations were left and it was time for the rehearsal draw. The glass was passed to David first to eliminate on behalf of Reardon. He succeeded in proxy-eliminating:

Valetta (David).

David consoled himself with a Barthez.

Rupert then eliminated on behalf of the Little Lucky Leprechaun and removed:

Porto (Chris).

Steve then eliminated, on behalf of Chris:

Skopje (Dave).

Dave then eliminated:

Geneva (Mike).

I eliminated:

Andorra (Little Lucky Leprechaun).

Two destinations were left. Steve selected a piece of paper whilst David received the other. It was Reardon against Steve and if Reardon won, it would be his second victory in a rehearsal draw. Steve then revealed in second place:

Porto (Reardon).

Steve celebrated with a Shearer as David revealed the winner as:

Vienna (Steve).

Steve would therefore gain the bonus veto vote on mission 15, wherever that would be.

Our coffees arrived and we settled down for the draw itself. The glass was passed around as the destinations were mixed up and David received it to eliminate on behalf of Reardon. He revealed, in 7th place:

SKOPJE.

Dave consoled himself with a Barthez. Rupert then eliminated next on behalf of the Little Lucky Leprechaun and self-eliminated:

ANDORRA.

Steve was next on behalf of Chris and self-eliminated, in 5th place:

PORTO (CHRIS).

Dave then eliminated, in 4th place:

PORTO (REARDON).

Three destinations were left and it was Steve, David and myself left in the hat. By coincidence, it was Steve, David and myself left to eliminate. I was up first and I selected a piece of paper before eliminating:

VIENNA.

Steve was disappointed. As it had been in Genoa and Amsterdam, it was myself against David in the final two. Steve picked a piece of paper whilst David took the other one. Steve then revealed, in 2nd place:

VALETTA.

David was disappointed and revealed as the winner:

GENEVA.

I leapt up to celebrate with a Shearer, delighted to win a third draw. We all declared that it was Geneva next time and were pleased that one of the destinations that had been in the draw several times had won. We finished our coffees and paid the bill before leaving and going back to Schateke for a final drink. The waitress came to see us and we told her that Geneva had won. She wasn't very impressed and still thought we should be going to Wroclaw. We finished our drinks then left to walk back to the hotel. We took a slightly different route back to the station, going slightly to the left of the main thoroughfare. We arrived at a bizarre statue of an old woman and Rupert, who had had a few drinks, treated us to an excellent statue recreation. We then walked through the underpass and arrived back at the hotel. I said goodnight to the others and returned to my room to punch the sack.

Tuesday, 11th December

I woke up around eight in the morning and, after going through the shower, I went along the corridor to see if the others were up and around. We went downstairs and checked out, with everyone except Steve leaving our bags in reception. Steve took his with him as he was leaving early than the rest of us. We headed over to the station, deciding to get breakfast from the christmas market outside the station. We walked through the station, past Grotbags and out to the front. However, very few of the stalls were open, so we headed into the centre. After a brief walk, we headed into a department store, deciding to have breakfast there. Steve decided to have a roll and jam, whilst the rest of us just had orange juice or coffee. Once Steve had eaten his food and, after he'd waited for ages to pay, we headed back over to the station to say goodbye to Steve.

We stood with him on the platform waiting for his train then bade him farewell as he boarded. For Steve, the Hanover experience was over. Once his train had left, we decided to have our first gluhwein of the day, from the stall outside the station. We got in a round of gluhwein, whilst David and I got some pancakes in. I went for the traditional banana and chocolate pancake, whilst David opted for one which came with pudding. When his pancake had been prepared, it turned out he'd blundered, as pudding, in this context, was cold custard and the pancake was accompanied by cherries. It looked and tasted disgusting. We stood outside the gluhwein stall for a while and chatted, before heading off into the centre to the main Christmas market.

Once there, we got in another round of gluhweins, before going for a walk in the direction of the town hall. We went inside and looked at the models of Hanover again, before leaving and walking around the outside. At the back of the town hall, we saw a cement truck with "Aha" written on it, so paused for photos. We crossed the busy road and walked around some back streets before emerging at a huge square with war memorials in the middle. We checked out the war memorials for a while, by which time it was approaching lunchtime, so we decided to head back to the Christmas market.

Back in the main section of the Christmas market, we went to our favourite gluhwein stall with the tables around the back and got in a round of bratwursts and gluhwein before taking a table around the back. It began to rain and we were beginning to get a bit cold and fed up. We began to chat about our idea for the pass the pigs tournament and so we decided to head into a game shop to see if we could find it. David found a game called Schweinere on the shelf, which turned out to be the same game and thus Pete Gibbon's Schweinerei tournament was born. We left the shop and took a walk through the olde Christmas market section and into the Finnish section. By this point we were getting bored and cold. We decided to check out the church, so we went inside and noticed some large orchestra setting up at the front. We sat down but, as the concert started, David and I began to get worried that we'd be trapped inside as the church was getting quite full. We decided to leave, but Rupert and Dave decided they wanted to stay. David and I walked back to the hotel, via the underpass, for the last time and collected our bags from the hotel. We sat down to wait for the others and eventually they joined us, having sat through a fair amount of the concert.

We all walked over to the train station and boarded a train for a quick trip to the airport. Once we'd arrived, we discovered that David and my check in hadn't opened. However, Dave and Rupert's had, so they checked in. We eventually checked in too and, as we were departing from different gate areas, David and I said goodbye to the others, as our Grand Unified Experience finally broke up. We then proceeded through to our departure gate and sat down to wait. Eventually we boarded our plane and, as it took off, we declared that Hanover was over, but the Hanover experience was continuing. The flight was short and we soon landed in Birmingham. Having picked up our bags, we walked to our cark park, got in the car and drove back to Kenilworth. About 45 minutes after our plane had landed we got back to my house. We soon went to bed, exhausted after a thoroughly enjoyable break.

Wednesday, 12th May

David and I woke up at around eight thirty in the morning. We were both exhausted and decided to go for a morning coffee at Costa before I went into work and David drove home. We wandered into town and chilled out for a while with coffee and muffins. Once we'd done this, we walked back to my house and I said goodbye to David as he got in the car and departed, thus signalling the end of the Hanover experience. I then went to work as for me, the break was over.

On the plus side, I thought "It's Geneva next time!"