I arrived in the Würzburg train station at 2 on the 29th and was driven in to Veitshöchheim (which I cannot spell) by my host Hannah Benz. Hannah and her husband Dr. Rolland Benz have been friends with my father since the late 1970’s (which means that their friendship greatly pre-dates my birth) and have been participating in the great Hancock child exchange program for a few years. Both David (my terribly smart brother… see earlier post) and I have spent some time here on and off for the last 20 years or so and Eva Benz (H&R’s daughter) lived with us in Canada when she was younger.
The bottom line is that I am incredibly comfortable here and have spend many happy days dozing in the Bavarian sun, exploring the ancient stomping grounds of the Prince-Bishops of Frankonia, and sipping crisp local wines (served in fantastic round bottles that you just don’t see anywhere else).
Speaking of wine… The day after arriving, I was invited to tour the local Prince-Bishop’s Residence with a goup of academics who were in town for a biochemistry conference. I am not a huge fan of tourist experiences but I figured it would be a good opportunity to get out of the house, and boy am I ever glad I went! The tour of the palace was well conducted by a young German tour guide whose sense of humour translated quite well into English (being funny in two languages is not easy, despite what all those Malawians pointing and laughing at me while I eat nsima seem to believe!).
After walking through the Residence and the adjoining gardens, we were led to a fountain out front and told to wait for our next guide. Believing that the tour was all that I had agreed to, I was completely surprised to discover that I would also be joining the group for a tour of the Residence’s famous wine cellars (which Napoleon apparently declared to be the most beautiful in all of Europe) and for a wine tasting with the cellar master.
The cellars are indeed spectacular, lined with old wooden barrels — most of which are now dry, hold only water, or have been outfitted with stainless steel linings so that they can be used for storage. The majority the wine kept underneath the Residence are now stored in the more modern and scientific part of the cellars under the main body of the building and the right wing. Anyways, after wandering through and learning about the history of the wine kept there (much of which was used to pay civil servants in the middle ages and some of which was apparently used to innebriate the devil before castrating him…) we were treated to a 7 glass tasting and accompanying meal.
So, being an academic is not so bad as long as you are willing to shamelessly gate crash parties held by well funded departments (rarely political science, in case you were wondering). It is somewhat comforting to know that PhD comics has taught me something over these past few years.