I'm told that I should have put in a bit more detail about who I was staying with in Neustadt, so for the record these delightful few days were spent with the wonderful Böckmann family (or 3 members thereof): Christine and her parents, who were immensely kind and really did see to everything I needed. The breakfasts in particular were a highlight - as much Wurst/sausage, cheese, yoghurt, spread, bread rolls, juice and coffee as you could possibly ask for - but every aspect of staying with them was a pleasure: a lovely way of starting my 3 months in Germany. Through them I got to learn about the wine-growing culture of Neustadt and how seriously it is taken by the young people there, many of whom take 3-year-long degree courses in wine-making and do genuinely grow up to be vintners of their own (no surprise really, when your parents produce award-winning internationally-popular wines!); there's a very charming community aspect to it all, no surprise when most of the people here are going to primary and secondary schools in the same place and no one's university is very far away. Then a lot of them may stay on to work as vintners (I met a couple of Christine's friends who came round for Sunday Afternoon Waffles, both of whom are going to become vintners). I was taken for a walk or two through the vineyards and the culture here of just picking apples, blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries, etc., as and when you like from any tree, every tree, is of an almost halcyon childhood quality: we hear talk about 'scrumping apples', of course, but very few of us actually do a lot of that sort of thing.
And of course how could I fail to mention the football. I don't think I've ever cared so much for a game as for the German v Italy Euro 2016 match last Saturday; surrounded by Germans, biting their nails and exuding worry and angst, I sat in one of Neustadt's local bars as the terrible, agonising penalty shootout went on and on. Eventually our faith was vindicated, and the jubilation was of a kind I haven't experienced at home in England: driving up and down through the city centre, cars honking their horns, and whooping, and waving flags, and so on. A pretty dramatic atmosphere, and a great thing to be a part of!
More in Munich anon. I haven't even got started on why it's so marvellous.