Herbert picked up our luggage and put it in the back of his car at the doorway to the hotel before driving Chris to his final extra meeting at Filderstadt. Meanwhile, I walked over the Goldberg to the station again. The weather has not been cold as in previous years for this trip, so I unzipped my thick coat again. I decided not to leave my backpack in a locker, carried it round with me all the time, in Stuttgart, but felt very tired by the end of the afternoon, especially after the Glühwein that I treated myself to towards the end of the afternoon, in the Christmas Market. This is one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe. Every year it seems to be slightly larger. I looked at the model village with miniature railway this time, as well as all the usual stalls and attractions, didn’t spend much.
I was lucky to be walking by the Musikhaus behind the Stiftskirche when the people inside were setting out chairs in the piano exhibition hall for a concert. That looks promising, I thought, and went in. It was a piano recital, one of a series organised by the music school rather like those concerts at the Royal Welsh School of Music and Drama in Cardiff, and my ticket only cost 3 Euros. I bought it in advance and had time for a mug of Apfelglüh outside before the concert began. The pianist was a professional -- I was lucky -- a young man from South Korea, who played a Bach Prelude and Fugue, a Beethoven Sonata, and a piece by Debussy, all flawlessly, on an unusual piano with double keyboard (one at either end) made at the end of the 19th century in Paris. After the performance, I lingered to look at the other pianos in the collection.
I was intending to buy myself some lunch in the cafeteria of the Kaufhof, but the Kaufhof was no more. Several of the larger stores in Stuttgart Stadtmitte were being replaced by new ones. Instead, I found a Chinese self serve buffet which served me well, before zigzagging back to the station, through the Christmassy scene. I stopped to buy a skewer of chocolate covered pineapple on the way which made me and my bags all sticky. Nearly fell asleep in the S3 train to the airport where I met Chris again who was looking after our luggage outside the airport’s sex shop and Apotheke.
We had a really good Italian meal in the departures lounge and took the BA evening flight to Heathrow, during the start of which I felt quite poorly, from exhaustion, probably, but I recovered before landing. The flight had been delayed at the start by a de-icing procedure that went on and on, so we were late arriving. I insisted we take a taxi to Teddington rather than the infrequent bus. At the hotel, finally, we were horrified to find a noisy party in full swing, especially as the receptionist gave us keys to a room just above the worst of the noise, saying there was no other room available. Back we went to the desk, to tell him that we’d try for a room in another hotel (even at that hour), but it suddenly transpired that there was spare accommodation in the annex after all. That was a mistake on their part because it will be mentioned on TripAdvisor shortly.