A Birthday Garden Party in the Former GDR

On the eve of their nation's celebration of independence, two Americans journey to former German Democratic Republic territory for a friend's birthday garden party.

The seven-hour drive to Leipzig, in the east German state of Saxony, consists of German language lessons involving insults that rhyme with chicken sucker. The birthday boy is pleased with the progress of his two pupils who can also hurl commands such as verpiss dich!

A midnight arrival means the night is still young on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse, insists the birthday boy. First stop is beer at a bar with outdoor seating and Michael Jackson hits playing inside. Several university students pass by clad in 80s attire, apparently on their way to 80s-themed house parties. Final stop of the evening is Frau Pulver, where bar owner Elisa claims it's closing time. The birthday boy works his magic and somehow convinces Elisa to allow his Liechtensteiner pal a chance at the piano. Soon, locals are drawn into the tiny space by his performance. After a short beverage break (photo left), dawn draws nigh as the Liechtensteiner leads everyone in a rendition of "We Are the World."

A full day of birthday events has the crew up at ten o'clock. Most of the birthday boy's guests are preparing for water skiing and wakeboarding (oh, and not the kind in which you are tugged by a boat) at Lake Kulkwitzer. One of the Americans is a good sport and joins in on the adventure, while the other American claims that lifts of all kinds frighten her and after only just having overcome her fear of snow ski lifts isn't quite ready to be tugged around a lake by a water ski lift. She prefers, instead, to take photographs of everyone else being much braver than she will ever be.

Later, the birthday boy and his guests head to his parents house in Reuden, more than an hour's drive outside of Leipzig, overlooking a cornfield. The rest of the day is filled with two separate feasts. The first feast focuses on sweets including various birthday cakes (definitely not the American type), cookies, pies, tarts, and coffee. To recover from the previous evening's and morning's events, several guests take naps in the large garden.

Baileys cheese cake topped with white chocolate shavings and red currants

The final feast features Thüringer sausages, communally prepared fresh salads, corn-on-the-cob, garlic bread, and grilled zucchini and eggplant. After a long meal, sparkling wine, beers, and music by the campfire, everyone retires to their sleeping bags and tents set up under the shade of two large cherry trees.

I couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate a birthday, or the 4th of July for that matter: feasting, napping, and laughing with friends.


  1. You're so lucky to live in Switzerland! You're right in the heart of Europe! Driving a few hours here and there could mean you're partying or weekending in another country! Oh, how jealous I am of your position!
    Michael Jackson in Germany? So kitschy!

  2. That Bailey's cheesecake looks like the whole point of the party to me!


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