Friday morning at 7 am. Into the car.
The box of Oktoberfestbeer is there, good.
Promised it to the regulars.
One hour later, at the other end of town we pick up Dario (aka ProgressiveLunatic, aka LordPL) and FluffyGuts. Could have been 30 minutes to go, but some Al Qaeda guy was mumbling something about not wanting beer and an Oktoberfest in Afghanistan, so half of the city, around the Oktoberfest, became a high security zone. We had to go a long way around that... Anyway, we're at the highway now.
At the end of the road, our road, a weekend with 15 progmetal bands and people from 15 nations are waiting! Though the line up is a bit weaker than on the last two festivals, exitement has already taken control over me.
Fluffyguts is a girl from Australia, she popped up at the ppe forum, looking for assistance to trip from Munich to ppe. There was a free seat left in our car.
Gerhard (gdantell) said he might show up on short notice when his business trip will allow it.
Robert (Atomic) was checking out if he could join some 10 days ago, but found out that he hasn't any more work-free days for this year. Bummer.
German highways are a mess, half of the entire way is under construction and it takes us more than an hour longer to cross the border at Roermond. We tried to avoid the Friday afternoon rush in Venlo and decided to hit Barloo from the south, and find the road to Baarlo filled with a massive traffic jam. We leave the road and take the long way around it, navigating with a map on my lap. That's not easy in the Netherland, they have a rather strange idea of where to put signs on the road and where not. If we had to rely on the signs I guess we would have ben completely lost. Fortunately the truck in front of us is from Venlo, and considering that it's Friday afternoon, we guess that guy is heading towards home. The roads we pass sometimes are so small and designed in a way that we're expecting a dead-end several times, even though they're labeled as main road in the map. We find a road sign that leads to Baarlo - thankfully.
It's a quater past four when we reach the castle, our accommodation. Casteel DeBerckt is kind of a hotel and they have a deal with progpower, everyone who orders a package deal for progpower also books bed and breakfast at the castle for a pretty fair price. And it is indeed 'bed', not 'room'. They simply fill their rooms with progpower people, noone has his own room there. If you come alone, you'll end up sleeping in a room with absolutely unknown people, unless you told the progpower staff who you wanna join rooms with. We did that.
When we enter the courtyard, a couple of black t-shirts are already there, sitting in a circle around some beer and an ipod with speaker application, with - of course - Devin Townsend playing. The regulars. When they gather, they are mostly always making a circle. They see us coming, with the box of beer, and welcome us, shouting out "It's the Geeermaaans", raising their beer cans.
At the entrance of the castle they have exposed a room plan this year, but the lady who welcomes us still is confused because Fluffyguts is in a different room than Dario and me. We help her in pointing at our names on the plan. I should mention that they don't have a reception at the castle, you just get in and wait on the corridor until some staff comes along. Something like the castle would be impossible in Germany, a hotel without a reception, only functional furnishing that lacks any kind of design, no bar. I know, Dutch hotels are different to the ones I've ever been anywhere else. But still, the castle is a great place.
Entering our room we find Gary (Cyberfloat) and Simon (jimmyjoint) hanging out, just as expected. The Brits always go into their room and only get out when they're leaving the hotel. Ok, Let's hug! It has been an entire year. Before I can pull off my jacket Gary is holding a bottle of Jamesson under my nose. Ah dammit, let the party begin!
Wait, six beds in our room? Weird... looks like they've messed up the reservation and we're having spare beds. And one window is broken. Wait... there were two people in the room, a window is broken, three empty bottles of beer at the table. Not two, not four, but three. Hey guys did you....?