EINE TOUR DURCH DEUTSCHLAND (A Tour of Germany)
Now that the schnitzel was resting comfortably in my belly, it was time to explore the German countryside: well, as much of the countryside as my guides felt like showing me.
When I travel to foreign places (which for me is anything outside my house), I make it my business to learn as much as possible. I like to sample the local cuisine (see previous blog), learn the habits and customs of the people, see what life is like, learn some of the language, and of course, take lots of pictures. Here are some of the things I learned about Germany.
FACTS, FIGURES, AND FUDGES
Germany is a beautiful country of majestic mountains, rivers that wind through hills and valleys where castles can be seen, bustling cities and quiet villages.
The primary language spoken in Germany is German, but luckily a lot of people also speak English.. German is much harder to learn than Spanish. On my trip to Spain, I managed to pick up the language very quickly. Not so in Germany. The words are long and complicated, and they have a knack of making new words but just tacking old ones together. The language is very guttural, which basically means “full of spit,” so if you every go to Germany, be prepared to get wet.
People in Germany are very strong. They have to be because they smoke these huge pipes (left) which are hard to carry (and also hard to keep full). That is probably why Germans have won so many gold medals in the Olympics – from carrying those huge pipes around all day. Of course, Germans sometimes put down their pipes when they are tired. That is when they pick up their favorite pastime, beer.
Beer is just about everywhere you look. People walk around with open bottles on the street. This is allowed in Germany, where everyone enjoys the freedom of downing a brew whenever they feel like it – but don’t always expect them to be cold. Germans (and most Europeans) do not believe in refrigeration.
Although people can drink most everywhere, it is not allowed on trains. That is probably because the floor of the train adjacent to the door operates as a stairs, and lowers itself to meet the platform once you arrive at your destination. It would be very easy to fall off these stairs as they were lowering, as I found out on my first ride on a train. (HINT: If you visit Germany, bring bandages or learn to say krankenouse (hospital)). You will thank me later.
One drawback to the freedom to drink beer everywhere is that there is a lack of restrooms, so it is not uncommon (though illegal) to encounter an unwanted display of public urination (as mentioned before, if you visit Germany, be prepared to get wet). This is especially prevalent in the subway, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The German government, in an attempt to curb the plague of public urination, installed these public toilets (left) which can be seen every few feet along the sidewalks. Or at least that is what I thought until I got into trouble for using one. Turns out it was a trash can. (The German people don’t believe in signs, but the police, however, are huge believers in charging 100 Euros for improper use of a trash can). Case closed.
Food is easy to find, reasonably-priced, and quite tasty in Germany, although you better be careful where (and what) you eat.
Some eating establishments (right) are quite brazen and upfront about their menus. Here we see a local bar and grill that openly tells its customers that their food makes people sick.
I have always admired that kind of honestly, though admittedly not enough to purchase any food at that place. I’m not that stupid.
Travelers should also beware of the food that is sold in vending machines. On the left you will see a picture I took of one such vending machine. If the viewer looks closely, they will notice the different kinds of animal meat being offered as a quick pick-me-up. These meats included: wild boar, reindeer, and something that I do not even want to make a guess as to what it is. Word of advice: just play it safe and avoid vending machines altogether, especially the ones in the subway that smell kind of funny.
If you ever have trouble finding main dishes, have no fear. Germans love sweets and treats, especially candy, chocolate and ice cream. Below you can see a small portion of the chocolate section of a department store, one of the many bonbon bins found everywhere, and a row of 2 –foot tall licorice that I found on a city street, Yummy!
Though usually a fastidious bunch, the Germans can be quite cavalier when it comes to indulging their sweet tooth. On the left you will see an ice cream cone carelessly left atop an office building. Luckily, hand sanitizing machines are virtually everywhere, such as the one on the right. The weird thing about that one, though, was that it appeared to be empty. When I repeatedly pressed it, nothing came out. Even more bizarre, the cars on the street began driving this way and that, with some people honking their horns and shouting at me – most likely to direct me to a hand sanitizing station that was full. Such nice people!
Overall, I found the Germans to be extraordinarily polite, careful and cautious. Bitte (as seen above) is the word for please, and it is used all the time. You can also see it used below in the sign that asks people not to feed spaghetti to the animals. I found the sign at a local animal refuge, but was unable to get a good explanation why they had it. I guess the animals probably just prefer lasagna. German caution can also be seen in the other images below. In the second, you will see that haz-mat suits that were sold at a local men’s clothing store, and the wall of keys we had to unlock in order to get into our apartment (click to enlarge).
A FEW MORE FUN FACTS
What do you think the most common name is in Germany? Fritz? Hans? Skippy? Nope. It’s Will. In fact, Will is so common that it is confusing. In Germany, people like to put their names on their houses and apartments in order to personalize them. While I strolled through town after town, all I ever saw on buildings, doors and doormats was “Will Kommen.” Man, either that guy has the biggest family ever or else the Germans need to use some creativity in choosing a name.
So there you have it, just about everything you need to know in case you ever want to visit Germany. But just in case you are worried that a prolonged stay will cause you to become homesick for America, I have good news: they also have a dollar store in Germany. Only they call it the “Euro Store,” because everything costs only one Euro (see photo on right).
Start planning your German vacation today!