Saturday, March 4, 2006

Scherz auf Deutchland! Part I
I'm sorry about the dry spell, but we were staying in a town with no internet cafe and today is the first time we've seen one. It's Saturday, and the wedding was yesterday, but it will get its own separate entry. So for now I'll catch you up to the adventure and mayhem up to Friday morning.

In spite of my good intentions, I did not spend Tuesday at the Louvre because it was closed. I know, why should that stop me, really? But I wanted to be sure I made the train to see SNG so I resisted breaking any major laws all day long. Instead of the Louvre, I walked around in the on/off snow and eventually killed a couple of hours at St Etienne de Mont church and the Pantheon. Once I'd read every eiptaph in the crypt, I hit a creperie and called it a day. There was time for one last dinner with Val and Jerome before they took me to Gare de L'Est and waited with me until I got on the train. Aren't they the sweetest people ever?

I ran into a little bit of trouble on the train. First, I had been booked in a double sleeper car with a strange man. Not just a stranger man. A strange man. Once I was reassigned to my own sleeper car, the conductor threatened to make me pay an enormous supplement because I had accidentally logged the date on my Eurail pass incorrectly. Here's the problem: You have to mark your pass before you board the train with the date of travel. I left on Feb 28. So I put 28Feb on the pass. Turns out I was supposed to put 01Mar because that's the day we arrive. I pleaded ignorance. He told me it was written on the pass in 4 languages. Luckily, as none of those languages was English, my ignorance plea had some cred. Never mind that I could have read 2 of those languages but just didn't read the fine print finely enough. So I was off the hook-- "THIS TIME." (scowl at the stupid American-- Bad Cat!!!)

Train ride-- woobly woobly woobly all night, feeling kind of woobly all day for 2 more days, the usual.

Once in Germany, I felt like I'd landed on another planet. Or, more like, I suddenly felt completely illiterate. I had no idea what was expressed on ANY sign ANYWHERE unless it had a picture. I do not believe that English has any connection whatsoever with German linguistically. Somebody just made that up. But I do have an English-German dictionary and found the word for ticket (FAHRKARTE) and hunted for a FAHRKARTE in the train station so I could take the S-bahn to the airport (FLUGHAFEN). There were a lot of places to buy FAHRKARTEs. I think most of them were for high-speed train travel. Eventually I found the way to the U-Bahns. Keep hunting. Then I saw a mysterious S in a funky style next to a P in a different funky style, and I'd been wandering with 25 pounds on my back for long enough (on no sleep and no coffee) and followed the S sign. Paydirt. There were a series of machines offering FAHRKARTEs to various places including the FLUGHAFEN and I found 3 lines that would go there. To buy it, all I had to do was enter the code number for my destination, and push the appropriate button to request the appropriate flavor of FAHRKARTE, and give it the indicated sum of money. I found the code for the FLUGHAFEN and looked for the right button. There were 2 rows of about 15 buttons each, all different colors, some with pictures of geometric shapes, flowers, animals, aliens, and a little airplane. Well, a few had little airplanes, actually. Some were identified with little small people-figures, and others with BIG people-figures. Some had a lot of people-figures. I thought that perhaps since I am a little person, I should push one of those buttons. With an airplane on it. Then I thought maybe since I'm a grown-up, I should push a BIG person button. Then I thought, well I like daisies, so maybe that's the ticket for me. I selected what seemed like the best ticket for me, paid a huge sum of money, took my ticket, and headed for the train.

I'm pretty sure that according to S-Bahn sales records, a family of 5 went from the train station to the airport on the #9 at about 7:30 Wednesday morning. No one ever asked to see, scan, tear, lick, or smell my ticket. I could have gone for free.

Time warp- found Jen and Fish looking no less for wear and sleeplessness (rather fresh, in fact) and we ate our weight in free goodies at the admiral's club until SNG arrived (YAY!) a little grouchy after he'd searched the airport for the admiral's club for over an hour. On the up side, he did find a porn shop and a place to bet on rooster fights. The bottom level of the Frankfurt airport is straight out of an episode of CSI.

Our first 2 nights in Germany were spent in Rothenburg ob der Taub (sp?) which is a sweet little ancient town full of schneeballen (balls of dough, fried crispy and coated with sugar and something else like cinnamon, chocolate, marzipan, whatever), cuckoo clocks, wonderful Christmas tchotchkes, and a memorable museum of crime/torture. Once we'd spent the day in the stocks and learning how duels were arranged between men & women, as well as trying out thumbscrews, neck violins, leg screws, stretchers, baker's baptisms, witch's posts, gallows, oh who knows what else people can think of to obtain a confession from a suspected criminal... we found some lunch. I have to say, we haven't yet had a bad meal in Germany.

We were fortunate to be staying at the right place on Wednesday night, which is the day that the English Speaking Club of Rothenburg meets at the restaurant in our hotel. Sounds silly? Let me tell you- to my American and Canadian readers, if you are ever in Rothenburg, be sure to be there on a Wednesday night and go to the Altfranke Weinstube for dinner. The meal is terrific, but mostly it's these fantastic people you'll meet. We were the only North Americans. There was one Scotsman who has lived in Rothenburg for decades and everyone else was native to Rothenburg. Most of them were elderly men, many veterans of WWII. A few were younger. "Herman the German" is a dairy farmer who drinks a liter of raw milk every day of his life and swears it is the secret to good health. The last day we were in town he came by the hotel to give us a liter of milk from his farm. I think he was enamored with Jen, as she's a cute American who knows everything about dairy farming. Wolfgang has traveled a great deal in the US, and mostly loves to go to the great open spaces such as Montana, Nebraska, Wisconson, etc. But he wishes it was easier to meet people out west. Robert was a WWII prisoner in a French prison camp in Baden Baden (a famous spa town) and escaped, only to be stationed at another famous spa town in Germany. One young man wants to obtain a US work Visa to move to Hawaii and work in a great hotel and be with his girlfriend from Santa Barbara. He's never been to the US, and wants to pass the interview at the US embassy. I hope he finds a job at a terrific resort. Friedrich joined the German army at 16 years of age and was a tank driver in WWII. He can't hear much, but keeps in touch with soldiers from New Zealand that he befriended at the end of the war over the internet. He's 82 and very elegant.

There were others and I won't bore you with descriptions here. It was perhaps the best way that one could start a trip to an unfamiliar country, and we felt so welcome we were just glowing for a day afterward.

We eventually caught up with J&K and J's parents and made plans for The Big Day. But that's a story for a different post.

Germany is so beautiful with all the snow (SO MUCH SNOW!) and I've seen no evidence of pickpockets or scam artists. Kind of a relief after 2 weeks of clutching my purse and locking up my backpack. I am still essentially illiterate, but I've figured out a few words and can plunk my way around like a semi-halfwit tourist instead of a complete nitwit catatonic. :-)


SNG said...

What's wrong with complete nitwit catatonic? It works or me.

Katrin said...

It was so great ot spend the last few days with you and the gang! We really had a great time in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, at the wedding, and today in Baden Baden.
Hope the rest of your trip is also wonderfule :)

Diana said...

You did stop by the torture museum gift shop and pick me up a snow globe, right?

Anonymous said...

in math, it's:
candy store > porn shop > rooster fights >Admirals club