Thanks George

It was bound to happen. I knew it would but, I wanted to keep it as far from me as possible. Last night we felt the "sting" of being outsiders. Of being Americans and of not understanding this culture.

We were visiting one of our favorite restuarants (so far), after meeting with the current renters of our house, and we had a "reality check" experience. Here's what happened:

It was about 8PM and we wanted to get something to eat. The Alteus Brauhaus was less than five minutes from the house and we decided to go for some of that great raspberry/vanilla ice cream and schnitzel. We walked in the resturant and we were greeted by the barmaid, "Abend", we replied, "Abend". It was so nice last night we wanted to sit outside. In Germany, like most European countries, people prefer outside to inside (weather permitting). We found a table and sat down. There were a lot of people sitting outside. Most of them were having drinks. Not too many were eating. My daughter worried that we were crashing a family reunion or something. I told her not to worry, it will be fine. 

The waitress came to the table and asked us what we wanted. In terrible German we said, "One Pils and two Spezis, please" I suppose that clued her into the fact that we were American (as if they couldn't tell from our dress and mannerisms already). She returned with our drinks and never said another word. We waited for 45 minutes and could never get her attention again. She served everyone else around us and we became invisble.
My American attitude wanted to tell her off, my "you're in another country" attitude wanted to humbly exit the place with myt tail tucked between my legs. We chose the latter. We had to go inside to pay our 7 Euros for the drinks. Again, she never came back to the table! The language barrier is terrible. If I would have known how to say, "Frau, Speiskarte bitte" life would have been much easier.. I think. I wonder if we were ignored because we didn't communicate well enough or that we were who we are? I think it's the latter but hope it's the previous.
It was both humilating and frustrating. If you've ever been in Europe, you know how long it takes to have dinner here. When you are hungry and tired, it gets complicated.


Photos & Beer

Less than a 10 minute walk from our hotel is the Rhine Neckar Zentrum. A huge mall-like area with everything fruit and meat stores to shoe stores. They had an exhibit going from the World Photo Press. It was amazing! How lucky am I to be living in a place where this is so common? I feel very blessed!
Some of the most moving images for me were these from a Dutch photographer, Martin Roemers. He did a story on soldiers and people from WWII in Europe (David's idea, a great one!). Beautiful, powerful images!

My new favorite beer. While in the Rhine Neckar Zentrum, we checked out a resturant called, "Le Buffet." We had an excellent meal and I found a dunkel hefe bier (dark) from Paulaner. Excellent!! (But can you find a bad beer in Germany??)


Long Words & Furry Houses

We are having fruit and ice cream tonight and I noticed this German word on the lid of the fruit. Although the English word for "preservitives" is quite long, the German word has a certain look about it that makes it appear like an alphabet:

Unbelieveably good ice cream! I was never really a fan of ice cream, German ice cream has made me change my mind.

A house next to us near KantStrasse.. you'll see these everywhere, I really like them!


Oh, Zee Little Von

It's been a few days without writing or posting here. It's not that my life is event-less, quite the contrary, we've been "internet-less" on and off and I've been busy and lazy (yes, concurrently).

The church near our house in Viernheim, Germany.

Anyway, I've had a couple of very interesting things happen in the last few days. The first was when we were walking through Viernheim (the village where we rented our house) looking for a place to eat dinner. As we walked along these quiet cobblestone streets, past this church, I looked to my left and I saw an older man sitting on some steps smoking a cigarette. He was in his 70s or maybe even 80s. He said something in German and so I started walking over toward him. I said, “Gutenabend (good evening), Wo ist ein gutes resturant? (Where is a good restaurant?)” He started telling me about a place called, “Alteus Brauhaus” and telling me how good the Schweinefleisch Schnitzel is there. We had already been there and had that (and he is right, it’s outstanding!!) so I asked him for another suggestion. He turned to my wife, Jean, and asked, in German, if I was Italian. I told him that she was my Frau and that Summer was my daughter. He asked, “Sind Sie amerikanisch? (are you American?) I said yes, we are. He got very excited and hugged me and then kissed Jean and Summer’s hand (acted as he did). Then, in very fast and broken German started talking about how big and strong I was and that I was Amerikana… that he loved Amerika! (Not so much George Bush though) and wanted to hug again. We said thanks and told him good night. I suspect that he was a kid during the war and is appreciative of what he perceives as “America the Great” saving Germany and Europe in WWII.

What I would have given to catch all of that on video! These are the experiences that are forming me right now.

Here’s another story from last night. Our internet connection has been going on and off in our room lately. They say it’s due to storms and wet equipment. I’m not sure what it is. Anyway, we can sit in the lobby of the hotel room and get a great connection. So every once in a while we drop in and sit and drink beers and do stuff online. Last night we had the night-shift lady working. She is a bit “off’ but very interesting. She would scare you if you didn’t know her. She is in her early 50s and very German. She says she speaks English (and does a little) but really understands very little. Last night, as we struggled through some light conversation, I brought up the history of Germany and Hitler. She immediately piped up and said, in a very scary voice, rolling her eyes left to right and putting two fingers (middle and index) to her upper lip, “Oh, zee little one?” I almost lost it, it was both funny and bizarre! She continued on and made sure we knew he was Austrian, not German. And then, in quite articulate English, reminded us of our own genocidal past; the Native Americans and the African slaves. I was quick to point out that it’s in ALL of us to do terrible things. It’s just that the German’s past is the most recent and haunts many people who are still alive today.

These are memories and events that I will NEVER forget! This is why I love where I am and what I am doing.


The Jet Lag Is Almost Gone

Today was the first day with really clear heads, the jet lag is almost gone and our bodies are tired at night and alert in the day. So we rented a car.

What a difference wheels make! I missed driving. After getting our ID cards and eating lunch, we headed over to check out Grunstadt. The Grunstadt area is known for it's local wines/vineyards. They don't export the stuff, you have to come here to drink it. It's fairly close to the French border (we are already, Grunstadt is a 25 minute drive). The vineyards there are GORGEOUS! If you've ever been through Washington state or northern California, times that by ten and you'll start to get an idea of what the Grunstadt area looks like. To put this in perspective, the exit we took was called "Deutsche WeinStraße" (German Wine Street). We plan to check out other small villages this weekend. We want something that is close to a bigger city that allows us to access a bakery, cafe, pub and market easily. We'll find it, there are plenty of places to choose from here.

Also, this was my first day driving on the Autobahn. It's awesome! And yes, I drove fast (when appropriate and legal). My top speed was 170 Kmph (just shy of 110 mph) - it's good stuff! And yes, I was sober, very very sober! You DO NOT want to drink AT ALL here and drive, serious stuff!

We had dinner at "Alexandros" a Greek resturant/hotel a couple of miles up the road in Kafertal, Germany. Yummy!