So like I said, I went to Germany. I've been before a few times, it's nice, and I love it there. Anyway, due to circumstances far outside of my control, I've got this house there that is completely open to me, and there is car there that is at my disposal
. No, it ain't mine, but I can use them without cost nor intrusion. Do you want me to explain why? Too bad! I'm busy with the story.
So it's the Christmas season and I take a little flight over the pond to Germany, arriving on Dec. 17. I bring along My Traveling Companion (MTC), who has never been to the land of schnitzel. Lucky for her, I'm a great host, yada yada yada. First things first, the flight was crud. MTC and I got stuck in the absolute last row of the airplane, and that was only after switching with someone so we could sit together. We're right by the shitters, so every time some bloke takes a dump I have to smell what he had 12 to 24 hours prior. And when there is a line, there is always a nice, stank ass right in my face. The ride was bumpy the whole way, and the movie I wanted to see didn't work. When the meal came around (2 hours late because of the turbulence [you know turbulence, when solar radiation heats the earth's crust, warm air rises, cold air descends]). I politely asked for pasta. They had run out. I got chicken. For a drink I asked for cranberry juice, but of course they only serve that on domestic flights. I got water. Anyway, lovely flight to say the least.
MTC and I get to the airport in Frankfurt after all though, and get on with the task of finding our ride down to good old Heidelberg (actually the village of Sankt Leon near Heidelberg, but we'll talk about that later)
. And of course, we're there on time, but the ride is late. No big deal really, but while waiting, I got a little taste of another American...and it was not the best. Remarking to MTC that our ride was late, an old man American butted into the conversation. "You know there is a massive stau on the autobahn backing up traffic. That's probably why he's late." I responded, "I'm sorry, what?" "You know a stau, a traffic jam." His tone had gone from helpful to condescending very quickly. I said, "No, I have no clue what a stau is, please explain it to me." I lied because I knew all too well. He explained, "well it's a traffic jam." Oh a traffic jam! Well my friend, why didn't you effing say that in the first effing place! Anyway, he got a phone call later and showed off his great skills for the language by repeating, "My German isn't very good." No shit!
Okay, okay, okay... I've taken some time and I'm a bit calmer now. On to my next adventure now. I'll skip over the guy in the airport with the pointed boots, stringy long hair, tight-fitting shirt that rose up over his fat belly and insanely steadfast reliance on denim as a choice for outer wear. Anyway, I think he drove the stau-guy to wherever he was going. I'm sure they made it in good order.
Instead I'll turn my attention to a little thing known as a Volksmarch (VM)
. For those not familiar with this little wrinkle of German culture, the VM is an odd sort of social activity. It consists of paying to walk a distance of either 5K, 10K or 20K, stopping along the way to have your ticket stamped or whatever. For the price of admission, which is usually just a couple of bucks, you get not only to share the road with your fellow man, woman, child and dog, but you might get a little prize at the end (sometimes anyway). The real treat is the convivial atmosphere in the big beer halls afterward where everyone gets together, drinks a lot and eats just as much. It's fun. I will add though that the modern VM is largely just an activity of old people. You'll find nary a German youth participating and people like me and MTC were perhaps the youngest people walking that day.
So anyway, let me set it up. I've been on these before when I was a kid and my dad recommended I look them up before going back again. So I did, and there on the great world wide web I found one that was happening the day after my arrival in Germany and very near the village I was living in (a scant 5 km). I duly wrote down the address and even printed out a map before the leaving the states. In Germany I was essentially media dark the entire time, without even a phone as a source to the outside world, so no last ditch mapquest situation would help me. On the day of, we drove down to this place in the bustling (and by bustling I mean really small and quiet) village of Kronau. We drive right up to the address on the website and map and find... someone's house. Apparently the website had listed the organizer's address, which in the end was not at all where the walking begins. This was a problem. But being a small village I figured I could drive around and find someone taking part. Well I was right at least. After just a few minutes on the road I saw people walking in a long snake-like line
. I followed them, hopefully, towards their source. When the lines split directions, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and just ask. Provincial Germans of this type are usually the last holdouts in the English-learning business. Nevertheless, it's always worthwhile to ask (FYI, if I haven't said it already I don't speak German. I know words, but when confronted even with the words I know I usually clam up... don't know why cuz I'm good at the languages). I pulled my car up beside two walkers, rolled down the windows and opined, "Excuse me, but do you speak English?" The answer that came back to me was a bit of a surprise, as was the delivery, "Why yes, we speak English." The accent was unmistakable. Not only did they speak English, but they were certainly American and to be more specific they were from somewhere in the Midwest. Directions were given. As they walked away I noticed what had perhaps sub-consciously drawn me to them in the first place. Their jackets and backpacks all had the same name written on them, "Land's End." American indeed.
We eventually found the start of the VM, did our 5K (because really, if you don't have to do more why would you?), and settled down for our beer and brats and post-walk festivities. And my what festivities! Okay, actually there weren't really any festivities. But the beer was darn good and the slice of life that I witnessed was exceptional
. The highlights were two-fold in my opinion. First, there was a lovely gentleman who not only had a combover, but also a skullet with a combover. And not just any skullet with a combover, but a single strand combover with a skullet. This guy was absolutely brilliant. I of course took a picture, which is posted here, but it does him and his hair no justice. Amazing! The other big highlight was this man who had clearly pooped in his pants. And no all you doubters out there, he had not fallen in a mud. This was poop. Poop looks and smells like poop and this was certainly exactly that. I also snapped a picture as Mr. Poopy Pants was very close to MTC. I wanted to reach out with my finger and get a taste just for further verification and examination, but alas I was too slow and he moved away.
Anyway, while these events were not confined to a single day, they are certainly the first part of my German vacation. More to come, I assure you. For now, I'll leave you with this little note, Viel Spass!!!
In the last few hours, I've been embroiled in a family conflict. The root of this little tiff is, of all things, money. I hate money. I despise the fact that it ultimately rules such large parts of my life. The fact that I have to spend hours thinking about it and how it's affecting my relationship with people with whom I should have stronger bonds than anyone else just annoys me incredibly. So what did I decide to do it about it? I decided to write this story about my latest trip abroad, back to good old Germany. The reason I introduced the topic like this is that if this story has a bit of venom to it, please forgive me. I'm mad. In fact I'm boiling mad, and you know what, this tale of German woe is going to feel the brunt of that.