Monday, October 20, 2008

The Agony of Germany Part I

Gosh, where to begin…? Snow White had made a trip through Germany in 1977 with a female athletic group for two months. She remembered the German people to be at that time, very warm and friendly, open and hospitable. The towns were all clean and people seemed happy and made the effort to communicate in English or other languages. Upon returning after 30 years, Germany for her, was filled with frustration, gouging parking costs, horribly expensive everything and finding places to eat where the menu was in something besides German was not a happening event except Baden-Baden and Munich. One would think that a big city such as Dusseldorf would be full of fun restaurants and places serving dinner past 7:30pm; not! Getting dinner in “on time” or better said, German-time was a serious issue, had it not been for the gallery-type malls with food courts, starvation was the name of the game. Yes, there were numerous street cafes but not for a serious meal and if you tried for one of those it was always Italian food. Around 5 pm one could always find people stuffing down large ice cream dishes and after taking in the scenery, one realizes there is a love affair extraordinaire with Italian food but German style of course (so do not expect exceptional Italian fare).

One of the worst meals was a steak house, American style (a franchise) serving the worst wine on the planet and steaks to boot. Good Lord, they do not have a clue about wine and should not even serve it in that country. Parking was another depressing issue; at most of the hotels it was € 17/day! Internet was 8-12 Euros/hour and, bottled water was 4 Euros for half liter. Not even in Italy does one pay that much for water unless you are in some of the ritzier spots.

Probably the worst offense in a way, was the lack of any other spoken language besides German; the unwillingness to show they might speak another language as well. All menus posted outside restaurants were in German of course, but not even a note in another language saying ask for international menus or have a second language underneath the German of the dishes offered. Even in smaller towns in Italy there is, at the very least, a second language on menus. OK, she understands the German pride thingy but in Europe all the countries are similar in that aspect and let’s face it folks, German is a very difficult language to master even for a German. Hum, interesting how few countries speak the language versus French for example. So is this a pride thing or is this part of the opening of the borders or is this a burnout on tourism?

There is no question that Germany has suffered greatly since the borders and walls went down and truly no other country except Germany could have absorbed the financial blow of taking on that extra weight. The country does not have that clean feel anymore of 30 years ago and the cities are dirty with trash and graffiti around, the attitude is distant and cold from those who serve you in eateries or hotels making one feel truly unwanted. The prices for a cruise on the Rhine were terribly expensive and the timetables impossible to figure out. An espresso anywhere was 4 Euros and a simple breakfast was 8 Euros! The fun portion of the trip was Munich and Monschau one being a nice city and the other being a quaint tourist town as well as, a short stay in Augsburg.

Spending the night in Augsburg was out of necessity and turned out to be a reasonable stop; the first good meal they had of German fare. Munich was still the easy and friendly town that she remembered except there were five times more the number of tourists than 30 years ago. The shopping is much better than in Dusseldorf, the food is fabulous and the eateries are fun, busy and friendly. Hum, go figure Munich is considered by many as that “southern town” full of “southerners!”

Monschau is an amazing jewel on the northwest edge of the country in Belgium. This town is nice in the summer, green and full of quaint stores, hotels and cafes but even better in the winter becoming very cozy with idyllic scenery and a Christmas market; a pretty winter wonderland. A day trip here to pick up the infamous mustards senfmuehle ground and created at the mustard mill in Monschau as well as a stop in the artisans barn where a multitude of shops are combined under one roof was on their plan that day. Here one can find great crystal and glass and fabulous carved winter scenes for Christmas. I hope we can make a trip back to this spot during the winter.

Another day trip took us to the outlets outside of Amsterdam where some of the better shopping can be found. Next door to the outlet center is a town where we ducked into a typical Dutch bar serving unbelievable weisbier. For true beer lovers hand job alley and weisbier, this is the way to go! Here at this tiny little bar in heavy Dutch style, we drank WeisBlanche, unfiltered almost white beer, which was ultra refreshing leaving on the tongue a hint of lemon. If you have never heard of this beer trust me it is time to try it anywhere in Germany although I found this Dutch version outstanding. In fact, all through Germany, we opted for weisbier unfortunately for those used to wine only, beer is not only filling at meals and outside of meal time, but the liquid continues to ferment in the stomach making life difficult when you need to fit back into your clothes. In fact, I was interested to learn what a “beer belly” is; those big pregnant men you see all over the country. Beer once it is ingested goes into the stomach and continues to ferment and if you tend to drink lots of the stuff, you are in constant fermentation and thus, the big belly (or in other words, full of gas)!! LOL
A few comments on the “autobahn,” which she had always heard was so exceptional…let me tell you after driving the autostrada in Italy in a downpour and being able to see, she can only say the Germans and their technology missed on this one; the Italians have patented an phenomenal asphalt for rain. The road in Italy may not be super flat as they are in Germany but when it rains you can see and the noise of the tires on the road is much less as well as, the fact they pour the road in squares so there is a constant, “thunk, thunk.” Since the Germans love to drive their monster machines fast, when it rains they continue with that same love affair and since you cannot see a damn thing while raining on the autobahn, “me thinks” that Italy has a lot more pregi than we give it credit for. Of course, the Germans drive mostly German cars and all big and mostly Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes. Granted they have a hell of a lot more space than Italy as a country but folks, what are the Germans and Americans going to do without petrol for their monster cars and fast driving?????


Ptr_leeds said...

the rest of europe will love your comments on germany!

Snow White said...

Ah hell ptr, people we met while finishing the vacation in Italy said the same thing. I was seriously ready to leave the place the second day in D'dorf. Although I loved the orderly driving habits and actual LANES to drive in!!!! Such a shock from insane Italy. ;-) giggle