Thursday, December 15, 2005

As my newly aquired, German national pride-filled, church bell specialist friend told me, "I think Americans are a it comes to learning other languages", and he's absolutely right because of the simple fact that I get along just fine devolving back to a simpler (yet more universal) form of communication involving grunting and hand waving. I've learned that you can travel around successfully in Germany knowing only one or two German words, and if you don't want to eat anything along the way, it gets infinitely easier.

Things you might want to bring:
Miniature American flag or patch - Just to get it out of the way. Attach it to the front of your shirt where clerks can see it, so they skip unecessarily akward German congenialities and get right to the pointing.
"Big Pimper" T-shirt - Again, give them no reason to actually want to try and communicate with you verbally.
Large denomination bills - You'll see why in a minute.
A good pair of comfortable sneakers - Fast and unimpaired getaways are key here.

The Hbf:
The Hbf stands for Hauptgfn....Hatmanf...Hoffbanff...its a bus station. Not just any bus station mind you, its the bus station, at least for the city that you're in. In the words of a bad metaphor, its like a place where all busses come to a central station, stop, and then leave again. Here lies your first bypass to human interaction, the automated ticket machines (New with English!). From these yellow beauties you can buy a ticket anywhere, provided you can figure out the time, stop, location, bus number, direction, duration of validity and whether or not your teacup poodle is allowed to ride with you, all in the alloted time before they return you to the welcome screen. I like to buy two or three different kinds just to be sure.

The Christmas Market:
This should always be your first stop. If you're like me (you are following my guide aren't you?), it will have taken you no less than three hours to get to this location and it will be around the hour of lunch. This is fortunate for those travelers who like to consume gigantic sausages and alcohol because the dispensation of these two items is primarily what christmas markets are all about. I have for a period of a week now been searching for the wenches but have been disapointed in finding their lack of representation in these festivals. I'll keep you updated on any further progress on that front. Ordering food at these markets can be tricky, so you'll want to follow these directions very precisely. First of all, adjust your American flag according to counter height to assure that it is visible. Secondly, if there are any old people waiting patiently in line (there shouldn't be, this is Germany) you should abandon all notion of politeness and forcefully shove them to the ground. Don't worry, this is normal German custom as far as I can discern and I have not seen a single senior rebound with any real intention of violence. Once you have established yourself as the 'next person' (I hesitate to use that phrase as it has no German equivalent), you should then try and draw as much attention to your flag as possible. I like to pretend I'm scratching my nipple. After the service worker has clearly identified you as a foreigner, then you can proceed by mumbling something ending in "vurst" and making a gesture towards one of the fallic looking objects displayed in front of you. At this point I have found that it is best just to say 'yes' to everything that follows hereafter in order to keep things moving along until the cashier stares at you blankly, a sure sign that it is time to pay. You'll want to complete this transaction with nothing less than a 50 Euro bill just to be safe. This will not only prevent you from having to let them take the money from your billfold themselves but also you will have medium sized bills with which to buy postcards later on. Repeat this process for any combination of alcoholic Christmas beverages that you desire.

The Bite and Sprint:
You might be tempted to sit down at a bench or stand at one of the tables nearby, and while this seems like a leisurely way to enjoy the festive atmosphere, it could be disastrous. Tightly rolled sausages have a tendancy to shoot supersonic streams of steaming hot grease directly into the unblinking eyeballs of German rugby players, so you'll want to remain highly mobile.

The Cathedral:
Every Christmas Market is located at the doorsteps of one or more local cathedrals or churches. This is fortunate because not only does it provide a sanctuary from half blinded adrenaline junkies, it is also quite a breathtaking place to enjoy your food coma. Now is a good time to pray that your pursuer gets his other eye squeeged by some unwary tourist less informed than yourself.

The Museum:
If you're not exhausted yet from your leisurely trip into town, you might want to visit a museum. Every habitation, be it village or metropolis, has a historical museum. These museums offer an interesting look into the...well...history of the city. If you enjoy looking at the progression of maps through out various stages then these are exploratory goldmines filled with seemingly informative and well written plaques, often in German.


Anonymous K said...

Ah yes, the old "pay for everything with very large bills" trick. The one weak point in this strategy is that it depends on you being able to successfully use foreign ATMs. Not as easy when it's in a different language. I'm sure we've all been "that person" at the front of the ATM line who held things up for ten minutes to withdraw the equivalent of $5.00...

3:28 AM

Anonymous Nathan E. Milos said...

this is quite a good post I must say.

9:37 AM

Blogger Arr! said...

K - Well, the thing about the ATMs is that mine is D. She just gives me money and then I write down how much I owe her on a piece of scrap paper I keep in my pocket. This way she's not getting screwed on the wire transfer back home.

7:05 PM

Blogger d said...

yeah, I'm sure that scrap will make it through the next three weeks . . . ;)

7:36 PM

Blogger j said...

Tell all us travellers, Arr, of your experience in a German airport. This would be of great help to any future DOTDE subscribers who decide to take the trip. Most useful would be the "Sixth Grade Duck, Tuck, and Try to Escape" train maneuver that only an old sea tar like yourself would attempt, and succeed.

1:26 PM

Blogger Arr! said...

I'll get right on that.

6:13 PM

Blogger WittyName32 said...

I'm empowered by your bravery: a little American flag or a Big Pimper T-shirt. I've been whispering my whole time here. I've become a low talker. No. I'm not American. You just can't hear me right. If you did, you'd hear that all of this is in fluent Russian. Carry on.

5:46 PM

Blogger WittyName32 said...

An update. Before and After. Smiling in America, less so in Ukraine.

5:52 PM


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