brokenmellcifer who wrote up a little German-for-travel survival guide that worked way better for me than the ones I found online (I do not need a paragraph on how to get a mietwagon!). I promise that when I grouched that everyone who knew German seemed too busy being clever about it in their comments to throw a girl whose phrasebook has been lost a rope, I didn't have the intention of passively aggressing for help, I was just being cranky! But I was awfully glad to have it. This morning I said "Darf ich haben meine kaffe...mit ich...out there? [pointing at the lobby]" to a breakfast room attendent and I was very proud of myself. I'm sure it was still pidginy, but I'm getting better! And last night I said "Entschuldigung Sie, ich spreche keine Deutsche" to my taxi cab driver and then followed it up with "Ich VOLLEN sprechen Deutsche und ich lernen, aber..." and then I showed him the address of the hotel written in my book. He was duly charmed. And it beat the hell out of previous cab rides. And I think I'm going to be functional in basic walking-aroudn German by the end of the month for sure. SO THANK YOU GIRLHEART.
First, a shout-out to
Finally, a picture of delicious German food! Too bad my white balance is so off, but it will give you some proof that my day ended well last night– this is the “light” 7.50 Euro “evening plate”. What! My favorite thing was the Braunschweiger (which I actually recognized thanks to Daphne's comment on facebook - no clue on the name of the rest of them, I need a little visual guide to all the German meats, because there are like,
YesterdayI had my first (probably not the last, though let’s face it – three months is a long rope) misadventure. To wit: I got on the wrong train on my way out of Braunschweig. Oh yeah. Now, you may be thinking to yourself: oh, man, I thought she was smarter than that. At least I hope you are. But friends, here is the deal: I was supposed to get on a train that would go from Braunschweig to Magdeburg, then change and get on another train that goes to Erfurt. My train was supposed to leave at 3:10. I bought the ticket at 3:00. I busted over to the right platform (the numbers are huge) and it was about 3:05. A train was already there and waiting, and with five minutes before mine was to leave, I figured it had to be my baby. I got on and to be sure, asked the elderly chick and the young chick in the car: “Das ist für Magdeburg?” Jä, jä. OK then. I sat down for the 45 minute ride. But 45 minutes in, and there was no sign of Magdeburg. I didn’t get too worried because every time we passed a station the sign in the station said that the train was going to Magdeburg. Some day.
When I only had 10 minutes left to make my connection I asked the guy across the car from me (we were the only two on the train) if I was on the right train by showing him my ticket and saying “Das ist?” Nein, nein, he laughed. Somethingsomethingsomething SCHNELL, something NICHT SCHNELL bahahahaa!” which is how I figured out that I’d jumped on a slow train that happened to be headed to the same destination as the wicked fast train that would show up more or less the instant the slow one choo-chooed off. I know the word schnell because my friend Kathryn in Boston called her giant ancient Oldsmobile "DAS ROADBOOT" and liked to say "Das Roadboot ist schnell! Das Roadboot ist schööööen." Awesome.
When we got to Magdeburg the first thing I did was check the departures timetable to find out if there was another train out to Erfurt. One. In two hours. So I stopped and got a coffee and a donut in the train station cafeteria.
I had to try to get my ticket reissued so I didn’t have to pay for another one, and nobody at the ticket office there spoke any English at all, so I got out my little Langenschein and strung together various words until the lady either understood me or just kind of figured it out while I was saying things like “I have mistake! I am not having fast train in Braunschweig and number two train is now not in here.” while waving my ticket. But she did reissue it, which was nice of her. And then I had to wait an hour and a half for the train, which would be the last train out there from Magdeburg for a long time, and I made sure I was on it. I stood on the platform a long time. I took a bunch of pictures.
The train was packed. An old dude came up and started talking to me in German and I said I didn’t understand and didn’t speak German and he looked exasperated but I made the help yourself gesture to the other seats and he had a seat and we spread our luggage out (which was easy, I had a backpack, messenger bag, and suitcase, and he had three bags also) and got comfy. I started typing and noticed that he seemed to be looking at my laptop an awful lot. I got out my dictionary and looked up a word and said: “Däs ist argerlich?” Is this annoying? And he laughed and said something I didn’t understand at all (the big problem with venturing sentences in German? Is that then people answer you in German.) I erred on the side of caution and also laughed and just watched downloaded United States of Tara episodes instead of writing. It is good to not annoy your seatmate. And later on when the train made a big lurch he dove after my water bottle for me. He accidentally grabbed some guy´s foot instead of the bottle on the first attempt, and this cracked him up big time, and for nearly an hour after he'd suddenly start giggling and I knew that he was laughing about it again. I do that too. Sweet!
My lack of German is making this whole traveling across Germany and Vienna thing kind of predictably difficult and a little stressful in places, but I kind of suspect it’ll get better as I move further south (I love Munich and didn’t have any problems there - as long as people are patient and not immediately going into I HATE FURRINERS mode it's all good) and after actually screwing something up yesterdaz and managing a couple of mission critical conversations without any English, I’m starting to think of my little Langenscheit dictionary as a trusty critter. Much better than having a phrase book, considering that most of my action isn’t really phrasebooky. Thanks to Mel's crash course in essential German for travel, I expect to be able to actually get lunch out of a cranky old German lunch lady by the end of the week (previous attempt: FAIL, also attempt to get something from a deli after the archive one night: FAIL. The Braunschweigers are not a patient lot, and I think they might not be real crazy about Americans. On account of how we tried to wipe their city off the map. Literally. On the 14th and 15th of October 1944. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not sympathetic. Braunschweig was a Nazi capital. Munitions manufacturing, location of a camp called a Ausländerkinder-Pflegestätte in which thousands of children, 100,00-200,000 CHILDREN -- died. They were the imprisoned children of non-Aryan forced laborers. So you know what? I don't feel bad for Braunschweig, which was once a pretty evil place.
And now it is really, really, really ugly. It’s pretty much late 40s, early 50s architecture, but of a kind of bleak and blocky Eastern European variety. It seems like it’s all about what’s been lost. I wasn’t sad to get the hell out of there. Fairly depressing. Bye Braunschweig! Sorry I’m not sorry my country bombed the hell out of you back in the day of the Nazi!
I arrived at the hotel and checked into this room:
I took some pictures, got the internet sorted, ordered that vesperplatte from room service for dinner (lunch having been an awfully long time ago), and then realized that the noise I’d identified as someone vacuuming (a weird action at 10 pm, but whatevs) was in fact the elevator engine. Oh HELL no. I called down to the desk and said: give me another room, this one is right next to the elevators. And they were like SURE! And then they put me in Murder Central. You know. What they call it on CSI. Last room on the hallway, closest to the fire exits. Also, it has no internet access, it’s too far from the wireless point. I imagine my crappy choice of rooms is the ancillary price I’m paying for booking the room for 40 Euros a night instead of the 100+ they usually go for. The hotel actually seems to be pretty full despite it being low season. It’s very nice. I’m not that vexed by the WLAN non-access though – I have a ton of work to do, and I always get more done when it’s not *always* available – and I can access the internet from the bar, lobby, breakfast room, etc.
I’ll say this for murder central: it is QUIET. I snuggled into the feather duvet and pillows and slept for 9 straight hours. I haven’t slept so well in weeks.
Got up and came downstairs for breakfast. Ate 3 (three!) bowls of fruit salad – my whole body was like GIMME MORE THAT. Delicious coffee. Little plate of
cholesterol and mystery meat protein sausage and eggs. I’m planning on walking around for a few hours and then coming back to the hotel to catch up on work at the desk in my hotel.
Interesting room features:
Not just a bible. Also the teachings of Buddha!
These pillows in meine neue zimmer reminded me of fortune cookies and that whole “in bed” thing we used to suffix to the ends of the fortunes after we read them, when we were in high school. Does everyone do that, or was it just us?
There is a giant shopping mall inside this. Big huge deluxy shopping mall. Weird.
Hello my pretty:
My favorite thing about getting a manuscript from a non-archival library is that the librarians are impressed you can read them.
The architectural equivalent of whimsical German footwear:
In German libraries you can get GAMES - my dad would love this. My dad's collection of German board games is even bigger!
And also you can be scared to death by Germanic ART in the magazine room on the way to the manuscripts:
Guess what it is. No really! Guess!
Forgot to post this before - it's the German equivalent of Judge Judy. Isn't she adorable? She has a dimple just like my mom. In fact, this is pretty much what my mom would look like if she dyed her hair bright red and had a rounder face and was willing to wear reading glasses. But my mom has very definite ideas about older women who dye their hair bright red. I think it can be summarized as OH PLEASE.