Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Germany was pretty much freaking me out last night. The plane landed in the last hours of Tuesday in a mostly-empty airport. I wasn't sure if the taxi driver knew where we were going but was sure he was going really fast in the nearly-no-visibility mist. Ausfahrt, printed on a sign, made me giggle (and if you don't know why, I'm not telling you - it'll only make me look bad). He dropped me off and nodded encouragingly when I looked dubiously at the small, unlit hallway so I waved, squared my shoulders and tugged my suitcase behind me over the brick path.

I blinked at the man who spoke a whole lot of words I didn't understand when I finally arrived at a reception desk. "Right," I finally said when he looked at me expantantly. "Hi. I'm Katie." And though that shouldn't have helped him at all, he handed the key card with my name scrawled on the holder and pointed me toward the actual entrance to the hotel (he had to explain twice - I didn't get why it was separate from the reception area) and bid me good night.

Unsure if it was the coffee I had at 3PM (or 12+3=15:00) in London or the stress of the I-suck-for-not-speaking-German trip, I realized I was wide awake. I took a shower and washed my hair. I put on lotion I'd taken from The Trafalgar Hotel, longing for it when I looked around my current room that, while nice, wasn't nearly as lovely. I tossed and turned, turned and tossed and can remember looking at the clock after 2:00. So when the trash collectors woke me up at 7, I was pretty much ready to write Munich off. When they continued to talk and make noise outside my first floor room, I was tired and cranky and terribly disappointed when I opened my eyes and wasn't in London (even though I wished that as hard as I could).

There was no means of making coffee in the room and the only television I could understand was CNN so I learned about Haiti and felt miserably guilty about being miserable in my charmed life. So I resolved to buck up and get dressed and wandered down to find coffee.

When a woman greeted me with a happy string of German words, I said good morning and asked if I could sit anywhere.

"Of course, madam," she said immediately and I decided that madam was much nicer than ma'am. Feeling a bit more hopeful when she set coffee before me, I sipped before going to fetch some breakfast. Visions of plump sausages and fluffy eggs dashed, I nonetheless enjoyed the bread and antipasto while greedily gulping coffee.

"You're American," a woman said with a hint of Boston in her voice and I smiled up at her from my seat. "Can I sit?" As she was already moving my coat aside and had settled her own coffee on the table, I nodded, deciding I rather liked her. So we chatted and she told me about her family while I finished my coffee and wished her luck on her shopping trip.

Feeling better once fed and caffeinated and having made a new friend, I smiled at my escort for today when he arrived and we set off to work. When we finished, early as expected, I dashed his plans at escaping babysitting duty and told him to take me downtown.

"I need to take pictures and look at pretty buildings," I insisted, though he'd instantly and manfully nodded in response to my demand. So I followed my colleague's example and bought a subway ticket and we chatted on the short trip. When we made our way back above ground, I caught my breath at the town hall and beamed at him.

"Perfect," I breathed, reaching in my jacket pocket where my camera waited. And throughout our walk, I chattered and snapped photos and asked him what signs said. I smiled and forgot that my feet hurt and my nose was cold and I was rather exhausted. "I'm so happy," I told him, patting his arm affectionately as we rode the train back to the rented car.

I have remembered only that one word that made me laugh so I decided to look it up once I got back to the hotel. It seems to mean an off-ramp or exit. Having through it was an actual place - some city or town - I smiled at the idea that it was a concept and wondered at the coincidence that I'd noticed it when I rather wanted to exit - in general - myself. So though I don't think Germany is going to be my favorite of the stops on this journey, I'm very glad I came.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I was 17 when we went to Germany... my sister and cousin were 14 -- we giggled a lot at "Ausfahrt" --- I remember Munich mostly because we couldn't manage to find the train station -- because the trains go underground. We needed to find a hotel and the train station is a good place to do so (this is WAY before wifi :) ). We drove around for hours --

FYI -- "Einbaum Strause" is "One way street" -- my mom was navigating while my aunt drove -- and a week or so into the trip, mom asked who "Einbaum" was...

Have a great trip!

rented life said...

Jealous. My only glipse of Germany was th3 scary airport as we changed planes to go to Turkey. Travel and time zones acan make it hard to really get into the groove to enjoy things, but looks like you did! Happy belated birthday!

Amelie said...

I would love to know what's so funny about Ausfahrt...
@inside: It's Einbahnstraße ;)

I'm glad you enjoyed the city anyway! Winter is not the best time to visit Germany, in my humble opinion, unless perhaps it is snowing...

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