Category Archives: Germany

Alsace’s Route du Vin, and “Grandmas Are Awesome”

This is not the first time I’ve said this, nor is it by any means the last. Despite living in a backwoods Bermuda triangle that seems to hold onto locals, I’ve met a number of amazing older women. Women who have lived in Zaïre. Women who moved to London without housing and spent two months hiding under a friend’s bed at night. Women who have bathed in a hot stream with Bjork (really!) and hiked the Camino de Santiago post-retirement.

And last weekend, women in their 80s who speak four languages and can tell you everything on earth about the history of wine, Alsace, and France.

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Useful Language Post is Useful

Three days from now I’ll be sitting in an uncomfortable EasyJet seat on the way to Madrid. I’m looking forward to the trip, but a little daunted by spending 10 days trying to speak Spanish because I hate going places and not being able to at least have a quick exchange in the native tongue.

To try to alleviate my stress, I tracked down free language cheat sheets for a bunch of languages I’d like to use. There’s a wealth of free short sheets for most languages with the Dummies series, though it hurts my pride to buy serial advice books. There are also basic traveler’s cheat sheets here.

For people like me who are waiting for the invention of the Babel fish, there are a bunch of easy pocket guides from Lonely Planet and Barclays.

French
Spanish
German
Italian
Portugese
Turkish
Polish
Filipino (Tagalog)

Fair warning: French creates duckface.

For my readers, I hope you might also look into the French for Dummies cheat sheet, or possibly the non-official French vocabulary and French Grammar if you’re ambitious. Living so close to Germany (and so many German assistants) means that I’m getting more and more interested in the country, so I’m hoping to learn some German too: quick phrases, basic German grammar, and German for dummies.

I know this is only the most basic of lists and I want to add to it. Suggestions?

Prost! (And Slainte!, and Cheers Mate!)

I think my entire body is still made up of sodium and barley. I was in Munich for less than 72 hours, and somehow managed to consume more than 6 liters of beer, at least 4 sausages (including one that was a ½ meter long), several sandwiches that were half meat, and various other things made entirely out of sugar and fat.

It was great.

The Rathaus (aka Town Hall) from St. Peter's

I travelled to Munich alone because I was coming from Paris, but also because various guidebooks said it would be easy to meet friendly people. The campground hostel I stayed in, sadly, was full of groups of people travelling together who were better for campfire entertainment. Read: biggest gathering of hippies and bums ever. Two Irish guys who were hitchhiking/busking across Europe told me that at some point they ate McDonald’s leftovers to survive.

Munich, however, is not for bums. Munich is one of the prettiest, most comfortable, calm cities I have had the pleasure to visit. It only takes 10 minutes of walking from the leiderhosen-packed avenues of Oktoberfest to find yourself on wide streets full of beautiful apartment buildings, small shops, corner biergartens and restaurants. It’s a flat city, so the spacious bike lanes were in heavy use.  I’d live there in a heartbeat. Even when I knew I should head back to find a seat in one of the beer tents, I just couldn’t seem to stop walking.

In the end, I did find a couple to sit with, an Australian farmer and an

That woman carried 11 liters. I'm amazed.

Irish bartender, who were jovial enough to land us plenty more “friends.” Well, everyone is pretty jovial in a beer tent. We learned all the toasts, stood on the tables, got hit on by old German and Austrian guys, and had a great time. The only thing I don’t understand is why “Sweet Caroline,” “Hey Jude” and a strange version of the “Hey Baby” song I know from Dirty Dancing are apparently usual Oktoberfest songs.

Another year, I’d love to go with an irrational number of friends, and see how many liters of beer we can make the waitress carry at once.