Germany Part 7: Words for the Wise

4 08 2012

Germany 2012 360       I tell myself I won’t forget.  I won’t forget the fields of wind turbines glinting in occasional sunshine as they slowly spin, each producing enough electricity for 50,000 households.  I won’t forget the steeply pitched, red or brown tile roofs on the houses as we pass through the towns, or the small garden plots each with their own small house crammed close together on the outskirts of every town .  Or the disembodied voice declaring ”  Nächster halt, Elmshorn” as we near the next station.   And I certainly won’t forget to make seat reservations next time we are traveling by train in Europe.

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Thatched roofs are not uncommon.

The first two legs of our trip went smoothly.  Then came Hanover.  Apparently we weren’t the only ones thinking of traveling by train…It was crowded, with people pushing through narrow aisles from both directions.  And apparently we were the only ones to travel without seat reservations.  We pushed our way through two cars until we came to the end of the train and had to turn around.  Finally someone took pity on us and pointed out two empty seats…at opposite ends of the car.  And of course my seat- mate took up well more than his half.  But anything can be endured for an hour, and soon we were in Bremen.

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The statue that memorializes the story of the Bremen Town Musicians

A short search found us at the Gasthaus Backpacker Hostel/ Hotel.  Where they had no record of our reservation.  They didn’t have any room in the hostel, but did have one in the hotel.  Of course, it was for twice the price. By this point, though, I didn’t quibble about costs, which is how we came to reside in Paris.  Other rooms were named Rome, Istanbul, London, and Amsterdam.  It was a small room but clean, quiet, and cheerfully decorated.  And there was no innkeeper lurking around every time you opened the door.

We left our bags and went exploring.  Another advantage to this hotel is that it is close to the Altstadt, or old city.  I find myself picking up a few German words here and there.  For a long time, for example, I marveled at how many streets were named einbahnstraße. Now, I know that means “one way street.” It’s good to know a little German (unless of course, he is your quirky innkeeper).

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    We made our way to the first sight, a Dutch windmill set on a red flowered hill by the canal.  Schön.  Which means beautiful.  We walked around the marketplace.  Since it was Saturday, venders were selling fruits, veggies, meats, and many other treats.  It was fun just to see what everybody was selling.  We saw some beautiful shiny red berries which we identified as currants, but passed then up, remembering the consequences of eating too many when we bought some several years ago in Zurich.   We watched street performers play the accordion and the violin, and break-dance.  Annalise had a hard time herding me to our next spot as my head kept swiveling at all the sights along the way.

We walked through Schnoor, which means pearl, for the string of small shops lining an impossibly narrow street like a string of pearls.  We went on a tour through the Rathaus, which doesn’t mean what you would think, or maybe it does:  city hall.  This particular Rathaus was quite old (1200s) and quite ornate.   We learned about the key to the city, which can be found everywhere, even on sewer covers, and has a story behind it that is important to the city but didn’t stick in my overloaded brain.  Germany 2012 455

This statue perfectly describes how I felt in this narrow street choked with shoppers.

The ratskeller, or basement, housed Germany ‘s oldest barrel of wine, dating back to the 1600s.  We saw four brides:  three weddings and one couple getting photos made.  ‘Twas the season!   We walked down Bucher Straße  (book street?  or maybe Mr. Bucher’s street?) to the Haus des Glockenspiels (easy, house of the glockenspiels), where at 5:00 the bells started ringing and a side wall spun open revealing  in turn different explorers and inventors important to transportation.

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The rounded section showing “Leif” rotates to show different scenes.

Who thinks of these things?  So many things to remember; I don’t want to forget a thing.
Day 12, Sunday,  July1
Gotta love these days we don’t travel!  We slept in a bit and walked around the deserted marketplace, it being Sunday morning.  Hunger finally drove us into a Starbucks for breakfast.  This was our first time in an American chain ( TK Maxx didn’t count) , although they are everywhere: Burger King, KFC, McDonalds…  We’ve been eating at bakeries  mostly.  Annalise won’t eat meat so most traditional German food is verboten  (self- imposed, of course) .

Here is just a smattering of the German I’ve picked up: ausgang und eingang ( exit and entrance ) , geöffnet (open), numbers 1-10 ( I can’t spell them, though) , schloss ( castle) , and  WC ( restroom) .  I’ve been able to get around fairly well knowing only these words.  And of course, having a German – speaking guide doesn’t hurt either.Germany 2012 515


We poked our heads in a few shops that were open and then watched a street performance of The Bremen Town Musicians.   We watched a soap box derby and i couldn’t help thinking how much more appropriate this activity was than some my students participate in, namely motocross racing.

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The derby on the left was decorated as a bed, driven by a man in a long sleeping cap. He lost.

We bought some drinks and food and went back to the hotel.  I sampled a Beck ‘s beer ( sorry folks, it was non alcoholic) and was not impressed. Annalise was more impressed with hers.  Beck’s is brewed right here in Bremen, although the tour was closed today.

After a short nap, we hit the streets again.  We had a delightful walk through the Dom (cathedral) of St. Peter.  So, so beautiful and awe- inspiring.  On the way back we spotted some booksellers on the sidewalk, so I picked up some antique books for only a Euro a piece.  Can’t have too many words!