Ahhhh, what a place to wake up after arriving at dusk the night before. It was Sunday, so the only food we had was what we could scrounge out of our bags. Thank you to Mrs Witkop for cooking for us before we left!
Our first foray into the little town was on a quiet Sunday afternoon. A gravel path leads you by the hand into town through a grassy field framed by Bavarian houses.
Everything seemed closed except for a packed ice cream place in the heart of town. We got in the busy line and tried to figure out the German names for the ice cream flavors before our turn to order arrived too soon. The kids were very eager to know if I’d be ordering for them at the counter. We found the Schoko Minze (Chocloate Mint) name flag sticking up out of a familiar flavor behind the glass and all four kids tumbled onto that choice and each other. The ice cream was delicious. We couldn’t read any of the signs on the tables in the packed outdoor cafe and seemed to be drawing quite a few stares. It was hard to tell if it was that no one else looked to have four kids in their family or Luke’s Star Wars shirt or the ice cream already dripping on our hands or our lack of German or that we were obviously not from there…
We found a small pond with picnic benches outside of a closed bistro to enjoy our tasty treat. The kids described how tough it was to not be able to talk to “anyone”. But there were fish in the pond and horses across the street to distract us all.
The closed stores of a sleepy Sunday afternoon allowed us to get the lay of the land with few people out and about. We attempted a biergarten for a meal and found the kitchen would not be open for a number of hours. I s’pose we are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
A coffee shop held our attention with its rolls, croissants and strong coffee and we sunned on the patio.
That night, we found our way to the local Oktoberfest near the Tennisplatz. You’ve gotta love how German is full of words stacked upon each other in a building block fashion. Tennisplatz and parkingplatz tell you what you need to know. A “Handschuh” is a glove. The expected, white Oktoberfest tent held benches of what looked to be locals in their dirndl dresses and liederhosen. Families, older people, huddled tables of teens, awkward preteens—they were all there. The oompah band took frequent breaks for people to talk and played loudly and proudly. It was a community scene more than a drunk fest. Our waitress was tolerant of our lack of German and helped us as much as she could in her limited English. I was happy to get my mitts on a large beer as were the kids with their Fantas. Wurst and kraut for the parents and roasted chicken for the kids. All the food was delicious and even better since we were famished by our late arrival and the closed Sunday kitchens. Once we found a decent English speaker we were able to wrangle some aluminum foil for the kids’ leftovers.
The kids found the playground outside as the alpenglow of a Bavarian Sunday evening descended on the scene. Note the game booth and the bald eagle adorning the shoot ‘em up game. A little Americana, Bavarian-style.
The kids spotted a booth selling sweets outside the tent. There was cotton candy and chocolate-covered berries amongst other delights. They pulled at our shirt sleeves with their eyes on the prize. I said whoever was brave enough to go order in German could have a 5 Euro bill. Their eyes got a little bigger and the pulling stopped for a second. Then Ana spoke up, “I’ll do it.” We ran through a quick rehearsal. Camille went with her for moral support. Ana recited her rehearsed order and the girl behind the counter reached for the desired Erdbeeren (chocolate-covered “strawberries”) on a stick. As soon as she got the goodies, Ana turned with a huge smile and raced towards us, forgetting her change, “I did it!”
The next day we made the grocery store expedition. They have the same grocery cart philosophy I’ve seen in France. You put a Euro in the cart’s handle to unlock the cart from its stack. When you return the cart, the slot unlocks and you can retrieve your Euro. It makes a lot of sense. The store’s aisles are tight for American standards. All four wheels on the smaller carts swivel to facilitate shoppers in navigating past each other.
Will had decided I needed some assistance in pushing the cart. We peeked our cart out into the main aisle and directly into the way of an oncoming shopper. We pulled the cart back and knocked off a jar of honey from the display case that crowded into the side aisle. The large jar crashed loudly to the floor and honey began to ooze all over the aisle. Hello, the Americans are here! I grabbed an employee and used Google translate to try and explain we needed a ‘cleanup on aisle 4’. We are living on Google Translate. They were gracious to assist and cleaned up our mess quickly.
Ordering our deli meat and cheese and getting it sliced was also a great exercise in humility. Travel truly helps keep you learning as you gesticulate and struggle to get your message across in the few German words you own. Good fun and wonderful for the kids to see the attempt. I employed the helpless look combined with the cheesy smile while pointing at the desired goody, “‘Dri’ hundred grams, bitte?” Pathetic I know, but it got the point across for the 300g I was ordering.
We returned to find Lisa on the other side of the store, about 20 feet away, surrounded by two clerks with confused looks on their faces. Lisa had translated “Half and Half” directly into German and they had no idea what she was talking about. The clerk had enlisted the help of another in translation and a few onlookers turned to enjoy the show. When Lisa explained it was cream for the coffee the clerk yelled out something that sounded like, “Ah, milch fur kaffee. Kaffeemilch!” She then led us to an end cap with a few “coffeemilks”. Each one was about 2/3 the size of a Coke can. Bavarians must not be big fans of coffee cream!