I took four years of German in high school and two more semesters in college. Less than a year after I stopped, I took a trip through central Europe – Hungary, Poland, the former East Germany and the erstwhile Czechoslovakia. I was able to get along reasonably well with a pastiche of German and English, weighted a bit differently for each country, and I survived. And that was it for my German-speaking…until June 2010 arrived.
A series of trains took us to Salzburg – overnight sleeper through Munich, then a regular inter-city train on to Austria. We were two nights in Salzburg, spending a lot of time walking around the old town and one afternoon off on a cruise around a lake in the Salzkammergut. There was a much more medieval feel there – all the old signs hanging out into narrow streets, churches with rudimentary onion domes signifying that we were on the old border between East and West. It was in Salzburg that Ma and Cousin Pa finally broke down and went to McDonalds for dinner. (In fairness, I went by there myself, but mainly to steal their free Wi-Fi for the price of one coffee – and later one Sprite, and later still 50 Euro cents for the pay toilet; what can I say, there was a lot of email to catch up on).
After that, there was Munich, and Neuschwanstein, and bits of Bavaria generally before heading to the train to Switzerland. Munich we didn’t see that much of – by then, we had established the pattern: city bus tour, country bus tour, and get pictures by the big landmark(s). It would have been interesting to see a little more of the town, but I think by then we were seriously hitting the wall, and Switzerland was perfectly timed: three days in the Berner Oberland during the low season, with crowds down to a minimum and very little to do other than sit, relax, enjoy the view and the cool temperatures.
After Switzerland, we stayed with friends outside Frankfurt for the final long weekend. And saw a couple of World Cup matches, including the surprising US draw and the not-at-all surprising shelling of Australia by our hosts. A good time was had by all, far as I can tell.
Lessons learned? That’s for another post…