Thoughts of Germany
Without question one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen is Germany. From Neuswanstein Castle in
Munich to the plains in the North to the beauty of my hometown while there, Wurzburg, with the Rezidenz, or Prince
Bishops Palace, one of the finest baroque palaces in all of Europe. The people were wonderful, the food was
exquisite and the beer (more on this later) was incredible. Some of the fondest memories of my life are from the
three years I spent there and I hope to spend a considerable part of the remainder of my life there.
My arrival there, as with arrivals at other destinations, was eye opening and educational. Since I was a young
Second Lieutenant I had not been out of college that long and the words of one of my favorite professors, who often
talked of the ways of Europeans, came back to me clearly. He often lectured on the puritanical views of Americans
and how we look down on the way in which certain things are allowed in other countries but we have, through
legislation of morality, made illegal. Although I liked him and enjoyed his classes, I disagreed with him. I am not
going to say that prostitution is a (morally) good thing, nor will I make the same argument for the use of illicit, in
America at least, drugs, but I have modified my thinking, or perhaps more correctly, my thinking has been modified
by observations made during my travels. I do not now believe that prostitution should be illegal, nor should the use
of many of the drugs that we now criminalize, but these things, like in much of Europe and Asia should be allowed
and monitored by the government and taxed accordingly. As for the prostitution part of this I believe it is as much an
issue of women’s rights as much as anything else. It is the woman’s body to do with as she wishes.
OK, having now dismounted my soapbox I shall continue talking about Germany.
I landed at the Frankfurt International Airport in early spring. Having lived the last six months in the Sonoran
Dessert, spent a week in Alabama then boarded an airplane for Germany I was not really dressed appropriately for
the weather difference. It was not really cold, but much cooler than I was prepared for having only brought summer
clothes. This was of course not going to stop me from getting out and experiencing the local culture and see the
sights. After all, there was a country full of Germans who needed to see me and welcome me to their country. I
owed it to them to let them meet me! Isn’t that what people the world over do after all, greet Americans with open
arms and thank them for all that the United States has done by way of making the world safe for democracy?
To my surprise no one really cared that I was American and although very nice and helpful, they did not seem the
lease bit impressed that I was an Army Officer here to protect them from the threat of imminent Soviet invasion. OK,
so I was naïve, and I didn’t really expect people to run out into the streets to welcome me, but I did expect, in some
silly way, for them to be, maybe impressed with my American-ness. Nope.
So, if I loved Germany so much why did I decide to write about it only after beginning to write stories inspired by my
time in Asia? First of all, though there are notable exceptions that I will point out, Germany and German culture, with
the exception of the different language and architecture, was very much like America. Yes, the have castles and
very old cobblestone roads and stone bridges that are older than most American cities, but the people themselves
seemed to share my values and behaved much in the way Americans behaved (with the notable exception of our
crime!). The countryside was much like what I grew up around with lots of green and water. Trees much like the
ones I had known in the Southeastern US were here, though they were often in perfect lines, having been replanted
after the massive deforestation of the past. The people all looked like me; in fact the only way a German could tell I
was American, if I wasn’t talking, was the way I dressed.
There were some things that were very different of course. There were the language differences which made for
some humorous moments. There were differences in the way our two cultures look at sex. For example there are
numerous red light districts not only in Germany but other European countries as well but this is the extreme
example. An example that is not so extreme is in the way that nudity is treated in Germany. On my very first day
there I went into the first market I could find to buy some toiletries and what did I see but a full size cardboard cutout
advertisement of a woman naked from the waste up.
One of the most important things that I took away from my time in Germany was what I learned about the importance
of being open to the way that people in other parts of the world live and of learning from them. I said, with no small
degree of facetiousness, earlier that I owed it to the German people to get out and let them meet me and that I was
there to make the world safe for democracy. Unfortunately there are many Americans who would say such things
with all seriousness; I have met some of them myself.
More to follow….
Will That Be for Here or to Go?
DISCLAIMER!! I found the Germany people to be wonderful people. I loved my time there and never had a single
negative experience with a German in three years of living there. I point this out because I want it understood that
anything I wrote here about “Nazis” was a joke. Why then include it if I feel someone could find it offensive?
Because, in my ignorance, that was sort of what I expected to see when I got to Germany. I had never met a
German before moving there and old Hogan’s Heroes re-runs constituted my education on all things German. Sad
I had been in Germany for almost a week and I had already gotten tired of Burger King.
You must understand that on most military installations there is a Burger King and until recent years that was often
the only place to eat besides the mess hall. It doesn't take long for eating Burger King faire for breakfast, lunch and
dinner to get OLD! I had reached that point.
I decided that since I had been in Germany for a week, it was time for me to venture out and taste some German
food. Of course there was the language barrier since I didn't speak a work of German, but I figured that I could point
at what I wanted then hand them a wad of German money and trust them to give me correct change.
Why can't my life be that simple???
So I left with plenty of time to walk around and find a suitable place to eat, but until I was actually hungry I couldn't
muster the nerve to actually want into a place. After I had gotten hungry and was willing to walk into a place, I saw
something that totally made me lose my nerve again.
I was just about to enter a Metzgerei, what I was later to learn was actually a butcher shop that was right beside a
bakerei, or a bakery. The problem is this: Although there were delightful smells coming from the backerei, and the
cuts of meat looked great in the Metzgerei, I saw something that was totally unacceptable for my sensitive, white
Anglo-Saxon southern boy palate: what was, in all likelihood a delicacy, but to me appeared to be a whole fish,
complete with eyes, on a bun. Suffice it to say, I kept walking!
Just as I was about to give up and go on back to post for Burger King I walked around the corner and what do I see
but the golden arches, that’s right sports fans, that Icon of American fine cuisine, McDonalds! Yes, there is still a
language barrier, but hell, this is McDonalds, there can't be a German name for BIG MAC can there??
So I go inside, wait in line for my chance to order and the nice lady looks at me and in a pleasant voice asked me in
German "may I take your order?", or maybe she said "show me zee papers Amerikaner, vee haff vays to make you
talk!", whatever it was that she said, she might as well have been speaking Martian to me, I would have understood
just as much.
Well, keep in mind that I was a recent graduate of the Military Intelligence Officers Basic Course and I considered my
self to be quite the keen observer of details (evidently I missed the most important detail I needed to know at this
point.....more to follow) and being the keen observer of detail I noticed that Germans, being the great people that
they are, decided to adopt the American word for Hamburger, and were kind enough to call it a Hamburger. Don't
bother me with facts like "hey dummy, Hamburger is a German word and your language is English NOT American.
As far as I am concerned the Germans are lucky we were kind enough to not require them to speak American after
we won WW II, and I don't speak English, I speak American, hell those people in England can't even speak good
American after we pulled their butts out of the fire in TWO WWs.
But I digress. So there I am, about to order my hamburgers and I realize that I might want something on the side with
that and, again due to my keen attention to detail, I realize that those “pommes frittes” things must be french fries
due to their relative price and position on the menu. Also, since I was hungry I decided that I needed a large order
of fries. Now, for those that might not know this, the Germans use the same alphabet we use, yes the American
alphabet, but just to be different they made a couple of changes just to show how smart they are. They added two
little dots over the "O" and the "U" and called it an umlaut and they have this really strange looking thing that looks
like a cursive, capital "B" right in the middle of all the lower case, block letters. Since the most expensive of each
thing had the word "große" beside it then I figured that "GROBBE" must mean large.
So picture me there in a strange land, more that just a little bit intimidated by the Nazi lady behind the counter, but
driven by the fact that I was hungry enough to eat the asshole out of a horse to ask for something from someone
who can't speak my language (remember what I said earlier about not noticing the most important detail?? Keep
that in mind for later).
So I look her in the eyes, and say in a very slow, very deliberate voice, with associated hand signals as if she is deaf
in addition to not being lucky enough to be born in the right country "I want two HAMBURGERS..." at this point I
remember someone telling me that unlike Americans who use the index finder to indicate 1, Germans use their
thumbs, meaning that my hand signal just indicated that I actually wanted three hamburgers instead of two (and yes,
I know I said I was hungry and only wanted to order two burgers, but considering what these people charge for cars, I
was afraid their burgers would cost as much as a month of my base pay so I was only ordering enough to avoid
The nice lady (I am beginning to NOT think of her as a Nazi at this point) smiled at me, nodded slowly as if she
understood the words that were coming out of my mouth. I next said "I want one GROBBE POMMES FRITTES", and
yes, I said it like it is spelled, not like it really sounds! Another smile and another head nod. OK so she isn't a Nazi
after all, maybe she is a nice person.
Finally I ask for "One GROBBE cola". Another thing they were kind enough to use the American word for. A third
smile a third head nod. This isn't so bad and maybe she was not even related to any Nazis.
Now, remember what I said about really paying attention to the important details? These people ALL speak
American! They just pretend not to when it is convenient for them! The nice lady looks me in the eyes and with the
same very slow, very deliberate voice I had used to place my order she pointed to the ground and said "WILL THAT
BE FOR HERE..." then pointed to the front door and asked "OR TO GO?"
YEP! NAZI! And a tricky one to boot! Worst kind of Nazi!