November 19th, 2010

Arthur's Dragons

The Traveler Alone

I was going to write up a semi-serious post about how hard I've been ducking anxiety about this whole trip, including all last night on the plane and a large part of the day, but that's a serious post for another day. I'm in far better shape now, post nap, post learning the phrase "Ich spreche wenig Deutsche" (I speak LITTLE German), and post obtaining the internet. Traveling alone is hard; connectivity makes it easier.

I'm holed up in a pleasant hotel built on the cloister grounds of Hildegard's abbey (well, one of 'em; she founded two). I've bonded with my innkeeper, which makes me feel less lonely, too. Actually, he's wonderful, and copied for me a map of the original cloister (the hotel is on the cloister's old grounds), which is something I've been looking for!

Things I quite like about Germany:

Driving is FUN here. Traffic is so well regulated and the drivers are so good, that the break-neck speeds were not intimidating. People are impatient with hesitant driving (or bad driving), but you know, that's okay. I felt about a dozen times safer driving out of the Frankfurt airport than I do, say, on 696 heading out to Troy at home. I'm actually looking forward to the next Autobahn trip. My rental car is nothing to write home about, but it's tiny, and zippy thereby, so it's fine.

Coming out into the Rhine Valley was a revelatory experience not unlike the first time I saw the Yorkshire Dales. Only, with castles and monuments. Seriously, I came into the valley, and was like, "RHINE!" And it was all wide and pretty! I ended up in some crazy nature-preserve/orchard/cow pasture area, and walked around by the water, enjoying this happy accident, and thought THAT was cool before I drove onward to find this gorgeous, steep rocky hillside (does it qualify as a mountain?)--terraced, with puffs of white smoke billowing up in places, and dotted with a giant statue and a couple of castles. It was so randomly Gothick, and I totally fell in love.

I don't like not knowing the language. It bothers me far more than I'd have imagined, to be so hampered. I didn't think phrasebooks were so bad, but, no, they are. I wish I'd prepared more... but at the same time, I wasn't willing to prepare on a maybe, and that was the rub. And once I decided I was really coming over, I poured my concentration into Romanian, because there are fewer English speakers in Romania.

Hey, look, The IT Crowd in German! (Yes, I've had the TV on all evening while enjoying my connectivity, in hopes that I will absorb some German. I can pick up more than I could, which isn't saying much, and it's not helping me speak it, but oh, well. Es tut mir leid.) The thing I like most about all this dubbed TV is how close the voice actors match the original voices. It's stunningly good at times.

I was accosted by a little old lady in a parking garage today who went on a tirade in German--she was obviously confused about something, and I haltingly tried to tell her I didn't speak German, but I think instead I just asked if she spoke German, which she obviously did. She continued to pelt me with questions and observations while I stood there and stared at her, until my brain kicked into gear. I asked her in German if she spoke English. No! Well, a little, but no! (I understood this, at least, and she said it in German.) I asked her in French if she spoke French. "A little!" --she replied in German. We were both so flustered at this point, that the next conversation was a complete mishmash of English, French and German and I still have no idea what either of us actually said (except at one point she said, "stage 3" which actually helped clarify the whole situation). The gist of it was that she'd parked on level 3, and couldn't find her car. "C'est deux," I said, waving around us. The lightbulb went on over her head. She was on the wrong level! Her car was not missing!

I like seeing Heidi Klum advertising stuff in her native language. I don't know why.

I find it weird how many people who can identify me on sight as an American (or at least an English speaker)--and how many who can't. I would expect it to be all one way, but perhaps it's actually a learned skill to identify in that fashion, and not something that's so super-obvious.

Anyway, turns out the cable for my camera and my Kindle? Is just the cable for my Kindle. So no pics for now.

More later, and we can hope for more coherence at that time, as well!