13.06.2009 18 °C
There is the possibility of attached danger in understanding a language partially and far from fully as we learned these past weeks in Germany. While standing at a park’s admission gate, the woman collecting the money looked at us and asked
“ Bist du normal “? -”Are you normal”?-. Now that was a loaded question and we were seriously contemplating the answer and decided it probably depended to whom this was asked about us. While pondering, my dad Theo answered for us with a sound “yes” which started us wondering about his answer before we finally learned what it was all about. It had been a simple request if we were eligible for any of the discounts, in this case the senior discount.
The danger of assumption and partial understanding. There is a Dutch proverb for this, freely translated here. “ One knows where the clocks hangs but has no clue where the clapper is”. This proved more upon entering the park called “ Garten der Sinne” . Garden of sin? Hmmm, since it looked like a botanical garden we were wondering if it was another form of calling it the garden of Eden? We were once again totally off in the translation and leaned its true name,” Garden of the senses” which it indeed was with its many fields of colorful flowers emitting wonderful fragrances while bees buzzed nearby and wind chimes sang throughout the gardens.
While it rained, at times heavily, every day during our last week in Germany it did not stop us from seeing the sights and it never slowed Theo and Inge down from showing us these. Like the Black Forest, Saarland, the Mosel and Eifel regions are equally a hikers paradise and we discovered great paths and long trekking trips for the future. Our most frequent passing travelers were cows heading back to the barns while their bells were clanging. On one of our late afternoon walks around the village and slowly heading up the hills for a view we encountered a hiker who pointed at my feet and announced that my footwear was not meant for walking. Indeed, for Germany it must have been an abnormal sight, a hiker with trekking poles wearing flip-flops. It was not until later we thought back on the Sherpas we encountered in Nepal. The porters hired there to carry the load and how for them the thin , flimsy flip-flops are a luxury since it is the one layer above the bare cold Himalayan grounds. I wonder how the Hawaiians would react being told that their every day wear is not suitable for walking.
Together with Inge we spent an afternoon in the local, public pool. While Merzig ‘s population count is around 10.000 , they have a pool many large American cities would drool over. Like the pools in most Northern European cities it is open year around and gives one an option of different swimming areas both inside and outside and separates serious lap swimmers from those who are there to play or for therapy with each pool giving the optimal temperature for the activity intended. We stayed mainly in the large , outdoor therapeutic pool where the temperature blended in with our skins and only the fresh, crisp breathing air was noticed. We were oblivious to the falling rain .
Surrounding us were the same hills we hiked the previous days with the small chapels visited a mere white dot. Normal for the people here but it was a treat for us and watching the children in their large pool with slides twisting in and outside the complex we thought back of the children we saw playing naked in India in puddles whose origin was questionable. Humor traveled with us at the pool when we realized what Tom was looking for, a separate men’s area to change clothes before he remembered he was in Europe where men, women and children alike are comfortable and without issues, together change and shower.
Inge and Theo, upon hearing how much I like pea soup, made us a pot even if pea soup is not the customary summer fare. As a thank you, we decided to cook once for them and made a shopping trip to Kaufland, a store where a Wal-Mart super center could get lost in, with the hope to find all that we needed to make a Mexican dinner. While Kaufland offers a lot, Mexican fare is not high on the German shopping list and so many substitutions were made that we wonder if maybe we should have called the dinner something else. Tom and I had great fun walking through the store, looking for items which could take the place of Ro-tel tomatoes, Dorito’s, salsa and margarita mix.
Tom has learned a new language here in Germany listening to Theo’s Dutch and Inge’s German and calls it Grutch! Tom is communicating well in his new spoken word.
During the rainy days and evenings we undertook a project we have procrastinated in and that was to sew the patches on our packs which we collected from the countries we have traveled through and it is now almost done. That sure feels good. During the frustrated sewing time, where we learned the purpose and use of thimbles we watched television and saw the Dutch National soccer team beat Iceland and Norway. The Orange fans can put the Razorback fans to shame with their display of team support. Tom enjoyed TV in Merzig since Theo prefers watching the Dutch channels which offer American shows in English with Dutch subtitles, while the German channels dub the English with their own language. Studies now reveal that the European countries where subtitles are used and the English heard aids the youth in their development of the English language.
While in the Black Forest we were introduced to a new jam made out of pine needles which of course are found in abundance there and processed as such has a great taste. Who would have thought ? In Italy we discovered how delicious fried zucchini blossoms are as appetizers.
After a week of rainy days the sun once again peeked around the clouds and we became aware on how much the Northern Europeans appreciate and enjoy these at times rare sunny spring/summer days and seek the outdoors even if it is only to sit on a terrace with a cold drink.
We are all at times guilty in the ease with which we declare only that which we are familiar with as normal.
Like beauty, normal is in the eye of the beholder.
Tomorrow morning we plan on picking up a rental car in Triers and slowly head further North and spend a couple of weeks in the Netherlands visiting family and familiarizing ourselves wiith memories created many years ago while making new ones.
Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland,
Danke Theo und Inge, es war sehr schon gewesen .
Tom and Els