I’m still being ignored at work this week. (I’m on a sabbatical at the European Southern Observatory in Garching, just outside of Munich.) But there is a reason for this. I came the wrong time of year.
First, no one was here because they had all gone on holiday. Then, this week, everyone is here, but they all had annual proposals for telescope time due at noon today. No one wanted to waste time talking to me. And, of course, the announcement that I was here, which was suppose to go out to the entire staff, had not gone out, so no one really knows I am here, except the folks who come to the 11:00 coffee. One thing and another, basically.
But, I’m not complaining. I’ve been using the time to practice my rock climbing skills on the steep stairs in my apartment and I’ve been working on my German.
I try to work on the German language at least an hour or so every day. But, listening to the tapes on the walk back and forth to the Observatory isn’t working out as well as I hoped, mostly because it is a lot of gear to carry back and forth. By the time I find the CD player, I’ve lost my glasses again, and by the time I’ve found them, the earphones have walked off. If I get out the door with my keys in my pocket it’s a miracle. I’ve switched now to the German word flash cards my son, Brian, gave me for my birthday before I left Colorado.
The flash cards come in a box about four inches wide and maybe a foot long. There are a thousand cards. I packed them at the bottom of my big backpack and it caused me a problem at the airport. Apparently, the shape matched a profile for plastique explosive, because my bag got flagged for a hand inspection, which I had to wait around for. Getting the stuff out of my bag wasn’t a problem, but getting it all back inwas a problem. (Well, yeah, it took me three hours to pack it!) As a result, I ended up missing my plane and had to take a later one, which still got me to Germany on time, thank goodness.
I put a handful of cards in my pocket when I leave the apartment in the morning, and work on them on my way to and from the Observatory . The other day I laughed out loud when I found out the word for stairs is die Treppe, which I mispronounce, of course, as die Trip. I guess so!
I’m getting a little more confident about going up and down these stairs to my loft, but I still treat them with great respect and PAY ATTENTION when I travel them. But what I’ve noticed from discretely looking into people’s open windows as I pass, is that steep stairs are the norm in Germany. And it stands to reason, I guess. Houses are a lot smaller in Germany than they are in the US. I would say people, in general, have about half as much space as we do. So no one wants to waste premium real estate for a set of leisurely stairs. They want them in as small a space as possible.
But I wouldn’t make it as a parent if I had to watch my children learn to negotiate stairs like this. I saw lots of tumbles when my kids were growing up, but on carpeted stairs where the damage was minimized. A fall on these, and you would be picking up pieces of children, no doubt.
On my way to and from work I often pass the King Ludwig II Hotel. This was where I was originally suppose to stay in Garching, until an apartment opened up at the last minute. It looks like a charming little place, and I’ve been noticing a sign out front advertising Frühstück, or breakfast.
I’ve been bewildered by the number and types of sausages in Germany, and a little intimidated, to tell you the truth, to order something from a butcher shop, or even the deli-counter at the store. I don’t know whether the sausages should be cooked, or eaten raw, or even–really–the difference between a bratwurst and a liverwurst. The only thing I know for sure, given my track record, is there is an excellent chance I’m going to get it wrong. I thought maybe a well laid out breakfast spread would allay my fears and perhaps educate me on the lay of the sausage land, as it were.
So today I took my dictionary to the Hotel to identify the words on the rest of the sign, to see if there was something there I might want to know before I marched in and made a fool of myself. The sign reads “Sie bei uns gemütlich und entspannt.” I thought I had seen gemütlich before, although I couldn’t remember what it meant, but entspannt was new to me. Oh yes, of course, gemütlich means cozy. So, “In a cozy something, something atmosphere,” that kind of thing. Let’s see, entspannt. Humm. My dictionary defines it as tense. Can that be right? In a cozy and tense atmosphere. Well, it would be, if I were ordering sausages, wouldn’t it?
Somehow, as strange as Germany is to me, I don’t think that is right.
So, it must be my dictionary. And now I see where all my troubles lay. This dictionary is broken! No wonder I can’t pronounce anything correctly. Probably all the pronunciation tables are wrong, too. This explains so much!