Trip reports can get long, and while I’m enjoying “live reporting” this trip, I recognize not everyone is interested. It also is a bit tiring to type for an hour every night Doogie Howser style. But what I’m sure everyone is interested in is my thoughts and observations about this wonderful country, Germany, after a week here! /sarcasm.
Couldn’t help it, sorry
Still, this family travels because it wants to experience different cultures, and blogging about it helps me process what I see, so please bear with me. Or, you know, ignore this post. Also, apologies for two list-type posts in a row – I should be better than that. But I’ve also been drinking a lot of Weissbier and Riesling, so…
1. Unsurprisingly, Germans speak English pretty well
It never ceases to impress me how well Europeans speak other languages, and Germans are no exception. In Brazil, it was pretty difficult getting around not knowing any Portugese (in fact I felt more helpless there than in any other country I’ve visited besides Japan). But here in Germany, even the people who say they only speak “a little” English speak more than enough to get their point across.
Example, bought a Riesling, was told “Drink cold.” This Riesling is cold and it is good. I can neither say the word “drink” or “cold” in German. Anyway, it’s a shame how on average Americans are not as adept with foreign languages as our European counterparts. I don’t remember anything I learned language wise in high school (OK, I took Latin, yes I’m a loser, but Gallia est omnia divisa in partes tres okay?). The only languages I know are from family use – Mandarin and Cantonese. Ooh I did learn one new German phrase. Everytime Germans see M passed out they smile and say “kaput”. Heh.
2. Germans take their hiking seriously
Somehow, I did not know this before I got here. I blame this on the toddler. The Bavarian Alps are all about hiking and everyone here is serious about it. I’ve seen people from the age of 6 to 60+ hiking these trails, and I’m talking the ones at the top not the easy trails at the bottom. One hike we took the other day even had stops for kids where they could read about a “mountain giant” – almost like an intro to hiking type thing.
There are also walking sticks to “borrow” at the top of most of the funiculars (gondolas) – I love the friendly hiking culture here.
Every single trail here is also very well marked. I’m more of a “hike on vacation” kind of guy, so I’ve never appreciated how most of the hikes I’ve done in the States are like, “hey, follow the white crosses on the trees even though there is no arrow!”. What can I say, I’m a n00b. Every single fork in the road I’ve seen here has explicit, clear signage and often has hike times as well. No ribbons stapled to trees. I am a fan.
3. Bavaria is a great place for families
Jess and I were remarking today that we could spend our full two and a half weeks here in Garmish-Partenkirchen and not run out of things to do. Aside from all the hiking that’s possible, there is so much to do within a one hour radius of almost anywhere you stay. You can visit Munich, you can visit a million little towns (each with something unique to offer), you can take walks around lakes, you can go boating on said lakes, etc. etc.
I wish M were older so I could force her to hike – I see so many families hiking with their six, ten, and sixteen year olds. Or you could come here in the winter, see the Christmas markets, and ski in amazing surrounds. The pace is nice and easy, perfect for families, and there are little to no mosquitos. If there were wineries close by, this place would be…one step greater than what I just described. But I’ll just settle for Weissbier.
4. Everything shuts down early here
One thing that differentiates this area from much of the rest of Europe (that we’ve visited) is all the stores close by 6 PM. If you walk down one of the main streets in Garmisch-Partenkirchen after 6 PM nothing is open except for the restaurants.
This includes tourist attractions; everything shuts down before 6. Kind of weird that everything is closed but the sun doesn’t set until after 9 PM. It’s a bit unfortunate that the funiculars shut down at around 530 PM because it’d be nice to experience dusk up on the summits – but I think the reason things shut down so early is…
5. Germans know how to relax
Somehow I had the impression that Germans, due to their extreme efficiency, probably weren’t good at relaxing. Obviously that was stupid since Germans take their beers so seriously but I’ve never claimed to be full of common sense. The reality is, after 5 PM or so, everyone is chillin’ around here.
I walked into a store thinking it was open, they were just smoking cigars, drinking beer, and eating some grub. Meanwhile Germans and tourists were sitting on picnic benches outside a restaurant drinking, eating, and listening to an accordion player. Cool vibe. So the stores and tourist attractions might close early, but the beer gardens and restaurants are still there for your enjoyment.
6. (Bonus) Austria is serious about their traffic violations
Couple things about driving in Austria.
1) You can’t drive on Austria motorways without buying a vignette sticker. Don’t get caught without one it’s like a 100 Euro fine.
2) They take their speed limits seriously. I’ve only seen one police car in seven days in Germany – I saw three in one hour driving through Austria. There was a literal speed trap where the speed limit dropped from 100 to 70 to 30 in what felt like 100 meters, with a cop on the end. Careful!
We’ve been having a great time in Germany thus far. I’m starting to really get a feel for the culture around here, at least I think I am! I’m almost disappointed we need to leave Garmisch-Partenkirchen soon, but I’m sure there are many more adventures ahead! Tomorrow I hope to write about what we’ve been doing the past few days – we’ve seen some pretty amazing sights!
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