Wednesday, August 13, 2014

They do things differently here

05 June 2014, Wertach im Allgäu

Neighborhood pub in Prague
One of the great things about travel is getting to meet people from different lands, interact with them, and learn about them and their culture.  One of the favorite ways we experience and learn about people and places is by trying out new and sometimes unfamiliar local foods.  Dropping into a sidewalk café and ordering something off the menu by just pointing can lead to interesting discoveries.

Even though this is not our first adventure in this part of the world, we are still learning that things don’t work the way they do back home in Texas.   This was most obvious some years past when we went to the backwoods of Italy, spending a week in a little town far from the usual American tourist hangouts.  There was only one restaurant in the tiny village, and we never did find it open despite trying at different times for the week we were there.

Our view as we walk down into Wertach
Here in the Bavarian Alps, it is not quite so extreme, but there is still some need for adjustment on our part.  Many of the smaller shops are closed from 12-2 for lunch.  This hasn’t been much inconvenience for us since shopping isn’t our top priority.  Most restaurants are open all day, but we have discovered that between “lunch” and “dinner”, say 2-6, there may be only a bare-bones cold menu offered.  So long as you only want cold cuts, cheese and bread or such, no problem.  For us, our routine when traveling in Texas or some of the other United States, is to have a late breakfast and an early dinner around 5 or 6pm, skipping lunch altogether.  Here we are forced to become night owls, not eating dinner until 7pm or even later…horrors!  It is amazing that any of us poor Americans actually survive traveling through a world where the inhabitants just don’t know how things are supposed to be done!

We are now staying in a quiet, small town in southern Bavaria which is far removed from American infiltrations.  There are few here who are comfortable with speaking English, and our German certainly is lacking.  On our first full day in town we stopped in a Gasthaus for something to eat in the middle of the afternoon.  We were hungry and didn’t want to wait for the dinner service, so we pointed at a couple of items on the short "cold" menu.  They didn’t sound totally familiar, but I was hungry.   My wife ordered an open-faced ham & cheese sandwich.  When my order arrived, it turned out that the TellerSulz I asked for was thin-sliced pork roast with pickles & veggies covered with thin-sliced raw onions.
It was only when I moved some of the onions out of the way I discovered the entire meal was encased in gelatin.  Think headcheese and you'll be close.  Each of the ingredients was good and very tasty, but with the gelatin holding everything together, it was very much like eating cold pork covered with undercooked egg whites…every bite proved to be slimy.  I tried to scrape the gelatin from the pork to no avail.  All I could do was chase the slippery slices around the plate with a chunk of brown bread.  Even though each bite seemed to grow in size the more I chewed, I finally finished. 

A quick check of my dictionary after we got back to our condo confirmed I had really gotten what I ordered.  Since then I make a point of carrying it with me to avoid further embarrassments, even though we like to think we are semi-knowledgeable regarding German food.  I'd rather look like a tourist thumbing through the phrasebook, instead of blindly ordering something I'll regret and feel like a fool while eating.

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