Although my German truly is shit, we didn’t have any trouble communicating with people in Germany. We learned that if you ask someone if he speaks English and he says, “a little,” you can expect that person to be completely fluent with an impressive vocabulary. A “no,” means that the person will still endeavor to speak English to you after hearing your pathetic attempt at the language. And it really is pathetic. Even though English is a Germanic language, it is virtually impossible to recognize most words in German. One day at the grocery store I was ecstatic to note that the tarts that I wanted to cook for dinner had French and German cooking instructions. As previously stated I do not by any means speak French, but at least I can read it. Of course there are German words that are similar and tend to look like misspelled versions of their English counterparts: haus, pfann, schule, gut, etc. Adam noted that these words made it look as if all of the dumbest kids in school got together and started a country. (For a very funny take on the German language, see Appendix D of Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad. I was guffawing out loud in the bus station while reading it, much to Adam’s chagrin). That being said, we do desperately want to learn German and we’ll get on that as soon as we hablamos Espanol properly. For the time being, I came up with a good system to reply to any greeting. I simply smiled, gave a firm head nod, and made a noncommittal noise that sounded like I could have uttered the correct response. David Sedaris has a great story about getting through the days in France by saying nothing but “d’accord.” I tried to get by with lavish use of “bitte.”
Our next outing in the Berchtesgaden area was to Lake Konigssee (the O has an umlaut over it, but I don’t know how to type that). At first we were taken aback by how touristy it was. There was a huge parking lot for buses, a long street filled with souvenir and bratwurst vendors, and hundreds of people were swarming around the area. We quickly found out that the lake offered a boat trip and that most of the people, who tended to be on the elderly side, were taking advantage of this. So we bypassed the throngs of people waiting to be ferried around and took a walk further up the mountain to get a good view of the lake. Although the day had started out foggy and inauspicious, by the time we got to a good viewpoint the sun was shimmering on the lake and we watched what looked like miniature boats silently slip across the water.
The following day was another gorgeous day so we decided to walk to Obersalzberg and take a trip to Kehlsteinhaus, otherwise known as The Eagle’s Nest. This was built for Hitler as a present for his 50th birthday. First things first. Obersalzberg is exactly what it sounds like. It looks over the town of Salzburg which is in Austria very close to the German border. And you know what “over” means; it means “up.” So we climbed up, up, up from Berchtesgaden to the bus depot where you can either pay to take a bus to The Eagle’s Nest, or you can climb the rest of the way up. Which is far. We debated about what we should do.
On the way up on the bus we got a taste of the magnificent views that this particular piece of property offered. The Nazis may deserve to be despised by all of mankind forever for their horrible deeds, but their ability to pick a stellar spot for a dictator to get away from it all should at least be acknowledged.There really isn’t much to do at the Eagle’s Nest besides take in the view. Most of the place has been turned into a restaurant and there is a very small exhibit that contains some photos of the construction of the building. So although the panoramic view is unrivaled, you would be hard pressed to get any real historical sense of the area from going up there.
The day before we left Germany we popped over to Austria on the train and spent a few hours in Salzburg. Salzburg is so cute that you just want to put it in your pocket and take it home with you. The old town is located right next to the river and an imposing fortress high on a hill looks over the town.Salzburg is, of course, the birthplace of Mozart. You cannot hope to forget this as at every step you are reminded that anything in the world that you could think of to buy can be bought with Mozart’s picture on it. I expect that he would be quite tickled to find that you can buy Mozart bread and spread Mozart jam on it with a knife engraved with the Mozart name and likeness. We did not go into his birthplace which has been turned into a museum. I went last year and was disgusted that they had let a contemporary artist “redesign” the rooms. We did go to the fortress which is entertaining and a little scary since they have as part of their exhibition a marionette museum. It would be my worst nightmare to be stuck in there by myself after dark.
Finally we had to say goodbye to our little apartment in the alps. We left Berchtesgaden reluctantly, but it was time to start our journey toward the fatherland: Denmark.