Bring him in Sir, we’re not fussy who we serve here!”
Herzlich Willkommen im Gasthof Stern, ich bin hier in Göβweinstein endlich angekommen! Wow. I’m here and I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it, because like so many others it only feels like yesterday when I decided to read German at Uni, that the ‘year abroad’ was two years away, therefore did not warrant thinking about (I’m sure EVERYBODY agrees!). Now I’m sitting in my room, on my extended lunch-break (as I’m a newcomer, and a poor English boy), trying to adjust to my temporary home. There’s so much to say already, and even more for me to interpret, but I’ll try and hold your interest and fire the most interesting points at you :).
This is the quite picturesque view from my window (I was like ‘Yeah boy,’ when I showed Grace and her friend over Skype). I’m residing in Zimmer 29 on the 2nd floor of the hotel, and if I remember correctly there are around 50 rooms. The fun didn’t begin here however, oh no, it started yesterday at 4:30am when I got up to head to Gatwick! To my shock horror the flight (I was simmering with frustration inside), had been delayed by 3 hours and would be departing at 11am rather than at 8am. So for three hours I sat in departures feeling a) very tired, b) really sorry for myself, and c) like I wanted to shout at the baby that had been crying for 30 minutes non-stop. Things however got a lot better from there! On the plane I had the whole aisle to myself (luxury in terms of economy class), and a cheeky pilot called Heinrich Monch who was making jokes over intercom the whole way, so that cheered me up. When I touched down in Nürnberg (Noo-urn-berk, as Florian my counterpart says) I could smelly the efficiency and bratwurst in the air, proper German air. Florian kindly pointed out how the delay to my flight had caused him to miss a meeting, which made me feel really bad, but he said that it wasn’t my fault so I stopped sweating. For a couple of hours he took me round the city giving me a grand tour, but what struck me most however were the ‘Nur für Frauen’ (women only) spaces in the multi-storey carpark, an anti-rape measure apparently because the spaces are nearer to the exits.
Before I arrived in Germany, Florian, who’s 24, had already told me about his Audi and the speeds that he prefers to drive at. You’ll have to meet Florian yourself to understand just how funny he is (he does a great impression of a posh Englishman), but take my word for it when I say that his driving / rally skills are equally as good as his impressions. An average journey of 50 minutes between Nürnberg and Göβweinstein (according to AA Route Planner) was cut down by 20 minutes, in my opinion a new world record, by this Michael Schumacher / Colin McRae / Usain Bolt hybrid, as Florian explained to me the tendency of German men to be quite aggressive drivers. I had little evidence to argue with him from what I’d seen, but to be honest I’d had enough of travelling by then and was happy to get to the hotel! So, I arrived in the small Markt, dumped my luggage in my room, and went back downstairs to meet everybody. The first people to whom I was introduced were Florian’s parents Bernd (pronounced Bairnt) and Heike (Hi-kah), who own the hotel, Florian’s grandparents, and the other waiters / cooks. My co-waiters are: Christian, who’s 22 and makes everything to do with waitering look annoyingly easy, he’s also a big Bayern Munich fan. Anke, who’s probably about the same age and has a funny accent when she tries to speak English, and Steffan, who’s a bit older and can’t take his beer I’m lead to believe.
Aside from being introduced to my colleagues and various guests who were wondering why I was looking a bit gormless, Bernd and Florian treated me to a meal out in a restaurant in a nearby village called Püttenheim. We sat to eat our meal with some of their friends who we’d bumped into when we entered the restaurant (normally you’d just say hello and move on in England!), and that’s where I got a true flavour of just how hard it can be to understand Bavarians. For example, if I speak to Bernd, Florian, or Christian individually, then at the moment I can get by and have a good conversation, every now and then asking them to repeat or explain (or pretending I understand) something. However, when two or more Bavarian’s speak with each other, or more precisely two Franconian’s, these vague sentences that I’ve vaguely understood become a complete blur! They speak SO QUICKLY, and it doesn’t help that Hochdeutsch, what is standard German, is hardly spoken around here. To put it into context, imagine, as an Englishman, listening to a group of Welsh people speaking Welsh as fast as they can. Times that by 3 and you’ve pretty much got it :). Having said that, the food at the restaurant was delicious and I had a good old chin wag with some Germans, which made me feel a lot better!
The rest of the evening I spent settling in, getting to know my colleagues and Florian’s family. Just before I headed to bed Bernd reassured me that in a few months I’d be fluent in German (I wish!), and that I’ll be acting like a true Franconian. With that pleasant thought in mind and low on energy (it takes a lot out of you trying to speak another language all the time) I headed to bed. It was a strange feeling that night thinking that my year-abroad had begun, but slowly slowly I was getting used to the idea.
My next entry I’ll explain exactly what it’s like to 1) work as a waiter for the first time, 2) work as a waiter using a foreign language, 3) cope with the subtle yet important differences between waitering in England and Germany. P.S. Since I started writing this current entry a whole day has elapsed, and believe you me, there’s a lot to tell on the waiter front! So I’ll try and write about it tomorrow!
Lots of love to everybody, especially Grace and my family.