An American in Germany and Austria

Random stuff about Germany and Austria. Observations about 11 days into a 7 week sojourn.

1. For craft beer aficionados (aka Beer Snobs) the beer here is B-o-o-o-ring. On the other hand, they came up with the idea of adding lemonade and sparkling water to beer (called a Radler, as it’s popular for bicyclists). This is very, very refreshing on warm days — even when not cycling.  The general idea, called a Schorle, has been extended to wines too.  Very refreshing.

2. But the wine is mostly fantastic; they only ship the cr@ppy sweet sticky stuff to the US.

3. Most bathrooms have the light switch just outside the room. And usually down is ON and up is OFF. Comes in handy for pranking someone who’s pooping or plucking eyebrow/nose hairs.

4. The windows and doors, even the interior doors, are awesome. Very solid and the windows open two ways … but no sliders. America needs doors and windows like these…

EXCEPT, most hotels and zimmers require a key to exit the room. That’s right: they make it possible to lock yourself IN … in the event of an emergency (i.e. Not, oder Notfall).

5. No screens for windows. Surprisingly few insects.

6. No one understands you? No worries, there are so many dialects you have no chance except in large cities. In any case, any attempt at German is an immediate tip-off and they will begin trying their English. Such fun, viel Spaß. You can always just start with “Anglish, bitte” and you’re good to go.

7. In mountain and villages the speed limit is way too high for any sane person — this does not apply to any Autobahn. There, just try to not get in the way. These streets were laid out 500-1,000 years ago to either a) follow cow paths, or b) follow animal drawn wagon paths. Intersections are poorly signed and THANK GOD for GPS navigation.

8. Do not talk politics. They are mired in cr@p like we are. We had breakfast this morning with a Frenchman (named Gerard!) who supports Marine Le Pen — of the Front Nationale — a bright fellow and man of the world, retired engineer (speaks many more langusges than I) who gives many of the same reasons to support FN that Trump supporters do. Just smile and nod.

9. I don’t know how anyone poops here. Fruits and vegetables seem to be found only in grocery markets, and no one drinks any water. It’s all bread, cheese, sausages, meats, butter, beer and wine. Very few water fountains (or “bubblers” for Wisconsinites … who have strong Germanic heritage).

Austria is about to have re-run of an election held just this past May.  Norbert Hoffer, finalist for President, makes Donald Trump look like an angelic choirboy.  In the May election he recieved an alarming 49.65%.  He lost to a socialist-green, but the results were thrown out by the courts for election irregularities and failure to follow protocol.  Signs are up everywhere.  Hoffer is anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and sounds like an unrepentent Nazi (oops, Godwin’s Law). — These don’t necessarily all go together.

The upcoming election is essentially a preview of Austria’s own Brexit choice, which they have dubbed “Öxit”, a play on Austria’s real name: Österrreich. (For an English speaker, Ö sounds sort like “e” … sort of.)

10. The country girls are cuter in Austria than in Germany.

11. Eggs aren’t refrigerated.

12. Body elimination opportunities are much rarer than we are accustomed to. Be prepared to pay to use a “public” restroom.  You can save money by ggoing in with a friend or close companion.

13. Most bathrooms and restrooms don’t have fans … even if there are no windows.

14. Yes,I have issues with the processing of bodily waste. Draw your own additioial conclusions from all the poop and restroom observatioins.  I do believe that the Germans and Austrians have issues here also.

15. The German word “frei” doesn’t mean free, as an English speaker would normally think. Although that is the translatioini, it usually means “available” as in “Zimmer frei” (room available … at a Gasthaus, Penzion or Ferienwohnung), or “Ausfahrt frei”, or even “Hofausfahrt frei” (Stay out of the damn way, don’t even think of parking here so that people can get out of the exit or driveway!).

The words you are looking for are “kostenlos” and “gratis.” That describes stuff or services you don’t have to pay for.

16. In Austria and southern Germany (and Bavaria) get used to things being closed on Sundays. Most grocery stores, museums, etc. It’s a Catholic thing. Convenience stores, major restuarants, some cafes will be open, as will a few major groceries for a very few hours.

17. Don’t even think of air-conditioning in any builidng — even on the hottest days.  Best to just turn on a fan and tip a few Radlers or wine Schorle.

…. End transmission of random observations.


bis bald


Joe Girard (c) 2016

5 thoughts on “An American in Germany and Austria”

  1. Lee

    VERY educational — will read this over & over & save it for our next (hopefully) visit to Europe. At 80 y-o, that better be SOON. Thanks, Joe, for another great essay and here’s wishing you a safe trip and return home — so glad to know you…

  2. PH

    very interesting joe…especially the fecal matter elimination problems and the doors that lock you in. Both are very scary to me. Be careful over there!

  3. Carmen


    Obsessed by bathrooms or lack there of? I enjoyed reading your observations. Recently, my husband and I recently went on a road trip to Durango. We also went to the Four Corners National monument that is in a very isolated area. On our drive I could not wait to use the restroom so I drove to a closed information center and opened the driver’s side door and passenger door and went to the bathroom right there. First time my husband saw me go to the bathroom on the side of a road. Too bad you can’t do the same in Germany!

    Have a great time enjoy your adventure!


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