Learning a foreign language has an interesting way of making one sympathetic to babies and their plight with a first language. When Jonathan and I went to Italy in May, all I seemed able to say confidently was "Prego" and "Grazia"--so much so that they unintentionally became a regular part of my vocab when we got back to the UK. Now I can tell you that the same thing happens with German. Jonathan and I just recently got back from traveling through Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Frankfurt, Wurzburg, Steinach, Rothenburg, Munich and Tubingen in Germany with our friends Brooke and Jamie, and when we got back I found myself disillusioned with fundamental communication. Danke and bitte were the closest responses on my lips, but every time the flight attendant offered me a drink or someone accommodated themselves for me I had to pause for a second to remember what country I was in. No wonder the flight attendant thought Jonathan and I were German. (But it doesn't explain why he later decided that we were South African. . . couldn't have been our tonal inflections that hinted towards 'Soth Of-ree-ken,' so I think it's officially safe to say that Jonathan and I no longer have an American appearance. We've assimilated!)
It would be impossible to adequately describe the grandeur of our Eurotrip, mostly because you have to know Brooke and Jamie and Jonathan personally to know that the four of us + hosteling in Europe = a perfect balance of scheduled unpredictability. It's hard to find friends you want to hang out with on a daily, weekly, even monthly basis. But to have friends that you want to spend day and night with in foreign countries is fairly miraculous. Welcome to miracle. We were amazed at how well we worked together. We discovered that the successfulness of a big trip like this one is reliant on MANY factors, including:
navigation skills and decision making--especially with foreign train schedules and maps
ability to recover from Munich beer tours ("Prost" to Jonathan for winning the best beer drinker award! Which only means he was able to drink beer and hold it and not run into stationary objects. He even won a stein for his skills)
a strong stomach for waking up in coed hostel rooms with a view of the guy across from you not wearing enough clothes (won't go into detail for those of you without strong stomachs)
ability to remain calm when mysterious black bugs fall from the sky and appear all over your clothes
skills to manhandle four pieces of luggage and a day pack slung on your front while the rest of your posse walks behind you luggage free laughing and taking pictures
fearlessness of bees--especially for the only male member of the group. . .
in Amsterdam: tolerance of weed waftings
discreetness required to video hardy German men singing and swaying to "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" in restaurant
successful face and name placing when the hostel clerk turns out to be the son of a pastor you worked with in Kenya last summer (Brooke)
an appreciation for heavy mustard on brats
BYOW rule in Germany: Bring Your Own Water unless you want to pay heaps of money for table water. Your money goes farther with beer
handy umbrellas and raincoats
squeezability of self and luggage in lifts
a taste for gelato
fast recovery from bleeding lip caused by Jonathan
ability to dodge train and tram doors when misdirected by someone who shall remain nameless (it starts with an 'A' and ends with an 'my')
Some of my favorite highlights (besides the mysterious bugs, of course) were the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House (definitely recommend it) and a canal boat trip--all in Amsterdam; our stay in the medieval, walled city of Rothenburg on the Romantic Road, Dachau concentration camp near Munich, mid-day stops at fruit stands for snacks (the fruit is so flavorful in Europe!) German streusel in the nowhere town of Steinach, and of course, eating and laughing and sleeping and seeing Europe with good friends. Nothing compares!
Now Brooke and Jamie are on a plane back to the States, and the marathon continues tomorrow when my parents arrive at Heathrow. They'll be here until the 8th to see London, Germany, Austria, France and then back to London to visit Ireland with Jonathan and I. More to come . . .