Tripping Through the Alps
So here is one of those odd, slightly awkward, situations that you suddenly decided to make the most of. I was 17 but I was an older looking 17, and I guess I looked pretty confident so as my sister and I traveled throughout Bavaria it was assumed that we were a newly married couple. I can now see why they made the assumption. We had the same last name and being from the south I held the door open for her and carried her bags as any good southern boy has been taught.
Being frugal and siblings we often split plates in restaurants, this lead to being given reduced rates and free desserts. I had not caught on to what was happening at first, I was like, wow these folks are super nice, giving us discounts and all. I only caught on when we were given the deserts with heart shapes worked into it, one plate 2 utensils. At first my reaction was whoa, this is too weird, I had better correct this, then I thought, I did nothing to should have caused this assumption, and free is free. After all I would only embarrass these nice folks and I really liked free desserts and cheaper food.
I also discovered that Texas was very popular at least at the time. This discovery was completely unintentional, when asked where I was from I would proudly announce I was Texan which led to general back slapping and questions and friendlier people. My fellow Americans usually did not have quite the same reception. I attributed it to high name recognition, but deep down I knew the reason, Texas is just better…
We traveled the highways and byways of Bavaria, to the fairytale castles and Salzburg. Sleeping in railcars and a few train stations. I learned quickly not to mess with German Justice. In the US there is the assumption, innocent until proven guilty well in Germany its guilty until otherwise advised.
We were doing a long wait in Munich our last train came in late and our next train was the first out, so instead of getting a hotel or hostel for the 4-5 hours wait we would just wait at the station. Apparently this is a generally frowned upon arrangement but not strictly illegal. The assumption is that you are an immoderate american youth of uncouth manners sleeping it off on German public property.
About 3 am or what is commonly known as the witching hour I met a rather surly German officer that I will call Kurtz. By met I mean he walked up to where I was sleeping in a seated position on an uncomfortable bench. My sister elbowed me in the gut which was hardly necessary as Kurtz got my attention by being so close that his steel toes boot was touching my own shoe in manner that was designed to make me exceedingly uncomfortable. He was about 5’6” but looked like he was special forces. Kurtz spoke perfect English but spoke it sharply with a slight accent. Kurtz was not messing around when he “asked” for my passport bitte (please), the please thrown in as it was good form but not required.
What was more intimidating then Kurtz however was his two fellow officers, flanking him on either side. They made up for his stature and the some. I am a little over 6’ and they were easily a head taller. I did a quick assessment and realized that I was tired, exhausted really, and I had better comply with anything they asked, for the batons they were carrying at the ready, would not feel good. I had come to conclusion that no matter what Kurtz asked I would agree and say yes. That is what a sleep deprived mind does.
Kurtz: Are you drunk! (I would put a question mark but it did not sound like a question)
Me: (Brain jumps into gear and shouts…DON’T SAY YES) Um…I beg your pardon sir.
Kurtz: Have you been drinking
Me: No sir.
Kurtz: Are you high (makes gesture like smoking)
Me: (A little nervous as my voice I felt had gone up three octaves) No sir (overcompensating and dropping it too low)
All the while he is looking over my passport like I had just forged it and had done a poor job of it.
Kurtz: You can not sleep here, Ja.
Me: Sleep, wouldn’t think of it
Kurtz: Then why are you here?
Me: Um…I um…we (because I felt it wise to drag my sister into this for no real reason) are waiting for our train. (I suddenly felt like I was a POW who had just escaped and dragged a helpless citizen into the predicament hoping she would cover for me. And I knew I was about to be caught)
Kurtz: Tickets, Bitte
Me: Here you are officer – handing him over the ticket transfers
Kurtz: Hmm…it iz alright…be careful and have a nice trip
Overall, the people of Germany were extremely kind and welcoming. I was also impressed with their precision. If the train was running late by golly the engineer would speed up and if they were ahead of schedule the engineer would slow the whole darn train to a crawl to ensure it arrives precisely as scheduled. Stay tuned for the night mare ride into Italy brought to you courtesy of e coli….