Nicht Sprechen Sie Deutsches

Well, we spent the Irish bank holiday in Germany with the in-laws traveling around Frankfurt to the towns of Wurzberg, Veitshocheim, Heidelberg and back to Frankfurt. All in drei (3) days .

The in-laws, Vonnie and Earl, spent their first year of marriage in a little German town near Wurzberg called Veitschocheim. Earl, who was drafted in the Vietnam War in 1970 was stationed at Leighton Barraks in Wurzberg. For years, they have talked about their time in Germany and it was neat to finally see the little town we’ve heard so much about.

Although memories change very little in 35 years, their little town had changed quite a bit. It is now a cute little tourist town but not easily recognizable as the Veitschocheim they once knew. Having trouble finding the gasthaus they rented a room in long ago, we attempted to ask anyone of the 50 years or older persuasion if they might have lived in the area long enough to help us figure out which building it might be. “Sprechen sie Englisch?” Vonnie and Earl politely began asking. The wave of heads left to right let us know that most did not.

“A bit,” an older gentleman on a bike was finally able to answer. As Vonnie and Earl explained that they were trying to figure out where the guesthouse had once been, across the street from the butcher and down from the old woman who sold wine, the gentleman responded, in perfect English, that he was not sure himself but he knew a man they could pose their questions to with him acting as translator.

As we continued to speak to the man with the bike, we learned that he currently lived in nearby Wurzberg, but had lived in Canada and the US at different times and had published a few law books. Most folks called him Jerry, a nickname he took up in good fun as a reminder that being German in the 1940s doesn’t mean us “Gerry’s” are all bad.

Jerry’s “bit” of English got astoundingly better as he learned more about Earl’s past connections during the war to people and places they shared in common. The Hideout, for example, was a place frequented by Jerry as well as Vonnie & Earl during the ’70s.

Eventually, Jerry did find the fellow he thought could help Vonnie and Earl reconstruct their lost town and they were successful in doing so. As a gesture of thanks and to continue being audience to Jerry’s stories, we offered to buy him a bier and joined in the town’s “Pommes-Frites party*” that day.

Sadly, the enjoyable afternoon quickly advanced into evening, ending our time with Jerry. So, our danke and bitte schön’s exchanged, Jerry rode off to Wurzberg on his old bike and we in our rental car towards our next destination – Heidelberg.

I have a cousin who, along with his German wife, had lived in Heidelberg for 5 years. My nickname for them is the Meese (a long story, but it comes from the German maus). The Meese were kind enough to give us some tips on things to see in Heidelberg such as the castle, views from which Mark Twain claimed could be matched by none, “I have never enjoyed a view which had such a serene and satisfying charm about is as this one gives.” This was in 1878 and, having seen these views myself, I could be easily convinced that not much has changed in that regard.

While Germany was great fun, after 3 days of fast paced sightseeing and 5 plus hours of travel, I was looking forward to the trip’s conclusion and our safe arrival with the in-laws back to Dublin. As the young Irish fella in the seat across the aisle put it when our Ryanair flight finally landed, “Far feek sake, it’s good to be hume!”

True dat.

*Pommes-Frites party. This was just a festifal serving beer, wine, “pommes-frites” or french fries, and other fried food.







2 Responses to “Nicht Sprechen Sie Deutsches”

  1. Sylvana Says:

    I would like to go to Germany someday. Did you find that you would need someone who knew their way around and who spoke German (because I know neither).

  2. JoyLuck Says:

    Hi Sylvana,

    You should definitly go to Germany, it is well worth the trip. Even in a weekend there are so many great little towns to see. Most Germans do speak “a bit” of English, enough to get you by to be sure. And as for getting around. It was easy for us because the drive on the right side of the road, as we are used to in the US. Also, and I think this is key, rent a car with a GPS system. It is well worth any extra money that you might spend on it. In the last few years, GPS has really come along and it can tell where exactly where you are and kindly ask you to “make a legal U-turn” if you screw up. Usually, it has, not only towns, but points of interest and in many cases, hotels already programmed in. It made driving and exploring the countryside so much fun!!

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