Friday, October 21, 2011

Walking and Talking (trying)

Today we finished all of our business at the base before lunch, so we had the rest of the day to relax. We took a 6-mile walk on the bicycle paths around this village. It was such a nice day and it seems like everyone was outside walking, biking, or just talking to neighbors. There is a strong sense of community here. We live a couple miles away from what appears to be a genuine soccer club. From what I can tell, on Sundays these grown men play soccer and then retire to some sort of clubhouse where they finish drinking the weekend. It's great. I think America should do this more often (including the women, of course).

As we were walking we saw something in the sky that looked too small to be a plane and too large to be a bird. It was noiseless and I was beginning to think it was a European UFO when it suddenly and silently sailed above us and dipped into a field beyond some trees just ahead. It turned out to be a glider and we're assuming it was taking off from some kind of aviation training field nestled behind a yak farm. Just another Friday afternoon in Gillrath, I guess!

We worked up an appetite and decided to walk to the local Italian restaurant, Il Genio's. I brought along my German-English conversation pocket-guide because I hoped it would make me fluent while ordering. The waitress approached our table and greeted us. That went over well. Then she asked a question, which I assumed to be, "What would you like to drink?"
Hurriedly I replied, "Alt!"
Immediately she appeared baffled and repeated it questioningly, "....Alt?"
Then I became uncertain, worrying that I just ordered a drink that didn't exist. I uneasily replied, "Alt........?"
She hurried away and when she returned she slapped an alt down in front of me and gave my husband a traditional Bitburger. We were confused but thirsty, so it didn't really matter.

Unfortunately, I think I made the waitress nervous. She obviously didn't speak English and I'm clearly still bumbling my way through German but I didn't mean to terrify her. She avoided us like the plague for the rest of the dinner. She wouldn't even come back to take our table to take our order. I saw one of the Italian brothers gesture angrily toward us because he knew we were ready to order. She grimaced and shook her head slightly. He sighed and, in perfect English, asked, "What would you like?"

I was too deflated to try the native tongue again so I just pointed at the item number. We ordered another beer, this time a hefe weizen. I thought maybe that would make more sense than an alt. When we asked if we could have one he shrugged and said, "Why not?" The terrified waitress delivered the beers. She tiptoed over to our table and then heaved the beers down as if they were on fire. All throughout dinner I kept seeing people order drinks and none of them looked like the beers we were having. I guess there's some secret brew code we're missing.

The food was great. It's authentic and amazing. We were sat on the patio (enclosed and with heat lamps this time of year) and everyone was smoking around us. The smoke doesn't necessarily bother me but it was definitely different than eating at an American-Italian restaurant. I haven't seen a smoking section in years.

Families, groups of friends, and people on dates were dining around us. It's funny how the white noise of laughter and conversation sounds the same no matter where you are. I guess the language of food and fun is universal.

Tomorrow we'll be spending the day in Aachen. Hopefully my new camera will be here soon. Everything here is worthy of a photo and I want you to see it all!

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