Two Scenes to Music.

Last Wednesday, V’s boss invited us to a party for his department members and their families. It was held at a Naturfreundehaus, which I believe are restaurants located near hiking trails where people may stop for meals during their walks. While the party was to be outside, we were in the middle of a week of rainy days so inside we went. Upon entering, we were met with a sea of grey hair and the crashing waves of rowdy accordion music.

“I svear, thees is not typikal en Germany,” the boss’s girlfriend, T, informs us.

Not typical? I wonder. To me the scene looked straight out of a stereotypical comedy. Tables of senior citizens, sitting on benches, slurping up spätzle noodles and steins of beer, all while the American immigrants attempt to interpret the words of their heavily accented German hosts over the wacky music.

We engage in lots of conversations. T recommends the watching of American television shows in German to practice our listening (and she kindly and unexpectedly dropped off three seasons of Friends at our hotel the next day). We learn that Schwäbisch, the dialect spoken in our region of Southern Germany, is so different than Hochdeutsch (standard or high German), that people from other parts of Germany cannot understand some Swabian people, particularly the older folks. I think of places I’ve visited in the deep south of the United States and the difficulties of understanding twangy denizens. I wonder if there are icons of Schwäbisch people, the way cowboy hats draw boundary lines between east and west and grits between north and south at home.

When asked, we talk to V’s future co-workers about our impressions of the German people. “We think you’re efficient. From all the festivals and traveling, it seems like you really live. But we think that when you work, you work very hard.”

“Yaa, dats et. Vee vork vede haad…” V’s new department head says with a sly smile, swigging another sip of lager before slamming the mug down and laughing heartily.

– – – – –

On Sunday, there was kaffee und kuchen!

We have been most fortunately linked with a relocation specialist that suits us perfectly. E, a middle-aged mother of five, graciously invited us to a traditional festival in her hometown. She told us not to expect too much, just a small brass band and some local food. Always up for new opportunities and infrequently riddled by boredom (there is always something to learn or see), we accepted.

When we walked from E’s car to the tiny festival grounds, we heard something strangely familiar. What’s that song twenty or so musicians are belting out? Oh… Meatloaf’s I Would Do Anything For Love. Yes, that is exactly what we would expect at an archetypal folk fest. We were hysterical and I had to contain my urges to belt out the chorus.

We drank Radlers (beer and lemonade), shared schnitzel, potato salad, and pommes frites, and spent time speaking with E’s family. We learned the proper names of the items around us: biertisch (beer table), bierbank (beer bench), and bierzelt (beer tent). V attempted to speak to E’s mother-in-law, an older woman in a bright pink blazer and colorful scarf who spoke no English, only Swäbisch. A resident came and remarked that E always brings the international element, apparently having brought a different client to a previous town event. (It’s quite strange to sit with the realization that we are the international contingent now.) We listened to the multi-generational band alternate between classical songs and Que Sera, Sera and One Moment In Time.

Then, it was time to select cake.

Oh. My. God.

I am not sure how many people attended this festival, but it is very unlikely that there were over 150 people. The amount of cake could feed double that, easily. We learned that nearly every woman in town brings a cake to be shared. Our hosts encouraged us to select two slices each. V and I are constantly amazed at the portion size many people eat here, especially since we have heard for years that US portions are so large.

We took the cake to go, and after a brief walk around a small castle (that belonged to a recently deceased baron), we had our first Sunday Kaffee. Well, I drank tea, but I believe that still counts as participation. We spent a couple hours leisurely eating our pieces of cake (we cut the slices up so we could all try different types) and discussing German politics and education with E and two of her daughters.

On the drive back to the hotel, I looked at the farmland and the green, rolling hills behind them.

This is not a vacation.

I live here.

5 thoughts on “Two Scenes to Music.

  1. The coffee and cakes are indeed something to behold! I take photos just to let my eyes eat later what I can’t fit in at the time. I wish you all the luck in your adventures! xxx

  2. Hey Liz,

    I just went thru your blog… I have to admit I have quite a good image of what to expect. I really hope I won’t commit suicide over there =)

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