Blog #10 Munich, Rome, Beijing, Deichelweg Germany

September 20, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Germany: Munich: Waiting in the Marienplatz to hear the glockenspiel, we hear loud shouting off to one side. “Raus Auslander! Heil Hitler” resounds off the enclosing walls. This, almost fifty years after the war! Police quickly close in on a man who is obviously drunk. A prank? A deep-seated resentment? Who knows the mystery of the human heart? Where were the police during the 1930’s?

Roman ForumItaly: Rome: Standing in the middle of the Forum early one morning, I see Cornelia looking into her guidebook. Perplexed. Why would someone look into a book when the actual thing is there in front of you? “I want to know what I’m looking at,” she said. Still perplexed.

China: Beijing: Passover Seder at a hotel “party room”: Once inside, we could not believe we were in China. Familiar prayers, complaints, kibitzing, food, kids running around unsupervised. Who taught the Chinese cooks to make gefiltefish?

Germany: Deichelweg: Visiting with Gabi and Norbert Wittmer, sharing supper at their home, we congratulated Gabi on a fine meal. “Thank you,” she said modestly. Norbert then reached out his arm and patted her on the back: “Ja! Our best horse,” he said. Taken a bit back at first, we laughed when we saw the twinkle in his eye. Apparently this was a favorite “joke” of his when guests complimented his wife. It was not Gabi’s! I’ve attempted to use the line a couple of times myself back home at our dinner table, but it usually falls flat. It’s not Cornelia’s favorite, either. Apropos the joys of translating idioms into another language, during the meal Cornelia asked if they wanted us to “knock off” the last of the salad. “Knock off?” they asked, puzzled. When we explained its meaning they laughed and enjoyed learning this new phrase. During breakfast the next morning, Norbert pointed at the platter of wursts and cheeses and proudly announced, “Let’s knock it out!” Our turn to chuckle — and another round of explanations. Oh, the idiocy of idioms in translation!

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Glimpses #9: Germany, Italy, Switzerland

September 15, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. The introduction and first two “Glimpses” are in the Blog uploaded on October 2, 2016

Germany: Cologne: While visiting a distinguished photographer at his sumptuous apartment, the walls covered with photographs of famous people and places covering who knows how many decades, we approach the elderly gentleman seated in his wheelchair as our introductory remarks are translated by a serious-faced woman, too young to be his wife, perhaps his attendant. The meeting had been arranged by the director of Amerika Haus, a cultural arm of the U.S. Government at which I had recently lectured on a book I had written about the Cologne-based etcher/painter Heinrich J. Jarczyk. The very formal introductions completed, Cornelia casually asked if we could take a photo. Astonished glances of consternation were quickly and silently exchanged between the famous photographer and his attendant. A photo? Within moments we had quickly realized the misunderstanding. Our request was interpreted as our taking one of his photographs from his walls and the agitation perhaps on deciding which one to give up to these upstart American visitors! When Cornelia held up her camera, however, smiles and sighs of relief suddenly lightened the room and the situation — ah, the joys of bumbling along in a foreign country.

Italy: Siena: Treated to the lauded Italian sense of style in the tiny, front show-window of a shoe store: a single shoe atop a piece of drapery folded just so. (There is a European saying: “The French, with their logic, should think of it; the Italians, with their style, should design it; the Germans, with their sense of order, should build It.”). Siena is a beautiful little city, full of beautiful women (I never saw so many in one place!), many with high heels and all their elegant finery zipping along on tiny Vespas.

Switzerland: Berne: Friday evening and we seek out a synagogue to see if we can attend services. Two exotic/ commonplace surprises: Cornelia had to sit in a separate location high up in a balcony at the rear, and the strange sense of familiarity as the German-speaking rabbi switched to the same ancient Hebrew prayers we hear at home.

Italy: Venice: On the way back to the train station, crossing over the Rialto Bridge with Gabi and Norbert — the setting sun off to our left just as we reached its crest. Lovely! (Note: Gaby and Norbert Witmer, friends who live in Deichelweg outside of Munich and whom we met through the Jarczyks; we took many trips with them through southern Germany and northern Italy).