A BUNCH OF RANDOM STUFF I LEARNED IN EUROPE
by Todd Hartley
Astute readers of this column – both of them – may have noticed over the last couple of weeks that I’ve been on holiday in Europe (that’s what Europeans call going on vacation). I’m back now, and I brought with me a few tidbits and observations about life across the pond that I will now share with you, whether you’re interested in them or not.
• I was told once by a very intelligent lady from Munich that “the Bavarian body needs more fat.” I have no idea if such a controversial statement is true, but whether they need more fat or not, Bavarians are definitely getting it. If there’s somewhere else on the planet that has come up with more ways of preparing pig flesh than Bavaria, I’ve yet to go there. And if you think I consider that a strike against Bavaria, you clearly don’t know anything about me.
• Speaking of food, one of my favorite dishes, chicken fried steak, can’t be found in Germany. I find it more or less inconceivable that Germans haven’t stumbled upon such a concoction by themselves. All chicken fried steak is, basically, is schnitzel in heavy cream sauce (or gravy that serves the same purpose). Most every dish I sampled in Germany came smothered in some kind of cream sauce, and schnitzel is a staple of the Bavarian diet. How could Germans not have combined the two at some point in the past? If they only knew what they’re missing.
• In last week’s column, I sang the praises of Bavarian beer gardens, which truly are a marvelous thing. But I think beer gardens are being diluted somewhat by their ubiquity. Apparently, in Bavaria, if a restaurant serves beer and has a picnic table, it’s a beer garden. Germans ought to require a real beer garden to have at least a dozen tables before it can call itself one. Anything less should be labeled what it is: a restaurant with limited outdoor seating.
• Munich is a wonderful city with many beautiful, historically significant churches. But all those churches have bells, and all those bells are rung around the clock by seemingly overzealous Quasimodos. I suppose if one lived there, one might get used to the noise, but to a visitor, the resulting din is less a quaint tradition than a deafening impediment to a good night’s sleep.
• I didn’t realize this until visiting the Bavarian alps, but evidently Austrians aren’t just German mountain folk. If you make the mistake of assuming they are and saying as much, Germans will be very quick to tell you you’re wrong. Trust me on this one.
• Traditional Bavarian outfits – lederhosen and dirndls – are making a comeback. Um, OK. Have fun with that trend, Germany.
• Germany doesn’t hate France. Who knew?
• England doesn’t really hate France either, but every British admiral of note rose to fame by battling Napoleon. Seriously, if it weren’t for Napoleon, London would have half as many statues and memorials as it does today.
• Speaking of statues, there’s a huge one of Abraham Lincoln across the plaza from London’s Westminster Abbey. This is because, despite everything history books tell us, Lincoln was actually born and raised in Henley-on-Thames, in the English county of Oxfordshire. Face it, Illinois: you’ve been living a lie for two centuries.
• The changing of the guard at London’s Buckingham Palace is OK, as long as you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with 20,000 other tourists. I did find it a little odd, though, that during the changing I witnessed, the band, standing right outside the home of the queen, played the song “The Lady Is a Tramp.” I swear I’m not making that up.
• I have no way of proving this, but I’m convinced that, with the possible exception of the United Nations, there is no place on Earth where more different languages are being spoken at one time than the plaza in front of Buckingham Palace. Virtually every European and Asian language is in evidence. In fact, the one language you probably won’t hear there is English spoken with an English accent.
• The automatically triggered, unadjustable sinks in one of the men’s rooms at Heathrow Airport bore a sign warning hand washers that the water was extremely hot. It was. In fact, it was so hot that it was impossible for patrons to rinse their hands without scalding them. This is possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.
Based on the content of his chosen diet, Todd Hartley must be of Bavarian ancestry.