Many of you have been nice enough to ask me how I’ve been doing lately, and to all of you I say “Danka goot”. That’s German for “Good thanks”, and I’m pretty sure I misspelled that phrase. After all, Microsoft underlined each word, and if that annoying cartoon paper clip character says something is wrong, who are we to question it? True, I could use Google or Yahoo or even my nephew’s Speak-n-Spell to find out the answer, but I’m rather lazy. Besides, my last name is Alberstadt, for crying out loud. If you can’t question the Magic Paper Clip Man, you definitely can’t question someone of German heritage. So there.

“Danka goot” is just one of many conversational phrases I learned while in Germany. Others include “Choos” (Bye), “Schprechen zi English?” (Do you speak English), and “Hechen schplechen zechen trechen voot” (I’m a stupid foreigner and don’t know how to speak your crazy language.)

For those of you with better things to do than to check up on my travel schedule (i.e. all of you), I was in Germany earlier this month entertaining the US Air Force in Ramstein. I traveled with my good friend Janet Williams, and although the trip was brief, we had a blast. We were fortunate enough to have a guide—my good friend Lieutenant Liz who is stationed there. Feel free to view my photos from the trip by clicking here.

We got to Ramstein on Friday and the show was that night. We were a bit tired, but things went great, and I thank all who showed up. But the real adventure was in the local scenery. After the show, Liz took us out to a local pub, where I drank several stout German lagers while getting frustrated trying to find the original German version to the hit ’80s song “99 Red Balloons” by Nina. The jukebox had the English version but not the German version, which made about as much sense as a German car dealership selling Ford Escorts but not BMWs. If I wasn’t exhausted, I would have learned how to say “This is bullshit!” in German. The closest I could get was, “Das en shatbullen!”, which only made the bartender give me a shot of Red Bull.

Saturday came with no show requirements, so Liz took Janet and I on the Audubon, where we hit 100 mph, which I think is about 865 kilometers per hour (side note: Microsoft should have math-check). Liz asked if I wished I could drive in the States on roads with no speed limits, at which point I reminded her that I drive a Saturn station wagon. Not exactly the kind of vehicle that yearns to roam free.

We went to a little town called Heidelberg, which translates to “City of Heidels”, I believe. If you ever wanted to see the perfect German town, that is it. Cottage-style houses and rolling hillsides everywhere, not to mention random pieces of chocolate falling from the sky. The best part about the town was the 12th-century castle that sits on top of the world’s highest mountain. Okay, it’s not that high, but when you walk up the rocky path to the top, it certainly feels like it.

Not having an official tour guide for the first part of the trip, I enlightened the ladies with my vast knowledge of European culture and history. For example, the Rhine River is where Beethoven originally wrote Huckleberry Finn. And castles were originally built by nervous kings who wanted to protect their valuable collection of baseball cards. When random people told me to shut up, I kindly reminded them that the wall was torn down years ago, and this free flow of facts and ideas is one of the pillars of humanity. Another pillar is thong underwear.

Once we met up with a real tour guide, the trip through this piece of history was truly amazing. It was originally erected in 1195, way before Columbus discovered lands close to America. Generation after generation continued to build on it until 1622, when everyone moved out. Some claim that destruction from fire and French troops are to blame, but I bet it was the opening of a Super Wal Mart down the street.

Honestly, the castle was magnificent and enormous. At one point I was overwhelmed with the urge to yell out, “By the power of Heidelberg, I AM THE POWER!” But I had a feeling that people who wear white stockings and bonnets probably wouldn’t know about He-Man. So I didn’t bother.

The best part of the whole tour was the end, when we saw the biggest beer barrel in the world. It holds 100,000 liters…in fact, I believe it was the Hindenburg prototype. I tried to get at some of its sustenance, but there’s no beer in it anymore. Rather, they use it to jail unruly soccer hooligans.

After the castle tour, we hit the town of Heidelberg, a game plan that entailed eating bakery goods and shopping with Euros. The only thing I wanted to buy was a beer stein, which I found for only 30 Euros, or 315 American dollars. I planned on putting that stein to good use that night.

We walked around town all afternoon. I marveled at how American and German cultures were so intertwined. For example, there was a Subway restaurant, but when you ordered a sandwich, instead of offering potato chips, they burned a book. Come to think of it…I bet that tradition sparked that whole Quizno’s “Mmm Mmm toasty” thing.

We didn’t eat at Subway, though. We picked out a good-looking wiener schnitzel restaurant named “Schnitzel Flanken?” The question mark in the name of an eating establishment frightened me, but I convinced myself that it probably translated to “Schnitzel is, how do you say, good yes?” So my appetite held on. I was tempted to get the pork chops, but that would be like a European coming to the U.S. and ordering a salad at a steak house. So schnitzel it was…light on the question marks. It was incredible.

Janet went to bed soon after while Liz and I hit the German pub scene. The beer stein was used to its fullest capacity, which honestly was a very touristy thing to do. Taking a stein to bars in Germany is the equivalent of a foreign visitor going to Florida and then going out in public with Mickey Mouse ears on. But I didn’t care. You can’t put beer in Mickey Mouse ears.

It was, unfortunately, too short of a trip. But I had a blast. Danka, Germany!! I will be back. But before I return, get the original version of “99 Red Balloons” for the love of schnitzel!

Categories: Columns