Once again we have fallen into the bad habit of leaving a country before writing anything about it. Due to deadlines our travels in Europe have been more rushed than we like (and are used to) which leaves little time for story-telling.
Our first few days in Germany were spent in Frankfurt wallowing (and delighting) in culture shock. It was kinda like that movie where the Flintstones get sent into the Jetson’s world and were amazed, delighted and almost horrified by all the things that seemed everyday to George, Judy and the kids. If Wilma and Fred had also been completely underdressed for the weather and constantly speaking in broken Spanish to strangers I would have thought that that movie was actually an adaptation of our entrance to Europe.
The first sign I had that things were going to be incredibly different was when I went into the bathroom in the airport. On the way in Tom grabbed my arm “Jenny” he said seriously “don’t forget- you can flush the paper here.” If he hadn’t told me I would have forgotten for sure. Still marveling at the wonders of modern plumbing I stepped out of the stall to wash my hands.
There was a spout over the sink, but no visible buttons or levers anywhere. Hmmm.. I tried tapping the top of the tap, the side of the tap, hitting various parts of the sink and finally looking under the sink for a hidden lever; all to no avail. A woman said something to me in some incomprehensible language (I can only assume it was German) and then waved her hand in front of a little sensor in front of the spout and voila- water came pouring forth.
I couldn’t help myself, I gasped. And then quickly washed my hands and hightailed it out of the bathroom with gales of German laughter at my heels. Until this moment it really had not felt like we had been out of the States for that long. After a few days we were back in the rhythm of life in the future, but there were a lot of near misses in moving traffic and embarrassing mishaps. It was like “Encino man” would have been if Brendan Fraser had not had the helpful guidance of Pauly Shore to acclimate him into the world of modernity.
The interesting thing about Europe is that while everything around you is all futuristic and sci-fi and stuff (like the out of this world water pressure in the showers!) it is surrounded by unbelievably old crap. And by crap I mean incredibly beautiful castles, churches, synagogues, universities and cobblestoned streets. It’s this strange brew of being able to wander down a street that has been trod on for the last 800 years or so looking at houses with ancient Germanic text worked into the woodwork, and then have to jump out of the way to not get hit by a 2012 sports car zooming down the street with techno blaring out of it’s tinted windows.
Walking through the cities of Europe instantly bring to mind countless “yo momma” jokes…
Eur opah’s so old she has an autographed bible, she owes Fred Flintstone 5 dollars, she knew burger king when he was a prince, She’s got hieroglyphics on her drivers license…
Once we put on everything we owned for warmth, got our bearings and the message “DON’T speak Spanish to strangers” scrawled on our palms we were free to enjoy the definite perks of life outside of Latin America-the water pressure in the shower, German bread at breakfast,
brushing your teeth with water from the sink, beautiful architecture, the water pressure in the shower, fast and smooth transportation, flushing toilet paper, being able to use the super fast internet to phone home, the water pressure in the shower, exciting international food- and did I mention the water pressure in the shower?
Our short time in Frankfurt was pretty much taken up by marveling at the modern wonders found in our very own hostel bathroom, learning to not speak Spanish in shops, and re-learning how to cross a busy street. With these small triumphs under our belts we were ready for the rest of Europe!