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No Sprechen sie Deutsch - Day One

Story ID:10526
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon MT USA
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No Sprechen sie Deutsch…Day One
By Chuck Dishno

Frankfurt, Germany, August 2, 1978, 8am. Roz and I had just arrived for a month long visit with her son David and his wife Joanne.

David was a dentist and a captain in the Army Dental Corps and stationed in Aschaffenburg, about 40km from Frankfurt. They were renting a small cottage near Bessenbach about 15km from. Aschaffenburg.

The airplane we flew in on was a Boeing 747 that had been modified to hold more passengers. It was used primarily for military dependents and this one was full to capacity with wives and kids on their way to meet up with their spouses. For almost 5 hours we were surrounded by a cacophony of crying children and the omnipresent odor of wet diapers. Needless to say were very tired and ready to get to David’s house. David’s rented cottage was a delightful place on an old farm with the old farm house a short ways away complete with an old water wheel.

After getting settled in we sat around visiting as we hadn’t seen them for over 2 years. Soon David got up and told us that he had to go back to the dental clinic called Jaeger Kaserne in Aschaffenburg as he had dental patients waiting that afternoon. I was rested up by then and asked if I might go back with him and spend the afternoon exploring Aschaffenburg, He said that was OK with him and he tell me how to get to a delightful shopping mall called City Galerie.
When we got back to his office I sat around for about an hour then David gave me a map and directions to the City Galerie. He said it was a large mall with many shops and food places. He directed me to go out and get on Jaegertsrasse and go about 10 or 12 blocks where I would see a large park. Take the path thru the park and when I came out the other side to go few more blocks where I would see the City Galerie.

With my map in hand and knowing a couple of words in German I struck out. David said not to worry about money as most places would accept American currency using the current rate of exchange, would calculate it and give me the change n Deutsche Marks.

After going thru the park, which was quite large, at least several square blocks I came out the other side then as instructed went several blocks more and saw the City Galerie.It was all enclosed and at least a city block long. I went in one end and the first thing I saw was a food place selling bratwurst. It had been mid morning since I had eaten anything and I am a sucker for bratwurst. I ordered a bratwurst with sauerkraut, chip and drink then handed the girl a five dollar bill. She never batted an eye; she just took out her little calculator, punched in a few numbers then gave me my change in Deutsche Marks. I couldn’t believe how many coins there were in my hand. There are at least 10 coins ranging all the way from one pfennig all the way up to a 5 mark coin. I think the rate of exchange at that time was two Deutsche Marks for one US dollar and I think my hand contained all the collection. I pocketed my coins then sat down to enjoy my meal and watch all the people walking the mall. I will have to admit that there were some good looking German girls/ladies but they all seemed to be sprouting some sort of a hair growth from under their arm pits. Unlike American women shaving was not the thing.

After I had eaten, I decided to walk the mall and perhaps purchase a souvenir to remind me of my first day in Germany. One of the first stores I came to was one selling clothes. I spotted a baseball type cap with Aschaffenburg on the front. I took it to the cashier and again took out another 5 dollar bill. After a quick calculation I was handed another pile of coins. By now I knew I had to do something if I was going to present a bill for each purchase and I didn’t’ know how to make change with that foreign currency.

A few more stores down the line I came to one that sold leather goods. I went in and found a nice change purse, the kind with a spring top that opens the purse when you squeeze the ends. It was just the thing I was looking for. It was made of soft leather with a picture of the Aschaffenburg Castle on the front…perfect! Once again I paid for it with a 5 dollar bill and was rewarded with another hand full of coins. I now went over to a bench and dumped all my German coins into my new snap purse and wow, it was bulging.

After a couple hours I decided it was time to head back to the Jaeger Kaserne and David. I had visited most of the stores in the mall and was getting tired.

I exited the mall from the opposite end from where I entered and when I came outside I was confused. I didn’t recognize anything and wasn’t sure where Jaegerstrasse was. I was standing there when I saw a little old lady sitting on a bench hear a bus stop. I walked over to her and said my first German phrase. I said, “Excuse me, no sprechen sie Deutsch. I am looking for Jaegertsrasse.” Then I showed her my map. She took the map and said, “Ja, Jaegerstrasse” and pointed the direction to go. I said my second word in German, “Danke.”

I walked on a little further in the direction she had said but still wasn’t too sure and when I spotted an elderly gentleman coming toward me I said to him, again, “Excuse me, no sprechen sie Deutsch could you point me to Jaegerstrasse?” This kindly old gentleman then got down on his hands and knees and proceeded to draw a map in the dust. He drew a large square at one end that I took for the park that I had come through. I knew I was the right track now and thanked him and shook his hand.

Sure enough, a few blocks further I came to the entrance of the park and the path where I had come out. I had just started into the park when I saw a nice blond lady with two tow head kids walking toward me. I thought what the heck it won’t hurt to ask one more time. As he approached, I once again said, “Excuse me, no sprechen sie Deutsch, is this the right way to Jaegerstrasse?” She looked at me and said, “Well I’m damned if I know where it is. I have only been here 5 days and was told to never let the castle out of my sight. I haven’t seen that damned castle since I have been here.” I laughed and thanked her then walked on and in a few minutes came out on the elusive Jaegerstrasse. About 10 blocks further I arrived at the Jaeger Kaserne where David was just getting off work and ready to head back to Bessenbach.

On arriving back home in Bessenbach, we found the girls rested up but I was still tired from the flight and my trek around the mall and David from bending over a patient’s mouth all afternoon. Joanne should have been tired too since she was pushing around a big belly that in about a month and a half would become my granddaughter, Sarah Elizabeth Wilson.

Joanne had plans to take us to a delightful place about 15km away called Mespelbrunn Castle. The castle was built around 1427 and is surrounded by a moat. On arriving there we found a wooden bridge across the moat leading to a wonderful restaurant that featured wild game on the menu such as, venison, wild boar and partridge. I had eaten lots of wild game but mostly ducks, geese quail and venison. I wanted real German food such as Jägerschnitzel, or Rouladen, with lots of sauerkraut and hot German potato salad. I also consumed a tall glass of Weiznbier. I wasn’t disappointed.

It was late when we got back to Bessenbach so we all turned in. I went to sleep with the delightful sound of church bells from town ringing in each hour. What a great day!

To be continued…
“auf Wiedersehen”