I can clearly remember my first urge to travel abroad. For whatever reason, I’ve been obsessed with Germany since I was a little kid. It may have to do with the fact that I had two German Au Pairs when I was a kid. Maybe it has to do with my candy obsession and a secret desire to be Gretel, and shove the witch in the oven and eat her delicious candy house all up. I’m not sure exactly why I was obsessed with Germany, but it prompted me to take German all throughout Junior high, high school and college (only to move to Russia and learn Russian instead), and to dream of going there some day.
Well, I finally got the chance to go on the European trip of a lifetime and to see the city I’d been waiting for so long to see–Berlin. Oh yeah. Berlin. My Au Pairs would be so proud. Frau Bills (Jr. High German teacher, and favorite teach of life, consequently) would be so proud. Ashley was living her perfect dream of seeing Berlin. And this is how it went.
First things first. I was really hoping to whip out my German skills and solidify years and years of book study with impressive dialogue. Basically, this is what happened.
Me: “Wo ist…wo ist…die Bushaltestelle?”
German Lady: Blank stare. “I speak English. If you get off at this stop and turn right, you’ll see the bus station.”
Me (best German accent I can produce): Ich mochte Bratwurst, bitte.
Waiter: Great! I’ll bring it out to you, and what would your friend like to eat?
Friend: I’ll have one too.
Unfortunately, I realized that everyone pretty much speaks English, and that my attempts to speak German only prompted people to speak back to me in English. Well, except for the people who work at the hospital…
By day .5 of being in Berlin, I got uber (high five self for using a German word) sick. I’m talking stuck in the hostel for 2 days straight sick, busy thinking of ways to put myself out of my misery sick, instead of waltzing around Berlin getting my passport stamped at Checkpoint Charlie, and taking pictures by the Berlin wall. Finally, my friend, Jeni, made me go to the hospital which is where I learned socialized medicine is actually kind of a bummer, especially when you’re a foreigner, and I also learned that my German isn’t all that good.
I went to the ER and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited (insert the word waited for about 2 hours more of reading) for someone to help me. Once I FINALLY got someone to help me, I realized that unlike everyone I had encountered before, the hospital Germans didn’t speak English. Turns out that playing “Ich spreche Deutsch ” is not as fun when you’re bleeding out your ears (side note: that was a drastic over exaggeration…I do that when I’m sick, and I’ll continue to do it till I have the right blanket, the right amount of attention, and chicken noodle soup, okay? I’m a bit of a diva when I’m sick).
Anway, try two went like this:
Me: Ich bin krank…
Dr.: Germangerman german krank?
Me: Ich habe Halsschmerzen. Ich fühle mich nicht gut…Um, do you speak English? Does anyone speak English? I don’t know how to explain what is wrong with me, other than Ich bin krank.
Dr.: Germangermangerman Warten Sie hier, bitte. Germangermangerrmangerman…Wir haben einen Arzt, der Englisch spricht. Warten Sie hier. germangerman. blahhhhhh. ?!?!?!!?????????!!!!!!!!
Anyway, I paid 150 Euros and waited for 6 hours to finally get a doctor that spoke English, only to find out I had a viral infection that was only treatable by Root Beer medicine. Now I get why Germans don’t like Root Beer.
The unsweetened Root Beer they gave me made me feel good enough to go wander the streets for a day, or two and I got to see some amazing things including: The Berlin Wall, East Germany, Check Point Charlie, Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, and I saw some really cool underground art. I’ll have to blog about that separately.
Needless to say, as sick as I was, Berlin was still a dream, especially because I was walking around in a daze most of the time. I’m excited to return and will drink all the Root Beer in the world to prepare immune system for German diseases, so I don’t get sick.
For real, though, when you travel, make sure you bring some familiar medicine from home and make sure not to get in the way of anyone else’s germs!