I enjoyed Munich slightly more than Berlin, as did Hitler, which aside from my eight years of vegetarianism in the ’90s and fondness for Argentina, is about all we have in common.
At the Nuremberg train station, on my way to Munich, I stopped at a bagel shop for breakfast. You would think that Germany had done irrevocable harm to its bagel industry, but it actually wasn’t that bad. I asked the middle-aged blonde woman for an egg and cheese bagel and she responded, “No! Egg or cheese. Not both!”
Now, in New York, this would be a fight, but when a blonde German yells at you in English, you don’t talk back. You just take your “Sophie’s Choice” bagel and like it. I’ve probably watched too many World War II movies, but Germans speaking German aren’t that scary; it’s the shouted German-accented English that gives me brown trousers.
Most Germans I encounter are bilingual and speak flawless English, which puts them at an advantage over most Americans who are barely lingual. Out of respect, I try to use as much German as I can, interspersed with halting English phrases to elicit pity. “Hallo, schnitzel… Please? Life is bowl of chocolates? Danke schoen.”
When I arrived in Munich, I went into a Starbucks and ordered from another middle-aged blonde woman a latte with skim milk. Her response: “No skim milk! Just cream!” Again, I paid for my Neville Chamberlain latte and liked it. Don’t mess with the German barista. She is not joking.
By the way, all these middle-aged blonde women look like Emma Thompson with a German accent. So, you have Emma Thompson pouring you coffee, Emma Thompson driving your cab, Emma Thompson giving you directions to the closest biergarten.
Dogs are very popular in Germany. Their standard of living is probably on par with the dogs in Belize, who wear Hawaiian shirts and walk up to bars begging for ceviche. Dogs are allowed off leash here, and strangers will stop to pet them. This would freak the hell out of Americans but Munich is sort of like a big petting zoo. Owners also let their dogs off leash to play with other random dogs. “Hey, there you, Klaas, go sniff some butts.” In New York, there’s a complex application and approval process before your pet can play with another dog.
Traditional German food involves sausage and sausage stuffed with sausage. This is washed down with a liter of beer and an inhalation of second-hand smoke from your waitress. The life expectancy should be about 27, but Germany actually ranks 20th out of all countries. Israel is 8th because living well really is the best revenge.