Monday, May 13, 2024

With Travel Mistakes Comes Wisdom (Mit Reisefehlern ghet Weisheit einher)

I would actually drive twice the distance if it meant getting everything we picked up.

For one final time, greetings from Kaiserslautern, where we spent the day not being tourists so much as taking care of a bunch of chores.  It was supposed to rain (even though it really didn’t) so we figured we’d spend the day wandering around, gassing up the hybrid for the trip to Freiburg tomorrow, and picking up the things we wanted to pick up before we depart.

But seeing as how most of those things were at a grocery store 30 kilometers away, that meant a road trip.  

When we were on our way to K-Town from Frankfurt we stopped at a Hit grocery store in Eisenberg to pick up a bottle of REAL Dr. Pepper (not the reformulated stuff they sell back home).  While we were wandering around the store we saw lots of cool stuff, which we figured we’d pick up here when we had the time.  But strangely, a lot of the stuff we saw wasn’t in any store around here.

And that’s why we hit the road back to Eisenberg, and said “hey” once again to this place–

There we stocked up on chocolate, cherry beer, more Dr. Pepper, and tea–

Perhaps even more than chocolate (and yes, that IS apparently possible), I go gaga over German teas.  They don’t sell just plain old black & green tea; the collection shown here includes a Rooibos with strawberry & mint, a green tea with orange and ginger, and one of my favorites in the world, a fennel/anise/caraway seed combination.  


I had mentioned we bought Dr. Pepper, so let me show you something about the bottle–

Because recycling of plastic is of paramount importance around here, the cap is now attached to the bottle so it doesn’t get lost.  I didn’t realize that when we bought the first bottle on Friday, and just wrenched the sucker off.

I hope I don’t get thrown out of the country for that.

(Here’s your German Fun Fact of the Day, as well–recycling of plastic is so important that you can buy a bottle of water for 19 cents, as long as you pay an additional 25 cents for deposit on the bottle).

After getting back from Eisenborn, we stopped to get gas, and it was then that we discovered we’re stupid.  You see, we had no idea how to open the cover to the gas cap.  It’s kind of hard to put gas in the hybrid if you can’t open the cap, right?  We searched high and low around the dashboard; no luck.  Loraine pulled out the owners’ manual; it was all in German (but with pictures), so still no luck.  I finally pulled out my phone and Googled “gas cap on Toyota Coro…”, and by the time I got that far, what I was looking for (and, apparently, what many other people had been looking for) popped up.  So I sheepishly opened the driver’s side door, reached down to the floor next to the seat, and pulled on the little lever that had a gas pump printed on it.

After that, putting gas in the car was a breeze.

It’s funny; we’ve been doing this for quite a while now, and every day we still seem to make little mistakes and faux pas that seem obvious (and quite funny) in hindsight but in the moment just make us shake our heads and wonder just how idiotic two Americans must seem to the rest of the world.

And trust me–in the moment, your head shakes an awful lot.

I always get people asking me two questions about driving over here.  The first is whether or not it’s hard to drive on the “wrong” side of the road.  That one’s easy to answer–I wouldn’t know.  It’s only in the UK that they drive on the left; in Germany (and everywhere else) it’s just like back home.  The other question?  How much does gas cost?

When we bought it today, it was the equivalent of about 8 bucks a gallon.

Gas has always been expensive over here; they use a hefty tax on it to maintain a pristine road network (with no potholes, warped pavement, or patches.  If there’s a hole in the road, they replace the whole road).   Food over here, however, is stunningly cheap, at least compared to the US.  I don’t know if it’s because more of an importance is placed on eating well over here, or the food companies only gouge you in the US, but here are a couple of comparisons–

-A pint of raspberries, which you buy in the US for 3 or four bucks, costs a Euro (a $1.10) over here)

-Fresh tomatoes, which can be three bucks a pound in the US, costs around what would be equal to a buck.

-This box of cereal–

Which weighs over a pound and has lots of chocolate bits in it, costs 3 Euro (less than three and a half bucks),  A box of cereal that big would be at least six dollars in the US.  So yes, gas prices are quite high over here.  But I’d take the food prices any day.

One of the other chores we needed to take care of was the traditional “Sending of the Postcard”.  Here’s the story–

My brother has three young kids.  When we traveled over here in 2017, Abel was just a few months old, so we sent him a postcard from Germany, his first ever piece of mail.  Calum was born six months before we went to Leipzig in 2019, and we did the same for him.  So a week before we left, my brother sent me a text asking if we would be sending his daughter River, not yet a year old, the traditional postcard.

You better believe we did, although it took a little effort.  I mean, buying the postcard was easy; it was finding a stamp (and a mailbox to stick it into) that was hard.  No stores sold stamps (and trust me, we asked), and there didn’t seem to be a Deutsche Post office anywhere around.  So for the second time today (and, as a side note, how did we even survive as a species before Google?) I pulled out my phone, which informed me that we were less than 60 meters away from a post office. We looked around; no post office, not even a mail box. However, Google thoughtfully provided me with a picture of it, and that's when I saw it, 60 meters away.

It was inside this Indian grocery store–

Apparently, Deutsche Post has been subcontracting a lot of its services to independent contractors, especially in cities, and one of them just happened to be less than 200 feet from where we had been standing in vain, looking for a stamp.

So River, your postcard from Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Loraine is in the mail!

Just a few more things before we go; after all, we have a long (almost three hour, he says jokingly) drive in front of us tomorrow to get to our other destination, Freiburg.  Because our GPS, like all GPSs, tries to put you on an Autobahn when you want to take the scenic route. Loraine and I sat down with several of her (very analog) paper maps and picked a few cities on the way there.  I then programmed them into the GPS, which means that we get to make the trip on scenic roads between smaller towns instead of on freeways between here and Freiburg (with the added bonus of going back into France again, for at least a few minutes).  I know it’s quicker on the Autobahn, but on the Autobahn all you get to see is freeway.  And hundreds of big rigs.  And people who take advantage of the fact there;s no speed limits to see if they can personally break the world’s land speed record.  You don’t get to drive through scenic villages and pastoral countryside and, if you’re lucky, get to stop to take a picture of a cow (or several dozen cows, he says hopefully).

As we’ve found time & time again, the road less taken is usually the one that you end up enjoying more.

They just have to hang on for a few more days, so send good thoughts to my hiking boots–

I only wear them when we’re here, but I’ve been using them since (gulp) 2006.  I guess old age got to them, just like it gets to everything else.  Thankfully, my parents taught me that masking tape fixes lots of things, so I always have a roll handy.

And right now, that’s what’s holding the heel onto the boot.  Like I said, keep your fingers crossed.

We’ll let you know how this tastes when we open one of them–

It’s like Nutella, but made with pistachios instead.  Yum!

Finally, I guess this is one way to travel as you’re heading down the sidewalks of Kaiserslautern–

That’s it from K-Town.  Tomorrow, among other things, the story of why we owe the people of Freiburg a huge apology.

Yet again.


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