Germany (3)

After checking into the Sunflower Hostel (Friedrichshain), we hung out in the room for an hour or two. I think I took a nap after reading for a bit.

Eventually, we decided to go out and get some food. Before we left for Germany, I talked to a friend of mine from St. Paul, who’d lived in Köln for about 10 years, and he told me that if I were in Kreuzberg at some point I’d need to eat a Donar sandwich, which is basically the Turkish version of a Gyro. I told Emily I wanted to get one, and she said that wouldn’t be a problem at all, since Donar was literally everywhere. Apparently it’s the unofficial drunk food of Germany, along with Curry Wurst.

We found a little place on a side street with seating available and ordered. My Donar sandwich (meat, lettuce, tomato, onion, sauce [tzatziki?], served on a thin crispy naan-ish bread) was amazing. Emily got a Halloumi sandwich. The dining area was about fifteen by fifteen feet, and had large windows facing the street. I don’t know what the Turkish language sounds like, but the radio was playing pop music and intermittently a Turkish announcer would come over the speakers. The walls were decorated with paintings of (presumably) Turkish buildings. We each drank a large bottle of Augustiner Bier, and then headed out.

We went and walked around Simon-Dach Straße, a stretch of bars, spätie’s (convenience stores), cafes, and restaurants. The first place we went to was called Astro-Bar, a mostly red room with some neon lights, sci-fi themed posters, hip alternative music (that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the 90s movies Singles or Empire Records), and a handful of booths and tables, all equipped with ashtrays.

We ordered our drinks and found a spot near the entrance. Emily told me about how she’d been here before, but not too many times. I’d been reading an anthology of anarchism called No Gods No Masters and had just gotten to the section by Mikhail Bakunin, whose name I can’t seem to pronounce without changing the u into a ü. The far left has a much greater presence in Europe, so that conveniently coincided with my recent reading.

At a certain point, it became clear to the bartender that I was not a native German speaker. There are a good number of words that I confuse with others, but the pair that gave me away this time was the difference between kurz and klein. When ordering a beer, one asks for either “ein kleines Bier” or “ein großes Bier,” however “kurz” is also a word used to say small, but small in a different sense. The board is too small for this fixture, this thread is too small for this fabric, etc. In any case, if it isn’t yet obvious, I asked for “ein paar Biers, ein groß und ein kurz.”

And I don’t know what the cause of this was, sometimes people make mistakes, and it’s generally not my assumption that people are acting maliciously, but when he told me the cost: vier, vierzig (€4.40) and I gave him €10, he gave me just €2.60.

“‘tschuldigung.”

(Excuse me.)

“Bitte”

(Yes?)

“Sie haben mir nur zwei Euro sechszig gegeben, aber ich hab Ihnen zehn gegeben.”

(You only gave me €2.60, but I gave you a 10)

He took the money out of my hand, looked at it, looked at me, back to it, and said:

“Du hast mit ner Zehn bezahlt?”

(You paid with a ten?)

“Ja.”

“Ähh, tut mir leid.”

(huh, sorry.)

He went to the register and gave me €2 more. I left one on the bar; I’m still really uncomfortable not tipping, even when I’m told that in Germany, and actually most places, it’s unnecessary.

“Kein Problem.”

(No problem.)

I was quite proud of this interaction. Not only had I expressed myself to a stranger in German and gotten back what I wanted, but I confirmed that I had in fact heard what he said correctly. We left after those beers, but not because of this incident, just because we wanted to explore a bit more.

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