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Europe in December; Trains and Oberstaufen

I have become a devoted fan of train travel. The rail system in Europe is a marvel. It is possible to go almost anywhere from big cities to small towns on the train. For the most part, the trains run on time and are very comfortable. All the trains run on electricity and instead of going “choo choo” like trains did when I was a kid they go “hmmmmmmmm.”

One thing you need to know if you plan to go training through Europe is that the trains don’t stop long at most stations, so if you’re planning to get off you do it quickly. For example, when we pulled into the Baden Baden station, we got up out of our seats and went directly to the door. I jumped out with my very heavy suitcase (about 300 pounds) and Lynn started to hand me her heavy suitcase (about 240 pounds) when the train started moving. Lynn threw her suitcase, which landed on my foot and injured all 6 toes. The lady behind Lynn said, “Springen Sie, Dumkopf,” which I think means, “Jump, lady.” Lynn jumped and so did the lady behind her. Lynn landed on her feet but the lady behind her didn’t. She landed on what the English call her “bum.” The lady explained in German how to exit the train. “Dumkopf, Schnitzelkopf, Scheisse fur Gehirne, Eselhohle, werzen Americanez. I think that means, “You’ve got to hurry.”

Another thing that will be helpful for getting on or off trains or just standing in any kind of line is that Germans are basically rude people. In the U.S. of A. we have a tendency to think of a person’s place in line as a sacred thing, except in Newark, New Jersey, where everybody is as rude as the Germans. For example, Lynn and I were standing in the checkout line at a grocery store. A woman about the size of an NFL offensive lineman (or in Germany a Wagnerian opera heroine) came charging past us and started to put her groceries on the checkout counter. Do you think I am going to stand for that kind of treatment? You bet! It’s her country and she was bigger than Lynn and me I put together. We didn’t say a thing. I actually thought about saying something like, “Lady, you look like you are personally losing the Battle of the Bulge all over again,” but I didn’t think I should bring up that war. What you should really say if this should happen to you is, “Schweinhund!” Then you should run really fast.

Our next train ride was to Oberstaufen, where we would spend a week. We had to change trains twice on this trip, so we got lots of practice getting off in a hurry. I’m writing this column on Wednesday while Lynn is watching one of her favorite German quiz shows. She watches those quiz shows every night. She yells at the contestants—in German and English. They have questions like, “What planet is Superman from?” Lynn knew, but the dumb contestant didn’t. Lynn yelled at her.

German TV bunches its commercials together in a great wad—like 18 or 20 at a time. It takes several minutes to get through them. One just came on with Steffi Graf, my favorite former tennis player, doing a commercial with the abominable snowman. As a fellow retiree, it’s good to know that Steffi is making a monetary contribution to the Graf/Agassi enterprise.

Our resort, the Ferienclub, doesn’t have a spa on site, but they do have a series of feel good amenities, including a very hot sauna—178 degrees F—and a less hot one which produces moist eucalyptus scented air. That’s my favorite. There is also a fitness room and I have been working out every other day. After the workout I sit in the whirlpool, just like at home, except this whirlpool will hold about 50 people and the water is not very hot. Our hometown whirlpool is better.

There is also an on-site bakery which provides fresh baked croissants for breakfast every morning. Lynn is there daily when they open. I could really get to like this place.

Today was a workout day and I’m really tired so I’m going to bed. I’m scheduled to get a massage at 9:00 in the morning. I’ll report on that tomorrow.

It’s now tomorrow, Thursday, and the massage was great. Every muscle was so relaxed I could barely walk, so I didn’t make it back to our apartment. I went into the lounge and had a cup of coffee and a good cigar and talked to the chef of the on site restaurant. He had been the executive chef on the Staadtendam, a big cruise ship on the Holland America cruise line. He also was a chef at one of the big resorts in Cuba for a year and a half. He was a fascinating guy. After coffee and cigar I went to the Friseur where I got a Haarschnitt.

The rest of the day included about 30 minutes in the two saunas and a delicious dinner of baked trout and Kartoffeln. The final activity of the day was a free Schnapps tasting. The nice lady from the Schnapps company explained all the characteristics of all the Schnapps samples. She said one of them was good for making cough syrup. Then she poured small samples into little communion cups and we drank them. The first 2 were so bad that I thought that any cough syrup that I ever had would be a great improvement. I left and went to see what was happening in Huntsville on the pay-for-view computer in the lobby. As most of you know from reading the editorials, The Huntsville Item is available on line in Germany. The temperature in Huntsville was 86 degrees. Now I’m getting homesick.

Tomorrow it’s back on the train to Salzburg, then on to Vienna. I’ll see you there.