It is very easy to be at a place and completely miss knowing it. So occupied are we with trying to find something familiar when we are at a new place, that we overlook the originality of that place. Let me explain with an example.I met an Indian family visiting Switzerland and their most urgent question to me was if I knew an Indian restaurant around. Anywhere we go, we want to have our kind of food (check the luggage of any Indian going anywhere in the world from India – there will always be at least some Indian snacks if not the other essentials of Indian cooking) , our language to be understood by everyone (just ask Europeans about Americans and vice-versa and you’ll know the “bonhomie” among them), the brands of things we use back home (Kellogg’s cornflakes/Ariel detergent) and several other things, some of which may not be appropriate to write about here!
With the spread of consumer culture and also because of ease of travel these days (compared to old times), it may not really be difficult to manage all the aspects I have just explained. So you can explore the whole of France and come back home and yet, not know anything more about the country except putting a check mark in your diary about having seen the Monalisa (and commenting that what’s the hype about – it’s such a small piece of art!). Or as we are on that subject, it could be a visit to India and the only memories you make are about the traffic jams, the cows, the heat and the spicy food which made you sick.
Not that it is important to know a place but it’s a lot more interesting than not knowing it. So how can you really get to know a place and now I mean really know a place? It’s simple – just be open. When some wise guy said, “When in Rome, be a Roman”, he didn’t mean that you disguise yourself to look like Romans..he simply meant – do what the locals do.
But however open you are, there is nothing comparable to having a local as your friend. In that respect, I have been really lucky to have D as a colleague who is also a very good friend. Now he is one who likes to go out and enjoy life in general – full of what the French call “joie de vivre” (not a typical German trait ;-)). And sometimes I get to be part of those outings (Yay!).
So this time, it was a visit to a winery. It was not a place where they just make the wine, but they also open up a restaurant seasonally offering some food with their wines. This type of a place is called a “Besenwirtschaft”. Now this was really a place that meant business. It was bustling with activity at around 6:30 PM. It was so full that it could put the fancy restaurants to shame in terms of clientele and the best part is – you don’t need any reservations unless you are coming as a big group and want to ensure a place. Just come and share a table and a bench with other patrons. I’m sure the atmosphere would have been the same several years ago as it is now – full of chattering people with unpretentious but delicious food and drinks around, busy waiters and waitresses catering to everyone (sometimes getting the sauce after the meal is half over 😉 ) and a general feeling of merriment.
The waitress came to us after we succeeded in catching her eye after several tries. And she had no time to waste – there was a sheet of paper and she entered in it what we wanted and then it was delivered quite fast, I must say. This sheet was what could then quickly be used to make the payment – you didn’t have to wait for someone to prepare a bill. Efficient (but that’s expected from Germans, isn’t it!)
The menu was not too extensive but had something for everyone – even for the fussy kids. And the prices seemed to be from medieval times (that might explain the crowd)! The food was served on wooden boards instead of on stoneware, which was interesting as I would have mistaken these boards as chopping boards if I’d seen them in a shop! It’s a Flammkuchen that you see in the picture which is like a thin crust pizza, with a glass of new wine (the Federweiser – remember?) and some interesting bread (not your regular white bread) with cheese visible on the other board.
This evening gave me an exposure to how the locals enjoy their evenings in the season of the wine – which is the beginning of autumn.
So if you are visiting Germany in the fall season (September to November) and happen to be in the wine region, do ask someone for a “Besenwirtschaft” to get the local experience. You may love it or hate it but you’ll have an experience to talk about (instead of the cars and how much mileage they give)! Here’s again a big thanks to D, who has a big contribution towards my understanding of the German life. More to come in the next posts – stay tuned!