The Road Less Travelled

It’s Thursday evening. I fly home in the morning. I’m sitting in my hotel room once again, listening to the rain pitter patter on the window, and figuring out what time I should leave in the morning to get to the railway station, before heading to the airport. I guess I can worry about that in the morning.

I finally checked out the German restaurant around the corner this evening. Only it wasn’t German, but kind of was. I suppose a story is in order.

The rain hasn’t let up for two days now. I got soaked to the skin on the walk back from the office to the hotel, and changed clothes before setting out for something to eat. Given that the rain only seemed to be increasing in strength, I threw all ideas about wandering back into the city centre out of the window, and ran to the restaurant around the corner.

After a few seconds attempting to communicate with the lady in charge of the restaurant, I figured out that she spoke no English. I also figured out that she was Chinese, and so was the restaurant. The decor gave it away, but the chinese chef at the back of the restaurant was also a pretty major sign. I smiled. She smiled. She waved towards a table, and I sat down. Who needs words?

I was given a menu – written in German – and wondered what the hell any of it said – this was going to be fun. Thankfully Google Translate can take photographs of written text, and translate the whole page for you in a few moments – and that’s exactly what I was in the process of doing when the lady came and stood over me. I held a finger up to indicate I needed a minute, but that apparently means something else in China, because she grinned, and remained standing over me.

I panicked, and pointed at something that looked fairly innocuous on the menu, and guessed when she asked me something else – replying “Beer?” – she said something else, and I nodded hopefully. While she busied herself with dealing with whatever I had just agreed to, I re-opened Google Translate.

Noodles, with fried beef, and vegetables. The relief was palpable. Also when the giant glass of beer arrived at my table, I felt I had won some kind of secret lottery. Kudos to Google Translate by the way – it’s abilities to translate written pages of text as you drag your fingers over the words are magical.

The meal was wonderful. As good as any Chinese meal I have had anywhere. Towards the end a plate of grated carrot in some kind of sweet chilli sauce came out – I didn’t understand a word of the description, but I imagine it was to cleanse your palate. It worked.

The strangest thing happened while I sat eating my dinner. A german family sat down in the restaurant (thus far I had been the sole customer), and made their order. I didn’t understand a word of it, so busied myself with eating the huge mound of noodles, beef and vegetables that had just been deposited in front of me. Imagine my surprise when their food came out, and seemed to comprise various cuts of steak, chips, and vegetables. What? Something suddenly occurred to me – I turned the menu over. The reverse side had traditional German dishes on it. I recognised a few of the words. Google Translate confirmed it. Dammit!

Oh well. Maybe next time (and therewill be a next time – probably very soon).

Rather than attempt to summon the staff to pay, I got up and made my way to the counter. I spotted the bill and counted out a note plus too much change – so I might get a note back instead of yet another handful of change. Without a word exchanged, the lady behind the counter understood exactly what I was doing, and smiled a huge toothy grin while handing me a note in return.


Following dinner I continued on through the now torrential rain to the nearby supermarket – the same one I have visited numerous times while staying here. While looking around the various bottles of wine, it occurred to me that not only are meals in restaurants vastly more reasonable than at home, so is the wine. Both cost perhaps two thirds of comparable purchases at home. I’m wondering if it’s to do with taxation, or if things are just cheaper in Germany? I have noticed there is far less choice over here though – at home we tend to have gigantic supermarkets with produce from all over the world on offer. The range in the German supermarkets I have visited is far more limited.

So. One more night. I have wine, chips, chocolate, and orange juice for the morning. Apparently I can already check-in for the flight via the internet, so may amuse myself with that in a minute. Here’s to taking chances, walking into Chinese restaurants that we thought were German, and communicating with people we don’t share languages with.

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