It was good to meet back up with Nicolle last night at the train station. She, her mom, and her sister (whose website is here) met me at Karlovy Vary. They took me right to dinner in Ostrov, where we’re staying for a few nights. I feasted on goulash and dumplings. It was divine. Czech food is decidedly better than German food, though there’s quite a bit of overlap (probably since they used to be part of the same Austrian country and Holy Roman Empire before that). Then again, German food doesn’t set the bar very high, and what makes the Czech food so delicious is also what makes it so terrible for one’s health: it’s either fried or consists mostly of sugar, depending on the dish.
After dinner, we walked in a leisurely manner around a beautiful park that used to be some aristocrat’s estate. We passed the estate’s main house and found that some kind of large birds who have made their home on the roof of the house. We pass an open-air cinema and it makes me think of the Kino in Mitte of which I didn’t make use. Next time…
I noticed, upon reflection and in conversation, that the only tourist sites I visited on my first stint in Germany were two locations in reverence of the misdeeds of Nazis with regard to those who were considered by them to be undesirable for a flourishing society. What terrible things have been done over the centuries in the name of that elusive and ever-changing ideal.
Today is a family day. We’re visiting Nicolle’s grandparents in an assisted-living situation. I like visiting them, but it’s tough because I can’t understand them and they can’t understand me – and they’re old enough that they can’t remember me and won’t remember me next time. My presence seems kind of an unnecessary, last-minute addendum to the one that really counts.
This day also begins a several-day streak during which I know there’s no way I’ll be satisfied, because not in charge of my own time. It’s a small price to pay to spend time with family, but the nagging annoyance is like a weight I can’t ignore. I want to be back on my own or, with Nicolle, on our own. I am looking forward to being back in Germany, too, where things aren’t so confusing. Kind though they are, the people around me who do speak Czech cannot spend their entire days translating for me, so I understand almost nothing that happens at any point during any day on which I’m here. When we’re in Germany, I can understand most of what I read and maybe a quarter of what I hear, and that little bit of understanding makes such a big difference to my feelings of being the master of my own destiny that it makes being in new places a lot less scary than when I’m at the mercy of dumb luck and the kindness of strangers. The anxiety is building with every passing moment.
Follow my 2014 travels here, and you can find other years linked from this page!
I felt the same way when I went from France to Germany. My French is pretty meh, but having no German under my belt really made me feel lost. And everyone said, “Oh, they all speak English.” Riiiiiiight. What was worse was having no way to show I’m making an effort with the language, so then I just feel like a typical American monolingual jerk.
That looks fabulous!