It’s the second week of our family holiday, and we have driven north from Italy, through Austria and into southern Bavaria. We decide that a lovely place to spend a night would be at the Panorama Campsite (“Directly on the Lake!”) at Prien am Chiemsee*, one of those idyllic little Bavarian towns that looks as if it has been created for GermanLand, a new theme park in Abu Dhabi.
We go into the restaurant (“Fresh fish! Straight from the Lake!”) and consult the menu. Now, I should mention that I lived in Germany for about seven years; my wife and son were both born in Munich. My German is passable, and my wife’s is native.
On the menu it says, “Pan-fried lake trout,” and describes in typically flowery German how they take a lake trout and filet it and fry it in a frying pan with butter and spices.
Another offering is “Grilled lake trout” which describes in equally flowery language how the lake trout is taken and fileted and placed on a grill over a flame. In their online menu, they say,
“To feel the Bavarian atmosphere, we offer regularly knuckle of pork and other Bavarian specialities from the charcoal grill on our cozy terrace (their translation, not mine).“
One thing I hate: pan-fried fish. One thing I love: grilled fish.
My wife knows this. Whie I am back at the campervan futzing with my contact lenses or something, my wife has a conversation with the waitress, who explains the difference between the two fish dishes – they are as described in the menu.
I order the grilled fish. It arrives. It’s been fried in a pan, and swimming in butter.
We call over the waitress. “In the menu this says grilled fish,” we say, “This is pan fried.”
The waitress, her face a mask of anger, her outrage at our interrupting her evening visible through her pancake makeup, says “I’ll be back.”
Two minutes pass. She comes over to the table and now, in English, says, “The chef will be out to explain it to you.”
“Explain it to me?” I say in English. “I don’t need an explanation, I need you to take this fish back and bring me some grilled fish,” but she’s off like a shot to…
…To sit down with her friends two tables away and smoke a cigarette, and drink a beer, and bitch about the tourists.
The chef comes out – he’s actually a pretty nice young man. “A pleasant good evening to you sir and madam,” he says in formal but not smart-assed German. “I understand there is a problem?”
“Yes,” my wife says, “The menu says that this is grilled fish, but it is pan- fried, and my husband doesn’t like fried fish, doesn’t like fish cooked in butter.”
“Ahh,” says the chef, who now understands he is speaking with someone quite foolish indeed. “You see, we use the butter to esure the fish stays moist and tender. It is quite normal in Germany.”
My wife points out that she is (a) from Germany herself and (b) sufficiently literate to read the menu, on which it states that the fish is grilled, as opposed specifically to the previous entry which is fried in butter. The chef says, “I see. Well, we will make him a fish that is not fried in butter.”
Wonderful. Five minutes later the waitress comes out.
“Next time,” she says in English, “You should tell us if you have a special order,” she lectures, then turns on her heel to walk away from our reactions.
My wife and I both ejaculated simultaneously:
“Next time you should read your own menu, lady, don’t tell me how to order,” and “Next time? You silly arrogant woman, there will never be a next time.”
The next morning, as we were ready to pay at the camping ground and leave, my wife walks in and says to the chain-smoking, obviously alcoholic cashier, “Good morning, I’d like to pay, please.”
He does not look up from his desk, but rather says, “Yeah, I have a different problem now.”
Gemütlichkeit [geh-mOOT-likh-kite] (1) An environment or state of mind that conduces a cheerful mood and peace of mind, with connotation of a notion of belonging and social acceptance, of being cozy and unhurried.
Why is it that on traffic signs for ‘Prien am Chiemsee’ they abbreviate the ‘am’? Not the ‘Chiemsee’. Not the ‘Prien’. The ‘Am’ Yes, ‘Prien a. Chiemsee’. It’s an abbreviation that saves literally no space on the sign.