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The Fun Is In The Details

One of my favorite things about traveling is discovering how other people go about their everyday lives. How are we the same? How are we different? We had barely been in Germany 24 hours and my travel journal entry for one of the first days there was dominated by a list of things the Germans do differently (and, one might argue, BETTER).

  • Carbonated water is a thing. Often when purchasing bottled water you will be asked if you want flat or non-flat (especially if they've sussed out that you're not from around those parts).
  • Many of the windows open in a V shape rather than the double-hung or winding handle types we have here. For example, when you open a traditionally shaped vertical rectangular-shaped window, the top of the window angles into the room, forming a semi-V shape in its frame. I don't know the logic behind this. Just thought it was cool.
  • Speaking of windows, I didn't see any screens on windows anywhere. Not saying there aren't any. I just didn't see any.
  • The plumbing fixtures (handles, faucets) were uber cool. Our hotel was very
    We stayed at the Miniloft in Mitte near the Natural History museum. Highly recommend if you're into the contemporary style.

    contemporary, so this was no big surprise. But most other places we went that had public restrooms like bars, restaurants, train stations, airports, etc., had interesting, cool fixtures as well. Yes, some of them took me a minute to figure out how to turn them on and off. One place in Munich had Harley Davidson hardware.

  • Speaking of plumbing: just about every public restroom also had modern toilets with buttons on the tank or even on the wall to activate the flush feature - no handles.  Many have two buttons, depending on how much water volume you feel is necessary for an effective flush.
  • I mentioned in a previous post but since it is one of my favorites, will mention again: you can walk around town with an adult beverage. Open. Openly drinking it. People, this is what a civilized country looks like. I've lived all over the U.S., and the only two places I've been where this is allowed (outside of street festivals, of course) is the French Quarter in New Orleans and a few blocks in Savannah where the tourists tend to congregate.
  • Just about everyone in the tourist biz (restaurants, hotels) speaks English.
  • Just about everyone is very friendly.

    Vintage Benz - not buttercream, not a taxi, but still a sweet ride
  • In Berlin , many of the taxis are late model Mercedes Benz; usually a buttercream color.
  • Many of the Mercedes Benz, taxis and otherwise, have no model number on the trunk like they do here. Why do you suppose this is? Are they just so familiar with the models, this would be superfluous? Or they just don't care what model, as long as it's a Benz?
  • As mentioned in a previous post, our cab driver in Berlin drove like a maniac. I totally was not expecting this. In Rome, maybe, but not Berlin. But since this is the land of the Autobahn, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.
  • The trains are amazing - clean, efficient, on time, affordable. Why don't we have more of them here???
  • The train stations are amazing. We were in several during our trip. The station in Munich was our favorite place to go for snacks and coffee/tea. There was only one (Gare du Nord in Paris) that was a little down-at-the-heels. More on that in a future post.
  • Recycling glass and plastic bottles is a big thing. You will see neat piles of empties along the sidewalks. It's their version of giving a few coins to panhandlers - they are left for folks who turn them in for deposit money. In fact, once we were approached by someone who noticed we had just finished a bottle of water. It was weird at first, but once we realized what they wanted, it was okay.
  • Bicycles are ubiquitous. Many families bike together to school, parks, shops. Most wear helmets.
  • Generously sized sidewalks accommodate not only pedestrians but also bikes, and sometimes, parked cars.
The Berlin Tower with some of its less space-age neighbors
  • Modern architecture is often cheek by jowl with historical. In theory, you might find this jarring. But it was actually delightful - the modern buildings were almost like a cherry on top, nestled among their vintage neighbors.
  • The bedclothes in the two hotels we stayed at were interesting. My son was delighted to learn they dispense with a traditional top sheet (he's been a top sheet hater since childhood). Our queen size bed had two matching twin size comforters rather than a single queen. This is actually genius and eliminates wrestling matches over the covers - you each have your own! And the comforters are sheet fabric on the outside, and comforter on the inside. So you still have a sheet-type item on you. It's just part of the comforter, and therefore saves an extra step when making the bed.
  • It was amusing seeing 'American' restaurants branded as ethnic food. Burgers were the main offering. There were a few that touted themselves as Texas style barbecue. We didn't sample any (it seemed a little silly to seek out American food while traveling in Europe), but I am very curious what the Germans offer as Texas-style 'cue. One restaurant offered southern/soul food. Another had a rock-n-roll theme.
  • American fast food chains were commonplace. I was prepared for the McDonald's and Burger King; less so for the Subway chain, which was as ubiquitous there as it is here. Fried chicken was also quite popular. Oh, and in case you're wondering what native German fast food consists of: currywurst. It's wurst-style sausage links, cut into bite-size pieces and served in a curry sauce (like a really flavorful ketchup); usually with a side of fries like you would get at any American fast food joint.

That's all I can think of for now. Would love to hear some of your observations on the little details that make a big difference to your travel experience. Next post I'll get back on track with more scoop on our tourist trek through Berlin.

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