My two days in Cologne turned into five after meeting a really fabulous group of Germans. Bjarne (who was an exchange student at my high school) and his roommates hosted me for three days, so I got to eat with the locals, hang with the locals, not pay for the metro like the locals, but mostly just look confused when everyone around me spoke German. In all seriousness, it was a nice change of pace and I even learned a few things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
Lesson #1: How to Play Schlagball
Schlagball isn’t necessarily a German sport, but Bjarne and his friends play every Sunday and are gearing up for the German championship in a few weeks. I tagged along and they were nice enough to let me play. Translating the rules from German to English was not an easy task but I understood enough to know that I had to try to hit the ball and run to the “safety zone” on the opposite side of the field without getting hit by the ball. The language barrier played to their advantage during the game when the opposing team all decided to gang up on the American. Glad I could give them some extra practice [thumbs up].
Schlagball isn’t supposed to be a full contact sport, but the game ended after a serious collision and an ambulance ride to the hospital. The girl was okay aside from a purple egg on her cheek.
Lesson #2: How to Open a Beer Bottle without an Opener
It was “positively shameful” that I didn’t know how to open a beer bottle without an opener. My lame excuses “I don’t drink beer” and “aren’t most bottles twist top?” didn’t cut it with this group, so they set up a series of challenges. The first challenge was to open a beer with a soda bottle. It only took about 17 tries and a small crowd of cheering Germans to get the top off. Next challenge was to use the side of the table. This time only required 4 tries. I’m getting better. The last challenge was to open a beer with a piece of paper. Seriously? They insisted that it was possible. I folded the paper to get a little bit more leverage. 20 minutes later I was practically sweating and the bottle still wasn’t open. The bottle and paper were passed around the room for the others to show me how it’s done. No one had much luck opening the beer, but apparently that was because I broke the paper. A “classic American engineering mistake.” Regardless, I’m pretty proud of my progress. True German beer drinker right here, folks.
Lesson #3: Einbahnstrasse is Not a Street Name
Some lessons are fun, some lessons are painful. This one was just embarrassing. There’s a street sign near my hostel that read “Einbahnstrasse.” Thinking it was the name of my street, I confidently announced that I knew the direction home one night when I saw the same sign on a corner. Bjarne looked at me incredulously. “Are you serious?” Apparently Einbahnstrasse means “one way street.”
Bonus Vocab Lesson:
Abfahrt van der Vaart = let’s go (slang)
Ein kaffe mit milch bitte = one coffee with milk please
Tschuss = a cute way to say goodbye
Prost = cheers
Guten appetit = enjoy your meal
Danke schon = thank you
Ich nichte sprechen Deutsch = I don’t speak German
Einbahnstrasse = one way street
Nachte station = next station
Ausgang = exit
Schinkenzwiebelmettwurst = ham & onion mettwurst