Strangely, I feel like I’ve never really been to Germany, probably because a lot of what we consider “German” is really Bavarian. Bavaria gets special attention not only because lots of Americans like to go there on vacation, but because everything’s just a little weird. So when you study German, you learn how to say things, and then there’s always a little sidenote for the Bavarian variant. Brötchen, or “little bread,” means “roll” in German. But in Bavaria they say “Semmel.” “Samstag” means “Saturday,” but in Bavaria say “Sonnabend.” In most of Germany, you greet people with “Hallo” or “Guten Tag”; in Bavaria, it’s “Grüß Gott.”
Until 4 days ago, I had literally never heard a single one of those words used in real life. It’s kind of bizarre, like elves turned out to be real, and I somehow made it until now thinking of them as imaginary. Imaginary and silly.
You see, Bayrisch is a very silly dialect. First of all, they roll their Rs (sometimes quite ferociously), and the “ch,” which, contrary to popular belief, has two pronunciations in standard German, is always pronounced as in “Bach”. To my ears, it’s the more forceful of the two pronunciations. They also have the endearing trait of saying “Nix” instead of “nichts,” although that’s not necessarily exclusively Bavarian.
And then there’s the spelling. Oh, the spelling. They tag letters onto the ends of words and remove letters where there’s no reason to. I assume this reflects a former (or current?) practice of speech, but it drives me up the wall.
English “Pretzel” — Standard German “Brezel” — Bayrisch “Breze” or “Brez’n”
English “Room” (but a dark, cosy one) — Standard German “Stube” — Bayrisch “Stubn” or “Stubrl” (seriously? How do you even say that?)

Hopped a bus this morning to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and since then life has been a lot more pleasant. I don’t know what Munich’s problem was. Garmisch is actually two winter resort towns that were mushed together, I think for the Olympics in 1936 (although possibly before that). Population is about 30,000, which means that I circumnavigated it about 4.6 times today. It also means that it’s very difficult to get lost–or maybe that’s just the mountains that surround it so you can’t get too far away.
When I got off the bus, Order of Business Numero Uno was finding a place to stay. I hadn’t been able to decide whether to spend the night in Garmisch or in Mittenwald, an hour (ish) south of here (which is exactly as far south as you can go and still be in Germany–as long as you watch your step), so I figured I’d just wait til the bus pulled in and then see whether I felt more drawn to the town or to another bus. Wound up staying here, 10/10 do not regret. Order of Business Numero Tres (a cup of coffee snuck in there–needed Internet to find a hostel–and also, hooray coffee) was lunch. After a great deal of deliberation, I opted for a German restaurant (first time eating German food in Germany, except when I was a guest and had no choice). So I walked into this Konditorei/cafe combo thing and was immediately transported to the Germany that previously been confined to German culture classes.
My first and greatest faux pas revolved around my desire to have a pastry later. The one I wanted was a beautiful red apple tart thing with streusel on top (I was secretly hoping that the apples were cherries in disguise, but no dice) I glanced at the label to see how to order it, and did a double-take. “Zwetschgendatschi”? What on earth is that? I fumbled through it, and although I did eventually get served, the attendant’s face suggested that not being able to say Zw-… Zwesh -… Zwetschgen…datschi with total fluency was equivalent to waltzing into a Waffle House and asking for a grit, sunny-side up.
Then I asked whether I should seat myself or wait to be seated. Germany doesn’t really do the hostess thing, but still, it was a fancy enough place, I thought maybe I should ask. I should not have asked. Asking is always the wrong answer.
So I sat down in shame, thereby bringing down the mean age of diners by a good 10 years. All around, pensioners were having their Kaffee und Kuchen, the (superior) equivalent to British teatime. A table of nuns nearby was wrist-deep in their ice cream glasses. An old man came in with his Westie, pointed under the table, and the Westie laid down and stayed there for the rest of the man’s meal. All of these people appeared to know each other, too–people would come in separately, sit at separate tables, and not mingle at all, but they consistently said good-bye to each other on their way out the door. The (only) waitress was flitting about, figuring change here, taking a spontaneous order there, and occasionally tut-tutting about how people kept closing her windows, but it’s hot in here, and why are they so afraid of a little breeze?
Despite a small identity crisis involving which way to hold my fork and a chastizing when I didn’t finish the whole platter (what is this, Russia?), it was a successful introduction to the world of Actual Germans.