Posts Tagged ‘beer’

“Take care of these two girls,” the hostel owner pulled me aside as we walked into the bar.  This was my job for the night, helping these guests have fun in Istanbul.  Not a serious responsibility, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

After drinking beers and booze and more beers with these two kids in the hostel before we all stumbled out into the night, I had gotten to know a few things about their lives.  They were gap-year girls, traveling from Australia around Europe, sharing costs and experiences.  They were nice kids–just graduated high school, even.  Their plan was to linger in Europe for months, staying with friends along the way.

I hung around outside on the club’s balcony while they danced inside.  It was the usual Turkish fare, astral music sounding more appropriate for a bar on Tatoonie.  Between glasses of raki, Turkey’s national stiff drink, I stared at the city, blanketed in light.  I downed another glass of raki and walked to the bathroom, checking on them as I left.

I didn’t even have time to wash my hands before they approached me in the hall.  They announced that they wanted to go with me to find “bread.”  I looked them over.  There was no hint of joking.  They really wanted bread, and they wanted it now.  We hiked six floors downstairs to the entrance, passing a gay bar outside.

“Josh, can we go to the gay club?”

“No, I’m not gay yet.”

“OK, we’ll go tomorrow.”

Out on the street and on the hunt for “bread,” I led them to a nearby buffet restaurant.  After three weeks in Istanbul, I’ve learned that it’s a cheap place.  More importantly, they also serve bread, the holy grail of our misguided crusade.  I’m a very frequent customer–I eat there almost every day, returning for the low prices and good quality.  It’s a favorite of mine.

“You can look around and see if you like anything. There’s a lot and there’s the bread so maybe–“

“Josh, this food is all shit.  I want a kebap.”

“…OK.  Yeah, let’s go find one.  That’s easy.  They’re everywhere.”

They were everywhere and nowhere.  We weaved through Istiklal, the main thoroughfare for night-life boasting 3,000,000 visitors daily, but nothing seemed to be open.  In the meantime, the girls bargained with an ice cream vendor for a deal, then asked for an extra empty cone to really sweeten the pot.  We took to the sidestreets, the meandering dark alleys and cobblestone paths, hunting down a local shop.  Along the way, one of the girls discovered she had the innante ability to speak to cats, so she made sure to chat with and throw ice cream cones at every stray animal we saw along the way.  With all of this going on, taxis harassing us, drunk men following us, and a litter of cats mewing for more ice cream, our cat whisperer announced that she had to wee.

“Go in the corner next to the cat you fed,” I helpfully suggested.

“That’s not nice.  Oh, there’s a bar here, let’s go in!”

Before I could say no, I was walking into a smoky Turkish lounge bar.  The lighting was subdued candlelight.  A female singer was on stage, surrounded by several local couples enjoying a romantic dinner.  We were seated in the very front of the room, immediately in front of the singer, who smiled at us.  While Catwoman used the restroom, I looked around and surveyed the room.  The cuisine was overpriced finger food.  All the couples I had seen when we walked in were definitely staring at us.  Staring us down.  I started to wonder if they were really couples at all.  The men seemed much older than the women accompanying them.  Was this one of those scam places that slap hapless foreigners with overpriced bills at the end?  I competed with the amps to communicate with the kids.

“Shit guys, I think we need to get the hell out of here.”

“WHAT?”

“I SAID WE SHOULD GO!”

“WHAT?  WHY?”

“BECAUSE THIS PLACE COSTS A LOT AND THESE WOMEN LOOK LIKE THEY HAVE FATHER ISSUES.”

We ran out with our heads held low, following the increasingly dark alleys until we stumbled on the light of the main strip.  Now near the hostel, a line of kebap restaurants were hustling.  The girls’ eyes lit up with joy.  We sat inside a restaurant with a particularly hawkish waiter and ordered meals; he took it upon himself to sit at our table and flirt.  Only not with me, so that was a bit off-putting.  It wasn’t long after the kebaps arrived that the girl who had started this nonsense announced she wasn’t all that hungry.  In fact, she seemed so not hungry that she couldn’t wait to get all her food out of her body, throwing up more colors than can be found in a bag of Skittles.  The manager rushed over with a plastic bag.  Catwoman and I each held one handle of the bag in front of her face like she was a horse feeding at the trough.  Both the bag and my hands were filled with bile.  Before the liquid could dissolve my skin, I handed it off to the hawkish waiter who had brought us inside, the poor fool.  The manager pointed outside, making vague promises of a bathroom, and ushered the girls out personally.

They all left for the bathroom, following the manager’s instructions.  I continued eating my kebap, because, shit, it tasted good, and the waiter was staring at me from the corner, the frown on his face not turning upside-down anytime in the near future.  I looked down at my food.  Then I remembered the mission objective from before we entered the bar and grudgingly left to follow them.  I told the waiter I’d be right back.  His eyes were a thousand-yard stare; I don’t think he even heard.  It didn’t take long to find them; instead of a bathroom, the girl was leaning over a public trash can.  Tourists were taking photos.  They noticed me approaching.

“Josh!  What are you doing?  Go back inside!”

Dry heaving.

“What the hell are you talking… what?  She’s sick!”

Choking.

“Yeah, but our food’s alone in there!  Go save our food!”

Gurgling.

“The food!”

I looked at her.  She was serious, again.  I couldn’t find fault in those priorities or that level of resolve, so I turned back to the restaurant.  I immediately heard the manager from across the square.

“My friend, you catch!”

Without warning, this middle-aged man threw an indeterminate object across the entire line of kebap vendors.  My first instinct was to cringe, anticipating a tomahawk.  In its mid-air tumble, I gradually worked out that it was actually just a water bottle, and that this was a good thing, since it was something I could give it to the girl.  Unfortunately, even with all these calculations running, I didn’t have time to process how to catch the damn thing, so it smacked me in the head.  The vendors cackled.

“Sorry, my friend,” the doubled-over manager huffed.

I trotted over to the girls and waved the water.  But the kid refused, assuring me everything was wonderful. 

“Are you OK?”

“…yesh.”

“Try again.  Are you really OK?”

“…yesh.”

“…cool.  Well, let’s eat.  This night is weird as shit, huh?  I just got hit in the fucking head by…”

“Josh, we don’t have money.”

“YOU WHAT?”

She explained that she meant she wanted to take as much of the food as possible back to the hostel to save on eating costs.  That’s admittedly better than the beating I assumed we’d all be getting from the manager.  I was already well-versed with the strength of his throwing arm.  We entered the restaurant and were greeted with smiles.  We took our seats.  My meat had already gotten cold.  The ill girl decided it was as good a time as any to take a nap, so she laid her head in a puddle of spilled lemonade.   Me and Catwoman began chatting some more, sharing travel stories, pilfering chicken kebap morsels from the napper.  Suddenly the girl sprang up, motioning for a plate.  Her friend held a dish in front of her mouth, and a most disturbing deluge of stomach juice was unceremoniously deposited upon it.  The waiter, who had by now snapped out of his existential crisis, ran over with wetnaps.  Catwoman looked at me.  I looked at my food.  Then we all looked at the manager and pleaded, almost in unison:

“Check, please.”

“I’d like this to go.”

“BLEEEEEEEERGH!!”

A hurried, consonant-heavy language with no time for vowels, the newborn Czech Republic prudently decided to adopt its namesake language in 1993.  Pronounced “Czech me out” by clever tourists who somehow have never been tapped as poet laureate, Czech is the native tongue of some 13 million people worldwide.  With an Omega-level mutant ability to form entirely vowel-less sentences like “plch pln skvrn prch skrz drn prv zhlt čtvrt hrst zrn” (“a doormouse full of stains escaped through grass after first eating a quarter-handful of grain”), it’s surprising that the language hasn’t just given up on phonemes all together.  Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in the Czech Republic, the ninth country on my trip around the world.

 

1. Hello/Hi.      “Dobrý den/Ahoj.”      [DOH-bree dehn/ah-HOY]

This “hello” can be used when entering stores or approaching people on the streets.

2. Yes/No.     “Ano/Ne.”     [AH-no/neh]

A bi-syllabled “yes.” 

3. Do you speak English?     “Mluvíte anglicky?”     [MLOO-vee-te AHN-glee-skay?]

Don’t expect the locals to shoulder the entire burden.

4. Where is…?     “Kde je…?”     [kday yah…?]

Very useful in Prague, full as it is with fairytale winding cobblestone roads.

5. How much?      “Kolik to stojí?”      [ko-lick toh sto-yi?]

Cheap.  It’s cheap; no need to ask.

6. Delicious!      “Lahodný!”      [lah-hod-nee]

Czech food is emphasizes meaty meals, with pork the most likely meat on your plate.

7. Thank you.      “Děkuji.”      [dyeh-ku-yi]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

 

Notable customs:

  • Per capita, Czech people consume more beer than anyone else in the world, outclassing such luminaries as the Irish, the Germans, and John Belushi.
  • Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible, to a similar extent that Spanish and Portuguese speakers can understand each other’s language.
  • Franz Kafka lived and wrote in Prague, but his stories aren’t exactly a reflection on the rest of the Czech literary tradition.

 

But if you wake up one morning and find yourself transformed into a giant insect, you might as well just run with it.

 

Honorable mentions:

I don’t understand.      “Nerozumín.”     [neh-ro-zou-meen]

Fetch! (inf., to a dog)     “Aport!”     [AH-port!]

Good dog! (inf., to a dog)     “Hodnej!”     [HOHD-nay!]

 

With a gentic makeup rivaling that of the Saiyans, history has shown that when wounded Germans are provided time to heal, they only reappear stronger than ever.  Alternatively beaten by and beating back threats from within and without across the centuries, Germany is today firmly on the crest of its sinusoidal historical wave.  The German economy is by far the most robust in Europe, and at 5th overall in the world, Germans have ample reason to be proud: Their country is the largest exporter of goods in the world, German is the most common first language in Europe, and just to really shove everyone’s faces in it, they even recycle more than almost anyone else.  The rapid ascent of Germany is all the more remarkable since the unified nation of Germany has only existed since 1990, following the successful political fusion dance of Cold War East and West.

With the rise of modern Germany in the late 19th century and its rapid military victories over France, a hopelessly antagonistic philosopher riding a historical crest and later an imprisoned young art student most decidedly in the trough both looked around at all of the history they were seeing and decided to sit down, count to ten, and write about how it made them feel.  Rather than discarding these scraps of internal monologue faster than you can say “anger management,” they chose instead to publish their work and change the entire world.  Each in their own way came to believe in the notion of a super race, which, since we’re talking myths here, might as well be absurdly powerful with blonde hair and blue eyes.

 

A typical German family portrait.

 

One of the pitfalls of this gated community of Übermensch was the inherent exclusivity of it; as is the case with treehouse clubs, the CIA, and the Troll Book Club, not everyone could be a member.  The result was the most destructive war humanity has ever waged on itself, part and parcel a pattern of streamlined, mechanized genocide.  In the post-War era, Germans have taken great strides toward promoting peace, refusing to mire themselves in a past that most everyone would rather forget.  The Nuremburg Trials held Nazi officers accountable for war crimes; the Nazi flag and party remain illegal.  When terrorists stormed the Israeli athletes’ rooms during the 1972 Munich Olympics, high-ranking German ministers reportedly offered their own lives to exchange places with the Israeli athletes.  Even the previously unthinkable has happened: a friendship and friendly rivalry has blossomed with France, now Germany’s largest trading partner.  Germany has moved on strongly.  Today, the average German citizen has a power level well over 9000.

 

A German (left) and a Frenchman (right) battle to a stalemate. They would later become unlikely friends.

 

Local Name: Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany)

Language: German

Capital: Berlin (Bonn was the capital of West Germany)

Population: 81,305,856 (all of whom can recite the lyrics to any David Hasselhoff song from memory)

Area: 357,022 km2

Government: Federal republic; elected Chancellor rules and secretly engineers the Clone Wars

Currency: Euro; symbol EUR; €1 = US$1.31 (March 2012)

Economy: World’s 5th largest; Europe’s largest; vehicles; chemicals; international trade; machinery; highly skilled workforce

Notable International Enemies: Ghosts of their past.

 

Featuring the national colors of Germany, the current flag was adopted in 1919 during the Weimar Republic.

 

Famous For: Guzzling beer (2nd largest consumers after the Irish); several famous philosphers and composers; the Autobahn; the Holy Roman Empire; its on-again-off-again brush with European dominance throughout history

Not Famous For: Being the first country to adopt Daylight Savings Time (during WWI); producing some 35% of the world’s wind energy; publishing the first Bible and later jumpstarting the Reformation; being the world’s largest exporter of goods

Obligatory Tourist Detours: Brandenburg Gate; Munich; the Black Forest; Cologne Dome

What US$20 Can Get You: Several plates of currywurst, a sausage/curry hybrid dish; two nights in a hostel

Quick History Recap: Thwarting Roman efforts of annexation in 9 AD, the region east of the Rhine remained a collection of loosely affiliated districts until 1871, when the modern nation-state of Germany was established under Prussian Otto von Bismarck.  Germany’s economy soared, quickly matching that of the industrialized Western European nations, allowing for rampant expansion.  Decades later, the expense of forced war reparations, the unstable Weimar government, and the Great Depression created a fertile political atmosphere for the national socialist party and its young leader, an unsuccessful painter named Adolf Hitler.  The Second World War crippled Germany once again, literally dividing the country for half a century by the Allies and USSR.  Performing a successful fusion dance in 1990, Germany has since become one of the largest economies in the entire world, with a collective power level of just over 3.28 trillion.

 

The most common first language within the European Union, German is spoken by nearly 100,000,000 people.  Not limited to Germany alone, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and tiny Liechtenstein all feature large contingents of German speakers and varying degrees of official state recognition.  With a hefty alphabet just foreign enough to throw umlauts over three–count ’em–THREE vowels, one can only imagine that they must have simply run out of elbow strength by the time their pen reached the letter ß, thereby saving it to be mispronounced in an entirely different manner.  Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in Germany, the eighth country on my trip around the world.

1. Hello.     “Hallo.”     [HAH-loh]

Dutch, German, English–all the same, save for a few scrambled letters.

2. Yes/No.     “Ja/Nein.”     [yah/nine]

Very similar to Dutch, nein?

3. Do you speak English?     “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”     [SRAHK-en zee ANG-lish?]

It works more often than you’d expect.

4. Where is…?     “Wo ist…?”     [voh ist…?]

Now wait a minute–this is just a poor man’s Dutch!

5. How much?     “Wie viel kostet das?”     [vee feel KOS-tet das?]

Uncanny, once again.

6. That tastes good!     “Das schmeckt gut!”     [dahs schmekt goot!]

German food is meaty; vegetarians need not learn this phrase.

7. Thank you.     “Danke.”     [DAHN-kuh]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

Notable customs:

  • Germans often tip by rounding up the bill, but rarely bill by rounding off the tip.
  • Don’t drink until a toast has been said, and stay away from Heineken, because PABST BLUE RIBBON!


 “Heineken?  Fuck that shit!  PABST BLUE RIBBON.”

Honorable mentions:

Bless you!     “Gesundheit!”     [geh-soond-hait!]

“A cataclysmic downfall or momentous, apocalpytic event!”   “Götterdämmerung!”   [goy-te-deh-me-rung!]

Happy Hanakah!      “Glücklicher Hanukkah!”      [GLOOK-leesh-er hah-na-kah!]