October 20, 2008


Filed under: food,language,travel — origamifreak @ 12:38 pm
Tags: , , ,

 10/20/2008 6:42 PM

Yesterday I spent most of the rest of the day sleeping and finishing up a short paper. Last night some friends from NY came to get me and I had an impromptu dinner at their house and we spent a nice time chatting – which was very kind of them, considering they had just returned from Prague that afternoon and were probably very, very tired!

This morning I had a quick breakfast at the hotel (it’s included, and the bread is fresh), and met my friends for coffee at the gelateria around the corner. Then we drove up to where I’m working for the week, and the rest of the day is pretty much a blur, so I’m glad I took notes. I met lots of nice collaborators, had a lunch and a long meeting afterward, and in the cracks even managed to finish and send off the short manuscript I’d been working on yesterday.

Tonight after being dropped back off at the hotel, I left my backpack (now considerably heavier, with the addition of a 2cm stack of reprints to read), and trotted with my camera back to the bridge over the local river before the light faded.

Next I browsed the local supermercato. I love going to grocery stores when I travel. It’s just so very interesting to see what they have. In this case it was a lot like the Madias store in Geneva, but with an amazing cheese counter (there were separate meat and cheese counters), lots of different kinds of olives, wines, liquors, all kinds of fruit juices, shelf milk and creams, a cleaning products aisle that tickled my nose with unfamiliar smells, a pet food aisle with familiar brands like Friskies, plus some that I’ve only seen on (kit-E-kat).

After that I walked back in the direction of the hotel and debated about whether to eat at the bar on my side of the street, or at the pasticceria on the other side. I picked the bar, and the guy there spoke some English, and some German. He offered me by name the same kinds of pasta that I ‘d had on Saturday night, and while considering the alternatives, he then suggested wurst. “OK, Wurst,” I said, and was seated in a vaguely Barvarian-themed dining room behind the bar. He asked what I wanted to drink and I asked for beer. “Piccolo” beer (meaning a small glass). I usually accompany this word with the thumb and forefinger sign I use for “Un poquito,” and people seem to understand.

The beer tasted vaguely reminiscent of my fruit fly cultures in grad school when they needed changing, that is to say, rather yeasty. It wasn’t filtered. I drank it anyway, and got used to it. Then the wurst came. Or, should I say, the four extra-long hot dogs that met at the bottom of the plate in a dollop of thick brown mustard, and fanned out at the top, the plate garnished with two very over-cooked pea pods between the two center hot dogs. I must have looked surprised, because they guy looked a bit surly after that, and asked if it was OK. I said it was OK, and dug in.

The pea pods were pretty tragic, but the hot dogs weren’t bad; about the same quality as the beef Hebrew National ones I like at home. He also put a basket of bread on the table and I had a piece. It wasn’t as nice as the kind the hotel serves at breakfast, but it was edible.

Eventually I finished, and after checking the Berlitz book, asked for the tab. The grand total? 1.5 Euros for the beer and 3.5 Euros for the meal. So at least I only paid for what I got!

I continued back to the hotel and stopped at my favorite gelateria and all in Italian asked for “uno gelato, per favore, senza panna.” This means one gelato please, without cream. The lady smiled at me, I suppose, for now knowing not only what the Zhane was, but also how to ask not to have it. In Italian. 😉 This serving was also piccolo, and the flavor I chose was “Fiordlatte,” which was actually vanilla. I guess I’d expected sweet cream, or something. They stuck one of those cylindrical cookies in it. Afterwards I asked for the check (still in Italian) paid my one Euro, and went back to the hotel. I hope that one Euro is sufficient payment for them helping me practice their language – I rather suspect not, but I guess it’ll have to do.

The people at work today said that this town is last one before they speak all German, even at home. Apparently 5km north of here there are places where they use German for everyday life, and only Italian for commerce. So although the political border is beyond that, apparently the language border is right about here.


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