Danny Breslin

How it is…

Was Ist Vinegar?

Friends, I was going to just leave you today with the reblog you see below, but I can’t do that – not when I have a story to tell. So sit back in your comfy chair, put on your favourite reading glasses and let me take you by the hand and lead you on a journey to a land far away. Well, Germany to be exact.

When I first left school I had many jobs but like a shark I could never keep still, nothing ever satisfied my overactive brain so I didn’t stick around too long. A few years ago I was working in Bremerhaven in Northern Germany. We were in a former U Boat base which had been bought by Lufthansa, the German airline. They used the giant hangars to park their planes and we went in to paint them. It is quite a weird experience to walk across the top of an airliner, you could almost feel as if it was flying and you were up there thousands of feet above the ground. I digress.

Anyway, myself and the crew I was working with were staying at a hotel in nearby Bremen. A strange place where nobody seemed willing to talk to us; I couldn’t work out if that was because we were English or because most of the people I worked with were from Lincolnshire, in which case I could well understand why the natives would avoid them. The hotel manager was ok though and enjoyed our company in the bar. At least we suspected he did, never once did he smile though, even when we sat taking it in turns to tell jokes. He even joined in and told us a joke about the former German national team manager Bertie Voigts; yet after the punchline, which I cannot divulge to my sensitive readers, while we were in stitches laughing his face never even twitched.

We were working 12 hour shifts for four days then flying home for three before returning to Germany. Our time while there, when we weren’t working or sleeping, comprised of drinking copious amounts of Beck’s lager and schnapps chasers.

One day, I came back to the hotel after my shift, got showered and changed before heading to the restaurant to get a nice lining for my stomach before heading to the bar for the evening. It was fairly empty in there so I found a table and sat down to peruse the menu. The bored waitress came over and stood before me, “Ja?”

“Schwein steak und pomme frites, bitte.” I ordered. It struck me as strange that such an advanced country wouldn’t have their own word for chips (french fries as my American readers so erroniously call them).

“Ja.” She said maintaining the expression that almost screamed how much she hated this job.

“Brot und butter.” Another display of lingual laziness. Then I remembered that English stems from German so butter was their word first.

“Ja” She was considering suicide.

“Und….” I looked at my condiments (oo-er!) and realised that, although I had salt to hand, there was no sign of the vinegar – chips without vinegar? Unheard of! I refuse to go down the mainland Europe route of smothering my little golden friends with mayonnaise, that is simply disgusting and I will not even contemplate it. “Haben Sie…erm…vinegar?” I didn’t know the German word for vinegar.

She finally raised her head from her notepad, the boredom left her eyes as she regarded me with what appeared to be suspicion. I had momentarily taken her away from the mind-numbing boredom she seemed to be frozen in, probably saved her from slipping into depression, possibly saved her life! “Vinegar? Was ist das?”

Oh, now then, how do you describe vinegar? I reverted to charades, I hate playing charades: I was showing how I would shake the bottle over my plate through the gift of mime, all the while with a grin on my face repeating: “Vinegar…vinegar….you know, vinegar.” She looked scared, she muttered her excuses in German before fleeing the tableside of this mad man to fetch the manager. At least he could speak English thank God.

The heavyset bearded German approached my table, the formerly bored now worried looking waitress cowering behing his broad back. He glowered down at me with an expression that suggested I had molested the poor woman. “Vot do you vant?” He boomed.

“Have you got any vinegar?” Less than impressed by his unwarranted display of machismo I was considering sticking the butter knife in his thick thigh if that was a road he wanted to travel.

“Vinegar? Vot is that?”

I briefly wondered why he didn’t call it “Winegar”. I then nearly went into the charades that had clearly terrified his staff member but decided against it. I was getting desperate, I was hungry and this was cutting into my alloted drinking time. Last attempt to make myself understood: “Vinegar, you put it on your chips, it’s… acetic acid.”

The two Germans looked at each other, they whispered to each other, far too low and too fast for me to follow. Then the manager turned to look at me with his bushy brows knitted, “You vant to put acid on your chips?”



December 7, 2012 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. “You vant to put acid on your chips?”
    Love it!!

    Comment by gabrielablandy | December 7, 2012 | Reply

    • I know, how do you reply to that? It still makes me laugh years later.

      Comment by Danny Breslin | December 7, 2012 | Reply

  2. […] on this blog. Maybe travel tales?  I’ve already told you about things that happened in Germany (my favourite story ever), France and Belgium, special memories from India and almost causing […]

    Pingback by Bogged down « Danny Breslin | November 15, 2013 | Reply

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