So much about Germany makes a lot of sense. Don't get me wrong: we love it. But there are a few things that are just plain mysteries to me.
First: Local hot water heaters: it’s often said that in heaven, the Germans will be the engineers. That certainly is true when you behold the rail system, but it makes less sense in the household. Every bathroom has its own little local heater, and usually you spend the entire time under the water trying to find that happy medium between scalding and freezing. In our case, when two adults shower in succession, the second is sure to be cold by the time it’s over.
Second: “Fuzzy” water. Germans love carbonation, which has become something of an issue for our children. Even when we find them “stilles Wasser,” they inspect it carefully for bubbles before they will take a sip. The festival we visited last Sunday literally had no non-carbonated drinks on the menu except for wine, so we had to beg for tap water. They looked at us quite strangely, but humored us.
I know there is good historical reason for this: the saying goes “in wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water, there are bacteria.” Nevertheless, it’s amazing that in this land of very high environmental awareness, no one has pointed out that all that bottled water is both unnecessary and a bit wasteful. (Yes, they do recycle – a lot more than at home – but picking up large crates of Getra”nke is probably the single most common use of an automobile around here).
That being said, in general Europeans are less rabid about hydration than Americans are. You won’t see them walking around sucking on water bottles all the time as if a couple hours separated from water would be the death of them. Drinks are something you sit down for and enjoy, slowly. It may also explain why public restrooms are less plentiful.
Finally: Spargel. Don’t get me wrong. I like asparagus as much as the next person, but it really is an obsession here. There are entire restaurant menus – expensive ones – devoted to asparagus dishes. Like fish, the stores will only tell you they are selling it “market price” for the day. Downstairs the pricing system alone was enough to keep me from buying any for a week here. First, it’s sorted by color: white, violet and, rarely, green. Then by diameter, the thick stuff being more prized. Add to that the weight conversion and the Euro conversion, and my head begins to spin. It's good, but not, to my mind, 9 dollars-a-pound good.