Mit Musik

Although I’ve had my German trip, and have no immediate plans to return, I continue to attend my German language class, at least when I’m in town.

Two reasons. First, I shall undoubtedly return to Germany. I may not have any tickets booked, but it is a land of scenic beauty, rich heritage, great food, and incredibly well organised. Besides, I can hire a Volkswagen from the airport, jump onto the autobahn, and be cruising along at over two hundred kilometres an hour. Can’t do that at home!

Second, our tutor is a real sweetie. Well into his nineties, he also teaches French and he has a gift for how languages are put together. Not to mention his gentle humour. We recently finished a particularly difficult page of German grammar, he looked around the class and asked “Right, is everybody happy with that?”

Examining our expressions, he went on, “I ask because you don’t look happy.”

I think we were relieved that the grammar had ended for the time being, and we could do something practical, like read an easy story.

We’re currently progressing through the “Dino learns German” series, concerning the adventures of a hapless young Sicilian exploring Germany, supposedly learning the language to get a job, but in reality having a party existence aimed at making closer relationships with the frauleins.

In our current read, Dino has reached Frankfurt, and is being shown around the Römer by Christa, his landlady’s daughter. They stop for a meal, and a dish arrives: Handkäse mit Musik.

I couldn’t help but smile. Dino’s experience mirrored my own of some years back, during my very first hours in Germany. I arrived at the airport, having caught the flight by the skin of my teeth, and was met at the gate by a young man with whom I had only corresponded over the internet. We were to meet friends for dinner later, but this fellow – let’s call him Rudi -had volunteered to guide me to my accommodation and show me a few of the sights.

We took the train into Frankfurt, found a bus heading over the river, checked in and walked back along the Main and over the Eiserner Steg footbridge into the city. Incredibly pleasant, though I obviously startled Rudi by exclaiming at one point, “Oh look, a white swan!”

His face was a picture. Up until that moment, the notion that swans could come in any other colour had never entered his mind. It took some explaining to convince him that in my country on the underside of the world, swans were black.

We crossed the river and walked into town, through the (reconstructed) mediaeval Römer, the old town square lined with half-timbered houses. In the centre is a brass plaque marking the site of a Nazi book burning.

Our friends had assembled in the cellar of a nearby establishment, where we downed beer and cider, ate the local food, and I learnt a few German words.

Handkäse mit Musik, for example. “Käse” is cheese – a sour milk cheese – and it is formed into blobby balls by hand, which is the same word as ours. It is topped with raw onions and served with spices.

“And what about the music?” I innocently asked, looking at the “mit Musik” on the menu. Perhaps it came with little bells, or a brass band played a salute to those fearless enough to try it?

“Oh, the music comes later,” they told me, laughing.

“It tastes awful,” Rudi said, turning the page of the menu to less interesting dishes, “and if someone eats it, it makes kissing them later very difficult.”

So we both ordered something else.


Photo by Vladislav Vasnetsov from Pexels

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