We walked in the front door and were immediately greeted by a smiling young woman standing behind the bar. The techno music playing quietly on the radio contrasted mightily with the dirndl she was wearing and the dark stained, chunky pine seats and tables. Action Girl and Irene wandered over to a table and I asked if she spoke English. I really didn’t know much German at this point in my life and the hostess spoke hesitant english. I asked if they took credit cards, and naturally, they didn’t.
(On a side note, this is something that I have found maddeningly common in both Germany and Austria. No one, short of big hotels and tourist trap restaurants, seems to be happy when you pull out the plastic. As soon as… THE SECOND!… you cross into France or Switzerland, everyone will take your Visa or MC card. Even the street vendors have these wonderful little contraptions that look like cell phones with a slot down the side to swipe a card. Why these aren’t commonplace in the Germanic countries, let alone the U.S., I have no idea.)
I wasn’t surprised in the least that my credit card wasn’t going to cut it so I asked about an ATM. Was there one near by? She told me that there was, just down the street in the village. I thanked her, dumped my pack and told the ladies that I’d be right back. I stepped out the door and started heading into the village. Walking was striking me as being painfully slow and since Action Girl and I had been running lately, I felt up to a short jog. I picked up the pace and trotted along the road. And trotted… And trotted. The village, it turned out, was a fair bit down the road. Now, I know that distances always feel longer when you don’t know the route, but this was really a bit of a haul. I finally reached the town center after what I would guess was about two to two and a half miles. The problem that next confronted me was that the bank was not obvious to the passer by. I looked for a few minutes and feeling that time was not on my side, switched my tactic to finding someone who could help me find the ATM.
Everything was closed. It was after five now and there was not an open shop or a pedestrian to be found. Then I saw it. Miraculously, the apothecary was still open! I stepped in and fulling expecting to have to resort to hand gestures and pantomiming to get the help I needed, asked the white clad pharmacist if he spoke English. He replied with a “Ja”, rather than a “Yes”, but I was hopeful. I slowed down my speech a bit and asked where the ATM was. The man immediately brightened and said “Oh, well den, whatcha wanna do is goo over to da square and maka left at da fountain. It’s in front of a blue buildin’. Ya can’t missit!” I stopped cold. That was not the accent that I was prepared for. The sensation was the auditory version of taking a drink of coffee when you expect it to be milk. “Umm. Where are you from originally?” I asked, interest peaked. “Oh, I’m from Grand Forks. Dat’s in North Dakota, ya know.”
I thanked him and headed out the door, brain reeling just a bit. After a minute or two I found the ATM. It was out of service. Naturally. I decided to pop back in to visit my friendly countryman at the apothecary and inquire about any other ATM’s. Yes, there was one just down the road. As it turned out, back toward the railway station. Did I know where that was? Actually, yes I did. “Well, it’s past the rail way station and den it’s just a little past it. Dare’s a road off to de right an dat’ll lead to a lil’ bunch of buildings and dare’s an ATM dare, I think.”
“Ok,” I thought, “I’m up to this. I can do that.” I started off back toward the rail station and the inn. As I was running back, it started to drizzle. Great. As the rain started collecting on my clothes, I wondered why the hostess didn’t tell me about the second ATM in the first place? After all, it sounded closer. As I jogged past the inn, I was tempted to pop in and explain where I was going and why but I decided not to waste the time it would take. I’m also the kind of person who, when he’s on a mission, doesn’t deviate until it’s done. So, past it, I ran and on down the road. I saw the turn, crossed the river and easily found the bank. It was big, yellow and had a big sign reading “Volksbank”. “People’s Bank”, I thought. “That sounds nice.” My card went into the slot, I punched in my pin and then… It spat it back out. We repeated this about eight times.
“You can’t be serious”…