These photos are ones that I rescued from a mountain of slides taken when my husband and I traveled around Europe 36 years ago. The quality isn’t great, but you know, a picture tells a thousand words. (Don’t worry. I won’t make this post 1000 words long.)

We had come to Munich on our way north after spending a summer in Greece camping in a VW van. It was shockingly cold for mid-September. The locals said it wasn’t usually like this. The air felt like snow. I was wearing three layers of clothing and still shivering.

We had gone to a lot of trouble to find a place to park in the museum parking lot only to have the attendant then tell us that the museum was closed.

Seeing our disappointment he added, “But Oktoberfest is open and it’s just over there.” He pointed to a place not too far away.

“But it’s only September.”

“Yes, but Oktoberfest starts in September and goes on through October.”


After driving all day and not having a chance to do anything with my hair, I tied a scarf over it and hoped for the best. In this cold weather no one would notice anyway.

Oktoberfest was like a huge amusement park. “Let’s go for a ride on the Octopus,” I said.

“Naw! You go ahead if you want. I’ll watch and take your picture.”

We were threading our way through the crowds towards the Octopus, when I came face to face with a man wearing sunglasses. I stepped to the right to go around him. He stepped to the right. I stepped to the left. He stepped to the left. I stepped back to the right. He stepped back to the right.

Exasperated, I said to him in German, “Which way would you like to go?”

“If you wouldn’t mind,” he said, “could you take me to the Hackerhaus?”

“What’s the Hackerhaus? Where is it?”

“It’s a beerhall. Just down the way a little bit. There are a lot of them, but I like the Hackerhaus.”

It was then that I realized he wasn’t wearing the sunglassses to try to be cool. He was carrying a white cane.

“Oh course, I’ll take you there.”

I motioned to my husband that I had to take this man down to one of the beerhalls and he nodded and kept out of our way. However, he didn’t make this job easy for me. He kept stepping in front to take our picture and wave at me. I was trying to be serious and not let the blind man “see” what a couple of giddy fools we were. I was happy enough to do the man a favour, but I felt a bit giggly every time I thought about our miscommunication. When I asked him which way he wanted to go, I meant “right or left.” Not, “Which beerhall would you like me to escort you to?”


I don’t remember going on the Octopus, but I do remember spending hours in the Hackerhaus, tasting a part of an oxen roasted whole on a spit, sharing a small roasted pork knuckle so crispy there was only the bone left when we were through with it. And of course we had to have a giant pretzel called a Bretzel to go with the best beer in the world. It was a good way to warm up on a cold day. There was no miscommunication when my husband repeatedly tested the new phrase he had  learned in talking to the serving women in the beerhall — “Zwei Bier, bitte!”

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41 thoughts on “Miscommunication

  1. The beerhalls were all in a row along the main thoroughfare, like big arenas with the names in huge print on the front of the building. He said it was one of those down the way and I just watched for the word “Hackerhaus” on the front of the buildings. When we got there, we had worked up a thirst and stayed for a while…a long while. It was nice and warm in there and the beer and food and music were all very good.


  2. Hi Anneli. That is a great picture of you and the gentleman with the white cane. Such great memories. It’s nice to see that hubby picked up on some important German phrases. 🙂


  3. Welcome, Margot! It’s funny. I almost didn’t use this story because I feel I look ugly with the scarf on, but the story was one I still chuckle over so I wanted to share it. And yes, Gary can learn foreign languages very quickly when it’s about something he’s interested in. That night he was definitely interested in learning. We had loads of fun!


  4. You are keeping the memories and the photos of changing time of the Germany (and the world) very well.
    After that, those traditional styled wooden houses were replaced by the modern concrete structure in amazing speed.
    (And the culture to travel on VW Camping Van also disappeared, together with hippie culture :-)) I miss the time.


    • Thank you for the update on the changes in the buildings. That makes sense for safety with so many people in the beerhalls. I don’t think I would do the camping van trip in Europe now, even if I were still that young. Times have changed a lot and I don’t think it’s so safe to just camp anywhere the way we used to. They were wonderful carefree days.


    • On one hand I miss that time too, on the other time was always changing and it was always the elderly people who were missing and glorifying the past. I loved the hippie time and student revolution but it is great that it made place for something new, well, not better seen with our eyes…
      Anyway, dear Anneli, thanks for the story and this document of “Good Ol` Germany”.
      All the best


      • I agree with you. It was a wonderful time in many ways, but we can’t stay stuck in the past. There are good changes since then (as well as the bad). e.g. Look at the changes in technology. Here we are blogging and communicating around the world in real time.


  5. Oktoberfest anno dazumal, ein VWBus in Richtung Griechenland, skuril – anruehrende Begegnungen, viel jugendlicher Uebermut…. gerade heute ist unsere Thesi in Kalifornien angekommen, auf der Suche nach einem Oktopus- Erlebnis des Jahres 2013 ! Irgendwo bei Sta.Clarita werden sie morgen frueh – in einem modernen VWbus- adaequaten Gefaehrt!- aufbrechen und ihren “kalifornischen Oktoberfest-Dauer-Vergnuegungspark” samt rotierenden, schüttelnden Monstermaschinen suchen, wahrscheinlich auch irgendwelche bemerkenswerte Erlebnisse haben (es muss nicht immer ein blinder Mann sein!), bevor sie sich wieder in die Wildnis begeben und Sequoias umarmen…
    Sie befindet sich in deiner heutigen Zeitzone, erlebt -zeitverschoben äehnliches- auf einem anderen Kontinent und wird sich in wiederum 36 Jahren gerührt daran erinnern, wie das war…


    • I think that in the U.S. and Canada you can still do this kind of camping more safely than in Europe, but you still have to be careful, just like we were back then. There are a lot of RV parks for campers and if you use common sense it can be a beautiful holiday. But to be honest, I wouldn’t do it in Europe anymore. Too many people and too much political unrest. Not so, in the States and Canada. Much bigger countries and fewer people.I think Thesi will have a wonderful time. I’ve traveled through California several times and it’s a beautiful place.


    • Thanks, Pooben. Really cool is truer than you think. I nearly froze to death until we got inside that wonderful beerhall. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I sure enjoyed that evening!


  6. Those are photos of wonderful quality, whether you’re talking technical or about capturing a moment. Everything looks so clean! And the people are all nattily dressed.


    • Thanks for stopping by, Townspirit. I hadn’t noticed that it’s very clean. I went back for a second look and you’re right. Everything is tidy, no litter. In that way, maybe Germany was ahead of the pack in their anti-litter campaigns because this was in 1977. Well, good for them! Thanks for the compliment about the photo. I’ve just bought a scanner that can turn slides into digital photos, but the dust on the slides is something that I find frustrating. I found that blasting the slide with a little can of compressed air, keeping far enough away so no moisture sticks to it, is the best way to get rid of dust particles. There may be better ways but I haven’t found them yet.


  7. Enjoyed reading your story about your Munich adventure. That gentleman was very fortunate to have “almost” bumped into you. He doesn’t seem to mind having to hold on to a young lady’s arm for the stroll to the beerhall. As far as the guy on the other side of you, I am assuming he just got caught in the photo. He has the typical late 1970s look about him. 🙂 What a wonderful holiday and adventure you and Gary had.


      • The slide photo turned out quite well. I have a lot of slides of my own going back to the 70’s and I have been considering converting them into a digital format. What have you found that works so well for that, if you don’t mind my asking?


    • It’s a scanner, an Epson V500 (probably a model that’s being replaced by a newer one – so it was on sale for about $150). It doesn’t print, but it will scan anything – paper, photos, slides, or negatives. So far I’m very happy with it. I almost bought a cheaper thing ($100 – different brand) that will only do slides, but this is much better. So far I’m happy with it. I found I still have to clean off the slides for dust. A soft cloth and a quick “foof” with a compressed air can does the trick. Just can’t get too close with the air, or the moisture in it will wreck the slide (It’s a fine balance).


  8. The pictures I took back then were slides and they are deteriorating so I’m trying to digitalize them and of course each picture has a story. It was a wonderful trip (five months of travel), and I have many good memories of that time.


  9. This is fantastic, Anneli. The photos are fine!! How fantastic, just wonderful.

    Octoberfest in September, I did not know, and as for roasted oxen – I wonder what that tastes like? Wow, you’re so well travelled. How wonderful 🙂


    • I didn’t know they started it in September either. We were looking for a museum and found a good time instead. The roasted oxen was just so tender – like a prime rib roast. Would I ever love to have another plate of that today!


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