Friday, September 07, 2012

Frisky Sandwiches

We've been on holiday to Zurich, Salzburg, Munich, Berlin, Strasbourg and Berne and yet I'm wary of boring you all with a '...and then we did...' or 'then we saw....' style of entry.

Therefore, I'll let some photos do the talking. Or writing.

In the classic Aussie movie, 'The Castle,' the father, Dale Kerrigan, sings "We're going down to Bonnie Doon," over and over during the long drive with his family to their holiday shack on the river. It amused us to see a shop with the same name in French/German Strasbourg. 

"How's the serenity?"
Er, in a tourist-crammed heritage-listed medieval town, not so much.

'Bum' was on signs everywhere. Or was it a 'z' instead? We're not entirely sure and google translate has no idea what a 'schneck' is. 'Rothen' is red, so something was surely sore - a bum, a snail or a family business?

You may already know of my mother's proclivity to steal breakfast provisions in order to not to have to buy lunch, but the opportunity to try some frisky sangers in Salzburg had won over instantly.

Korma Sutra curry, on the other hand, didn't seem quite as appealing in Zurich. We ate a pretty standard (and dull) pasta meal instead and noticed that the Ladies of the Night started business early here - 6:30pm in fact - and right in front of our hotel.  Five of them had congregated to offer their sexual services but regular peeks from the third floor window of our hotel revealed that trade on a Monday evening was slow.

In Basel's old town, we found a drunken elf, lit up at night time (in more ways than one) indicating the 'Pissoir.' It means 'urinal' in French and German but is still a strangely light-hearted bit of whimsical signage for the serious Swiss.

In Munich, right near the town hall (appropriately named the Rat haus) was Wormland. It instantly took me back to the grim days of collections work at Wormald Security (now Chubb) on Racecourse Road in Melbourne during most of 1994. One annoyed debtor posted me a (later bounced) cheque made out to 'Wormworld Security.'  Here, perhaps, was where we should have shopped.

...I'd have loved to have found a t-shirt with the WORMLAND brand proudly displayed.  Shake in your overpriced shoes, Abercrombie and Fitch!

Finally, Lake Zurich. A hot 30C day, a completed bus tour and a vague urge to go on a cruise. "Oh look," Dad said. "This is YOUR boat, Kath!"

On closer inspection, the old bugger was right:

I love you too, Dad.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Interpol agents based in France should be on High Alert right now as they have an expert thief in their midst.  The culprit is there, relatively unattended, for a week and anything not nailed down is in danger......

Don't let the kindly face and silver hair of the lady on the far right fool you, dear reader: my mother is an utterly possessed pilfering pensioner with a penchant to purloin pretty much anything her paws can poach and place into her pockets.

My parents have been over here visiting us and we've spent a fair chunk of the summer holiday in Austria, Germany and France.

With rail passes and hotels already booked and paid for, Pauline Florence is a Sneaky Septuagenarian seeking surreptitious stimulation from stealing things.

Usually, she restricts her nimble fingers to airline biscuits, sugar cubes and plastic spoons, but a continental breakfast included in a two star hotel tariff was far too tempting to turn down.

"Look Katherine*," she whispered excitedly. "I've got lunch all organised."

Her right hand proudly waggled a clear plastic ziplock bag, smuggled all the way from Australia for just this purpose. Inside were several slices of Swiss cheese and pale pink ham. "The bread rolls and apples are already in my handbag," she continued, green eyes gleaming with glee.

Bread rolls and apples I could handle, but risking salmonella on a 34C day in Berlin was not on my 'top ten holiday moments' list. Not even in the top hundred, if I'm brutally honest.

I gently pushed her hand down, subduing her joy even further with a patronising pat on her knee. "Mum, you know I love you. You know that your handbag outdoes Dr Who's tardis for all the life saving items it contains but ----- yes Mum, there is a but, and this time it's not me being rude and talking about butts ---- we are not - repeat, NOT --- going to risk our lives by letting you keep some flaccid slices of already rather dodgy-looking dairy foods and meat products in your handbag for five hours on a hot day before you carve open some rock hard rolls with a Howard-era plastic knife on a park bench in order to save a few euros at lunchtime. Okay?"

She had the grace to accept my opinion and then was immediately racked with guilt.

Not at the act of stealing but at the waste. "I don't feel like eating this right now but it's awful to throw good food out." She brightened at an idea. "Why don't I just slip up to the buffet and put them back..."

"No, Mum. No-one in the entire hotel is going to want to see an old woman put some second-hand cheese that's already starting to curl up at the edges and ham with early stages of slime BACK on the cold savoury tray."

She made to interrupt. "------No, not even if placed there by someone as wholesome-looking as you, dear heart."

For the remainder of our trip, she refrained from misappropriating meat but stubbornly stuck to cheese. "You can't have bread without cheese," she said. Failing that, my parents' lunch rolls were filled via sachets of nutella, honey or jam. Hotels that had suffered from pillaging Paulines in the past were getting better at thwarting such manoevres, setting up their confitures and condiments with shared spoons in open bowls. Needless to say, these weren't my mother's favourite places to stay.

One evening, she had her head bent over her (thankfully paid for) evening meal, right hand shaking furiously over the napkin resting in her lap. Closer inspection by Sapphire ("What on earth are you doing, Grandma?") revealed that she was shaking the living shite out of the salt so that she could rinse out her sore tooth cavity with some warm water in her hotel room later on. "How about unscrewing the cap, Grandma? You'll get more salt and it'll be quicker that way," Sapphire suggested.

To be fair, Mum's skills in swiping helped us in other ways. We all caught a bad cold on the trip and she set herself a challenge beyond a free lunch - no tissues to be purchased by any of us. Instead, we blew our noses on green/yellow/monogrammed cafe napkins, hand towelettes from hotel lobbies, dried out wet ones and railway paper hand towels. She bragged at one stage that she could even furnish the paperless ladies' loos at Neuschwanstein castle by passing some spares around to grateful female tourists under their doors.

Our bought coffees were sweetened courtesy of her sugar swindlin' digits, access to public fountains improved with pinched plastic cups, shorts mended with sewing kits and bottles of water looted from cleaners' carts.

On our last day we had a check out time that coincided with the opening time of the hotel breakfast. This posed yet another dare for our Pauline - zip in, zip out as the rest of her party wheeled the cases onto the street. She dashed out with freshly-buttered rolls, sachet after sachet of spread and several apples under her jumper. Seeing my smile, she pinched two fingers together and said, "I was that tempted to buzz off with two hot teas for your Dad and me, but they only had china cups."

Yep, that Wife, Mother, Auntie, Grandmother, CWA and Probus committee member there has a Hedgren handbag heaving with illegal lunch.

I love you, Mum.

* She'll never abbreviate me to 'Kath'