A Vote for Mrs. Wildman
As a subscriber, I have been diligently following the "Readers Forum" column in your newsletter regarding Mrs. Paul Wildman and the Peter Lembcke restaurant in Hamburg. I am amazed that Mrs. Wildman's letter has elicited so much controversy.
In the March issue, you mentioned that Mrs. Wildman was also a German instructor, so I called her and asked if she would like to give me lessons in the German language. We arranged for a beginning class, and I finally met this woman (whom I expected to be Brunhilde in disguise after having read your article). Much to my amazement, here was a lovely lady, somewhat formal at first, whom I found very charming. I have since had further weekly lessons and I find her a most able and friendly instructor. I have visited Hamburg and found it to be a "city for shoppers" with some of the finest stores I have ever seen in a city of its size. I also have been to Munich and am well aware of the differences in the people from each area. Although formal, I found the people in Hamburg to be very pleasant and had no experience such as your Associate Editor, Bruce Woelfel, and his wife.
The basic premise of this letter is merely to point out that Mrs. Wildman is like all of us, a human being, who may be a bit more formal than we. Remember, she had to come here and adapt to "our way of life" so we should try to remember that when we travel to other countries where we do not speak the local language, we should not be disappointed by a negative experience. Personally, I shall shun Peter Lembcke's restaurant should I visit Hamburg in the future.
Had it not been for this controversy, I would never have had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Wildman.
Thomas J. Gilroy, Jr.
San Francisco CA
When I first visited Europe, in 1964, I stayed for a year and a half in order to see as many places as possible. I have returned many times since then, and have traveled to more than 100 countries around the world. It has always been apparent to me that the average American tourist is better behaved, and better dressed, than the average European tourist.
Far from being overbearing or insensitive, American travelers are usually more polite than Europeans. They are, especially, far less rude to waiters and other service personnel. There is considerably less reason for Americans to learn foreign languages, as they seldom have any use for them. However, when Americans do attempt to use them, Europeans are often critical of minor errors of pronunciation. They seem to be unaware of their own mispronunciations of English words, a fact that Americans are usually too polite to mention.
I suspect that many Europeans base their opinions of Americans on the distorted impressions shown in movies and to some extent on the American military presence. The latter can create resentment on both sides. Many American military personnel are not there from choice, and have little or no interest in European culture or people. If the same category of Europeans were in America, the situation would be much the same. I find many Europeans who can afford to travel in the United States see very little of the country - have limited contact with people outside the tourist industry - and make no effort to understand or appreciate local customs, which they often ridicule or deprecate.
My personal experiences have been overwhelmingly favorable. But I am realistic. Anyone who has traveled extensively will have encountered both poor service and excellent service everywhere. Sometimes people are turned off by a difference in style, which they perceive as poor service. There are variations within any country - but probably more variations can be found in the U.S. I have never encountered the "Hi, my name is Tony, and I'll be your waiter tonight" sort of familiarity in Europe - but I have occasionally encountered European-style superciliousness in America. My own preference is for aloof, polite, efficient service, which can be found in both places. Friendliness is fine, if it seems genuine and that is found more often in the U.S.
I have never had any problems in northern Germany, and Germans all over the country have been friendly and helpful.
Ralph T. Kleymeyer, Jr.
Too bad that an expired passport precluded you from being present at the New Year's festivities in Vienna, which I was happy to attend. I am certain that you will enjoy the splendid Kaiserball at the Hofburg on New Year's Eve when you do go; it is certainly a memorable evening. May I suggest that you might prefer to attend the New Year's Day concert at the Konzerthaus, rather than the better-known one at the Musikverein. Seeing the latter, later in the day on television in our hotel room, we were so glad that we attended the former, which, in our opinion, had the superior program.
San Francisco CA
I am enclosing our check for the renewal of our subscription to Gemütlichkeit. We certainly enjoy every issue and look forward to its arrival.
In your last newsletter you spoke of enjoying the area around Salzburg and the Salzkammergut. Enclosed you will find a copy of the brochure of Villa Brandauer (A-5350 Strobl am Wolfgangsee, tel. 06137/205, fax 06137/5903). We did not stay there but enjoyed a lovely dinner on the back patio overlooking the lake. Although St. Wolfgang is a charming town, it is very "touristy" and we found Strobl (practically next door) to have the same lovely lake overlook and none of the crowds. Do try to stop by for a look (and a bite) next time you visit.
We will explore the Attersee next time we're in Austria!
San Rafael CA
I just returned from Europe and have to tell you about one of the world's best bargains. And it almost qualifies as a "German-speaking" country. Slovenia is now hosting the Austrians and Germans that used to go to Croatia for water activities.
This is a country of friendly people and bargain prices for hotels and (GOOD) food. Friends from Bad Nauheim picked me up in Trieste as they were in Isola for a stay at their small condo (the wife is from Slovenia). Isola is a beautiful area and the small-boat harbor is excellent. In fact all the coastal towns have harbors filled with boats owned by Austrians, Germans and Italians. I stayed in a very nice hotel - large room, balcony, view of Adriatic, breakfast - for about $30 per day! The major tourist center with luxury hotels, casinos, tennis schools, etc. is at Portoroz - very nice.
In several small towns I visited relatives, and in one place stayed in a beautiful Zimmer Frei with bath and breakfast for less than $20. As soon as we appeared, relatives greeted us with Hausgemacht (homemade) wine before we got out of the car!
Although Italian is virtually a second language, I found German and English to be widely understood. In fact, most areas are "signed" in four languages!
We spent one evening high in the hills above Isola at a farm that serves farm-fresh meats and bread and Hausgemacht wines of all colors. The lights of Trieste and towns near Venice could be seen in the distance. I want to return and explore further.
Also, I spent four days in the Mittenwald area before going on to "my" self-catering apartment in Schwangau. The village of Krun, about 5 km from Mittenwald, has some beautiful Zimmer Frei houses. The one I chose (Gästehaus Monika) provided a huge double room with bath and balcony (view of the nearby mountains and fields) and breakfast for DM45 ($30). A great deal!
One lesson I've learned in selecting a "Gästehaus" or small hotel is to find one AWAY from the main road of the village. Traffic noise can be terrible in the most serene areas. The advantage in choosing Krun over Mittenwald is that Garmisch is closer and trails to woods and lakes are easier to find.
I enjoyed sending self-catering info to several of your subscribers - most responded with nice thank you notes.
(U.S. Dollar prices quoted in this issue of Gemütlichkeit may be inaccurate for these reasons:
* Prices in local currency have not been updated since the date of publication of this newsletter, and...
* The dollar prices shown were obtained by using exchange rates in effect at the time of publication.)