Next summer, Rich and I will walk out our door in Seville, stroll to the train station with our rolling luggage, and board a train to begin a journey that will last several months and cover thousands of miles. No reservations, just a Eurail pass and an iPad full of information about possible destinations. We'll wend our way by easy stages through Central and Eastern Europe, winding up in Transylvania and some of the more obscure Balkan countries, seeking offbeat side trips and adventures. A few days ago, Rich asked if I'd like to take the direct route from Zurich to Munich or the slower train along the Austrian-German border into the Tyrolian Alps.
The Tyrolian Alps. The moment I heard those words I was transported back to my childhood, when my brothers and I discovered yodeling. With kids’ uncanny knack for knowing what will drive parents insane, we began yodeling at one another down the stairs, across the lawn and up the street at the top of our young lungs. No recordings were made (I can’t imagine why) but this YouTube video kind of captures the spirit.
Sometimes I wonder how anyone makes it to adulthood without being strangled by their family or neighbors.
We figured our yodeling skills, such as they were, were inherited from our maternal grandfather’s German forebears. For a brief time I was entranced by lederhosen, too, despite my mother’s hints that girls were supposed to prefer dirndl skirts. There’s something rugged, romantic yet faintly goofy about lederhosen that has proved irresistible – not only to me, but to generations of American kids. Some of these kids grew up to become filmmakers, leading, perhaps inevitably, to Chevy Chase’s famous “chicken dance” scene in European Vacation.
After watching this, one fan wrote in on YouTube, “I dance like this_ sometimes in Nightclubs and I always get thrown out or end up in Hospital I gotta stop taking movies to seriously problem is someone bumps into me I slap them then they try to hit me and as you know the rest is history these days I usually dont go out that often because of the problems I have had in the past.” I think that’s a good call, sir.
Another wonderful lederhosen movie moment – and one that’s equally inadvisable to imitate in bars – is the satirical “Springtime for Hitler” scene from the 1968 cult classic The Producers.
Now that my tastes have matured (yes they have!), I’m more interested in German beer than in lederhosen or yodeling. It’s not always easy to find foreign brews here in Seville, but I managed to track down a couple of bottles of Spaten that had arrived from München. To go with it, I decided to make the popular bier hall snack, obatzda. Somewhere between a dip and a spread, it includes creamy cheeses, onions, chives, a splash of beer, a pinch of caraway seed ... Paired with a frosty Spaten, it's a combination made in heaven.
So to recap: Wherever we wind up in Germany and/or Austria, I will refrain from yodeling, donning lederhosen, doing the chicken dance or enacting any part whatsoever from “Springtime for Hitler.” And I will be ordering “ein bier und obatzda,” at the first opportunity.
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Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
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I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain and my home state of California.
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