There’s not much to do in the Westerwald in early spring. We tagged along because our friend was registered in a course and we thought we’d serve as moral support for his Mrs, a good friend of ours. On the way, we stopped to explore the unexpected treasure of medieval Limburg where I snapped a lot of photos and spotted, with my usual precision radar, the oldest bakery in the town center. We stopped for snacks, not knowing what we were fortifying ourselves for.
At the little Westerwald hotel, the stern hausmeister greeted us with a gripping handshakes and recitations of last names. “FRAU MUELLER,” she pronounced, crushing each hand in succession. We responded in kind and I uncharacteristically used husband’s last name, caving under the pressure of Frau Mueller’s stern grip.. During introductions, we wrinkled our noses. The lobby stunk of meat, boiled meat, and not of the best quality. We were passed from Frau Mueller to the equally militant manager. “YOU AND YOU, ROOM THREE! YOU, ROOM FOUR!” “Sir, yes SIR!” I wanted to shout, saluting.
The scent trailed us up the stairs to our French provincially furnished room. No phone. No TV. No hot water, it turned out, either. Okay, that’s not fair, the rooms had their own boilers and we just had to turn it on. We ordered our dinners in advance and went to have a little lie down. Husband was delayed, having been ordered to move the car. “YOU MUST ALWAYS LISTEN TO WHAT FRAU MUELLER TELLS YOU AND YOU WILL NOT FAIL!” he was told. Honestly, we thought he was joking and went in to fits of hysteria.
I’d asked for a veggie meal and was told I’d get fish and salad. Husband was braver and went for the meat. I ordered for him. “HE WILL ALSO HAVE VEGETABLES AND SOUP,” Frau Mueller commanded. “SIR, THANK YOU, SIR!” At dinner, we were hard pressed to contain ourselves. Behind us sat a quiet Dutch family. The other folks in the dining room were students in the course. There were eight or ten of them, but we were making noise enough for the entire room in our laughter.
The militant waitress slammed our plates on the table. We girls were faced with giant mountains of salad, the husband with a tray of brown sauce and two unappetizing roulades. This was followed by a large bowl of broccoli and a even larger bowl of potatoes. We easily had enough food at the table for six. Underneath my mountain of salad were any number of other mixed salads, all of them punctuated with meat.
Our unit soldiered away as best we could, but we could not complete the mission of eating all the food in front of us. We are not sure if we were purposely denied our share of the canned fruit cocktail dessert for not finishing our meals. “It was fine,” we all said, “just a little too much food.” The militant waitress looked exasperated. “It is always so,” she said, storming off to the kitchen.
Having nothing to do, we went to bed. The rooms, though questionably decorated, were very clean but the blankets were too short. Take note, readers; I am just over five feet tall. And I am telling you my blankets were too short. I thought I had slept okay, but the scent of boiled meat must have been too much for my sleeping psyche as I woke up feeling queasy and a ill.
Reluctantly, we went down to tackle breakfast. The militant waitress was ordering around a blotchy faced indentured servant, who at one point, came out of the ladies room looking as though she’d been crying. “She’s got the wrong end of Frau Mueller this morning,” husband speculated. “Let’s rescue her!” I suggested, imagining smuggling her off to freedom, perhaps to the cozy bakery where we’d stopped on the way to our Westerwald gulag. Our companion was more circumspect. “She must find her own freedom … ” she suggested. “Plus, once we’ve got her, what are we supposed to DO with her?”
Meanwhile, to the husband’s left, sat a taxidermied duck, looking annoyed. The room was full of dead animals – a fox, a deer, the pelts of several wild boar, a badger, even a squirrell. Perhaps Herr Mueller was a hobby taxidermist. The duck frowned, I reached over to turn him away from us as the militant waitress marched in. “Be careful!” whispered the husband. “Frau Mueller will find out!”
After paying the much too expensive bill and receiving, once again, Frau Mueller’s vice grip handshake, we fled the hotel to the south. The sky was black, a mix of snow and heavy rain was falling. Hours later as we returned to the wine country of southern Germany under a golden sunset, I thought of our brief incarceration. “Those poor women … ” I said out loud, to no one in particular.
Photo Courtesy of Nerd’s Eye View