I'm in Germany now, for my third-ever visit, and I'm still getting used to the special ways they do things here. For example, I am still marveling over the wonders of the German roadside food-stop.
Less than two hours after stepping off the plane the first afternoon here, we stopped at a standard sort of rest area off the autobahn where I found myself confounded by the selection, and dazzled by the brilliant sparkle of the immaculate glass and countertops. Of course, when in Germany, it's simple for me to choose what my first meal should be. It must be sausages. But then, what does one have WITH it? There's dumplings and potatoes and fries and a salad bar with all sorts of pickled and brined bits to put on top, and then there's beers and beers and beers (just off the highway, no less).
A few meandering trips through the vast food service area and we settled outside on the patio next to the water feature. Ladies and gentlemen, I remind you that this was a highwayside food stop, and yet we were sitting on a terrace flanked on one side by rosebushes and on the other side by a pond decorated with water plants and complete with its own mini-waterfall. Beyond the pond was a charming little castle-jungle gym for the kids, and the whole area was perfectly well-tended. The rose bushes were clipped, the pond scum-free. The only thing that possibly disturbed the moment was the enthusiastic bees that found radler far too interesting and had crowded inside my empty bottle.
For dessert and coffee, we retreated inside, where we sat at tables decorated with fresh bamboo shoots in vases, and where the chairs at the empty tables had all been perfectly aligned at a welcoming diagonal. This appears to be just your average German approach to highway travel. No Sbarro's, no Panda Express, no sticky menus on the tables. Amazing.
Of course, this kind of tidy takes a lot of work, and I'm coming to realize that the national hobby of Germans is the keeping-tidy-of-things. There's the car washing and polishing, the hedge trimming, the house painting and fence re-aligning. One must make sure the driveway is free of weeds and the trees don't get too tall. All in all, a lot of work but the end result from the perspective of a relaxed summer traveler is quite delightful. I'm relishing it tremendously.