Lessons

In the middle of my Junior year at University
I went away to Germany and Austria
and visited many magnificent churches and cathedrals.
And I drank a lot more beer than usual.

The University set up the framework for the trip.
The professor overseeing the trip had two guidelines.
One. You could do what he does each day.
Two. You could do what you like, but don’t call him if you got in trouble.

Jim and I went to Munich’s Red Light district that night.
We easily got ourselves in trouble.
We paid quite a few marks to extricate ourselves from trouble.
We found a quiet pub to drink beer not far from our hotel.

One of our friends got arrested for playing pinball.
A small plaque on the support beam said, Must be twenty-one.
She was eighteen.
The policeman said he expected better from University students.

She was taken to the police station.
Jim and I followed and went to night court with her.
We paid quite a few marks for her fine to get her out of trouble.
She wore a frown for the remainder of a the trip.

Once I ran out of extra money to buy myself out of trouble
I ceased my explorations of the fullness of German culture
and focused on museums, churches and historic sites
and folk danced with German girls in beerhalls.

Near Neuschwanstein Castle, I unintentionally crossed the border.
Several Austrian guards ran toward me with guns at the ready.
The sergeant of the guard released me—Americans are harmless
and he told me for a University student I was dumb.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

This piece is based on the truth of my 1979 University sponsored trip to Germany and Austria. I think there were 22 students and 1 professor on the trip. Because I had traveled the USA extensively when young, the culture shock was not as shocking as it could have been.

I remember getting into a snowball fight with some kids. I defeated the 8 of them easily and realized the Germans had no throwing sports like baseball at that time.

I remember a German security guard who cussed beautifully in English. Cuss words were the only English he possessed. In German he told me the Germans have only 6 cuss words and the English/Americans have over 50,000 cuss words. I do not know where he got his numbers, but decided to trust him since he knew a few I was unfamiliar with.

In Vienna Austria I spent all my days at the National Art Gallery. So many art pieces I had seen in Art History textbooks were now displayed on walls for my viewing pleasure.

I was nearly fluent in speaking German back then. Usually I was mistaken as a German from a different part of the country. My ability to speak German has faded with time and it turns out I should have learned Spanish since I live in Albuquerque, NM. Who can predict such things, when I original post-university plan had me no where near the American Southwest.

I have been fortunate enough to have several large adventures in my life, like this trip to Germany and Austria. I hope you get the chance to have a few adventures in your life. I recommend doing them when young to the best of your ability, especially if your idea of an adventure is hiking the Appalachian trail or bicycling across the USA or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Love & Light

Kenneth

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