We left Bruxelles (that’s Brussels, you uncultured cretin) early-ish in an attempt to get an afternoon in Köln (that’s Cologne, you uncultured cretin) before catching the CityNightLine to Wien (that’s Vienna, etc…) that evening.
We were barely twenty minutes out of Bruxelles when a bloke opposite us pulled out a cigarette and lit up on the train. First, I was confused. Moments later, I felt the same muted outrage I feel when, say, someone tells me they’re going on holiday by plane. Having a fag on a train seems almost unethical to my British mindset. It’s around the same level as whipping out a hardcore porn mag and flicking casually through, or weeing in the bin on a British train. As unpleasant wisps of cigarette smoke fondled me with their floating fingers, I dreamed of returning to England where, in a mere couple of days, this kind of antisocial behaviour would be outlawed in all enclosed spaces.
We arrived in Köln with an afternoon to kill and, still being knackered in a post-finals, post-Glastonbury haze, spent most of it half-asleep in the cathedral, thankful that the Allies had seen it fit not to bomb the shit out of it in WWII.
It was late afternoon by the time we got bored of dozing in the pews, and, feeling peckish, we decided to have a look around Köln’s selection of restaurants and take-aways. Feeling slightly cheap and homesick, we eventually decided to go for the chippy, staffed by a slightly mad German-only-speaking woman, and signed with an extensive menu on A-boards outside, again in German. When perusing such an A-board, you might think that ‘Salat’—German for ‘salad’—would be expected to translate as ‘salad’. Do not be an idiot. That would be too easy.
We decided on Eiersalat—‘Eier’ being German for ‘eggs’, so, one would presume, ‘egg salad’—and Krabbensalat—‘Krabben’ being German for ‘crabs’ and ‘Salat’, everyone’s favourite faux ami, being ‘salad’ again—with a side order of chips to share. Now, if you ordered this in the UK, you might expect eggs and bits of crab distributed in some lettuce and tomato and such. But not the Germans, oh no. This is too avid a nation of carnivores to allow the selling of leaves and such with already-nearly-vegetarian-faintly-poofy fish or dairy products.
So, in German, the suffix ‘-salat’ appears to mean ‘covered in mayonnaise’.
What we got was two small coleslaw tubs filled with goo—the Krabben being covered in strongly dill-flavoured mayo, and the tiny fragments of what used to be eggs swimming in some weird yellow gunk. The chips, as one expects on the continent, were not real chips, but French fries, which, to make them slightly more palatable (we hoped), we’d successfully got covered in ketchup. But ketchup too appears to have a different meaning in Deutschland, not being the sickly-sweet, bright red tomato-but-mainly-sugar–based sauce which brings a broad grin to the ketchup-covered faces of children everywhere, but vinegary stuff the colour of clotting blood. It is possibly pickled blood. I don’t know. I am not German. Nor am I a doughnut.
Nonetheless, as fugitives on the run from the law we were forced to eat whatever Lady Luck did throw in our unfortunate paths and so, with the minimum of screwed-up-face–pulling, we devoured as much of the goo as we could bear before returning to the station to catch the night train which would whisk us to Wien with the very minimum of sleep.