|If you get hit by a truck in Germany,|
chances are it'll be a beverage truck.
|The juice quantities alone are simply staggering. (Photo: Peter Menzel Photography)|
|At least €100 of Pfand just waiting to be cashed in.|
In my experience, Germans usually have a solid two-week supply of liquid consumables on hand at any given time. The smartest, most dedicated Getränke-lovers make a special trip to the nearest Getränkeladen (see picture), where the selection is wide, the prices low, and the carts and aisles specially designed for some seriously efficient drink-purchasing action. If it’s a Sunday or a holiday, not to fear (when nearly all other stores are closed); there are Spätis (late-night shops) and gas stations that can fulfill your diverse beverage needs in a pinch.
It is the German take on the most basic, simplest of beverages, however, that I find most interesting. Water almost always comes from a bottle in Germany. If you’ve traveled here before, you know that restaurants don’t bring water to the table, and if you ask for water, you’ll get it in a bottle. You’ll also be asked whether you want it mit or ohne Gas or Kohlensäure (with or without carbonation).
A very brief excursus: Germans also love carbonation. To wit, the aforementioned Getränkeläden have at least three levels of water carbonation on offer, and any non-carbonated drinks present in the Hungry Planet photo will most likely be diluted with carbonated water before being quaffed.
So once you’ve caught on to the default of having to pay for water at restaurants, you pull out your conversation dictionary or travel guide and subsequently practice saying the word Leitungswasser until you’ve memorized it, only to realize that whenever you order it, you’re either faced with a disquieting scowl, annoyed sigh, or maybe even a well-practiced monologue about how water is not served from the tap at this establishment, not because the water is somehow non-potable or will give you worms or cholera or worse, but because one simply doesn’t do that (so was tut man nicht). You may wish to point out now that the Germans’ consumption of bottled water isn’t consistent with the rabid environmentalism and conservationism I've mentioned in previous posts; but to nobody's surprise, they’re way ahead of the game: there is a Pfand (deposit) of up to 25 cents per bottle. They also tend to put the largest deposits on the little flimsy plastic bottles or cans that are most likely to get carelessly tossed into the garbage – so if you’re too lazy to return your bottles, someone else certainly will (stay tuned for my next post on precisely this topic!).