We were in Ossiach, Austria, getting ready to leave for another day of hiking the Alpe Adria Trail.  We were staying at the CMA Carinthian Music Academy, housed in an ancient monastery.  I forget the particulars, if there was some confusion as to our starting time, or I was just ready first for our transport to the start of the day’s hike by a local taxi driver.  She was a hoot.  She had given us a ride back to the CMA the day before, at the end of a drizzly hiking day.  She was a large woman, at least her upper half, and had an evident fondness for pink and glitter, from her long nails, to her sparkling cell phone case, to accessorizing her small taxi.

The long glittery nails were holding a cigarette as she waited for the rest of our small group to assemble.  That left me, the last choice for a lone conversationalist, to try and kill some time as we waited.  It was Sunday.  I noticed some music coming from around the corner of the lake, and inquired about it, as it didn’t seem like traditional church music.  Our taxi driver, I’ll call her Barbie, whose enthusiasm slightly outstripped her command of English, replied that it was “Frühschoppen”.  Upon seeing my perplexed expression, Barbie stuck the cigarette in her pink-lipsticked mouth and stabbed at her phone trying to find the English word.  Finally she said it was “Sunday beer”, and explained that after church, there were tables outside, and everyone sat around and had a liter(s) of beer.  

It seemed, even from our removed location, that they were having a fine time.  I thought it could be a great tradition to bring to the United States.  I guess there could be some downsides, but it seems like it could be a boost to church attendance.  Google translate renders “Frühschoppen” as “morning pint”, and who am I to argue with Google, except maybe to point out that it should probably be in liters instead of pints.

It got me thinking about words and concepts that exist in one language and culture but not in another.  I guess maybe ‘Sunday potluck’ would be the best American attempt to translate the concept, although I’ve been to plenty of potlucks, and it doesn’t quite capture what I was witnessing as frühschoppen.  The next day I found myself trying to explain the expression “It’s not my first rodeo” to a guide who had a very good command of English, but had not heard of that expression.

That’s the great thing about travel; meeting new people, seeing new places, and exploring new cultures.  It makes for a richer life, leads to greater understanding, and feeds curiosity and wonder.  And who among us couldn’t use a little more curiosity and wonder in our lives?

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