In Germany for a few days recently, I was looking forward to German food accompanied by a nice glass of beer. It ended up being two beers as well as dessert. I have a big appetite, what can I say? But when I came to pay, I realized it was one of those odd evenings when I have either left my hotel with no cash or have already “invested” it elsewhere. And the few bits of change lurking at the bottom of my trouser pocket weren’t quite enough – 50 cents short, in fact. Would you call that microbilking – or just plain embarrassing?
Both, probably. The friendly waitress deserved a generous tip instead of having to make up the difference herself. And, oh yes, – God only knows why – I didn’t have any credit cards on me, either. I had taken my small knapsack along, though, so, I thought hopefully, there was bound to be some loose change rattling around inside. The knapsack has three outside pockets. Reaching into the first one, I brought forth a handful of coins and relief flooded through me; in the dim light of the bar, some of them even looked like euros. But in the glow of my cigarette lighter they became Moroccan dirhams – not something anyone in the bar wanted. I found lots of change in the second outside pocket, too, but this time it was all Canadian cents – a sound currency, but in Regensburg mere ballast. The third pocket of my knapsack held only Swiss francs. Luckily for me, my predicament raised a smile from my friendly server, and in the end, the irony of my situation had me smiling, too: Here I was, in the middle of Germany and still, for all practical purposes, “Out of Germany.”
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.