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Spokane

The food? Wunderbar! The lodging? Extra cozy

Tue., Dec. 9, 2008

Ich liebe Deutschland.

How could I not love Germany? This country seems to be designed for a man of my proficiency with a fork.

Take the bratwurst Charlie Schmidt and I ordered at Cologne’s famed Brauhaus Sion on Monday afternoon.

Our server, a gruff middle-age man with a salt-and-pepper mustache, asked if we wanted it in quarter-meter, half-meter or full-meter increments.

We went the half-meter route. Fifteen minutes later the thick sausage rope arrived, sprawled across a dark block of wood.

The waiter carried it to us with the same reverence the Incan priests probably had for the still-beating heart of their latest sacrificial victim.

He set down the thing down next to a landfill-size platter of eggs, fried onions and potatoes the menu called a “farmer’s omelet.”

Sometime later I topped everything off with a hot apple strudel smothered in a rich vanilla cream sauce.

Ach so! I felt ready to invade Poland.

As you have probably inferred, Charlie and I made it safely to Germany.

Our plane touched down in Düsseldorf on Sunday afternoon. A skinny chauffeur in a rumpled black suit met us soon afterward.

He whisked us to Cologne in a sleek, gray Mercedes, navigating Germany’s famed freeway – the Autobahn – at speeds nearing 100 miles an hour.

“There is the Rhine,” he said, gesturing a hand as we passed one of the world’s most picturesque and romanticized rivers.

“Cool,” I said.

“Cool,” mimicked the chauffeur with a dry chuckle.

As I mentioned Sunday, I am globe-hopping once again with Spokane’s Nostrildamus.

This time Charlie has been booked on a TV show that is being shot today in a studio outside Cologne, which is Germany’s oldest and fourth-largest city, if my guidebook is to be believed.

Cologne offers an amazing mix: cobblestone streets and modern thoroughfares, ancient architecture and sleek design. Add to that about a bazillion Christmas-themed knickknack shops and open-air kiosks all united in their dedication to separating tourists from their euros.

In the center of it all is the Dom, a massive grime-blackened cathedral that dates to 1248, when the cornerstone was laid.

This twin-towered edifice was once the world’s tallest building, ceding that title when the Washington Monument went up. It still could be ranked as the scariest if anybody bothered to ask me.

Speaking of titles, forget what I said the name of Charlie’s TV show was. I don’t where he got that “Granaten Wie Wir” business. The show actually goes by an English name: “World of Comedy.”

The producers claim “Die Besten Comedians Der Welt,” or the best comedians in the world.

I’m not buying that, however. A mime was rehearsing his routine when we got to the stage Monday morning.

Excuse me for sounding like a Dougly American, but you can’t use the term “best” for any program that has a mime in it.

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of vaudevillian comedy, you must admit that Charlie’s dancing-nose act is unique.

And profitable. The Spokane artist has made a small fortune over the years by pressing his large and malleable beezer against a sheet of glass and rhythmically moving it while lip-syncing a popular song. (For details, check out www.charlieschmidt.com.)

Charlie has been paid to do this for TV commercials and variety shows all over the planet. This, he figured, is his 18th trip to perform in Europe.

His career has been mighty good for me, too. I’ve freeloaded with Charlie to Montreal, Tokyo, Istanbul and now der Fatherland.

Modern travel is a miracle when you think about it.

One moment you’re kissing your loved one goodbye. Next thing you’re standing in a hotel lobby in a foreign land, arguing with a stern woman who has apparently never heard the term “too close for comfort.”

For reasons unknown to both of us, we were booked into a room with one king-size bed.

“But is big bed,” said the counter woman, who didn’t do a thing to counter that old and persistent stereotype about Germanic females being stern.

“This will never work,” I tried to explain.

I’ve been married 36 years. In a state of deep sleep there could be, well, accidental spooning.

Hearing this, Charlie didn’t say much. He just shuddered the way people do when they accidentally swallow a bug.

Finally, we made headway. The woman said she could put us in a room “with two mattresses.” The drawback, she said, was that it was a smoking room.

It took Charlie no more than a millisecond to respond that this was not a drawback at all. Why, the room could be unheated and filled with live goats.

A quick elevator ride took us to that room with two mattresses. The bad news was that the mattresses were crammed together and share a common headboard.

This was no separation.

This was a king bed with a seam.

“Nein. Nein,” I told the woman when we returned to the counter.

After more negotiations worthy of a peace summit, we agreed to accept the original room as long as the woman would fulfill her promise to have an extra bed sent up.

I knew what was coming. The “extra bed” was designed for a child, not to accommodate someone of my Moby-sized girth.

But, really, it was a small price to pay to get Charlie to stop shuddering.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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