Jane and I spent a month in Germany in the summer of 1998. We had just graduated from college and the trip was a gift from our parents.
On this particular day, we were staying in Eisenach, right in the middle of the country. We’d had a long day of travel and didn’t want to go out so we decided to see if we could get a pizza delivered to our hotel.
We were staying in the Hotel Burgfried, a lovely place which had a phone and a shower right in the room. And it was only DM150!
The woman who ran the hotel was very nice and appeared never to leave, so we decided to ask her about pizzaplaces. I was elected to the task which is fun because I spoke almost no German and the hotel woman spoke no English.
Jane was a foreign languages major (Spanish and German) and she was doing quite well communicating. My strategy was to say “Ich kann kein Deutsch!” and then point to Jane. Jane helped me prep what I was going to say and I made my way down to the front desk of the hotel.
“Ich habe eine Frage.”, I said. “Wir möchten Pizza!”
To my surprise that worked. She dug around in her desk for a few minutes and came up with the name of a place called Pizza Da Angelo.
We didn’t want to go anywhere so I asked, “Lieferung?” to see if the place delivered. She said yes, they did but she couldn’t find the phone number. It was close to the hotel so I decided to take my chances and walk down there.
Pizza Da Angelo was a tiny place with quite a few people in it. Everyone was welcoming but I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English to assist me. I did have the foresight to bring my mini German/English dictionary. I sat down and did a little research and came up with:
“Ich möchte eine pizza gehen”, which meant, in my mind, “I’d like a pizza to go”, (gehen being the verb to go). The correct phrasing would be “Ich möchte eine pizza zu gehen” and what I had said was actually “I’d like to go a pizza.”
The woman taking orders said she had no idea what I was saying and that I should look at a menu. I suspect that my terrible accident and brain-dead grammar was the main barrier. A kind man at the bar took pity on me and tried to assist. He understood about as much English as I did German so it took some time.
In the end, I grabbed an empty pizza box and pretended to leave with it. It was like a light went on on. The man laughed and his face lit up as he turned to the waitress.
“Er möchte eine pizza zu gehen.”
The waitress laughed and went in the back to make our pizza.