Updated: Aug 2, 2018
Do you recognize this street sign?
Welll, let me tell you a little story about the Gnome and this here "Einbahn" sign...it was 1991, shortly after the German Wiedervereinigung (reunification of East and West Germany), and I was studying German in Jena, Thuringia - formerly part of the good ol' DDR - to obtain the final elective credits I needed to finish my degree by participating in the inaugural UCF German program's summer exchange at Friedrich Schiller Universität. It was an amazing experience, especially for a child of the Cold War - maybe I'll tell you about it someday.
Anyway, the program was winding down and we had a free weekend before the final week of our summer school program - and being poor college students, everyone just stayed in the Jena area to do some more exploring around there with our teachers and the families we had met.
Except me. I wasn't a poor college student, having worked full time at Walt Disney World by that point for six years, and I was on a paid vacation. And I had a Eurailpass month-long train ticket burning a hole in my pocket. So off I journeyed all on my lonesome to the City of Music, the City of Dreams: Vienna!
Overall, it was a memorable, fulfilling couple of days - the Mozartorchester, the amazing museums, the Hofburg, Kaffee and Sachertorte in a real Viennese Café, my first Döner Kebap (to this day the best one I've ever had)...but one night after having dinner and a beer or 12 somewhere in Vienna, I decided it was getting late and I'd best head for the nearest subway station before the last trains ran. Keep in mind this was loooong before cell phones with Google Maps and so forth...but I'm usually pretty good with directions and I had already been learning German for a year, and had just had several weeks of very intensive, immersive German learnin', so finding my way back to Das Hotel should be no problem, right?
First off, I discovered that the U-Bahn station that I was certain I had come out of earlier that night was suddenly - and very rudely - not where I had left it. Oh, well, no big deal, I thought - I'm sure I can quickly find a map of the public transport system...wait, there's a sign that says something "Bahn" - which I had learned to associate with "trains", like Bahnhof, U-Bahn, S-Bahn, Deutsche Bahn, etc. - it must be pointing me to the subway station, right?? Who needs a map? Follow the friendly blue-and-white sign!
(Herr Mozart knows where this is going...)
Soo, I kept following the "Einbahn" signs, assuming that before long I'll find this Einbahn, and even if it isn't the subway, it's bound to be SOME sort of public transportation, having the word Bahn in it...
I really don't remember how long I followed the Einbahn - which if you don't know yet, means "one-way" - signs. I don't remember how I found out that I was walking up and down a seemingly endless network of one-way streets...(in my defense, there were ZERO one-way streets in the Florida town I grew up in.) I just remember it was a long evening. And of all the thousands of German words and expressions I've learned over almost 30 years, I'm not likely to ever forget that one.
I can't recall whether I shared that story with my fellow German students back in Jena.
I hope not. :)