Okay, there has been some serious tropics discussed lately, so let's lighten it up a bit. I have to admit some of the stories/comments posted on Travel Forum sometimes have bought a smile to my or had me falling off my chair. So, how about sharing some light hearted stories about "innocent" faux pas we have committed during our travels? I will start: I am always very careful to ask attendants or look for "no photography" signs posted at the entrances of buildings especially places of worship. I committed a big goof when I though I had an "all clear" when I started photographing a beautiful altar in a German church. I did not see any signs at the entrance or in front of the altar. Boy, was my face red after I finished taking several photos when suddenly saw two smaller "Please No Photographs" signs on each side of the altar table. I was embarrassed for being that "ugly" tourist I never wanted to be even if it was an honest mistake...I have learned to be much more observant from now on.
Made that same mistake with the photographing...
Wasn't a red face moment, but one I wish I had not done.. So on a ferry from Athens to Mykonos when a dude gets on the ferry at a inbetween stop. I'm with a group of 20 old and new friends who (let's just say very frugal) the dude is all in white with a big basket of goodies he's selling. So he motions does anyone want to taste.. I do, of course.. no one else would look in his eyes, so then he holds up 3 boxes of some sort of candy (Greek delights) and I ask how much.. 5 euro (now this was just in spring of 2015) so that wasn't all that much. So I say I'll take it. Then I get the bag.. it weights a ton and my husband proceeds to haul it for the last 3/4 of our tour in Greece. --- Now if I had been smart I would have opened those boxes and tasted the delights.. as when I returned to the states finally we found out that one was flavored rosewater, one bergamot (I think) and the other was something else weird. I should have let all those frugal folks sampled these treats and left them in Greece (with only a small package taken home) ...
The first time we made a grocery run (for a rented apartment) during our May/June trip, we had forgotten from the previous year about the need to weigh vegetables and put the price stickers on them ourselves. So there wife Sandy and I were in Vienna, holding up a long check-out line of Viennese, while the check-out clerk went and weighed the bananas himself. That was a sufficiently excruciating minute or so that I doubt we will forget again in the future.
This is one of my classics. I posted it once on the Graffiti Wall many years ago and I'll share it again now. It's not a European story but a travel story nonetheless:
I once had a coworker that was very well traveled throughout India and would often take leaves of absences to travel there. So, on one occasion at another coworker's party (this was back in 2003) I was attempting to make small talk with him after he'd just returned from another one of his prolonged Indian journeys. I asked him how his trip was and assuming that language might have been a challenge in such a place, I asked, "So, did you have trouble with the language or do you speak Indian?" Even as the word "Indian" was coming out of my mouth I felt like an idiot for not knowing the actual name of the language. His response was, of course, that most folks there speak English, which I should have also known.
Partly because of this faux pas and partly because of my budding wanderlust and all destinations adventurous, I decided to go to India myself. Two years later, in 2005, I went to India for the first time (and hopefully not the last), fell in love with the place, and even learned a word or two in Hindi.
Our favorite grocery store story is having to put on plastic gloves to touch the fruits and vegetables and then getting a ticket from the scales after you have weighed them and as you go to put the sticker on your bag of vegetables or fruit realizing that the very sticky sticker is stuck to your plastic glove and you can't get it off. in the mean time a little old lady behind you is rolling her eyes and sort of patiently waiting for you to figure out how to do that.
For a moment there I thought you were going to say that when you finally opened that box of Greek candy, it was full of rocks or something since you stated that it was so heavy. Bless your hubby for carrying it for 3/4 of your trip. Many years ago, my dear father-in-law hand carried a beautiful tall Chinese porcelain vase during their two weeks in China because my mother-in-law fell in love with it at their first stop in Beijing. Of course, having lived through the Depression, they didn't want to spend the money to ship it home. They are gone now, and my sister-in-law has inherited that vase. My father-in-law was a gem of a husband for pleasing his wife. Any ladies/gentlemen out there who want to share stories of our husbands/wives/significant others who went beyond the call of duty during our travels. Should we start another topic on that?
In Paris, I tried hard to rehearse my questions in French, but I am pretty sure I asked a bus driver if his bus was going to war, rather than to the station.
After four days in Paris doing pretty well with the language, we were at the cafe in Rue Clare feeling very tired and needing much coffee, and my husband said "por favor" to the waitress instead of "s'il vous plaît." Oh, geesh. She never came back to our table.
My sister and I were headed to the Communist Statue Park outside Budapest about ten years ago. My memories are a little fuzzy, but it seems like we had to take two buses and two trams to get there. On one of the trams, we were feeling very proud of ourselves because we had done everything right up to that point on what we considered a tricky journey. We were on the tram for quite a while when it stopped, and an elderly woman was trying to tell us something but we did not speak Hungarian and she did not speak English. Through hand signals, she communicated to us that we got on the tram going the opposite way and we needed to go back the way we came. Thanks to her help (and other locals) we made it to our destination.
I wish I could say this is the only time I have gotten on a tram or bus going the wrong way, but the exact same thing happened in Oslo this year with my husband. This time, the bus stopped and the driver came back and informed us in perfect English that this was the end of the line and we had to get off. We told him we were trying to get to Frogner Park and he cheerfully gave us directions. We consider ourselves masters of the subway in any city we happen to be in, but that all goes out the window when we need to take a bus!
That's funny, Rita.
I had a similar experience in Baden/-Baden this last month. I was headed to the Frankfurt airport station on my way back to the States after a 12 day trip, where I was quite proud of myself for navigating everything (including German U-bahn and Budapest trams and metro). The train was scheduled to stop in Baden-Baden at 8:43, and then on to the airport. At 8:36, a very long train pulled up and my coach was so far in the front that I couldn't see the digital readout, but I figured that this was the train, with a 7 minute loading period. Wrong! I realized when it took off, that I was on the wrong train. Luckily, I was able to catch the correct one at the next stop since it also stopped at that same station. I wondered if any of the passengers from the correct train recognized me from the station and chuckled when I got on.
Glad to hear not everyone can figure out trains or buses... We were in Amsterdam in May and wanted to take the train from the airport to Central Station. Asked was told which one to get one, got to that platform, went on and sat thinking this is good.. we will be there in just a bit... Then there was an announcement and when we arrived at the next station everyone with luggage got off. Not us. We kept on the train, finally the conductor came around for tickets and told us we should have got off at some sort of station and transferred trains (Didn't we hear the announcement-- like right, it was in Dutch?!?) well, she had us get off and get back on a train going back to the airport. So on that train the conductor was very nice and directed us to exactly what platform to finally get the correct train to Central Station Amsterdam. Lesson: watch the clues and if everyone with luggage is getting off.. you better too! But I must say some of these European cities could do better with mass transit maps. Not the underground systems, we also have very little trouble with subways, but crazy trams or buses can be confusing. (Unless the tram runs in a loop... love those cities i.e., Helsinki, Vienna,)
Not so much a red face moment, more of "what's happening". We were waiting in Arles for our train, which was late due to the strike. It finally arrived after about an hour, and we boarded, but I was getting stressed already about meeting our connection in Nimes. A few minutes in, an announcement came on in French and everyone started getting off the train - rather quickly. I waited for an English announcement which never came, looked around and saw no one. Finally, a passenger walked by and I asked if they could tell me what was going on. Apparently, because the train was late, the railway was providing free breakfast for everyone.
Warren, Did you get the free breakfast? And was it good?
I witnessed a situation of this kind a few years ago. I was at the funeral of a family friend, which was held at one of the cathedrals in London because his partner was a lay staff member there. Partway during the service, a very obvious family of American tourists came in and sat down in the nave... then noticed the coffin on a bier in front of the altar and couldn't get out fast enough.
We have certainly had a few:
Recently in Madrid we were heading down to breakfast. The elevator opened and a friendly young American woman said "breakfast is to your right" as we got off and she got on. I was a bit bewildered since we had scoped out the breakfast room the night before and I was sure it was the left. I also thought it was weird that everyone in that breakfast room was American, and knew each other, except us and four other random people who found their way in. It wasn't until the next morning we realized we crashed an RS Tour breakfast. Thanks Rick! (by the way, good advertisement for a tour - they looked like happy folk!)
Back in 2010 we were on a train to Hallstatt. At a certain point in the journey, the conductor came into the trains' cars and yelled something in German. Everyone piled off except us and one other couple. The four of us sat for some time, wondering between ourselves what was happening. Finally a young Austrian or maybe German woman ran back and told us the train was out of order, get on the provided bus!
On that same trip, we were on the train at Milano Centrale when I realized I hadn't validated the tickets and we were about to leave. I burst from the train to the machines to do so - unfortunately plowing past people trying to embark. It was my 'ugly Canadian' moment for sure. Of course after that moment DH and I decided what our plans should be should we end up missing a train the other got on.
Love the story about crashing the RS tour breakfast!
As for validating a ticket before boarding a regional/commuter train experience: We were in Berlin for the first time a few years ago, we knew that you had to validate the tickets otherwise face a fine if the conductor found otherwise. After purchasing our tickets, we had no idea where to validate and the train was coming, so we took the chance and hopped on, thinking you could validate on the train as you can do some trams or busses. Not finding one on board, we asked locals on the train where was the machine located and they kept telling us it was at each station. So now imagine my husband jumping off each stop and trying to find the machine and without success and then rushing back on the train before the doors took off with me on it. We had no idea what it looked like and where exactly it was located at each station. We thought it would located right next to the machines where you purchased the tickets, but it was not. Fortunately we reached our destination without encountering a conductor. I was determined to find the machine at our stop and I did: it was a free standing bright red rectangular box with a small lighted green arrow pointing to an insert opening. There were no markings/signage even in German indicating this is where you are supposed to validate your tickets. Another lesson learned. PS I did do some research about ticket validation machines but never found a photo of one online. So I took a photo for future reference.
Good topic, Dee! Last October (2015) my husband and I were in Salzburg for 3 days. Our B&B on Moosstrasse was an easy 20-minute bus ride to town. On our last night, we boarded our bus home at a temporary bus stop because there was construction at our regular stop. Somehow we got on the bus headed in the wrong direction. We thought the bus would make a loop as it had the previous two nights, but soon we realized that we were on unfamiliar streets and the driver wasn't making any turns at all. We were discussing what to do as we realized that it was quite late and this was probably the last bus running that night. At a traffic light, we saw the correct bus (same number, but going in the opposite direction) and insanely jumped off our bus, ran across to the other bus, banged on the door, and leaped on. We were extremely embarrassed but honestly we would never have done it if we had had a choice or if we had seen any cabs anywhere on any of those unfamiliar, very dark streets. We laugh about it now, but I still feel my face getting red as I realize what we did. Totally insane.
Almost forgot. I crashed a funeral at the cathedral in Milano, totally ignored the visual cues outside (hearse, wreath, people dressed in black) and entered the church, well before anyone else.
I did realize my mistake, but by then the casket was being brought in. I waited until everyone was standing and then slipped out the side door.
Oh - I hate trying to speak a diff language - I keep sprinkling in my very limited French that I learned when I was in jr high...lol. In Italy, I was trying to pass behind a lady in a pizza place and instead of using the Italian 'pardon me' I said either excusez moi or pardonnez moi. Sigh. And the guy giving us the pizza said 'merci' with a little smile on his face...So I speak a bit of an Italian/French hybrid :)
Many years ago I did a 2 week biking trip in Denmark with my father. Even though I knew most Danes spoke English, I decided it would be fun to take Danish language classes...... enough to get me in trouble, not enough to do me any good.
It was my first trip to Europe, and at the time I was somewhat reserved in the area of risk taking. While biking, we would take a break mid-morning to explore a small town and purchase our lunch items. I noticed a meat shop. Nobody was in it. This was the moment. I rehearsed my food request in my mind. My skeptical father chose to wait outside for me. In I went. In Danish I said, "I will gladly have a piece of your small breast." The look on this young woman's face immediately let me know I really messed up..... REALLY messed up. She smiled graciously and pantomimed what I had said. Now my face had a look of horror on it. I pointed to the nearest piece of meat, having no idea what it was. As I raced out of the store, my dad made some comment along the lines of... That didn't go too well, did it?
On my second trip to Europe, a friend and I were on the train from Munich to Salzburg. The conductor came through to check tickets. She looked at my ticket and asked a question in German. One of the few things I knew how to say in German at that time was, "I don't understand German. Do you speak English?" So, I said that. In response, she talked louder and more excitedly in German -- something about a card. I pulled out my wallet and showed her every card I had in it. She talked faster and more excitedly. Happily, a nice German lady who spoke English sat across the aisle from us; she jumped in and helped us. We unknowingly had bought tickets that required a discount card. We admitted to out intercessor our difficulty using the DB ticket machines at the airport and shared our lack of awareness that we bought the wrong ticket. This was shared with the conductor, who then began punching buttons furiously on a hand-held electronic gadget. Finally, she sighed, said something in German to our intercessor, and walked away. The kind German lady looked at us and said, "She said that she couldn't figure out how much you owe; your story is believable; and she's not going to worry about it." My heart still racing, I profusely thanked our intercessor and leaned back in the seat, feeling fortunate to have had someone help us out -- a feeling that only intensified when, a few stops later, the conductor had a sheepish-looking young man taken off the train in handcuffs.
My photograph story: I'm a history buff who probably gets a little too excited about historical sites. In Berlin, I was soooo excited to find the US consulate building on Clay Allee. The building was the post-WWII US military headquarters where one of my favorite characters from that era, General Lucius Clay, worked. I was so excited to see it, that I pulled out my phone to get a picture, totally missing the "Fotografieren Verboten!" sign directly in front of my face. The security guard yelled at me -- this time in English -- asking, "Can't you see the sign?" I apologized profusely but figured I would sweet talk her by asking about the features of the building. "I understand there are some Nazi eagles that were converted into US eagles by knocking off their swastikas. Is it possible to see those?" I got a really gruff, "Those are not accessible to you!" So, I just apologized again and walked away.
First trip to Europe (2014): In Salzburg, we stayed at the Gasthaus in the priest seminary near Mirabell Gardens. When we arrived, we pulled on the big wooden doors at the entrance, but they would not open. There was a sign indicating that we should push a button if the doors were locked. We did. No one responded through the speaker or came to the door. We pulled on the doors again, but they would not open. We called the two afterhours number that were posted. No one answered at either number. Jet-lagged and feeling a little defeated that we couldn't even get into the place where we were to spend our first night in Europe, we sat down on the front steps, pondering our options. About 10 minutes later, a couple of guys gave us a funny look as they walked by us going up the stairs, PUSHED on the door, and entered the building.