I'm sure there is a lesson here somewhere...
Yesterday, Husband and I decided it would be in our own best interests to break our 3-day voluntary shut in at the hotel, so we ventured out for some dinner and fresh air. Feeling a bit indulgent, we made our way to an Indian restaurant, which was one of the few places open on the double-whammy of German store closings (Sunday, and the day after Christmas), and found it sparsely populated but inviting. An American dude sitting in the first booth greeted us as we came in and recommended the buffet- apparently he's a regular. How could we resist the recommendation of a regular? Of course we couldn't, so we seated ourselves, fanned away the offer of a menu, and promptly ordered 2 buffets and 2 Coke Lights. Mmmmm, Coke Light.
As a side note, have I mentioned that there is rarely any kind of host or hostess in German restaurants, sans the very fancy ones wherein we have not yet dined? You are expected to just seat yourself wherever you like, and if a restaurant is full, it is not uncommon for people to ask to sit with you at your table, if there are extra seats. That was a good lesson to learn on Day 1 in Germany, as it spared us what would have surely otherwise been frustratingly long or indefinite waits to be seated paired with mutual grumblings of poor service and bad manners. Additionally, tipping isn't always necessary, and should be no more than 10%, lest you send the message that you think the waiters job is too low paying and you should supplement his income.
But back to the story! After ordering our meals and confirming that the buffet would be full (at the time there was only salad, curry potato balls and those hard bread things with sesame seeds in them), we loaded our first plate with the available fare and settled into jolly conversation. Ten minutes passed, twenty, thirty, and we were getting more than ready to move on to the next course. One can only eat oh-so-many potato balls, after all. But no food came! A few other people had come into the restaurant, and they had already recieved their meals, but the buffet remained mostly empty. We were beginning to be irritated and grouchy in a way that only hunger can manifest, and began staring pointedly and wistfully at the pristine serving spoons and covered hot spots on the buffet just waiting to be filled.
Forty minutes, then forty five and I got up to check the sign by the buffet stating the times it is available. We were well within the window! I caught the eye of the waiter and gave him a look of starving desperation, yet he did not respond. On my way back to the table I caught out of the corner of my eye a billowing cloud of steam coming from the buffet, so I went closer to investigate, but everything was the same as before. Then, a stroke of genius. I lifted up the shiny clean silver buffet pan lid, that I thought would reveal nothing but some simmering water underneath to keep its future tenant warm, but to my surprise and slight embarrassment, found instead a platter full of rice! Unbelievable. The buffet had been full the whole time, but appeared empty as we were the first to order it and none of the covers had been removed.
To abate my rapidly increasing realization of my own stupidity, I laughed it off, made a grand show of shaking my head and throwing my arms up in a "who'da thought" motion, and called Husband over to fill his plate. His red cheeks and louder than necessary guffaw made it clear that I wasn't the only one suffering from mixed emotions over the discovery. To rub it in, the waiter came over and asked if everything was ok, and Husband and I quickly bust into a tag-team explanation of why we hadn't been eating for the last 45 minutes. I think our verbal assault and maniacal nervous laughter may have either put him off or perhaps was too spirited for him to understand, as English appeared to be at best a second language, and he walked off after slower and calmer assurances that everything was in order, and we happily piled our plates high with curry.
The food was delicious.