It’s All Tickety-Boo

Lewis and Clark Interpretive CenterOne of the reasons we travel is to challenge our perceptions of the world.

And where we come from can have a lot to do with the way we see things.

Several years ago, I worked as a seasonal interpreter at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, Montana.

A friend of mine came from Canada to visit.  I had to work, so I gave him and his wife passes to the center and invited them to drop in.

My friend was what he termed a “ten dollar Canadian.”  I don’t know the details of obtaining a Canadian citizenship, but my friend had originally been a resident of Scotland.  He came to Canada when he was younger and claims that he paid ten dollars to apply for citizenship.  Thus, he could speak with equal fervor about both haggis and hockey.

When he and his wife arrived, I encouraged them to begin their tour with the introductory movie.  From there they went into the exhibit area.  I didn’t see them again until a couple of hours later after they had completed their tour.

I eagerly asked them what they thought of the place.  My friend said in his cheery Scottish accent, “Ach aye, it was tickety-boo.”  This was high praise indeed – a popular Canadian phrase meaning that something was just perfect.

Then he shared a meaningful look with his wife.

Lewis and Clark. Supermen?

Lewis and Clark. Supermen?

My friend turned to me and said, “To be honest, we’re a little relieved.  We thought you worked at the Lois and Clark Interpretive Center.”  I looked at my friend quizzically and he said, “You know… Superman.”

As a “10 Dollar Canadian,” my friend had no frame of reference for approaching the subject of Lewis and Clark.

So next time you encounter something that challenges your view of the world, just smile and say…

“It’s all tickety-boo!”


The Bridge Monkey and the Gross Vat

I bet your vision of traveling through Europe doesn’t include mounting a gross vat or groping a bridge monkey. But if you travel to Heidelberg, Germany, that might just be what you do.

The gross vat is located here, inside the Heidelberg Castle.

Heidelberg Castle

It’s not gross as in disgusting, but gross as in the German word for big. The vat is the world’s largest wine cask. A 130 oak trees were needed to build the vat and visitors must climb 42 steps to reach the top.

The Gross Vat

The gross vat is guarded by the famous dwarf Perkeo, a court fool who is said to have died after drinking a glass of water instead of the 18 bottles per day of wine he was used to.


After visiting the castle, make your way to the Old Bridge Gate. This is where the bridge monkey stands guard.

Old Bridge Gate

Touching the monkey is supposed to guarantee good luck, a safe return, and many babies. The mirror the monkey holds is meant to remind the people passing through the bridge gate to look both ahead and behind.


Just don’t get confused – if you intend to rub the monkey for good luck, I recommend approaching him from ahead and not behind!


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These Aren’t Bad Words…I Promise!

I’m going to be in a lot of trouble when I move back to the U.S. from Germany. You see…to an English speaker, some German words just don’t sound quite right.  Like, for instance, this one:


No, I’m not calling anyone a bad name.  This is the name of a town on the Rhine River.  According to my German dictionary, those first three letters mean Ace.  Kind of gives a new meaning to phrases like  “Ace in the hole,”  “Having an Ace up one’s sleeve”  or  “Holding all the Aces,” doesn’t it?

Here is another not-so-bad-as-it-sounds word:


Would you be offended it I said “Gute fahrt!” to you?  Don’t be!  It means “Have a good trip!”  Fahrt refers to a ride, journey, or trip.  Gasse is the word for alley.  The above picture is of a street sign in Heidelberg, Germany. Sorry to disappoint you … this is not a place to go after you’ve eaten too many German sausages.

Then there’s this word:


The literal meaning of this word is “thick.”  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.  The above sign is from Esslingen, Germany.  It’s the name of a shopping center located inside an old factory of the same name. The company specialized in making butcher’s knives and tools.  For some strange reason, this company was never successful in the American market.  Perhaps they just don’t understand how we react to seeing this:


By Barbara Bunčić via Wikimedia Commons

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Bet You’d NEVER Expect to See This…

At a family-friendly festival in Germany…

Somewhere near the ferris wheel and the bumper cars, between the tutti-frutti ice cream stand and the ring toss…



And right next to the bathroom…


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