Originally published on the College Voice‘s Abroad Blog, Fall 2009.
Sometimes the moment a problem is identified is the same moment in which it becomes a problem. This was true in September when I walked into my friend’s apartment, looked at the ceiling and mused, “Is that light fixture off-center?” (It was like the electrician threw a dart to determine where the wiring should exit the plaster.) It was also true when the same friend said in October, “I haven’t seen a single bagel place in Germany.” Problems are everywhere, as it turns out; we just need to look for them.
They do have croissants here, which they call Hörnchen, a name that isn’t as pretty. My friend Mark tried for weeks to convince me of the existence of a sort of “German bagel.” This, according to him, is something called belegtes Brötchen, which is a halved roll, filled with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and some kind of meat. This is a sandwich. I tried to explain this, but he said simply, “We don’t really use that word.”
The Christian name of this apparent specialty comes from belegen, to fill or occupy (see: “beleaguer”), and the diminutive of Brot, meaning bread, which translates loosely to “breadlet.” There is no such thing as a German bagel. There is only bread, occupied by sandwich ingredients, constituting something other than a sandwich – an occupied breadlet.