Discussions over a German Lunch – In search of the Umlaut

Museumsinsel from the Berliner Dom
Museumsinsel from the Berliner Dom

“Germütlich has an umlaut;” was the somewhat unexpected comment, that prompted the discussion on language over what started as drinks and ended as lunch, at the Cafe im Deutschen Historischen Museum.  Germütlic means comfortable, being in a friendly space/place and is one of the (very) few German words that I both know and understand the meaning of.

I had used it a few moments earlier, just after the waitress delivered our Berlin Pilsener’s, by saying – “this is germütlic”! I was establishing my immersion into the German culture after (just) two days – in other words showing off my limited language skills – and it sort of fitted.

We had popped into the cafe (which is attached to the History Museum) –  after a morning  of exploration.  We started, after a short but brisk stroll from Alexanderplatz station, at Marienkirche, (Church of St Mary) where building first commenced in 1270.  The church is built in the Gothic and Baroque style and houses some real treasures, including a Font from 1437 and a Fresco from 1485 (The Dance of the Dead).  It also has a Neo Gothic Tower that was added in 1790.


Then we crossed the road and the river and grabbed a coffee at Cafe Einstein before popping into the spectacular Berliner Dom, (Berlin Cathedral), which sort of takes your breath away with it’s size and the amazing dome.  We took time out to climb the (many) steps and take in the 360 degree view of Berlin from the open air dome walkway.  So we figured we deserved a break and the cafe, which we had spotted from the walkway, seemed like the right spot.

Anyway, back to the umlaut; which is where we started this short tale. The umlaut, the two little “dot like things” over the vowel – ü – like this; is used to lengthen the sound of the vowel (which is how it was explained to me) so that instead of hearing “mut” – you actually hear “moot”.  I actually looked it up on Wikipedia and the explanation is so much more complicated so I will stick with mine, which I at least understand.

The quintessential Umlaut is everywhere in Berlin, along with a whole host of other interesting bits and pieces of the German language, and now that I know what it is I find myself searching for it, in signs, on menus and in anything that I read.  A tour of the History Museum – post lunch – revealed a veritable abundance of umlauts in the signage in front of the many exhibits.

Umlaut, it is one of those words that sort of sticks, slips easily of the tongue and is simple to remember, I wonder if we can introduce it to the English language.

Two Pilseners Please
Two Pilseners Please

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