TRAVERSE CITY — Once a month, like clockwork, Frank Lahde heads to Right Brain Brewery for some beer and friendly conversation — in German.
The occasion is a “Stammtisch,” both an informal group meeting held on a regular basis by the German Club of Traverse City and the table reserved for the group. The concept and term for Stammtisch originated in Germany, where a table in a pub or restaurant often is reserved for regular customers.
“Our intent is during the whole meeting to speak nothing but German,” said Lahde, of Traverse City, who hopes to expand the club to include German visitors and advanced German students. “We talk about things in our own lives or things that are going on around us. We try to stay away from U.S. politics and religion. We want to make it a friendly group.”
The group is one of at least two international “clubs” in Traverse City, including “C.I.A.O. al Villaggio,” a cultural Italian American organization that meets at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. While that group is organized around Italian lessons offered by native Italian Barbara Baggi, the German Club formed as a way to practice and enjoy conversational German after a popular “Ultimate” German course at Northwestern Michigan College was discontinued.
“When the teacher got sick and stopped teaching for a while, the group decided to continue getting together and liked the idea of Stammtisch,” Lahde said. They started meeting monthly at Horizon Books beginning in January, then decided to move their get-togethers to a local brewery to make it more authentic.
Now the friends gather on the third Thursday of every month at a quiet corner table marked by a German flag. Some, like Lahde, are native German speakers who want to exercise and enjoy their mother tongue. Others want to practice and improve their language skills in anticipation of travel to Germany.