"Sigmund, as in Freud" is how this well mannered tour guide introduced himself as he entered the hotel lobby with his right hand outstretched for a welcoming handshake. Redheaded, clipped beard and a smile first thing in the morning. We sat in the lobby waiting for the others and he looked at the Lobby clock and in his perfect British accent said "look at that, it's going to be a great day, I'm not even late today!"
He drove a 9 passenger van and hoped we'd all be comfortable. I'm not sure who found this 45 year old tour guide with his sarcastic sense of humor, but I knew we scored when he flat out told us "My job today is not to lose any of you"... Then he put on his stylish RayBan sunglasses and opened the doors to the van.
First stop: the top of the German Alps!
He drove with speed and precision. As a back row passenger, our bodies followed the choreography of is "dodge and weave" driving strategy. I watched as a few minutes into the trip my fellow passengers decided to fumble around the cushion and look for their seat belts. He was a good driver. Defensive and precise. He was on a mission.
He told us of the political climate in Germany. How the Austrians had an advertising campaign stating they had mined away several feet of Germany's tallest Alp making Austria now the official neighbor with tallest Alp. The Germans reacted with Horror and a law suit. Because none of it was true! Austria just wanted to be on the tips of everyone's tongue ... The campaign was a success. At least, briefly.
He told us his parents both spoke German but he never did as a child. He was raised in Cape Town and has the perfect South African British influenced Accent. He's newly married. Says his wife makes him laugh every day!
He wanted to come to the top of the Alps with us on the tram but then at the last minute stayed behind. We were on stricked orders to not "dilly dally"...
You could tell he likes his job. "Every tour is different because the people are different. It doesn't matter that the locations are the same because the people show me the sites differently every time".
He had to be enjoying our company when he shared "at least you're not a bunch of whiners like a group I had last week who were so miserable they actually chose not to get out of the car at Cinderella's castle".
"Really?" We asked.
"Yes, the tour was planned as a compliment to a business convention. No one wanted to be on the tour. So I took them back to their hotels where the Internet was free."
We couldn't imagine. This tour was wonderful who would whine about it?
When we stopped for lunch he gave us the "synchronize your watches" speech. Like a parent telling the teenagers the rules of "Mall Freedom".
"We are going to be meeting at this location at this time. Don't make me come looking for you. Your being late delays all of us and could have grave consequences to the rest of the tour."
He says this looking out the top of his RayBans surveying our reaction as we sit at our outdoor tables with our authentic German lunch.
Trust me. We were all on time.
"It's like hearding cats, getting you to the right place at the right time!"
A good man, Sigmund. He loves his job. When he vacations he always takes a tour or two and plays under cover tour guide. Always learning what works and what doesn't when dealing with people on holiday.
It's his good nature and his love of this Country. And possibly the patience of a Saint that makes me hope you all have a tour with Sigmund some day!
Yeah and don't hold his singing Lionel Ritchie songs against him...at least he can carry a tune!