Germany was the first European country I ever visited, and for that it stands out among the rest.
The first time I set foot there, I was 18, knew about 10 words of German, didn’t bother researching any of the main attractions, and scrunched my face up at the taste of my first German beer.
You could say I did it all wrong, but green as I was, that one trip would shape the course of my studies. I gained a lot from that trip, including the motivation to study a new language. Who else chooses to minor in German Studies in university? Oh yes, the four other students in my German literature class.
When I think of visiting Germany, I think of the castles and forts scattered across the country side. For most locals they are quite commonplace, but for a foreigner it’s like stumbling into a fairy tale. I remember walking into my friend’s room in Kirchheim unter Teck and gasping at the sight of a castle perched on a hill outside her window. A castle! Outside her window!
When I think of Germany, I think of the most delicious breakfasts (this coming from a bread and pastry lover.) Most mornings included a trip to the local bakery where we would buy more kaiser rolls than any person should consume in one week’s time. The table would then be set with a myriad of toppings and spreads: butter, strawberry marmalade, nutella, honey, peach preserve, sausages, cheese, and more sausages and more cheese. After ingesting three, maybe four, okay, more like five kaiser rolls, I would then pack more into my bag for the rest of the day. Do you see why eating in Germany can be a bit troubling for the hips?
When I think of Germany, I think of road trips to Tuebingen, wrong turns that led to a desolate monastery in Bebenhausen, and journeys across the border to France. I am also reminded of the Autobahn and how terrifying it was to be a passenger when cars are zooming past at 160 km an hour.
When I think of Germany, I think of chocolate, delicious German chocolate! And of the Ritter Sport factory in Waldenbuch, because aside from being a lover of baked goods, I simply cannot resist a good bar of milk chocolate. Do you know how many flavours they have in there?! I walked out with several kilos to ‘take back as souvenirs’. Who am I kidding? I ate most of it. The favourites: Rum Trauben Nuss (milk chocolate with rum, raisins, and hazelnuts), Alpenmilch (milk chocolate made with alpine milk – makes me think of Heidi…), Knusperflakes (milk chocolate with corn flakes), Voll-Nuss (milk chocolate with whole hazelnuts), Alpensahne Praline (alpine milk with pralines)…and I better stop there.
When I think of Germany, I think of my first hostelling experience in Frankfurt’s red light district, and how that hostel in Germany would shape the way I chose to travel in the years to come. My first morning there I ate breakfast with a girl who was Florence bound, alone. Solo travel had never occurred to me before listening to her talk about her plans.
When I think of Germany, I think of the 2006 World Cup, and of the madness that ensued in the streets when Germany defeated Portugal to win the bronze. Schweinsteiger and Petit were heroes that night! Traffic came to stand still for the next few hours while the crowds paraded down the streets arm in arm, waving flags in their hands.
When I think of Germany, I think of hearty home cooked meals of Spätzle and Schnitzel made from scratch, and of the smiles and ‘yummms’ exchanged over lunch with the wonderful Hoss family in Wolfschlugen.
So yes, Germany is a pretty special place if I say so myself.