Not long before I went to Germany I was asked what I hoped to gain from the trip. What do I hope for? I wondered. I hope my picture of Germany is redeemed. My idea of Germany was colored by two frigid (for a Californian, at least) days I spent in Berlin last December with Laura. We had been studying abroad in England for nearly four months and had spent the previous seven days touring Italy, which was just as disappointingly cold. Homesick and tired, we spent our days seeking respite indoors: the world-famous Kaufhaus des Westens department store kept us occupied for a couple hours, with its six floors of fur jackets, fine china and restaurants (don’t worry, we also made it to a couple museums). Apart from the colorfulness of the tropical fruit at the Kaufhaus café, though, Berlin was cold, gray and bleak.
When I had the opportunity to accompany Caroline on a business trip to Germany this September I was exultant. Here was someone who spoke German fluently, who could lead me along and help me have personal interaction with the people. Our family lived in Germany when we were younger, but since I was only four years old when we moved back to the U.S., I needed someone to tell me that this was the brand of coffee our family used to buy or these were the orchards we rode our bikes through. Germany is a part of my past, and I wanted the Germany where my siblings and I got our favorite Steiff stuffed animals; the Germany where my parents loaded us four kids into the VW bus to tour little villages, salt mines and the Black Forest; the Germany where I first recall looking out my bedroom window at the starry sky.
It didn’t take more than a day for my idea of Germany to change. Strangely, though, it wasn’t my memories as a four-year old in Germany that helped create a new picture of Germany for me; it was my semester spent studying in England a year ago. I discovered that much of what I loved about England – cobblestone streets, stone walls draped in ivy, little towns tucked between grassy hills, – was also present in Germany. The things I loved about England, while undoubtedly distinctly English in many ways, also partook of something bigger than England – they were part of the Old World. These were the elements not found in the U.S., the elements that made me want to put down my camera and take a picture in my head.
So what words characterize Germany for me now? Green. Beautiful. Charming. History-laden. Welcoming.
To come: Kaffe und Kuchen, The Wineries and more!