The surprise package of my travel experience has been Germany. And Germans in general.
We all grow with certain perceptions of people, places and things. And stereotype them. So one such stereotype I had was Germans being a cold and unfriendly race and German, a ‘harsh’ language – quite an extreme from French, Spanish and Italian – the romance languages I am more aware of. Another one was a Germany that had only meat and potato stalls for food!
And then I met Christina. My first German friend who broke the first myth. Who proved that you can eat a lot and exercise, thereby keeping the stomach and the body happy. But I digress. While I still think German is not the best sounding language, she got me curious and amused. I used to love listening to her and Nils, my other german friend talk though I understood nothing. However, it is interesting to note that it has words similar to English and might not be so hard to learn, after all. Oh, and I expanded my German vocabulary, not all of them decent of course :)
Nils, who looked as german as a German possibly could, turned out to be a lot of fun and more importantly, a great cook. The the mouth-watering sans-meat Spätzle he made for a group of us is personally one of the highlights in our weekly Tuesday dinners.
Strasbourg is just a couple of kilometres away from Kehl – the little German town across the river Rhine. While it is almost non-existential, it means a great deal for the Strasbourgeois who do a lot of shopping (groceries and otherwise) since they are much much cheaper there! I too, saved a few precious euros there.
Gegenbach- a little village in which reside the ‘young’ grandparents of Chris. The first visit was a tour of the village early November, where I had some yummy wine and cake at their beautiful home. The second one was later in February to see the ‘acclaimed’ yearly carnival where all of a sudden, the quiet village suddenly sprung to life!
Then came Weisbaden, the historic spa-town close to Frankfurt. This was the base for New Year’s day for the husband and I, thanks to his hospitable (ex)boss. A home-made gourmet lunch made by Pedra, his charming wife, and later a long walk across the city centre with a free tour of the historic spots.
This was followed by a rainy day in Heidelberg visiting its famous castle and walking through the streets filled with university students. Walking always leads to hunger and soon I was in a small Döner kebab joint that served an amazingly yummilicious falafel. The best of the many falafels I ate later on. Yes, vegetarian. That broke the second myth.
Stuttgart was a bit of a disappointment, a dull city on a rainy day also hampered by a severe winter flu! And looking at tons of Mercedes Benz’ whizzing past us (like they were Maruti 800’s) only made matters worse!
Mannheim had to be visited. Arch – an old school friend I met after years, which obviously meant good moments relived and some great indian home-cooked food. A long drive along the River Rhine dotted with tons of castles and Lorelei, a place where the sun showed some mercy and gave 10 minutes of a much-appreciated panoramic view of the river and the row of sun-washed coloured houses alongside.
Lastly, a city I wanted to go just because it was called Berlin. Nain, I had no valid interest to go there, but how could you stay so close to Germany and return without seeing Berlin and its inglorious past. And so Berlin, I went – the last city in my European voyage. Did I like it? Lets just say that if I were asked to pick one big city to work and settle in Europe, it just might be Berlin. I really cant find a logic to that answer. I tried. No, please don’t blame it on the beer.
And so here’s a toast to Germany and my German friends – PROST!