Christina at “An American Expat in Deutschland” challenged us to tell her what we love about the country in which we live. This for me is hard and easy; hard to put down everything in a few sentences, easy for me to write a novel about it.
Maybe this is the perfect place for bullet points:
· Perhaps I should start with the 28 days of vacation time I get from my job. 28 DAYS! This is quite important when considering the other items to be found below. Without these days, the other points would be harder to enjoy. The Germans are very sincere in their appreciation of time off from work and see it as extremely important. Without the time off, a German worker doesn’t perform as well at the job. I like the idea!
· Here in Germany I am well-placed for a quick jump to any European country I like. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been the big country-hopper yet… but I’m working on that.
· I FEEL close to other countries, other cultures, much different than I felt in the U.S. with its “island” sensibilities. Here I rub shoulders with the French, the Brits, Danes, Austrians, Swedes, Irish, Russians, Africans, even Canadians!
· The relaxed attitude here in Germany is something I can really enjoy. One good way to exemplify this is the German Café. This is a place where you can walk in, sit down, order a mineral water and lounge all day long reading, working on a computer, or if you are outside - simply people watching. The pace of life is more simple, healthier, and just easier. I love it. Oh, and don’t forget the fantastic cake while you’re visiting a café… I sure don’t!
· The renegade capital of Germany is Berlin, and I love the place. East Berlin’s grittiness has mixed with West Berlin’s Life-is-a-cabaret attitude and the combination is incredible! Berlin is one of Europe’s art capitals and the free-thinking feel of the air is liberating for a lesbian who has spent the last half of her life in the Bible Belt of America.
· Berlin is covered in graffiti – this initially made me see the city as dirty. But after consideration (and about a year of living with it) I realized that it is an interesting form of art to me. Even when it is places which it really shouldn’t be, it is always innovative, making you wonder how they get into those places to “tag” up so high.
· The city is quite clean; very much so when compared with many American and European cities.
· Food, oh wondrous food! We’ve touched on the cake thing but that is just a small part. Fresh, wonderful bread is not to be overlooked. There is no way for me to describe the difference between a fresh pumpkinseed Brotchen (roll) and a slice of American white bread, let’s just say that they are worlds apart. Wurst (sausages), there are over 15,000 different varieties of wurst in Germany. Something which surprised me is the subtle but wonderful taste to be had in a good Berliner Currywurst. Served alongside a fresh batch of French fries cooked in REAL fat… oh my! Rollmops (pickled herring fillet rolled into a bite size piece) or as my Mother in Law calls them, “German Sushi”. Fresh asparagus in a lovely hollandaise sauce. Thousands of different kinds of cheese; I would be hard at work for years to discover them all. Kartoffelkloesse – potato dumplings, served with some nice pork roast and a little bit of brown gravy. Pork steak with spicy mustard on a roll, fresh fish patties served with a white sauce on a roll, onion cake (yes, just what it sounds like), I just love this stuff. And never skip the Rote Grütze (cooked mixture of berries in season, thickened into a sauce) served with vanilla sauce for desert.
· The Drinks! OK, so the beers are unrivaled. White beers, wheat beers, dark beers, but NEVER a LIGHT BEER. Radler - beer mixed with lemonade is a favorite in summer. Berliner Weisse a white beer mixed with either a raspberry or a woodruff syrup making for a lovely, sweet beer. Away from the beers we have Kiba (N.’s favorite) is a mixture of cherry and banana juices. Apfelschorle – apple juice mixed with carbonated water. Germany has some of the best wines although I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur – and don’t forget the Glüwein (warmed, mulled wine usually red) served at the first sign of cold weather – on THIS I am an expert!
· A good solid public transport system is the norm in German cities (although I admit that the system between the cities is a bit sketchier). If I miss my neighborhood bus, I know that another will present itself within 10 minutes. The buses and trains are fast, clean (well, except the graffiti) and on-time.
· The Holidays! Only one word – Magic! Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas outdoor markets) all over Germany are both tradition and show, with carnival rides, gifts available from many colorful booths, and a huge feast of food. The lights, the music, the singing, smells wafting out of the booths… oh my! I simply wander around in a sugar and alcohol induced daze thanks to the Dampfnudel (which is a steamed dumpling served with vanilla sauce and some sort of a fruit compote) and of course the Glüwein.
Maybe you can tell that I really love it here! Germany in general and Berlin in particular make my life abroad so enjoyable.
Did I leave anything out?