I have had the chance to spend a week in Germany and my trip has been very enriching. It was nice (and a bit stressful but we’ll come to that later) to discover another realm and culture and to be able to do it at a period of my life where my curiosity and thirst for knowledge are at their pinnacle.
I had never really travelled to another country by bus before that. I guess, it is that nervousness that had me on my guards and had sharpened my observation of the surroundings. When you reach the border between France and Germany, nothing strikes you. No, there is no big wall, neither are there guard dogs and armed to the teeth officers. The only indications that you’ve entered another territory come from the highway and its billboards. Some boards point out directions and depict foreign words that you come to associate with towns and villages in Germany. Nothing more.
I have enjoyed seeing another culture other than the French one I have come to adapt to. I do not know whether it was the warm temperatures or my luck but the Germans that crossed my path struck me to be friendly and polite. I did have some apprehensions at first as I had heard the infamous say that Germans were “rigid and cold”. From what I’ve observed, they possess a sense of organisation that is quite admirable and their lives are planned around the clock: Morning jog followed by a laborious day at work to conclude with the relaxed evening. Also, it has come to my attention that Germans are very health and environment conscious. On my day-trip to Frankfurt, I have come across several persons that seemed to have taken advantage of the blazing sun and ditched their usual mode of transport for a bicycle. The impressive machines at the entrance of popular grocery stores in Kaiserslautern, that allow you to trade your plastic bottles in exchange for 25cts per bottle on your groceries total, also demonstrate the country’s incentives to encourage green practices.
In Frankfurt, I was beyond thrilled. I relished every second spent snaking through the alleys of the “Altstadt” (Old Town) city centre. I, for my part, am a huge fan of the pre war architecture and all the vibes emanating from the cottage-styled buildings with their crisscrossed designs and colourful walls. What was noticeable was the clash between the old part of the town and the modern architecture comprised of skyscrapers and buildings still in construction.
One thing about Frankfurt is that most places where you look, you fall on yellow tapes blocking entrances and construction cranes. After some research, I discovered that this modernisation forms part of the Dom-Romer construction project that has for aim to renew the Altstadt as this part has suffered during World War II. There seemed to be lots of churches spread along my trip: Saarbrücken, Darmstadt and Mainz, all had eye-catching cathedrals with spires reaching for the sky. I think I might have come across about 3 cathedrals while visiting Frankfurt alone! However, I might have easily been duped due to the abundance of spired designs throughout the city. Kaiserslautern had on the other hand the rural charm that red bricked buildings, loads of water fountains and flowery gardens provide. I liked the calmness that reign at the place and the fact that I could actually hear birds chirping (so so rare where I live)!
But travelling to a foreign land wouldn’t be fun without tasting the local food right? And that I did plenty. I think I might have had enough “wurst”( sausages) for an entire lifetime (kidding, it’s never enough). To make it simple and concise: German gastronomy revolves around beer, sausages, potatoes and bread. I have encountered all types of dishes based on sausages and tangy sauces. For instance, “curry wurst” is just sausages marinated in dried tomatoes, oregano and other spices and “bratwurst” is a roasted sausage (just as the name indicates- brat (German) means roast or something- hello originality duh).
There are plenty other “wurst” variations like the Frankfurter rinds wurst, etc… When it comes to beverages, it seems that beer is a substitute to water (and even costs less in some areas!) and some sort of digestif named “Jagermeister” is very popular. However, my favourite food from Germany wasn’t the malt “brot” (bread) readily available in pastry shops, neither was it the wide variations of pretzels on display. I fell in love with the “johannisbeer streusel” cake! Yes, the name is complicated but trust me- learning to pronounce that, was worth it once I bit into the fluffy bread covered in crumble-like crusts, red currants and yogurt. The treat is not exactly diet- material and I ate it more than once, but in my defence: I was on holidays!
As for the language, I admit that was a hassle when it came to understanding natives speaking. After all, I do not know German. Yet, as strange as it may seem, I was able to decipher most boards and scriptures I saw and that boosted my confidence. My amusement hit its paroxysmal level when I realised that the German linguistics blatantly ignored the oh-so-easy concept of space between words and favoured compound ones instead. Like, you would find yourself with the word “Kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung” and it would just mean: “automobile liability insurance”!Such a hassle to pronounce. Plus, German words do sound a bit rough and mean. Well, as long as the very people aren’t, that’s fine by me.
In addition, I greatly hesitated to interact with others and I thank my lucky star that I had good company (meaning actually able to converse in German). I, once or twice used English to interact and it went fine but bear in mind that a considerable number of Germans seemed not to know English… I would be lying if I said Germans weren’t good at speaking English, they are definitely better and more numerous than the French, still I haven’t encountered many people actually mastering the language beyond “hello”, “thank you”.
I do not regret visiting the country and I feel like Deutschland has so much more to offer me. One of my goals now is to visit Berlin someday and surely when this happens, I shall shed light on the crispy details of the trip to you!
In the meantime,
-Tessa Lalljee (guest writer)