As my parents, two brothers and I got off the plane, we immediately sensed we were in for a culture shock unlike any other . The bustling airport of Zurich welcomed us with a brouhaha of different languages, and as we tried to make sense out of the signs posted haphazardly around the terminal we became sleepily aware that this was the beginning of the most memorable trip we’d have. After many wrong turns my father finally found baggage claim, which did us little good because, unfortunately, our bags decided to stick around the drug-ridden airport at Amsterdam.
After a long delay, we left the terminal with the promise our bags would do the same later that day. Finally things began to take a turn for the better, as we slid comfortably into the seats of a Mercedes C180 and headed for the little town of Langenargen, where we would stay in a quaint house we borrowed from an acquaintance. After driving through miles and miles of beautiful Germany countryside we finally arrived, and upon entering the house, all promptly fell asleep.
After a few days of settling in and waiting for our luggage, my dad and I went out to explore. He allowed me to drive, which was especially enjoyable for me because the Germans do not believe in speed limits. Be that as it may, we had an good time getting around town.
On top of the speed, the radio also provided much entertainment, as the Germans are quite wrapped up in American music. After cruising around to old American hits, we parked at a bakery. We walked in to order a piece of cake and coffee, conversing casually in English.
Needless to say, almost all activity in the little shop stopped at our entrance. Intimidated, but overwhelmed by the smell of fresh German pastries, we approached the counter. After much pointing of fingers and counting in the air, we finally received our food.
We left the shop, with the friendly waves and smiles of the people inside it as a token of their forgiveness for our lack of understanding. When we arrived back home, my mother had yet another piece of good news: the next-door neighbor spoke fluent English (as well as Spanish, Italian, and German), and wanted to show us around the city. Without hesitation we went over and introduced ourselves to the man who would become our greatest friend in Germany.
He introduced himself as Siggi, and after meeting his family we headed out into the town. Siggi’s endless knowledge of the town (and the English language) fascinated us, and as we toured the cobblestone streets of a bustling market we began to acclimate to the environment. We were also surprised when we entered a department store and discovered much of the clothing had English writing on it.
Siggi told us that the American culture was quite prevalent in Germany, sometimes even more so than German. Bemused, we thanked our new tour guide for his help and headed back home. From this point on the days began to bleed together as we followed the more traditional tourist routes through Germany.
After traveling up and down Lake Konstanz, we took off for Stuttgart. A few sleepless nights later, we yet again left the rainy city for that of Munich. While in Munich, we saw what was probably one of the most sobering reminders of man’s cruelty; Dachau. The remains of a World War II concentration camp, Dachau is an experience that cannot be described in words, and thus I leave it.
Afterwards, a quick tour of Munich was in order before our departure. Finally, after driving through Austria, Sweden, and multiple towns in Germany, we found ourselves back in Langenargen, and had reached the end of our stay. In good Germany spirit, Siggi took us out to a pub for the traditional beer and Swiss cheese based meals so popular in their country.
Over multiple drinks, Siggi explained that, to his dismay, the Germans had no ‘stolz’, or pride, in their country. Apparently the fear of nationalism has been so great, that the German flag itself hadn’t been seen in public until recently with the FIFA World Cup. Shocked, we told him that we couldn’t believe such was the case, as so many Germans had been more friendly to us than Americans back home. He thanked us for the compliment, and we did likewise for his guidance, and the next day we reluctantly left Germany.
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