The United States holds some of the most beautiful sites in the world. During my life I have been fortunate to travel this country extensively, and I’ve never finished a trip without a story to tell. I’ve been stuck in the middle of the desert in a broken down train on my way to the Grand Canyon (and no, the air conditioning was not functioning either), I’ve lost countless articles of unfastened clothing to the untamed winds of Chicago, and I’ve spent an afternoon with a homeless man in downtown New York.
Despite the extent of my travels, it was not until this past summer that I finally saw the world outside of my country.I said goodbye to the cell phone, the computer, and essentially all communication with my stateside friends for three weeks as I boarded the plane with my family bound for Frankfurt International Airport. After enduring a nine-hour flight with my knees permanently forced into my chest, I found myself transported into what felt like another world.Though America enjoys an image of diversity, I had never encountered anything like the cultural salad bowl of the airport in Frankfurt. Though signs were all primarily in German, hundreds of spoken languages swirled around my head at a dizzying velocity.After renting a small European car and trying to not blink in order to see Porsches race past us on the autobahn, my family and I finally arrived at the house of my parent’s friends; an older German couple that housed my mother while she was stationed there in the Airforce twenty years earlier.
Rolf and Ulla Meier lived in a quaint village nestled in the countryside beneath Mount Donnersburg. I had a difficult time accepting that this sleepy little village with mossy stone roads had been called home longer than my country’s existence.Hugs and the announcement, ‘Come! Eat! It is free!’ from Rolf’s friendly deep voice greeted us as we entered.Meals at the Meier’s generally consisted of various kinds of bread, meat, and cheese. Alongside the traditional German foods such as bratwursts and wienerschnitzel, I was also introduced to duners; a kind of Turkish food made of lamb’s meat that has recently become very popular in Germany.Food ranks second only to drinking in Germany.
On any given evening, Rolf enjoyed three or four bottles of Bischoff beer, made just down the street at the local brewery. Each village had their own unique micro-brewery, which usually served as the village’s main source of income.We traveled all over Europe seeing beautiful castles, haunting war memorials, and simply taking in the beauty of the European countryside.More than anything I was amazed by the sheer diversity I witnessed throughout Europe. I met German Tango dancers and Argentine beer brewers, an American artist living in France and a French woman aspiring to be a doctor in America; people of all walks of life came together in the most unusual of circumstances.
Towards the end of our trip we visited Amsterdam, which took the diversity I’d previously experienced to an even higher level.In Amsterdam, the hundreds of languages I had heard in Frankfurt became thousands of languages. I felt as though the entire world had come together to form a community in which it was virtually impossible to feel like an outsider. While eating dinner in Amsterdam one night, I couldn’t help but laugh when I realized that I was in Holland, dining at an Italian restaurant, being served by an Egyptian waiter, and, of course, eating off plates made in China.
Though it is mostly a theory based on my experiences, Amsterdam seems to be a more globalized city because the country of Holland is so small, thus it has historically had to export and import with foreign countries a tremendous amount in order to sustain itself. Along with trade of goods comes the trade of ideas and people. Today, Amsterdam is not a city of Holland, but of the world.As I gazed down at the glaciers of Greenland on the plane ride home, I couldn’t determine if the world was impossibly large or surprisingly small.
A person could travel the world their entire lives and see only a fraction of the beauty it has to offer. But after running into a high school friend in Neuschwanstein Castle, there was no doubt in my mind that it was a wonderfully small world as well. I finally decided that, indeed, it was both.
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