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The morning of June 30, 2008 found me approximately four thousand miles from home. Suddenly, I remembered. I was in Neunkirchen, Germany, visiting one of my best friends! I had been looking forward to this for months. Finally, I was here.
A few hours later Miriam and I were on a bus, heading towards a day of sightseeing in Siegburg. As soon as I stepped off of the bus I knew this was going to be an amazing day. We were in an outdoor marketplace, surrounded by all the sights and sounds of German culture. Mouth-watering scents of everything from grilled bratwurst to baking bread filled the air. Street vendors called to one another, friends greeted neighbors, and pigeons cooed as they raced towards crumbs dropped by pedestrians.
First stop, a book store, to buy a gift for my dad. It seemed strange as I listened to Miriam talk to the clerk. I never realized what a gift language is, and how hard it must be for people immigrating to the USA. At least I had a friend who could translate, but they are alone.
We eventually found all the gifts we needed, and then we had free time. We decided to stop for lunch at a little stand. The bright blue signs showed mostly seafood. We ordered, and found a table to sit at. Suddenly a man just sat down at our table. Miriam didn’t seem at all surprised. I guess that’s just how they do things in Germany. I noticed that people seemed much more open and friendly there. It didn’t matter whether you knew someone or not, you could still talk to them.
As we walked through the marketplace, I saw many old buildings, statues, and fountains. They were just there, waiting to be admired. People did just sit and look at the monuments. The atmosphere was much more relaxed than the hurried pace of American stores. I really enjoyed that as we sat and ate our lemon ice cream, a flavor I have never seen anywhere else.
As we walked out of Siegburg toward the bus stop, I found another aspect of life in Germany that I knew I would miss. That is being able to travel without a car. In Germany they have sidewalks everywhere that are well used. They also have a thorough bus system, you can get almost anywhere for only a few euros. Last but not least, they also have lanes on the side of the road for bicycles. I think it’s pretty neat that two kids can go twenty miles without needing a car at all.
Looking through my pictures and purchases on the ride home, I realized how precious an experience like this really is. Many of my friends at home have never been out of the US. How lucky I am to have been to three different continents at age thirteen.