Sweet Memories of Germany - My Family Travels

Ah, the thrill of the city! Distant music from a corner café weaves through the air, pushed along by the wind of a dozen bicyclists rushing down the street. Cars lurch to a stop every few minutes as they compete with the bicycles for their share of the roadway. The smell of curry from an Indian restaurant wafts to my nose. I look around me in search of Rewe, the grocery store I am on a mission to find, and I hear laughter burst over the surrounding noise as I walk past a biergarten. So this is where those bicyclists were headed! I love the carefree way in which the Europeans, and Germans in particular, choose to live. They work during the day and by night you can find them sitting at a street café, living life one bite and sip at a time. It’s the gemütlichkeit; that is,  the inviting atmosphere, the cozy feeling of togetherness, and the laid-back living that has made me fall in love with the German way of life.

            I continue down the street in my search for Rewe. European grocery stores are often smaller than the big-box outfits I am accustomed to in America and do not always “shout” their presence. It’s my final night in Germany, after being here for 4 weeks; I am going to spend my last euros on “schokolade” to share with my friends back home.

        A bakery, a flower shop, a restaurant…and there: Rewe. Destination reached; I’ve found chocolate galore! Rows upon rows of Milka and Kinder chocolate (my favorite), in so many different flavors it’ll take a while to make my choices. As I stare in wonder at the array of chocolate before me, I think back on my German experience… it was my involvement in the German American Partnership Program (GAPP) that began the whole adventure. GAPP facilitates exchange trips between German and American high school students. In October, 2008 I hosted a student from Leipzig in my home and school; now, here I am in Germany, having just spent time with my exchange partner at her home in Leipzig. I shared in her daily activities and schooling, learned to speak more conversational German, and even met my goal of stepping out of my “shell” just a bit, and comfortably interacting with others of a different language and culture. I ate German foods, navigated the amazing public transportation system, and enjoyed socializing with my German peers at parks, cafés and clubs. I toured Leipzig and Dresden, Munich and Berlin, immersing myself in the sights, sounds, and smells of this country that I love…

             Jolting out of my reverie, I look again at the vast amount of chocolate bars facing me and I know that when I return home and unwrap these chocolates, the memories I’ve collected will come back to me with each delicious bite: roasting bread on sticks over the bonfire (stückbrot), shopping in the many Hauptbahnhofs (central train stations), even the solemn Buchenwald concentration camp all helped shape my view of Germany and are experiences I wont forget. I purchase my bars, and stick them in the canvas bag I brought along (Germans are great at being eco-friendly so I am trying that as well). As I walk back through the streets, I do my best to absorb the exciting pulse of the city, hoping to collect one last bit of gemütlichkeit. My chocolate bars from Rewe won’t last forever but my memories? They will last a lifetime! 

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