Deutschland: The First Trip - My Family Travels

December 11, 2009: I’m on the airplane to Germany, and there really are no words to describe it. It was my first plane trip, and my first school trip out of the country as well. Andy who was sitting next to me said it’s like riding a roller coaster when it takes off. I thought he was just joking–he wasn’t.

Frau, meaning Ms. in German and what we call our German teacher, warned us two hours into the plane not to talk to the guy sitting an aisle over from us German-taking classmates. The guy was a middle-aged Polish man who was getting a little bit tipsy and was passing some scrawled sketches to us. It was rather amusing how he kept making cartoons of Andy as a Japanese tourist (he’s Taiwanese) until he passed some rather..uh..interesting artwork. Then it just got scary. So that was my first plane ride (10 hours !)

We land in Frankfurt airport where we transfer to a smaller plane to Dresden, our first location of the trip. On the way to the second plane, I spot a German man sitting behind me on the airport tram. After five minutes of debating to myself, I mustered enough courage to talk to him. He seemed nice enough, and we exchange a few words in German. The heavy weight I felt of talking in German to an actual German was lifted. How reassuring.

Dresden was a cross between big city lights and old-town buildings. There were S-Bahns (street trains) and pedestrians everywhere. We spent the first day settling in at the youth hostel and went ice-skating and checking out the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market). We had heard about them so much in class that we were fanatic about it. We drank cocao and bought ornaments. We spent the next day as tourists at the Palais im Grossen Garten (translated as Palace in the big garden). The structures were old but amazingly well preserved and rebuild after WWII. Even later, we would see that the original pieces from destroyed buildings were carefully rearranged in restoration and were noticeably black with grim in contrast to the newer pieces. I have to admire the Germans for their dedication on that.

The bulk of the trip consisted of museum visits, and the museums were mostly cultural like art and architect design. There were amazing in that so many beautiful art work was suddenly presented to us like Die Sixtinische Madonna by Raffael with the two angels on the bottom. We toured churches, like the skyscraping church tower of Ulm where we climbed 70 meters of the entire 162 meters of stairs (luckily, it was under maintainance).

The most interesting part of the trip was to that Christian Ulbricht factory. The factory is a family operated business specializing in wood works—specifically nutcrackers. There are only ten or so workers in the small factory, each with much skill to work without goggles and gloves along side heavy machinery. It was funny (though a little creepy) to see so many unfinished and hairless nutcrackers staring back at me. After the tour, we spent two hours in the tiny souvenir shop to shop, entirely enchanted by the tour.

600 words or less just doesn’t give justice to my full experience in Germany: the Bratwurst (savory Germany hot dogs), the morning walks (tiring but eye- and mind-opening), the Weihnachtsmärkte (the high-end version of America’s swapmeets), the castles, the way Germans think all Asians there are Japanese. You’ll just have to see it yourself.

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