The bike stood there, braced by the little sister of my host sister. It taunted me, waiting to see if I would give up my American habits and use it for actual transportation. I was in Stein, just outside of Nuremberg in Germany, thanks to a full scholarship to live in Germany for three weeks. Luckily, they had tested my German language skills, NOT my biking abilities.
Sitting as securely as I could on the rusted red bike, I slowly pushed off the ground and made a nice, easy turn to head out. We pedaled past white houses and bushy flowers, winding our way along the quiet neighborhood streets. Marine stood up confidently on the pedals, white dress flapping in the wind. I stayed planted. Suffice it to say that we made it to Rewe, the grocery store, and back in one piece. I had Marine carry the eggs.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Then to the kitchen! Nothing could stop us now. Armed with a mixing bowl and one pan each, the two of us endeavored to make Pfannkuchen, or pancakes. As Marine spooned batter into her pan, she hummed along to the song playing on the German radio station; The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars. After many tries, a slight burn on my arm, and a happy dog, Marine landed her first pancake flip. We cheered and I wondered if this was what it’s like to have a little sister.
In the afternoon, we headed out for ice cream via the now trustworthy bikes. The journey to town was longer but welcomed. I felt the wind whistle past my ears and tried to look at all the quaint homes that eventually turned into brightly colored buildings. Cars and people began populating the streets, and soon we parked our bikes right outside the ice cream shop. It was a small establishment, the kind of place that said “our ice cream is the best, but please, enjoy it with friends in the fresh air.” We each ordered Spaghettieis, a generous helping of vanilla ice cream shaped to look like a ball of spaghetti, then topped with strawberry “tomato sauce” and nestled in a waffle cone with whipped cream. Yes, it was just as delicious as it sounds. A few feet away from the shop there was a small park, perfected with a large water feature. As soon as she had finished her treat, Marine went splashing and strolling through the mini streams and waterfalls. It was a sight of color, joy, and light that would make any photographer excited.
Right about then I realized I didn’t have my camera with me. It would have been a lovely picture. Instead, my inner child emerged and together we frolicked in the water.
In successive weeks I would go on to see Berlin and other cities. Traveling with other AATG/PAD study trip exchange students, I would gaze in awe at Schloss Sanssouci, marvel at the escape stories in the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, and wander in the enormity of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. By the time we landed back at Newark Airport in New Jersey, I had several SD cards filled with hundreds of pictures. However, few of them captured my weekend in Stein. Perhaps that was a good thing. I don’t need pictures to remember the memories I had with my host family, to recall strolling through vast fields of grain, enjoying homemade French and German meals, and biking through Stein. Without the camera, I shed the image of the tourist and the eager exchange student. I became like a member of the family.
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