Late last year, in September, Jesse and I went to Germany to debut our toys at Erofame in Hannover. Neither of us had ever been to Europe and it was always a life-long dream of ours. We were so excited to finally be going to the land of beer, schnitzels, and starch. To be going to debut the products we’d been working so hard on for a couple of years and during Oktoberfest just made the trip even more spectacular.
When I told friends we were going to Hannover and Frankfurt, I was met with a few scrunched faces. “Frankfurt? That’s like going to Cleveland.” I’ve never been to Cleveland, but if it’s like Frankfurt, then I really want to visit sometime. But I’m also aware that I’m pretty easy to please.
German food is everything I love about American food, just fancier. We have hot dogs, they have bratwurst. We have chicken fried steak, they have schnitzel. We have apple juice, they have apfelwein. Eating my way through Hannover and Frankfurt, it’s obvious that American food takes many cues from German cuisine.
That said, the food is heavy as fuck. Although I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it, at some point my stomach just couldn’t fit. it. in. Let me put it this way- I had to buy new pants because the jeans I packed with me wouldn’t zip up anymore. And I was only there for five days.
We arrived in Germany right smack in the middle of Oktoberfest. I was surprised that the beer selection wasn’t very diverse. All they had was Pilsner. Some German colleagues told me that for the “real Oktoberfest”, I should go to Munich. They also said that in Northern Germany, where we were, Pilsner was the beer of choice. At any rate, it still got the job done.
The stereotype that Germans are cold couldn’t be further from the truth. I found people to be very friendly. Perhaps not to the same extent that people are in China, but in many ways, more authentically friendly. People didn’t offer up their smiles freely, but they were easy to get to know. Unlike us Seattlites, who are friendly when you met us but give you the cold shoulder when you try to develop a friendship. It’s called the Seattle Freeze. Shiver.
Everyone speaks German (duh), English, and usually a third language. It’s so impressive! Meanwhile I’m struggling not to speak broken English, which is also the only language I know. When visiting a foreign country, it’s always good form to try to communicate in that language before resigning to English. Usually that will win you brownie points, and the person you’re trying to speak with will speak to you in English to avoid the hassle of interpreting your baby talk.
Although I was apparently in the Cleveland of Germany, I found Frankfurt to be very pretty. Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived my whole life in areas of the world that are relatively young or are experiencing growth spurts, but it was fascinating to see old buildings with stories to tell. I found out later that many of the buildings I was oogling were in fact very new. They were rebuilt from the rubble of their ancestors, which were destroyed during the war, but they were restored to look the same.
The iron doors on this Church told a story of war. There was a tank, a mother holding her dying child, a community burying their dead. On one side of the door there is a knight; on the other, skeletons. It’s so very grim, but it’s a very real part of their history. Riding the train through the countryside, and driving through the cities, it was hard for me to imagine that this country had been ravished by war. The countryside looked serene and the city was glimmering and new. My mind went back to the times I complained about pot holes in Seattle’s streets and I realize how ignorant and impatience I was.
Traveling has opened my mind to so much and in some ways made me more resolute in certain beliefs. But no matter what, it’s helped me discover who I really am. If your resolution is to travel more, you really should take steps to do it. It’s not as expensive as you think, and what you get in return is priceless.