Wednesday, April 21, 2021
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Travel Corner : Germany

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I am the first U.S.-born member of my German family. Although I have never lived in Germany, my first language, identity and heritage will always be German. After the first five years of my life mostly overseas, I finally started to learn English when I moved to Missouri. I have lived here since.. The familiarity of both American and German cultures gives me an alternative   perspective on life.

Germany makes itself well known in society  many different ways. For example, the country is known for its excellence in automotive engineering and rich history in science. Perhaps Germany is more famous for the hand-crafted bratwurst with sauerkraut, perfect beer, fresh baked pretzels and Oktoberfest, or maybe for its deep black forests, medieval castles and roots of Brother Grimm that entice storytellers. Historians may argue the cathedrals that endured bombings from the first World War in the hearts of old towns provide the true charm of Germany. Perhaps the sleek and modern architecture flourishing in major cities entices travelers to visit. I had a different agenda.

For the past decade I have been visiting my aunt Ruth in southern Germany during the summer. Her house is nestled along the hills of the Black Forest in a small Bavarian village called Etzelwang, approximately 30 minutes away from Nuremberg or two hours away from Munich by car or train. The escape to Ruth’s house places me in a fairy tale with luscious green mountains and colorful fields of wildflowers and wheat. The train station down the hill from my aunt’s house can connect me to anywhere in continental Europe. The train was my main resource during my stay, enabling me to visit all my extended family in various parts of Germany.

I give myself at least six weeks in the summer to fully enjoy Germany and  make the 10-hour plane ride worthwhile. The escape to my aunt’s home distracts my mind from America and helps me dive in to German culture and language, gaining  a fresh perspective on how people live their lives in a different part of the world.

This is what I appreciate about German culture and norms:

1.Education

The German education system offers children many different routes to get a quality education, regardless  if a student is more focused on getting a vocational education or college education. German teachers are  valued and make

. College is affordable, ranging from $0 to $500 a semester, depending on the region or city in which you want to study . Students even get paid a monthly stipend from the government.  After all, well-educated students will benefit the future of Germany.

2.Heritage and tradition

“Kirchweih,” meaning “church anniversary,” is a religious festival celebrated since the Middle Ages. This celebration is reserved for small towns and villages, hosted by young men and women from the village . Young women serve beer and the men go into the forest to cut down a 75-100 foot-tall tree to protect throughout the festival. At the end, the young men and women dance around the tree in “lederhosen” and “dirndls,” traditional Bavarian dress. I attended this type of festival and appreciated the sense of community it created between town members.

3.Drinking

The drinking age for beer and wine is 16, and for liquor is 18. Drinking beer and certain liquor is part of tradition and culture. Adolescents are exposed to these traditions by their family at a young age, and mature with responsible drinking habits.

4.Environmental Forwardness

The German government allows for any middle class family to have solar panels on their roofs. There are even solar panel parks, and of course wind turbines scattered across open fields in many rural areas. Did you know the  compact, gas–efficient “smart” car originated in Germany from Mercedes-Benz?

5.Driven attitude

Germans are known for a “work hard, play hard” mentality. On average, Germans are given more vacation time in their occupations, but are efficiently skilled and educated.  For example, the cars that fill the German autobahns, BMW, Audi and Mercedes, lead the way in automotive engineering and it makes sense to offer a place to drive them to their full potential and speed.

6.Food

Germans value freshness and quality in food. Fresh meat, bread and produce are purchased on a daily basis. Bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels, potato dumplings with schnitzel and gravy are just some of the savory dishes I love. Lastly, German beer is the best.

These are only a few aspects of German culture I love. To fully experience what the country has to offer, I can’t wait to spend more time there in the future.

jpoppel@unews.com

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