Stepping off the S-Bahn from the airport to Greg and Ayelet’s place in Munich, Davidian and I immediately felt at ease. Not because the Germans are so friendly (it was my own personal challenge to get someone to smile back at me just once), but because the landscape was so similar to home. We felt the same crisp October air, saw the same evergreen and deciduous trees, and rode by the same gently rolling acres of farmland. Now I know why so many of my German ancestors settled here in Wisconsin.
We didn’t ignore the differences, however. For one, we were riding on a train. If we wanted to get from one neighborhood to the next right in the city, we would just have to buy a partner pass and wait a few minutes for the next subway-style train. If we wanted to head out and explore little towns outside of the city where the architecture is more traditional and people are few and far between—we would just hop on a regional train that travelled above ground. When we were ready to get out of Germany to explore the winding streets of Paris, we took a high-speed train. Being able to go wherever we wanted without getting road rage and yelling obscenities reminded me of the day I got a bike again. Hopping on my champagne-pink road cruiser and heading to the bike path gave me a sense of freedom and independence I hadn’t experienced since I was young. Sure, Davidian and I got lost and confused a few times when trying to figure out which direction we needed to go or which train to take, but we always found our way and were able to hop around the city with ease—even without speaking the language.
|Sarah and Davidian enjoying their beers at the Augustiner Keller|
- Dogs make life better. We really missed our little Macy while in Bavaria. Everywhere we went we saw well behaved pooches in stores, on trains, in restaurants, at public parks, and on city trails. Believe it or not, I never even stepped in dog poo once—we never even saw any!
- It’s okay to be tall. People from Munchen are T-A-L-L. For the first time in my life, I felt like the norm. Women my height (5’10”) or taller were everywhere. There they were just hanging out with their long legs and thick thighs walking with confidence and wearing jeans that fit them perfectly (*sigh*). If I would have known better, I would have planned to do some shopping. Davidian at 6’2” was also a typical height, but he didn’t like that so much. He says he likes “standing out” better.
- Environmentalism can be a way of life. In Munich, the idea of taking care of the land, water, and air around us wasn’t a heated debate. It was simply a part of everyone’s lives. I don’t know what they had to go through to get where they are now, but they just made it seem so easy. Solar panels were abound on houses in the countryside. Recycling bins on street corners had individual spots for each type of waste and I never had to wonder, “Is this recyclable?” because the little pictures on the sides of the can told me exactly what do with my item. The streets and trails were not dirty and littered and the river next to where we hiked one day was clear and safe to swim in.
- Drink beer. Often. Not necessarily because it is so good—cause it is (even when served warm). But because being at a biergarten means getting outside and getting to know your neighbor. Tables are lined up in rows and if you want a seat you might just have to share a table with the strangers next to you. It’s okay, no one pays much attention and everyone is welcome. Bring your little picnic, grab a mass, and share your breze with the guy next to you.
- Take care of others. Even though people didn’t smile much, there seemed to be a strong sense of community. Big picture, people pay money out of their paychecks so that everyone can have health care and be trained to do their jobs well whether a waitress or a lawyer. We didn’t have to tip because people were paid living wages. On a smaller scale, people just helped each other out whether through helping an older person get off the train or by keeping an eye on each other’s children at parks or on the bus. Sometimes I think it feels easier for us to succumb to apathy rather than help a person in need. Oftentimes we are just so stuck in our culture of fear that we end up feeling a sense of helplessness.
- You don’t need as much as you think you do. I had forgotten how when I was little my mother would string laundry lines in the basement and it was my chore to hang everything up to dry. Europeans don’t have dryers and they get by just fine. They are also okay with having just 1,000 square feet to live in. Entire families might do it. Greg & Ayelet also very much inspired us to think of this differently. Imagine the freedom that can come with being able to pick up, pack up everything, and move on to your next adventure. It’s the people you are with and the memories that you make that matter—not necessarily that Pier I Imports vase you got on clearance that is gathering dust on the IKEA throwaway end table.
- No Davidian, “fahrt” isn’t what you think it is. Enough said. :-)
However, Germany definitely is far from perfect. While we really enjoyed many aspects of German culture, we were happy to come home to friendly faces and diversity of food. I was thankful to be able to surf anywhere on the Internet that I wanted and eagerly turned on my Pandora so I could finally listen to some music again. I’d never want to have to name my child from a “government chosen list” and I appreciate looking around and seeing all different types of people.
|Hanging out in front of the Theater|