Deutsch Withdrawals: Reflecting on my Recent Travels

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A Poppy and the view from the garden at Marksburg Castle along the Rhine River.

On Friday I returned from a two week adventure to Germany and the Netherlands.  It was my first trip to Europe and I believe it was life changing.  It was amazing to see how there are different ways of running a country while still maintaining an extremely high standard of living.  It was fascinating to observe the attitude of collectivism found in Germany.  The citizens are law abiding and believe in the importance of collectively caring for their country.  While there were certain things, like the obvious secularism, that were not my favorite, there are many things America could learn if we were only able to look up and take in the world around us once in a while.

Abigail (my sister) and I rented a tiny Fiat and drove through the beautiful countryside to visit wonderful people and see stunning places.  We flew into Amsterdam and then drove to Hamburg where we stayed with Abigail’s host family for a few days.  We explored the city by foot and bike.  The most memorable moments from that city were the neighborhood of Blankenese, the view from the top of Der Michel and the canals in the old shipping part of the city.  The most memorable moments from the Jönk’s kitchen were the rhubarb and strawberry compote and the spargle (white asparagus).

After Hamburg, Abigail and I drove to Bochum to hang out with our cousin – basically the coolest human I know.  We ate yummy Pfannkuchen, explored Bochum, took a day trip to Bonn (where Beethoven is from!!), and took an epic road trip along the Rhine river. The road trip consisted of about 7 hours or more of driving and 8 stops.  The day included 1 museum, 1 cloister/vineyard, 1 concert, the inside of 1 castle, the outsides of 21 castles, 2 major German rivers, 1 picnic spot, 1 national monument, 1 Alcohol Free Beer (Mormons don’t drink alcohol), and about 99 pee stops!

Next, Abigail and I drove to the Netherlands.  We stopped in Leiden, a small town centered around canals.  We went because a childhood friend of Abigail and older sister figure of mine did a year abroad after High School there.  It was every bit as cute as she said it would be! We also stopped in Katwajk en Zee to see the North Sea.  While the town was not as cute, the ocean was stunning and the sea food delicious.

We capped our trip off with a visit to Amsterdam.  Talk about a bike friendly city! The place is swarming with bikers, some smoking, others texting.  During our short stay we got to see the Anne Frank House – a sobering, but beautiful experience.  It was fascinating to go to a place I spent so much of my childhood reading about.  Abigail and I spent hours as children playing Anne Frank.  Visiting the Secret Annex brought a reality to the events that happened there that I had not felt before.  Later that day we got to go to the Rijksmuseum.  I will always remember the moment I walked through the arch and caught sight of Nightwatch by Rembrandt.  Talk about using light!

We then wandered around the streets of Amsterdam.  During our wandering, we found a condom store with an impressive inventory of novelty condoms… On a more serious note, we also found a few “Stolperstein” or stumbling stones.  These gold stones are part of an amazing project by the Cologne artist Gunter Demnig.  According to the project’s website, it is “An art project that commemorates the victims of National Socialism, keeping alive the memory of all Jews, Roma and Sinti, Homosexuals, Dissidents, Jehovah’s Witnesses and victims of euthanasia who were deported and exterminated.” To learn more about this touching and important project, please visit http://www.stolpersteine.eu/en/

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Stolpersteine in Amsterdam – each stone gives the biographical information of an individual killed as part of the Holocaust.

Coming back to the United States was a strange experience.  Through the exhaustion of Jet Lag, the entire experience seemed like a dream.  Only now, after five days, do I feel like the experience has really settled in.  I find myself instinctively assuming I won’t understand the language around me, I find myself missing the sounds of the German and Dutch languages.  I miss the food, the history, the culture.  I have always had wanderlust, but I’m afraid it has now been magnified!  Luckily I get to go to London this summer with my love, Isaac.  I can’t wait to experience a new place.

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