Well, I have now returned from my world travels to Deutschland and back! It was complete with exotic, strange, and exciting adventures like missing a plane in Frankfurt destined for Berlin and paying 250€ to rebook it, sitting on the floor of an older Austrian train from Berlin to Dresden because it was short by one car, having a great chuckle upon first encountering the sight of a “Bier Bike” in which beer drinkers peddle a portable bar counter on wheels down the street (steered by a sober and responsible individual I assume), standing atop the dizzying and breathtakingly beautiful heights of Dresden’s Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) looking down over the “Altstadt” (Old City) and the Elbe River from the top of the Protestant Church’s dome, cruising up the Spree River through downtown Berlin and passing by the Museuminsel (Museum Island) in a private boat, and seeing sailboaters ride out the wind on the Wahnsee in Berlin.
And that is not even to recount my adventures of standing in front of the Babylonian Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum, seeing precious stones like amber, emeralds, and dazzling diamonds in Dresden’s Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault), and seeing the world’s largest Reformation Memorial in Worms (the Lutherdenkmal) with statues of reformers like Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, Peter Waldo, Girolamo Savonarola, John Wycliffe, and Jan Huss! The trip was a blast!
<jk> Stay tuned for the release of the unforgettable movie next summer (I am currently in need of stunt doubles to reenact dangerous calorie-laden maneuvers like the bratwurst-chomp and the double-thick-swiss-hot-chocolate-gulp). I am currently accepting applications for a role in the film.</jk>
Overall the trip was definitely worth it just to see the beautiful sights and scenes around Germany. As is evident from Germany’s rather developed tourism industry Germany is quite aware of its history and loves to share bits of that history to anyone that would like to learn. The German people are also quite nice despite any perceptions to the contrary, although if you want to see an angry German I heartily recommend walking obliviously in the middle of the public bike paths like an idiot (I can check that one off my list). “Wait you mean that’s not a walking path there on the sidewalk?” The yelling and hand-waving directed at you will seem to indicate otherwise.
Also, as is likely on any first trip to a foreign country, there was some culture shock to be experienced. From reading history and art books I was no stranger to the fact that Europeans in general are fond of nude art and sculpture. However this did not prepare me for the unprecedented level of real “skin” that I saw in public advertising almost everywhere: rotating advertisement signs on every street corner (does Beyonce know that her picture can be found every 100m in Berlin?), posters, flyers tacked on bulletin boards, even book covers with clothless women on it. I saw more complete nudity than I wanted to (which unrealistically I suppose was ‘none at all’). Prostitution is legal in Germany as well, so there were advertisements for it in several of the cities I visited. To a good Southern and Christian man like myself it seems like nothing less than pure excess and sensuality. And yet this seems to be the norm over there. I am quite sure this will be the subject of my future prayers for our world’s culture, society, and future (I soon realized though that the U.S. in certain places like Los Angeles is not much different).
Aside from the culture shock though there were more good things to remember than anything else. I have already mentioned that Germans are quite nice. Of course I already knew that because I have German friends, but it was nice to find that most Germans you meet are friendly. Several were even nice enough to hold prolonged conversations with me in English since my German is limited to certain phrases and is far from fluent. I met a nice couple about my age from Cologne who were visiting Berlin on vacation (and happened to be in the biotechnology field like I am) and we had a pleasant conversation as we sat in sun chairs at the outdoor seating of a restaurant overlooking the Spree River.
Also on my train to Weimar, appealing most of all to my nerdy side, I had the great luck of sitting across from a German librarian (also about my age) who was completing his studies so that he could work full time for the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek) which has locations in Leipzig and Frankfurt. We talked nearly the whole two hour train ride from Dresden to Weimar on various topics revolving around German history, the Reformation, and yes even books. That train ride was just as memorable as the cities that I visited and I enjoyed the conversation greatly (and at least this time I was on a train that had more seats than people which meant I didn’t have to sit on the floor again).
I could go on and on about my trip but alas I must be content with a brief summary. I came back from Germany with a little over 4000 photographs in HiDef 1080P format, and several hours worth of video. Honestly sometimes the camera acted in lieu of my brain and I just let the camera do some the memorizing for me since it was so much to take in in so little time. So I’m sure as I sift through my pictures and videos over the next several weeks I will discover things I didn’t even stop to notice at the time, so I guess I got to bring back a little of my vacation with me in the form of media.
I also brought back souvenirs of dried honey from the Raps flowers that grow all over Germany (yum!), chocolate from Fassbender & Rausch in Berlin, a color stenciling of Dresden from across the Elbe looking into the Altstadt (old city) with a boat in the foreground (beautiful drawing!), and a foot-tall Knight Templar figurine sporting mail armor, a shield with the Templar red cross on it, as well as his trusty sword – which I got at the medieval Marksburg Castle. So I brought back plenty to remind me of my time spent there, and of course it will always live on in my memory! It was definitely worth the trip!