I spotted the homemade Willkommen poster, and in a matter of seconds my arms were wrapped tightly around my lovely German friend. It had been nearly two years since I’d seen my favorite foreign exchange student, but my first completely-solo travels had delivered me safely to the land of lederhosen, effectively bringing an end to our prolonged separation.
Little did I know as our car rumbled away from the Munich terminal that a weekend of majestic castle-top panoramas, illegal chocolate eggs, and knuckle-clenching European TV voice competitions awaited. Or, of course, that every last part of my Deutschland excursion would prove to be an utter success.
We were driving over the soil of my ancestors, and from the window I watched as the buzzing metropolis gave way to the field-laden countryside—uncannily reminiscent of the rolling Wisconsin landscape I know so well. This scenery was soon replaced as well, but this time with some charming German village lined with shops and homes constructed in the customary timber-framed fashion.
We were in the southern province of Germany—Bavaria—which is more or less the country’s cultural hub. All stereotypes associated with food, clothing, and architecture (among other things) find their roots in this part of the nation. I was exposed to this first-hand when we made a stop at a traditional German restaurant. It was past noon at that point, and not having eaten a thing since the previous day, my rumbling stomach was thankful for the filling cuisine. I devoured my herb-garnished potato dumpling that rested in a bed of savory purple cabbage, said dankeschön for the wonderful service, and set off on the final leg to Clara’s home.
In her small, old-fashioned village, I was surprised to step across the threshold and into a modern home that boasted an open floor plan, airy and minimal furnishings, a light color scheme, and trendy accent pieces placed strategically throughout.
My stock of sleep was close to nothing, but between my growing excitement-adrenaline and the large quantities of Mio (caffeine water enhancer, a.k.a life liquid) that I consumed during travel, I was ready for the adventures to begin as soon as my bag hit the floor. And so it went that Clara and I spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring her hometown, where we wandered through streets, shops, and other points of interest until our weary legs brought us back to her home for an evening of Princess Diaries 2, schnitzel, and the highly-anticipated week’s episode of the Eurovision Song Contest—the upsetting results of which caused headline news the following morning.
We left home the next day with hopes as high as the first. Our goal was to see as much as time and physical capacity would allow—which, as we discovered, was actually a ton. Arms draped in plastic bags as evidence of shopping success, we returned home once again where we took a much-needed meander down memory lane. How hilarious it was to look back at our high-school selves in her perfectly-assembled scrapbooks and recorded videos from her time in the U.S… But the thing that really had us doubling over in laughter was the ridiculous music video we had made to the German one-hit-wonder “Lemon Tree.” That, of course, only propelled the night into a full-on jam session to 90s throwbacks (think N Sync), Viennese waltzes, and obscure European band favorites (think Aqua and their somehow-famous “I’m a Barbie Girl”).
Good times…good times.
We awoke the next morning to a happy sun kissing our cheeks, letting us know from the moment our tired lids flitted open that it would be another perfect day. A journey to the enchanted land of Nuremberg was in store, and after a stroll through town and the purchase of U.S.-banned chocolate, Clara and I were prepared for the long day ahead.
The pair of us along with one of Clara’s best friends arrived in Nuremberg early in the afternoon. It was as if we had been deposited within the bindings of a Grimm fairy tale—and that at any moment we would encounter an elf, a witch, or perhaps even a trail of colorful gumdrops.
Sadly, we were unable to witness any of those things, but the day was glorious regardless. We climbed castles like real-life princesses (I was, of course, clad in pink Cinderella socks), explored the year-round Christmas shops, and enjoyed the views of the landscape and antique facades reflected in the crystalline water sparkling beneath our perfect stone-bridge perch.
Earlier that day, we decided to go to Bratwursthäusle, which is apparently considered to be the most famous brat house in the world. But—not particularly the sausage fan—I opted to just appreciate the fact that I saw the place instead of actually ordering the fare. I preferred instead to enjoy a cup of coffee at a charmingly posh little café. I ordered a regular, and to my delight, actually received a normal-sized cup—not the disappointing Barbie portion I’ve become accustomed to in Spain.
Our magical adventures in Nuremberg concluded with a haunted tour beneath the historic winding streets. We crept through the underground tunnels that at one time stored enormous quantities of beer and, at another, served as the perfect sanctuary for war-time protection. It was definitely interesting, but I’m not quite sure what I would’ve done if Clara hadn’t been there to whisper translations in my ear.
Before the time came the following afternoon to make the journey to the airport, Clara and I spent our final hours in Munich at the Olympiastadion, home of the 1972 summer games. From its 300 meter lookout tower, we gazed across the sprawling Munich metropolis nestled against a hazy outline of the exquisite Alps.
But the afternoon’s pixie dust soon wore off, and it was time for the airport and the inevitable goodbyes. Hugging my dear friend, I said tschüs to the terrain of beer and brat.
Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland.