I love Germany. It’s probably my favourite country I’ve not lived in (and it will be so until Belgian football gets better)- I thought I’d share a few memories of times I’ve been there.
I first visited Germany in 1993, when we visited Trier on a day trip from Luxembourg (where we were holidaying, there is a surprising amount for young kids to do in Luxembourg) and I don’t remember much about it, except asking my dad if every wall we went past was the Berlin wall. The fact the Berlin wall was hundreds of miles away and also demolished was didn’t seem to stick, and I didn’t get to see it until 20 years later. Presumably Dad wanted to make sure we wouldn’t ask this question again.
Six years later, our school orchestra had an exchange trip to Germany, in a town called Jülich near Aachen in the Northwest. While as 15-year-old schoolboys, we had great fun laughing at amusing place names and going into youth clubs (KuBa) underage, I just loved the general atmosphere of the place, even if they started school at 7:30 and didn’t think twice about having salami for breakfast. We got to go out into the cities of Münster and Aachen, where we didn’t much other than shopping and eating ice cream, and Fantasialand, a theme park near Cologne where I aced the camel game and found the most addictive chips in the world. The only downside was going to the cinema to watch Star Wars Episode I dubbed into German- somehow Midochlorians made more sense in a language I didn’t fully get.
We went there again a couple of years later, and it was broadly the same except now we weren’t underage, though seeing some of the third years trying to convince staff they were 16 was entertainment in itself. I still received no adequate explanation as to why the Oktoberfest was in September though.
I went to Munich on my own in 2007. It rained the whole time, but it was a great city to visit. I ended up sitting beside some Austrian students at the Hofbräuhaus who were desperately trying to tell me Salzburg had more to offer than Sound of Music tours. The BMW museum was probably the most interesting thing, particularly as at the time the BMW F1 team was challenging for race wins.
I went to a blisteringly hot Frankfurt with some friends for a few days in 2010, where I celebrated my birthday and completing my PhD thesis at the Höchster Schlossfest, where the ordering of a “Pizza Jimmy” seemed to throw the staff at a restaurant into all kinds of panic and instead we ended up eating at a place with a German waiter who put on an excellent cockney accent.
Finally, I visited Berlin a couple of years ago, primarily to see the Ishtar Gate in one of the museums there- but what got me was the fact that I could just walk across where the wall used to be without anyone really caring. The path of the wall is marked out on the road, and if I had made the same journey 30 years ago I would have been shot. I tried a Berliner doughnut, at the same time as discovering the “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech wasn’t actually a silly mistake on the part of JFK. I even managed to visit the Olympic Stadium and catch sight of a Hertha Berlin training session before I was hurried away.
I’m hopeful in the next few years to visit Hamburg (mostly to try and work out why their football team is so terrible at the minute), Dortmund, and Cologne, because Germany is the best.