I laughed, I cried, I danced (ok it was more like jumping up and down) and I lived.
Look at the light, look how it shines. Take moment. Smile.
I remember this night like it was yesterday, walking through cobblestone streets, our voices echoing off stone walls. Fingers interlaced.
In the corner sat a man, strumming his guitar (which I have no idea how he did this, my hands were freezing and I was doing nothing so productive) the tune one I don’t remember and probably never will, but in that moment it was a masterpiece to my ears.
The five of us spread out across the walkway in Mainz, different conversations, but we were all together, making our way towards this light. And oh how it dazzled my heart. Paris is fabulous, but Germany warms my soul. I swear I heard a bell tinkle as we walked into the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) where ornaments sparkled and hot wine steamed off the tongues of the people surrounding us. It’s not just what you see though, no, it’s the feeling that arises from being surrounded by wonderful people in such a beautiful place.
Germans are cold. Germans are stoic. Germans don’t have a sense of humor. Do Germans shower?
I am sad to say these are all stereotypes I have heard sliding off the tongue of one oblivious person or other. Now of course all countries -or pretty much everything I guess- have their stereotypes. The ones others prod at and poke at, joking on one hand when actually feeling totally solid in their justification (even though they could never back up an argument)
I can pretty much guarantee that if you’ve ever heard any such things…The person you were listening to has never left their own country, or branched out of one mindset.
But that’s not important here.
I’m going to tell you what I found. Here, in this beautiful town, plopped right into a valley, carefully watched by sprawling vineyards and awe inspiring windmills…(which I actually didn’t realize were there until a good several days after I arrived…a blonde moment for me, I feel like someone should have poked me and said “Hey gigi..theirs a big fan up their you seemed to have overlooked”…I’m actually still kind of irritated with this. I mean seriously? They’re huge)
Even amid the small truth that, yes, most Europeans are not so superficially friendly as many Americans, I have never felt so welcomed into a home that was not my own. I remember the nerves tickling my insides, I remember seriously considering just sitting in the car and not walking up to the front door – I’m now happy to say…that I’m really glad I did- and we weren’t even a foot through that door when I was dwarfed by warm arms and given the biggest hug I’ve ever experienced. Isabel, the mamma of this fabulous family, immediately filled my ears with words of warm welcome and I swear I’ve never seen such a happy glow or a big smile displayed all at once. In the first minute she glanced at my barely covered feet (I have a habit of packing everything I need…then forgetting things like good socks) and immediately asked my shoe size, then bustled off, as only she can do, soon to return with a pair of slippers. I was officially welcomed. After saying hello to a boy not much taller than my side (I later became best of friends with, teasing and prodding each other like real siblings) who was so polite and quiet as he solemnly shook my hand (this did not take long to change…’firecracker’ is the word that pops into my mind when I think of Luis) and after hugging his sister who I’d been lucky enough to bike, laugh, and eat muffins with during her stay in the U.S. After meeting a boy who was supposed to be fourteen but who I had to tilt my head to look at (during my whole stay we made the craziest faces at each other…I’m pretty sure some aren’t even legal) And of course…meeting Dziwi (a friend that I’m pretty sure lives with this family half his time) someone who I will never be able to think of without smiling. After all of this and so much more I realized, in just about an hour, that this was a place I would never ever want to forget. And so the fun began.
So much fun that, as my Uncle kindly reminded me after my return, I totally and completely neglected to post anything. Sorry darlings.
Ok so..I do have to admit that some minor stereotypes, to my dismay, ended up with some justification. By the end of this soccer game (or fußeball if I’m being cool) After bouncing up and down to keep warm (it wasn’t even that cold, but somehow all the chill in the stadium managed to get into my fingers and toes) and singing, or mumbling, chants that were really truly exciting but I had no idea what they meant….this game ended with a grand finale of zero to zero.
That was exciting.
I’m going back to Germany just to make sure I see a professional soccer game where someone scores.
You have to hand it to these players though…they have really good fans.
I don’t think I have ever seen anyone so excited or passionate about a sport quite like the Germans can be.
And it’s totally awesome.
I might have been a little bit infected myself.
Every time I see soccer on TV now I have the most overwhelming urge to jump up and down and start yelling “FSV!” to a tune that, my friend recently pointed out, sounds a lot like “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain.”
I’d look ridiculous…but it would take me back to a tournament where people were flushed with anticipation, the lights were bright, my head was light, and I watched my favorite German team (ok I’m a little biased. ..) fight to a shocking and wonderful win.
I have been converted to a soccer lover…at the utter horror of my mother, I might add.
It was a Sunday. The sun was blazing (ok…no that’s not true it was certainly not, but I like that word right there. It adds flare and drama. And I’m a convicted felon of using flowery, passionate words when there is no need…so..there!) we were off on an adventure, and I was fabulously crazy. It’s something about cars I think….Being cooped up makes me deliciously ridiculous. Or at least I think it’s delicious. Ask the people confined with me and maybe they’ll use a different word.
After falling in love with the Weihnachtsmarkt in Mainz we were on our way to another, through a walkway of trees, down multiple hills, sun shining in our eyes, across a ferry…The start of the town came into view…
and I took only one picture before forgetting my camera in the car….
I was angry.
But the sun really was bright – even if it wasn’t blazing – and there was food and people and so many opportunities for laughter. So I let it go.
And luckily Germans have phones too (WHAT? Shocking) And my guide kindly offered to snap a few for me.
So for what is not here…I guess you’ll just have to come see the rest for yourself.
Pommes. Mm mmm mmm. Nom nom nom. So yummy. And otherwise known as French Fries to Americans, yet I like them much better in Germany (I still remember saying something about a French kiss and being asked “why do you call it French?”…and I really had no answer. Do you? Because, really, it’s not very nice to segregate something as delectable as kissing only to the French…they may be swell at it, but I don’t think they can take full responsibility for inventing it..) After squeezing our way inch by inch through the huge swath of people the Pommes stand came into view..and I’m so glad it did. They were huge! The distinct seasoning I still taste in my mouth, the slightest edge of spice, subtle but wonderful.
We walked, or shuffled, to find a place to enjoy…ketchup and mayonnaise ending up more on my fingers than anywhere and the delighted feeling of becoming increasingly full standing next to someone who was indulging, sinfully, in exactly the same way.
Whether I was drunk off ice cream, twirling in circles and laughing at the moon, “playing” chess (more like flopping on the table and whining at my severe lack of comprehension) flipping through recipes to bake goofy, delicious cakes for a birthday party, or speaking Gerglish (any German words I knew smashed up with English) with an eager class of kids I will never ever forget, sprinkling decorations on Christmas cookies, meeting new people while laughing and waiting in anticipation for crêpes made by careful hands….
..or Christmas…ahhh now every Christmas I will look back on memories almost too delightful to hold. Dinners where we all bent over double, clutching our stomachs and asking “Why oh why did we eat so much?” and then tucking our legs beneath us and quietly and steadily nibbling on chocolates while watching wrapping paper tumble to the ground, smiles beaming across every face in the room.
The food, the experiences, the joy, the laughter, and the…well..the total awesomeness…All bundled itself up in moments such as these above. I wish I could spend hours writing every such small detail, every secret smile, every yummy morsel….but sadly I couldn’t remember every one if I tried, yet they are there, all of them, even if some have become fuzzy over the last few weeks.
And, well, some of these memories are mine and mine alone, ones so dazzling I couldn’t put into words for fear of doing little justice…but I hope you’ve seen a Glimpse of the Glamor I found in Germany. Doesn’t it make you smile? Does your face hurt like mine from all the bundles of happiness? Maybe not quite…but that’s how I feel when I write these words.
And now here are some that aren’t mine but have given me hope all the same…
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
Amen Dr. Seuss. Hallelujah. You read me inside and out.
Funny story, looking for this quote.
I typed in “quotes” in Google (yes…I did it…judge me) my fingers hurt, I was tired, and I wanted to write about Germany so badly but I couldn’t find the will to write about happy memories while wishing they hadn’t swept by so fast. And here they were. Words that lifted my frown, widened my eyes, and reminded me exactly of every beautiful experience.
And so it is more than a month later, I’ve laughed, I’ve played games, eaten wonderful food, and been welcomed home by an amazing family and fabulous friends. I’ve danced and my dancing has changed…I feel bigger, better, I hear the music in ways I never did before.
I might have left a little bit of myself in Europe.
But I brought so much more back with me.
And I cannot wait for next time.
Bis nächstes Mal! (I hope google translate worked..)
There is memory music in my head now (mostly electro and Bob Marley), my eyes are drooping shut, and my heart is full.
Tomorrow is a new day.
Thank you for getting this far, you’re a trooper. Come with me next time. There is so much to see, everywhere, and not enough time to see it. So let’s make some time.
Spain, Austria, Rome, Prague, Switzerland, Ireland, England….
And that’s only Europe!
Look out world, I’m on my way.