After more than a year of planning, my husband and I flew to Germany for a 16-day adventure last month.
Both of us studied abroad in college, but it was our first European adventure without chaperones.
It was my first time in a country where English isn’t the official language, though most Germans do speak some English. For that reason, the language barrier was not too much of an issue.
Jet lag did lead to some miscommunication our first night in Munich at the Augustiner-Keller beer garden. There was a self-service area, and I had my eye on a giant pretzel, which I claimed with no problem. My husband, Matt, wanted to put away his first German beer, so he grabbed the first mug he saw, failing to read the large sign above the area which would have saved him from spending good money on apple juice.
Many museums we visited had exhibits in both German and English, and if they did not, English audio guides were available.
We tried to pick up some German before the trip, but we didn’t get much further than the basics: good morning, please, thank you, goodbye.
We should have skipped to the chapter on road signs. We quickly picked up some words – ausfahrt means exit – but other signs were indecipherable, and I was praying we weren’t barrelling down a one-way street.
My husband, Matt, loved driving on the Autobahn, which he had been promised bore no speed limit. There were some posted speeds, but many Mercedes-Benz and Porsche vehicles whipped by us, far exceeding the signs’ guidance. We generally drove about 120 kilometers per hour, roughly 75 miles per hour, but Matt wanted to see what our rental car could do and topped 160 kph, or 100 mph, at one point.
We ate extremely well. Beef rouladen, cheesy spatzle and white sausage were favorites, as were Black Forest cake and spaghettieis, ice cream pushed through a spatzle press to look like spaghetti, topped with strawberry sauce and white chocolate “parmesan.”
I’m so glad neither of us have a gluten intolerance because the Germans love their bread.
At breakfast in the hotels, it was expected that each table would fill a basket with bread products. I had at least two rolls each morning, but still managed to lose weight walking a total of 147 miles, many city miles and some hiking in the Bavarian Alps and Black Forest.
The history in Europe is astounding. Last year we traveled to Boston, which has some of the United States’ oldest architecture. Everything is that much older in Europe, though much of Germany was reconstructed after extensive damage in World War II.
We learned a lot about World War II touring the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, Dokumentation Obersalzberg, Hitler’s Eagles Nest and more.
Diving even farther into the past, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation a few months early, visiting many sites connected to Martin Luther. Stops in Eisenach, Eisleben and Wittenberg informed our understanding – the good, the bad and the ugly – of a movement that changed the world.
Seeing the room in Wartburg Castle where Luther translated the Bible into the common language was a highlight.
Berlin taught us about more recent history – socialism under the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic. My parents traveled to Germany shortly after the wall fell, just before I was born. It is so difficult to imagine Berlin divided for nearly 30 years after seeing the city today.
Our trip was everything I hoped it would be. We escaped the daily grind, challenged ourselves both mentally and physically and made memories that will last a lifetime.
I’m already planning our next adventure, but for now, it’s good to be home.