Last week I reconciled myself to being yet another clichéd tourist in Europe before going on to visit France, Switzerland, and Germany in five days, toting my camera along with me and reflecting sadly that my many years of Spanish class would do me little good in any of these places. Despite often feeling completely inept at functioning in foreign countries, the trip was amazing. Paris, France and Bern, Switzerland were beautiful cities; the Eiffel Tower at night made me feel star-struck, and looking out over Bern with the Swiss Alps on the horizon made me want to change nationalities immediately.
Germany, however, is the country my friend and I spent the most time in. My friend, Caitlin, has family near Stuttgart. Exactly how they are related to her remained a little mysterious to me, and I think even to Caitlin, during the trip, but they were definitely family, and they were ridiculously nice. Her great-aunt and uncle (I think) agreed to host us for two nights, and made even me, who am definitely not related to any of them, feel like family too. We weren’t sure if it was because they were German, or because they were elderly, or some combination of the two, but their definition of ‘hosting’ meant giving us their bed to sleep in, feeding us to the bursting point, driving us to visit other cities, and finally just giving us whatever they could convince us to take from their home. It was a little overwhelming.
The food, in particular, was an experience. During the first three and a half days of our trip, Caitlin and I actually ate rather little, due to a combination of spending most of our mornings sleeping on trains and then being a little dismayed at how expensive all the restaurants were. I mean, we didn’t starve, but we were forming weird and irregular eating habits. Thursday changed all that. From the moment we got up in the morning to minutes before we went to bed at night, we were fed. Not only were we served three meals a day at their home, but Oma and Opa (grandmother and grandfather, as we called them) took us to visit more of Caitlin’s family, and at each house we visited we were served tea, pretzels, cake, cookies, and even mead. By the end of the day we were praying that there would be no more food, but it was in vain. I couldn’t say no to any of them, partly in order to not offend anyone, but also largely because everything was so tasty. German pretzels, especially, are one of my new favorite things.
Communication was difficult, as the only other language I know is Spanish, but Oma and Opa were great English speakers and kindly helped me out. Living with them, even for such a short time, was truly amazing and humbling, as I never expected to be welcomed into their family so easily or treated with such sincere consideration. It’s strange, but I feel like I have an adopted family now, one I can’t even speak properly to but who made me feel included.