Germany is one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived. When I say beautiful I don’t just mean aesthetics and architecture but I mean culture, people food, language! Yes Language! I moved to Germany on September 22nd 2013 to a small town called Konstanz of a little under 100,000 people. I arrived on a rainy Saturday with my two suitcases and about 1000€ My classmate from Nottingham picked me up from the station and took me to my temporary accommodation. Temporary being the operative word! I lived in a lady’s spare room for about 2 weeks before she kicked me out. Turns out she was subletting to me and when I had my friend over she was afraid her landlord would find out and kick her out. insert awkward face here but that all happened within the first couple of weeks there and I’m so glad I didn’t give up and move back to England because if I had I would’ve forfeited the best year of my life so far.
So here are some of the reasons I think Germany is BEAUTIFUL
My whole homeless situation happened while I was on a get-to-know-your-colleagues trip to the Black Forest. I had just met my colleagues for about 2 days and already they were opening up their homes to me to stay until I found something more permanent! I remember moving all my stuff (the suitcases had expanded by now to include food and other random bits and bobs) on the bus (which is ALWAYS on time in Germany might I add) to Manon’s flat. She opened the door and helped me with my bags and I burst into tears! I wasn’t just crying because I was homeless in a foreign country but more so because of her act of altruism! I don’t know that I could have done the same thing for a complete stranger. Why didn’t you sort out accommodation before you moved you ask? Well, here’s a little background info about Konstanz:
Konstanz is a tiny town surrounded by the Lake which links Austria, Germany and parts of Switzerland together, so for the most part there is little room for expansion. It is typically a place people go to retire because it’s just so picturesque!
In the year I moved, there had recently been a change in the education system in Germany allowing High School leavers to start uni a year earlier so there was quite a large intake that semester. I had applied for student accommodation but wasn’t able to secure a room. Usually most people find accommodation through “craigslist” type websites from other sub-letters. Which is eventually how I found the beautiful and cosy flat I came to call home two weeks later.
My experience of German food is quite positive. For the most part it’s quite difficult to eat unhealthy. The supermarkets were cheap and the bread! Oh the Bread! I’d never eaten such healthy bread. Germany is quite famous for its wide range of bread. There are bakeries on every corner with teeming with people purchasing bread or the next best thing- cake! I’m not that much of a cake fan if I’m honest, but I appreciate the novelty. I found that a lot of German cakes were baked with fresh fruits. There weren’t so much the death by chocolate gateaux and red velvet cakes but the apricot-cheese cake, rhubarb cake, strawberry cake and so on. It was fairly easy to eat quite healthy in Germany. In the summer I completed a 30 day challenge of healthy eating and exercise.
I put down the Haribos and reached for cereal bars, fresh fruits and salads. Fruits were also very cheap and in high supply all year round. The typical fast food restaurants exist of course; McDonalds like Coca-Cola is synonymous with capitalism but even the McDonalds tasted different! I immediately noticed ironically that the fries came salted- something we had long stopped doing in the UK because of all our obesity problems. The food took longer to make, but didn’t completely taste like junk. You actually got more than a shred of lettuce in your burger, and the bread didn’t taste stale!
I am a little disappointed that I didn’t try as many German dishes as I would have liked to but my ultimate favourites were Spatzle, Raclette and Currywurst. Ironically I worked as a waitress with an Italian chef, so a lot of my meals were Italian cuisine.
Living in Konstanz felt like I had just walked onto the set for a postcard shoot. Stunning doesn’t even begin to cut it. For the most part its beauty isn’t man made per se. Connecting the Altstadt with the Neustadt are a few bridges which overlook the Lake Constance with The Alps in the background. Depending on how moist the air is, you can usually get a good view of the Alps. In the summer time everyone pours out to the lakeside for a swim. The water is so clean and refreshing. I remember a friend asking me once if we went swimming in the Thames- I almost died of laughter! No, this was nothing like the Thames. The lake was serene, you could see tadpoles and other aquatic creatures around you while you swam. The swans weren’t too friendly though, so I always endeavoured to stay out of their way. And when we weren’t swimming, my friends and I would lay out on the grass and read a book or simply take in the amazingness of Kosntanz. As far as the architecture goes, Konstanz was a very simple town; the houses are mostly townhouses not exceeding 3 or 4 storeys high each painted different colours from yellows to blush pinks. There were few houses that were just plain brown or pasty white and even they were wedged between a pallet of colours. I had a chance to visit other German cities and one thing I noticed about them all was a very cyclist-friendly infrastructure, something I grew to appreciate when I returned to the UK. There are designated bike routes and even cyclist only streets and traffic lights. The routes are very helpful for both cyclists and motorists alike; cyclists don’t end up weaving between cars and cars don’t get slowed down by cyclists in the middle of the road. I think the next most beautiful place I visited in Germany was Munich. Munich was the perfect blend of modern and classic architecture with gorgeous gardens and well kept environs. The streets are wide and remind me of American streets, and of course the people are so friendly and hospitable.
Now usually, beautiful isn’t a word typically associated with German language. Aggressive seems most apt, however German language is perhaps one of my favourite languages to speak. It’s so back-to-front and complicated that I actually pride myself on being able to get it right (the few times I do). Most people in Germany speak English, so depending on where you stay it would be easy to get away without learning to speak a word of German, but where’s the fun in that? There are many language courses available through the education system and the local council to integrate foreigners into society. I already had a basic grasp of German before I moved out there from school and my previous travels, but I still took German language classes at uni. I attended church in German and got a job as a waitress. Immersing myself in the culture like I did really helped my language skills, but sadly the inverse is also true- since leaving Germany I’ve forgotten a lot of words and grammatical rules. I still understand the language when I hear or read it, but I also make mistakes.
I wish I was able to live in Germany longer than I did, It’s such a huge country and there’s so much yet to explore. Exactly a year and a day later I went back to Germany to visit my friend and explore another city. I felt like I was right back at home. Who knows I might visit home more often.
I am Josephine Otuagomah and I use my difference to make a difference by sharing the world you don’t see on tv!