On My Exile (Final)

 It has been nearly 7 years since I have been exiled from my homeland. Over two thousand five hundred days, and it has gone by in a flash. I feel that my assimilation into German life is incomplete, but I know that I am forever changed. If you haven't seen my previous posts on my exile, you should refer to those posts first - or don't, I can't tell you what to do.

During my exile, I have had the pleasure to travel to many places, including France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Ethiopia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Poland, Crete, Latvia, Croatia, Turkey, and England. For all the traveling that I have been able to do, I feel truly blessed. I have been humbled by the generosity of the people of Ethiopia, moved to tears by the welcoming arms of newfound family in Poland, been absolutely astounded by the cuisine in Italy, contemplated life on the stunningly beautiful beaches of Crete, terrified taxi drivers in Latvia, and made a plethora of friends in almost every country I have been in.  

The really crazy thing is now that I get to go back home, I almost feel like I am being exiled again. I have grown to love Germany as much as I love the U.S. and I really don't want to go. I have friends and family here that I have to leave, and anyone that knows me knows that I am terrible at goodbyes (stupid emotions, blech). However, I chose this life and change must happen so I guess I should look at it as the bittersweet dessert I have served myself. As with any recipe, there are ingredients and I guess I am a "bad news first" kind of person, so I'll give the bitter first.

Things I'll miss:

I think one of the seemingly insignificant things that I will miss will be all the wild fruit and nuts that grow around my house.  On the 15 minute route that I walk my dog, I can pick wild strawberries, zwetschgen (wonderfully sweet and sour plums), wild blackberries, pears, walnuts, hazelnuts, and a bunch of different types of apples.  It's like my own little cornucopia of fruits to enjoy whilst enjoying the walk.

The utter beauty of this place.  Almost every day, regardless of the season, the drive to work would make me smile.  Sometimes it would be a deer running through a field, sometimes it would be memories of eating at Pfeifertal (a wonderful restaurant, if you're ever in this neck of the woods).  However, oftentimes it would just be driving through the surrounding forest and its relaxing aura.

The great friends that I have made.  I honestly never thought that I would be living in Germany, let alone having a ton of German friends.  They are all in their own individual way, absolutely marvelous.  This post isn't big enough to say the things that I want to say to them, so I'll save that for another post. 

The rule-following Germans.  There is nothing more glorious than seeing someone at a crosswalk, in a tiny town, with no traffic in sight, waiting for the pedestrian crosswalk light to turn green - simply because it's the "right thing to do".  It makes for a community and a society that is easy to live in.  If your neighbor has a problem with you (like lighting fireworks off in the street instead of your garden), be sure that they will tell you.  Sorry about that Adam!!  The important thing is once he tells you, he doesn't hold a grudge and scowl at you for the next week.  He will greet you the very next day as kindly as he has ever done while he is out walking his dogs.

The Foooooooood. I am not going to lie.  I got fat over here.  I definitely had my fill of beer, wine, and European food since being here.  One of the nice things is that around hunting season, you can just buy venison in the grocery store.  Want deer stew for dinner?  No problem.  Have a hankering for some wild boar?  Plenty to go around.  It was like living with an avid hunter, without all the long-winded stories.

Being able to go to France for a quick trip to the grocery store.  I will really miss this.  France has some of the best ingredients you can buy for cooking, and they are unbelievably cheap.  Anything from French Grey Sea Salt, truffles (white or black), foie gras, hundreds of different cheeses, or even surprisingly fresh seafood.  They also have things like cassoulet (fancy franks and beans) and choucroute garnie (sauerkraut and various meats) in cans.  You can also get microwave dinners in really interesting flavors like beef bourguignon, ratatouille, duck confit, and my office's favorite: Poisson Avec purée de pomme de Terre which is fish with mashed potatoes.  Really good to eat, really bad to cook in a small office microwave...

The endless festivals.  Except for 2020, every year I have been here had been a constant stream of festivals.  Germans definitely get that right.  From the world's largest wine festival (Wurstmarkt in Bad Dürkheim), the little summer carnivals in each town, Fasching (or Carnival depending on what part of Germany), and the Kristkindlmärkte during Christmas, it seems that there is something always going on.  They all have a few things in common.  Alcohol, more alcohol, and fun.  You'd think in a culture that centers a lot of things around alcohol, there would be a lot of problems.  There are some, but not nearly as many as you'd think.  When Germans get too drunk to function properly at a fest, instead of fighting, they just throw on some Schlager and dance like five-year-olds with ADHD.  If you're wondering what "Schlager" is, just imagine someone was dared to write the most ridiculous lyrics to a song and then hired a Eurodance group from the '80s to put music to it.  If you don't believe me, look up the song "Ich hab ne Zwiebel auf dem Kopf ich bin ein Döner" (thanks Bob...) and translate the lyrics. Oh, and they all have a dance that goes with them.  These are not for the shy or faint of heart.  If you're a glutton for punishment, look up "The fast-food song".  Fair warning, you're not getting this time back in your life.

The bread.  I know that I already talked about the food, but bread here is on another level. Crispy crust, soft fluffy inside, and more varieties than I could shake a stick at.  Even if you buy it from the cheapest store around, it will be better than any bread you've bought in the U.S. (except for some really good artisan stuff that costs often more than 5 bucks a loaf).  Some of my favorites were: Kornspitz, Bauernbrot, Krustenbrot, Kürbiskern brötchen, and just plain old Brötchen. I guess I'll have to learn to bake bread... 

The Autobahn.  What do you get when you mix: world-class automobiles, rule-following people that pay over 2000 euro for a driver's license, and a speed-limit free highway?  Fun.  Lots and lots of fun. 80 MPH seems so slow now.  

Sundays in Germany.  My god, I must be getting old.  Just about everything except restaurants and museums is closed on Sunday in Germany.  You also can't make a lot of noise on Sunday either, so no lawn mowing, building, loud outdoor parties, or really anything that will piss your neighbors off.  I hated this when I first moved to Germany.  Then I learned that it really opened up my Sundays for fun, stress free stuff.  We used to go on hikes or mountain bike rides or even just walks through the forest by our house.   

Things I am excited for:

Getting Amazon in 2 days instead of two weeks and not having to wait for an hour in the god damn post office line, especially during covid.  

Getting gas anywhere I want.  No more planning a vacation around where the ESSO stations are.   

Seeing family and friends again.  People are the real MVP wherever you are at.  I'll be excited to see family and friends and be able to catch up with them.  

A new job and a new area to explore.  Great Falls looks pretty great (at least it does in MS Flight Simulator...) and I am excited to have a house of my own again.  

That about sums it up.  However, this list is not all-inclusive.  There are a ton of other things that I will miss, and there are a lot of other things that I am excited about but if I wrote about all of them, this would become a book and probably just be a lot of me blubbering about weird stuff.  Anyways, as I have always said, this is just one man's experience abroad, and your mileage may vary.  Auf Wiedersehen, Germany.  Ich werde dich vermissen.


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