by Naimul Karim (originally posted on naimul.net)
Most journeys are a journey in space – where you go places. But sometimes it is also a journey in time. This is one of them. You cannot travel to East Germany (GDR) because it doesn’t exist anymore. But it lives in my memory. That’s where my German experience had begun. Even though I had lived many more years in (the former) West Germany, and then some more in unified Germany, East Germany remains special. Now I had to revisit and catch up with something that I had failed to do during my 6 years there. And that is to appreciate the richness of its heritage in classical German culture and history. Christine too, wanted to catch up with her (childhood) friends. So, we went and did both. Along the way, we discovered something unexpected.
The best time to visit Germany is April-May - when flowers are in bloom, days are long, and temperatures mild. We went in mid-May, taking a direct flight from Minneapolis to Frankfurt with Condor (Lufthansa charter). Although we are no strangers to Germany, we were apprehensive because we hadn’t been there for many years, especially in the former East German regions. How have things changed? Will we be surprised or disappointed?
Things worked well – until we landed next morning. We had to disembark on the tarmac, and then were bussed to the terminal. Things felt crowded and disorganized as we proceeded through immigration and baggage collection. The experience was the same on our way back home. Anyway, we headed for the railway station. We hadn’t rented a car. We’ll be traveling widely and hoped to avoid stress by using a train. The station should have been an easy 10 minutes’ walk, but we failed to locate any sign. A huge construction site between the terminal and the station didn’t make things easier.
We made it to the station all right. As we waited in the high-ceilinged and spacious station, I took in the rushing crowd. I started to feel like being back in Germany again. But people were more casually dressed than I remember from the past.
The “Intercity” train to Stuttgart was on time and comfortable. As we were preparing to get off in Stuttgart, I exchanged pleasantries with an elderly woman traveling with her mother. I told them about our plans. They were from Hoyerswerda. Did we know Hoyerswerda? Yes, we did, it’s a small town in Saxony (former East Germany). “Not everyone in Hoyerswerda is like that”, responded she, while her mother nodded. Yes, we understood.
Armed with that cryptic assurance, we started our three weeks-long journey that took us to many towns and villages, big and small – mostly in the regions of the former East Germany. And we met only people who were “not like that”. 30+ years ago, Hoyerswerda had made the headlines because of a xenophobic incident. What was the likelihood of that conversation on the very first day? Not much - but it did happen. And it was not the only “as luck would have it moment” during the next three weeks.
STUTTGART (Baden-Württemberg, former West Germany)
Our friends “NS and RKS” picked us up from Stuttgart station, and took us to their beautiful home in Esslingen, a suburb of Stuttgart. That’s where we stayed for the next few days to decompress and to do sightseeing and hiking. Most of all, we caught up with our retired and empty nester friends. We had previously vacationed together in France and Canada. Next up, hopefully in Minnesota!
We did sightseeing in Esslingen and Tübingen – two old, picturesque cities with a fairytale-like Rathaus (city hall) in the city center, an old castle, and all that. Our friends’ alma mater is in Tübingen. We visited “castle laboratory” where DNA was discovered by Friedrich Miescher in 1869. I was amused in the city by a restaurant sign enticing passersby with a delicious breakfast of “pancakes and bagels”.
The city center of Esslingen (top row). The city hall of Tübingen (bottom row), and the test tube in which Friedrich Miescher had isolated nucleic acid from salmon sperm in 1871.
"Lecker" breakfast as well.
The next day we went to Stuttgart to attend a “modern” ballet . Next up was Weimar. Christine and I left in advance by train, which took only a few hours. Our friends joined us three days later.
WEIMAR (Thuringia, former East Germany)
Weimar is a crown jewel of classical German culture and history – it is “die Stadt der Dichter und Denker” (the city of poets and thinkers). It is here that Goethe, Schiller, Herder, and Wieland had spent their productive life. It is here that Bauhaus movement had started. And it is here that the eponymous Weimar Republic was proclaimed.
It is a small city. Signposts on every street corner remind you of its glorious past - not that that were necessary. Every narrow alley, along which stand old historic buildings and restaurants, exudes the aura of the past. We visited many of them, including Goethe’s house, Schiller’s house, the old castle, Anna Amalia library, Bauhaus Museum, Weimar Republic Museum, and much more. Also attended a small concert at the Weimar University of Music, in front of which stands the statue of the duke of Saxe-Weimar, Carl August, whose patronage was key to Weimar’s cultural heritage.
Pictures of Goethe-Schiller Monument, Street signs in Weimar, Carl-August Monument in front of the University of Music Franz Liszt
Weimar is a tourist magnet –for “cultured” tourists, as one of our friends put it. Most of them seemed like elderly Europeans. There were some student groups as well. They congregated in front of the most famous and beloved monument in all of Germany – the Goethe-Schiller Monument. In the background is Deutsches National Theater und Staatskapelle where Bach, Liszt, Richard Strauss, Goethe, Schiller had worked. A banner hung saying “Diplomacy! NOW! Peace”. It was the first of only two political banners I have seen in three weeks. The other one was in Leipzig.
Weimar is where Bauhaus movement was born. Most people I know are enthusiastic about it but I have never been much attracted. Was that because of my unfamiliriaty with it? Now was the opportunity to rectify my knowledge gap. So, we spent half a day at Bauhaus Museum, and I realized why Bauhaus did not appeal to me. I’ll spare you the long treatise. Instead, here are three reasons:
First, the movement had developed in a cult-like environment, which I don’t like.
Second, in its endeavor to improve efficiency (of individuals and the society), Bauhaus interpreted human activities through a mechanistic lens. As a result, to me it feels like human spirituality takes a back seat. Function rules too much over spirit.
Thirdly, at least in some instances, Bauhaus fails to balance form with function, a balance that is key to any design. It’s a mouthful, especially coming from a scientist. Therefore, I’ll give two examples. The museum had Bauhaus chairs on display. They did not appeal to me – but that’s subjective. I also trial sat on three such chairs (that were meant for that purpose). None of them was comfortable. This too, could be subjective. But look at the attached museum poster of a Bauhaus chair. If the poor mannequin doesn’t get lumbar support soon, it will need to call a chiropractor. Then I looked closely at a hoem design model - arguably one among many. Kitchen/dining/living rooms were located centrally, and bedrooms on the periphery. The design is probably pretty functional, but I want the space where I spend most of my time at home (kitchen/dining/living) to have a direct view to the outside. I am not saying that my objections apply to all Bauhaus designs. I also acknowledge Bauhaus’s contribution to new thinking back then. But that was then. Today we do not need more functionality and efficiency. Rather what we need is more focus on spirituality and esthetics. Otherwise, transhumanism will be on our doorsteps sooner than we think. Sorry, let’s move on.
We had two interesting encounters in Weimar - both rather unlikely. The first one was with one Herr H., a local primary school teacher. We bumped into each other in front of Schiller Museum. He was intrigued by an American tourist speaking German, and my interest was to find out how regular Germans think about Germany. This suited Herr H. just fine. He was also proud to show around his city. So, for an hour he guided me through the old city, along many narrow, clobber stoned streets and alleys, while we chatted. He had a few questions about the States, but I had many – all the way from the political landscape, economic situation, Ossi-Wessi relationship, the Ukraine war, refugees, xenophobia, Covid response, etc. It was a pleasant conversation thanks to Herr H.’s openness and my approach of not sharing my opinion unless asked to. We remain in contact by email now. (Ossi and Wessi are colloquial terms used by former East Germans and former West Germans to refer to each other)
The other encounter was with “DG and MG”. Christine and I had known (of) them 40+ years ago while attending university in Merseburg (GDR). But we had not been in contact. As luck would have it (notice the phrase), we got connected just three months before the trip by an unlikely sequence of events. They drove up from Halle to see us and took us to dinner that lasted four hours! There was a lot to catch up with – both personal and professional. They belong to a generation (our generation) that was hit especially hard by German reunification. Many people from this generation were too old to reorient but too young to have already established a career. DG has done splendidly well though. He is the founder of a small company commercializing a unique niche product for chemical research. His entrepreneurial journey had started before the German reunification. It was long, precarious, and uncertain.
Our dinner table was outside in the town square, with hotel Elephant’s (in)famous balcony looking over our shoulders. The balcony is associated with a certain Herr H. – not the amicable schoolteacher Herr H. though. A few clicks on the Internet will solve the riddle.
LEIPZIG (Saxony, former East Germany)
Pictures of Hauptbahnhof, Mendelbrunnen with Uni on the left and Opera House on the right, Konsument-Warenhaus (die Blechbüchse - that's where I had bought my first winter coat in 1975)
Next up was Leipzig - another beautiful city rich in history and culture, and just a few hours away from Weimar. We and our friends took a regional train to arrive at Leipzig Hauptbahnhof (main station). It is a splendid work of architecture. This 1919 built, 898,400 sq ft railway station is Europe’s largest and one of the highest ranked. I know this station well because I had lived in Leipzig for one year. That was 48 years ago - my very first year in Germany. I haven’t been back since. Returning there brought back many memories. I left Christine and our friends alone for a while, and wandered around looking for places, nooks, and corners I knew many years ago. Things have changed, and the ambience is lost to some extent. It is crowded and cluttered now - with food stalls and boutique shops. I missed the gigantic “Mitropa restaurant” that I used to find so impressive, but also somewhat intimidating. But the station still looks grandiose and is worth visiting. I was happy to be back.
Leipzig is an old city - you could mistake its new city hall for a medieval castle from a movie! The city center has been completely renovated and looks beautiful. Leipzig is culturally vibrant too. No wonder Leipzig ranks as one of the most livable cities in Europe. Many young people from the former West Germany have moved to Leipzig, as our hotel bar tender told me. He is one of them. I cannot be sure, but many establishments in the city are probably in Wessi hands. But everything has its dark side. I am told that the city is becoming unaffordable for some locals.
Leipzig’s most famous resident was J.S. Bach. He spent his entire productive life here, living right next to St. Thomas church. That’s where he worked and that’s where he is laid to rest. His former home is now Bach Museum. Don’t miss it if you are a Bach fan, as I am. Admission is free on Tuesdays! We had planned our Leipzig visit to coincide with the commemoration of 300 years of Bach’s arrival in Leipzig. Taking advantage of the event, we enjoyed several hours of Bach performance at St. Thomas church.
Pictures show Bach Museum ( formerly Bach residence) St. Thomas Church with Bach monument, and Bach's Grave.
Leipzig university is one of the oldest in Europe, and Gewandhaus Orchestra is one of the oldest of its kind in the world. St. Thomas and St. Nicholas churches are here too. Both played prominent roles in the East German non-violent movement in the 1980’s that brought down the Berlin wall. It had all began at St. Nicholas church with a Friedensgebet (prayer for peace) on a Monday in 1982. The church continues to hold Friedensgebet every Monday at 5 pm. As luck would have it (again!), we were walking by the church when the 5 O’clock gong sounded. It was a Monday too, and it was Friedensgebet time! We joined 100 or so attendees inside the church. After a short prayer, an appeal for peace was read out. A banner hung inside the church that said, “God does not approve of war”.
In Leipzig too, I had two interesting encounters. The first one was at an info counter for public transportation. I wanted to find out if any multi-day packages are available. It was late in the afternoon and the 50-something year old employee was visibly stressed out. She greeted and responded rather curtly and started comparing options on her computer. To break the ice, I mentioned that the last time I was in Leipzig was in 1976 when I was learning German. She looked up and told me in a friendlier manner that those were the good old days. Before I could respond, she added defiantly that yes, she is and will always be an Ossi. I’d have loved to probe further but there were people waiting in line to be served. I don’t think that all former East Germans feel this way. But I also don’t think that - notwithstanding the visible improvements you see all around - she is an outlier. It was surprising that she expressed her opinion unprompted and did so to someone who was obviously not a German. I have a hunch that she would not do so if I were a Wessi. I also have a hunch that there is still a gulf between most Ossis and Wessis, which will take one or two more generations to bridge.
The second encounter was more emotional. It happened at Herder Institut, the East German equivalent of Goethe Institute. That’s where I had learned German in 1975/76. I was not too hopeful of finding it. I assumed it has long been reorganized, renamed, relocated. But after some Internet search, our friend identified a Herder Institut on Lumumba Strasse. I have lost my orientation in the city but not the memory of the name of the street. So off we went, and lo and behold, we found it. The building still stood there … not much changed.
Pictures show Herder Institute, my classroom which looked the same in 1975/1976 but without the big screen.
It was in the afternoon, and nobody was around. But the entrance was open - so, we went in. I wandered around the hallways, upstairs and downstairs, climbed the stairways, as I used to do many years ago, and peeked inside empty classrooms trying to remember my classroom. I remembered my German teacher Frau Lehmann, and the very first two German sentences I had learned on the very first day. She stood in front of the chalk blackboard on which she had written: "Ich bin Frau Lehmann. Ich bin Ihre Lehrerin" (I am Mrs. Lehmann. I am your teacher). She repeated them over and over, while gesticulating to herself, to a handful of students who didn't know any German whatsoever.
I was too engrossed in the past to notice a young woman observing me from the far end of the empty hallway. She came forward and asked if she can help. I told her that I was a student here 47 years ago. She is a teacher, she told me. But 1976 was a very long time ago. But there was someone who could help. She excused herself and soon returned with an elderly gentleman. He was Dr. Michael - the recently retired director of the institute. As luck would have it (again!), he happened to be at the institute that afternoon.
Our paths had not crossed in the past because Dr. Michael had joined the institute (as a teacher) one year after I had already left. But he had been there ever since and there was a lot to share. What followed was a 30-minutes long time travel! The institute is still affiliated with the University of Leipzig, but its original mission has been deprioritized. He remembered one of my teachers, but she had left for West Germany before reunification, and he had lost contact with her. The cafeteria and an older student housing next to the zoo (where I had lived for a short time) have been demolished. The institute building remains well preserved because it is under monument protection.
Dr. Michael complimented me on my German proficiency. It meant a lot to me. And I thought that I sensed a hint of pride in his voice. Here I might share something else. After returning to Minnesota, I had sent Dr. Michael an email thanking him for taking the time for me. I had also thanked Herder Institute for giving me an opportunity to learn German language and its culture. In response Dr. Michael wrote (translated): “You don’t have to thank me. That’s because my delight in such an excellent graduate of Herder-Institut is enormous. I have shared your email right away with two of my colleagues who used to work here in the 1980’s. They were equally impressed by your German language skills. Evidently, we hadn’t done much wrong as teachers”. This time, he didn’t hide his teacher’s pride. And I couldn’t wish for a better German proficiency certificate!
Back to our conversation. The bust of Lumumba in front of the building had been vandalized but is now replaced with a smaller one. I had noticed that. Patrice Lumumba, and the street named after him brought back more memories. I remembered a morning in early November in 1975. During a class break, all students, including me, had run out to the street to experience a natural spectacle that none had ever seen before – snowfall.
He bemoaned that, unlike in the past, two semesters are no longer adequate for bringing foreign students to a proficiency level that would allow them to attend a German university. The kind of students they get has changed, and so has the system. Yes, certain things used to be done better in East Germany.
Next day, we went in search of the student housing I used to live in. It is located near Völkerschlachtdenkmal, a memorial for the battle in which the largest number of soldiers were killed before World War 1. This was the same 1813 battle, right here in Leipzig, in which Napoleon was defeated by a coalition of forces from Russia, Austria, Sweden, and Prussia. A few German Rheinbundstatelets (including Saxony, to which Leipzig belongs) had fought on Napoleon's side. European history is rich.
The student housing was on Strasse des 10. Oktober ( Street of 10. October- named after the battle) – a broad alley with rows of 5-6 stories high prefab buildings on both sides (referred to as sozialistischer Plattenbau – not entirely sure if lovingly or mockingly). Everything looked similar, except minor facelifts of the buildings. I had forgotten the number of my building. I guess I took a picture of the right one.
Next day, our friends’ and our paths parted. They took a train to their second home in Berlin, and we headed for the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the north.
VOGELSANG (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, former East Germany)
Our next destination was Vogelsang, a small village in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. That’s where we were going to stay for a few days with Christine’s childhood friend JE. But our luck with the Bundesbahn ran out. One of the trains was cancelled. Later, the alternative train remained stuck in the middle of nowhere. Fellow travelers took it in strides, and so did we. But we missed the connecting train in Bernau.
Bernau (in the picture) is a small little town with an even smaller station. There was nothing to do, except have lunch in the only visible restaurant – a Turkish one. The service was friendly, but the quality was nowhere near the Turkish fare we had in Esslingen. Eventually our train arrived. We got on it, and soon we arrived in Prenzlau. JE was waiting for us.
She drove us to Vogelsang - a neat little village nestled in the agricultural countryside. It has a community of resettled artists from the cities. She is one of them and owns part of an old, defunct farmhouse. This is also her retreat from her home in Berlin. During the next few days Christine and JE caught up with each other. And I joined them sometimes. She has a unique Ossi-Wessi experience.
We toured the beautiful villages, small towns, and scenic lakes around. Our friend took us to a bookstore that has become the focal point of the local community’s social and cultural life. She introduced us to Nils, the owner. He is a self-declared lefty-anarchist! We chatted with Nils and found out that he hails from a place not far from Neuss (former West Germany) where we had lived for seven years. Small world!
Pictures of the Nordweststuckermark
The next destination was Boltenhagen, a sea resort on the Baltic Sea. But first, we were to stay one night in Schwerin to attend an event showcasing works of our friend’s niece, who is a sculptor. We got to know several of her relatives there.
SCHWERIN via WISMAR (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, former East Germany)
Schwerin is the capitol city of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and is just a few hours’ drive away. It is located near the Baltic Sea. On the way, we made a pit stop at the Hanseatic port city of Wismar. We strolled through the historic town square and milled around the cheerful crowd at the old harbor. Before leaving for Schwerin, we made sure to go to JE’s favorite fish stand to have one of its specialties - pickled herring Brötchen.
We arrived at our hotel in Schwerin in the afternoon. Schwerin is another historic city with many attractions. The friendly hotel receptionist was of no help. He had moved to the city just last week. He is Syrian and came from Berlin hoping for a speedier immigration process. Most service workers in the city appeared to be immigrants. Later in the evening, we took a taxi. The driver was an immigrant too, but not too talkative.
The only tourist attraction we had time to visit was the Schwerin Castle. Once the home of grand dukes, now it is the seat of the state parliament. It is one thousand years old and fabulously beautiful. Parts of the castle is accessible to visitors. But we had to contend with admiring it from outside only. Even that was worth it.
BOLTENHAGEN (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, former East Germany)
We drove on to Boltenhagen, a neat little sea resort– not too overrun and well maintained. We wanted to cap our vacation by spending a few days on the shores of the warm Baltic Sea.
Boltenhagen was a resort for Stasi-Bonzen (fat cats) in GDR times. Their families still hold sway in local politics – I am told. Our friend’s family owns a cabin here too, but for the opposite reason. Before GDR time, her parents belonged to the privileged class, and it was GDR’s policy to promote working-class families at the expense of formerly privileged ones. As a kind of compensation, the latter were given small parcels of land in coveted resorts like Boltenhagen. That’s how a small settlement of self-built, tiny cabins came into being. We visited two such cabins. They are small, but wonderfully functional. I sensed something else. As year after year, families from different parts of GDR with similar background spent vacations together, they formed connections beyond the original generation.
We stayed at a seaside hotel. One morning we had an interesting conversation. It was triggered by an amusing incident. We were having breakfast out in the garden. The tables were not set, so I requested the young waiter-in-training to bring coffee cream. He came back with a small piece of packaged butter. He looked helpless when I pointed out that it was not coffee cream. He apologized and went back. After a while, he returned empty handed. He apologized some more – there is no coffee cream to be found! People at neighboring tables were amused too. The couple at the adjacent table offered us their can of coffee cream. We thanked and exchanged pleasantries. They were a retired couple from the western part of Germany. He had visited Florida once and would love to see California as well. His wife was less adventurous, probably because of her age. BTW, one oddity of the hotel was the age of the guests. We were the youngest around – and we are no spring chicken. After more chit chat, I popped the question: do they refer to it as “die Wende”or “Wiedervereinigung”? I was proven right - they call it Wiedervereinigung. Read on, and you’ll understand …..
Seaside Hotel Garden
Several days ago, during one of our many outings, I had shared an observation with our friend. I had noticed that Ossis and Wessis use different words to refer to the movement that had brought down the Berlin wall. The former call it “die Wende” but the latter “Wiedervereinigung”. She had never thought about it in this way. But she was intrigued and promised to check around.
After we had returned to Minnesota, she wrote me that yes, I was indeed right. But she added a qualifier – Wessis who have had close interactions with Ossis call it die Wende as well. Voila! What’s the big deal? A lot. Words have meaning – and when people use different words then they describe different things. Wende means “change in direction” (Wendepunkt is inflection point in math-lingo) while Wiedervereinigung means “reunification”. On closer scrutiny, the disconnect turns out to be even greater than it appears at first. Ossis see this as a milestone along a journey (a change in direction = die Wende), whereas Wessis see this as a destination that has been arrived at. Evidently, even after three decades, most Ossis and most Wessis have a different understanding of the most important event in Germany’s recent history.
Equally oddly, the official term “of the thing” is Wiedervereinigung. This is odd because German “reunification” was carried out under article 23 of Grundgesetz (provisional German constitution) – and not the more appropriate article 146. The former regulates accession to Germany (e.g., of GDR to West Germany), while the latter regulates reunification of Germany. Therefore, strictly speaking, reunification never happened! If you think that what I am saying is too wild, then check out Lütten Klein by German sociologist Steffen Mau (here are my own notes in english). One very visible consequence (of accession rather than reunification) is that Germany continues to operate under its provisional constitution (Grundgesetz) that was handed down by the allied powers! Reunification (under article 146) would have required Germans to draft their own Verfassung (constitution).
Back to Boltenhagen. Our friend took us to a hidden cove on the Baltic Sea. In her youth, she had spent many summer days here with her friends. It’s hidden because Boltenhagen lies right next to the border with (former) West Germany. The cove could be reached only along secret paths and only during certain hours of the day to avoid border patrol. On a good day, you can see from there the island of Fehman in the west. It looks closer than it is. Some have drowned trying to flee to the island.
I could go on... but everything must come to an end, including our vacation. We celebrated the last evening with a dinner at a venue that was not pre-planned, but probably fitting. It was the restaurant of a GDR-era hotel, appropriately housed in a 5-story sozilistischer Plattenbau. We went in mostly because we happened to be there in the evening. But I cannot rule out a bit of curiosity on our part as well. We were not disappointed. The well restored interior somehow exuded an ambience of GDR. The restaurant served traditional food listed on the menu as "Nostalgie" (nostalgia), and the service was good. It all conspired to bring back Ostalgia (nostalgia for East) in all three of us – two former-Ossis (both had left GDR before the fall of the wall), and an honorary one (me).
Next morning, our friend brought us to Schwerin railway station. After a short emotional farewell, we boarded our last train in Germany, an Intercity to Frankfurt. Thankfully, the privatized Bundesbahn hadn’t lost all its mojos, and we arrived in Frankfurt without trouble. What transpired next is mundane and boring. In due time we landed in Minnesota, and we were back home sweet home!
We found a country with neat and clean public space, which is orderly and safe, and where people are friendly. Its many historic sites and cities are beautiful and a pleasure to visit. Outside metropolitan areas, you can enjoy plenty of beautiful places. And the food is rich in regional variety, and excellent in quality. In other words, Germany remains a wonderful country to visit.
There were changes too. The demography is older now. And there is a new group of twentysomethings, apparently of non-German ethnicity. We saw few children in public. The fabled (now privatized) train system still works but with many hiccups. The autobahn is congested and unpredictable.
Investment over many years in the east is paying off. The infrastructure there is much better now. Especially pleasing are restored historic towns and cities. Ironically, thanks to the neglect of urban development during GDR times, many historic structures and neighborhoods were decrepit but still in existence. Now these restored places bring out a historic charm that is better than in the west. Improvements in economic activities have benefitted most Ossis. But there are some (many?) who are disgruntled. It is likely that business ownership is overpropotionately in western hands.
Even after 30+ years I could sense a gulf that separates Ossis and Wessis – especially among those who haven’t had much personal contact with each other. Hopefully it will disappear in another one or two generations.
There were some positive surprises. We saw no political or economic discontent, no protests, and no sign of a raging war in Ukraine. We hadn’t seen a single flag of the Ukraine. The hotel we stayed at in Weimar remains unmolested even though it carries “Russia” in its name (Grand-Hotel Russischer Hof or Grand Hotel Russian Court). The only two political banners we saw (in Weimar and in Leipzig) for peace. The town centers were full of people spending money at street cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Some will find this description all too rosy, and I’d agree. But what I am writing is also true. The two are not mutually exclusive. I believe that profound unrest and changes are just underneath the surface - both in Germany and in Europe – and both in economic and political sense. But to write about them would be a completely different matter. Instead, as a well-wisher, for now I hope that Germans and their leaders will make the right decisions in the coming months and years…...
And a final discovery – a surprising and personal one. We have been living in the States for more than 30 years now. This is our home, and we don’t want to live anywhere else. But I realized that the moment I had set my feet on Germany, I had felt at home! I shared my surprising discovery with Christine. She told me that she had felt exactly the same way.
PS: I had to leave out many things for the sake of brevity. Among them are Lucas Cranach exhibit, Herderkirche, and Weimar Republic Museum in Weimar; return from the west of immensely land-rich families back to Mecklenburg; impact of the break-up of East German agricultural cooperatives around Vogelsang; Bothmar castle near Boltenhagen and the fascinating story of Graf von Bothmar whose family lineage brought forth royal families in six European countries in the 20th century (Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, and Spain).
Here you can see more pictures from our Germany trip