MAY 20 - MAY 29
For a few days I spent time in Düsseldorf visiting the daughter of my host in Berlin, and then to Bielefeld to visit a woman who was a foreign exchange student with my father's family 45 years ago. I feel that in smaller cities like these without the distraction of tourist activities, you can really get a more 'genuine' feel for the country and life within it. An au pair from Georgia had just arrived at the Engel's in Düsseldorf two weeks prior, so it was nice to connect with an American again and discuss all the differences of Europe.
Düsseldorf (capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia) is situated on the river Rhine, so many leisurely activities are based around it. The weather was dismal when I was there unfortunately, but can see how lovely it would be to sit outdoors at riverside restaurants in the summer. Closer to the Engel home are lush hills with a bike path cutting through the thick of it, which to me somehow seems so "German". Green. Green everywhere. Right now the plants are exhibiting what is called "the green of May", which is a distinctly different 'spring' green versus 'summer' green.
Bielefeld, also part of North-Rhine Westphalia, is your standard German city. Not too big, not too small, has a decent downtown area and seems to house a lot of families. And course… there is a castle. No matter where you are in Germany, there's gonna be a castle. The Sparrenburg is more of a fortress and was heavily bombed during WWII. That seems to be the one uniting fact about every old building in Germany: it was probably almost completely destroyed and what you see is a reconstruction.
Today I leave Germany for Venice, Italy. It's nearly been a month in this country, so I've really had some time to mull my thoughts over about these Krauts! (I hope they don't find that term offensive anymore.) They are practical people, and don't flaunt their wealth if they have it. Quality is important to them, whether in a car or their kitchen appliances. Speaking of cars, I feel I should mention something about the Autobahn (freeway system). There are specific areas where a speed limit is enforced, but for the most part, you can drive as fast as your heart desires. Eva would go around 100 mph and there were cars that sped right past us. For a country that revolves around the idea of personal freedom, I think we should have this in America! And speaking of Americans… Unlike us and our ground-in sense of modesty from our former Puritan founders, they are not bashful of their bodies in any way whatsoever, and 'profanities' aren't such a big deal (The "info screens" in the subway stations have a comic called "Shit Happens!" and I saw an advertisement that headlined with "Fuck it!") They are honest, straight forward people who usually have a pretty good sense of humor. And, of course… Drinking is a way of life. 'Till we meet again Deutschland.