Happy Easter! Frohes Ostern!
I'm only just back from my week in the Franconian region of Bavaria (over 6 hour train ride) and still spinning from lack of sleep. Almost every night I got between one and a half hours and 4 hours of sleep. What a time!
I have got to say that it was really neat to see some of the things about Germany that are famous for Germany... huge beer mugs, rolling hills with towns jammed in the valleys, wonderful cheese and wurst, and a friendly and open people that laugh and sing. Not that the stereotypes were the best part of the week, but certainly fun.
There were over 35 of us between the age of 15-18 from 16 different countries. It was fun to learn a little of spanish, hungarian, finnish, portugues, and of course, lots more german (and the franconian dialect). We saw lots of castles, art, and different types of ''factories'' where we got chances to make cheese, see how candles were made, or how advertisements are printed (on plotters!). The cities of Nürnberg and Würzburg and absolutley beautiful as well as packed full of history (and souvenier shops!... with coocoo clocks, hümmel figures, and every other typical bavarian thing you can find). In Nürnberg we saw the parade grounds and other buildings were official gatherings of the Nazi party were held. In Würzburg we visted the world renowned city wine cellers were we had a wine taste testing. Even American presidents, the princess from Tailand, kings and queens from all over the world have been there, sitting at the same tables as we did. We learned a little bit about the wine from Würzburg, how to properly drink a white wine, and then try to walk straight after 4-5 glasses of 12% alcholic drink. What I found interesting is that each of the wines we tried are famous varieties. One, the Würtzburger Stein, was one that Goethe would have at his dinner table every night. I also understand and appreciate a little more about our own Finger lakes wine region and Reislings. On the last day we even visited a medieval town, still enclosed by the defensive walls. Not much has changed since then (it is perhaps one of the only exsiting towns preserved like this) and you can really ''connect the dots'' about all the different parts of old europe that survive only in pieces in modern times.
And what's more, the food in Franconian Bavaria is simply, AMAZING. Even better than northern kitchens. (WHAT AM I going to eat when I get back HOME!???) Wurst, cheese, bio-everything, bread, cakes and pastries, beer, sparkling apple juice, etc, etc. Lunch was always something to look forward to. And every night we did something special. One night we went 9 pin bowling (das Bayerisches Bier naturlisch dazu!), another night we had a traditional folkdance (with lederhosen and accordians... Bavarian folkdance are very similar to american folk dance....now I know where square dancing comes from!), a formal black-tie event in another castle, and visits with the rotary clubs. After that, we always partied in the Youth Hostel until 2, 3, even 5 in the morning.
The arcitecture and art we saw was splendid. A lot of it was baroque (with the emphasis on detail, gold, and complexity) which is very different (and more modern) than the romantic and gothic located in the north. South Germany has always been fairly well off, where as the northern kingdoms had their hay day between 1000-1600 ac. Therefore, southern kingdoms (such as Prussia, Bavaria, and the former Austrian empire for german language examples) were able to constantly rebuild, renew, and modernize to exemplify their glory. Some of the frescos, silk rugs, and porcelian simply take your breath away. But what tops it all off is when you step into a room covered in mirrors and laced in gold, all hand painted in every crack left available. Something that a picture not only can't capture, but can't possibly show the feeling of magnificance and awe.
It really was a wonderful week. I am really looking forward to seeing a little more of Bavaria when my grandparents come here. Coming home to Ostfriesland was hard but I gotta get some sleep and rest before heading out again Wednesday. 17 more days of friends, fun, art, castles, cities, great food, and little sleep.
My new host family has been really great. I am learning so much from them. We are right behind the dikes on the coast and so it is really easy to get to everything. Saturday night there was the ''Easter fires'' across all of Niedersachsen, huge bonfires all night. This morning was easter baskets, lots of eggs, and chocolate. Hopefully if we have time today, we will take a trip to the coast to see a museum full of model ships in bottles. One of the coolest things about this family is that they are very international. My host mom is from Hungary and my host dad is always in China (organizing what is called Choir Olympics... a singing version of the sports Olympics). My host mom's family was Jewish and lives in Budapest, so I have learned a few stories about communism, concentration camps, and everything that happened when Nazi Germany entered Hungary. We spend what seems every minute talking, laughing, and joking.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter with lots of good food, family, and friends!