Living in Europe was, to date, the best part of my life. Although there may have been times that I took it for granted while I was living there, I look back now and wish we had never left. I still remember our last night there: we all went for a family walk down what we called the farm road behind our house and watched the sun set over Zweibrucken, Germany. It was beautiful, yet painful, and was one of those moments that you wish would never end. It was a moment of saying goodbye to a chapter of our life that to this day we wish we were still writing. I spent many of my childhood years there, early, essential years that help build you into who you will become. I feel very lucky to have spent them in the way I did.
I think it very interesting that we got to live in Germany, because much of our family’s heritage is German. I guess you could say it was like going home, in a way. Just one look at our last name and you know we’re German. I have yet to meet someone not from Germany who pronounces it correctly the first time.
There were, of course, handicaps when it came to things like communication with my German and Dutch friends, but those are obstacles that one can get around when required. We came to terms with the fact that I would have to learn a little German, and they would have to learn a little English. Though it ended up in a broken language that sometimes made it hard to understand one another, we got by. I am sad to say that over the years I have lost much of my knowledge of the language, due to not being surrounded by it in the “total immersion” way. I do still remember the basics though, such as “hello”, “goodbye”, numbers, colors and things like that. It is my end goal to become fluent.
I often think back to my time living in Europe. The way of life there was so different than America...so much slower. I would like to go back to a slower way of living. I preferred going to the market for breakfast and buying fresh fruit or a pastry instead of something from a fast food joint. People's health in general seems to be better over there, although that's not to say that everyone was perfectly healthy. They just seem to have a greater appreciation for eating right. And not to mention that many of the foods we eat are not the same, regardless of health. I remember my mother making a pie one day while my Dutch neighbor was over, and she had never heard of it before. As a kid, I of course didn’t understand how anyone could have not heard of it. But there were many differences of that nature, whether it was them eating something we would never have dreamed of, or vice-versa. Either way, the cultural differences like that helped open my eyes at a young age to a lifestyle I might not otherwise have known about at all.
As much as we adored Germany, we did spent a lot of time touring other European countries. I think it would be impossible for me to pick a favorite out of all of them, so I will just say that I enjoyed all the countries, as much as a young kid can. Everywhere we went was interesting, but I think my favorites were the castles dotted here and there. Something about them was so intriguing, probably because when you’re standing amongst the ruins of an old castle, it’s so much easier to picture life back then. The same goes for the castles that weren’t so rundown, like Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein. Each and every one of them is simply breathtaking. There is no feeling in the world like learning about history where it actually took place. For example, going to where Joan of Arc was executed in Rouen, France, and Charlemagne’s castle in Acaen, Germany.
I have so many good memories of our time living and traveling around that it would be near impossible to narrow it down to one. A special one I have is of me and two of my sisters feeding swans in the Mosel River in Germany. This is actually a time that we have on film for our family archives, which I can now and then pull out and relive. Another good memory is of going to the European Disneyland, and meeting the French Mickey Mouse. It was a very special moment in my history, having Mickey Mouse, a childhood icon, say “Bonjour” and pose for a picture. Another time close to my heart was my first experience with pannekoeken, which is the Dutch equivalent of pancakes in America, only much, much bigger. The plate it was served on was already huge, and the pannekoeken took up the entire plate. It was definitely delicious, but a bit of a shocker to a young kid.
I feel bad now when I recall complaining about being in the car from the backseat, because now I would give anything to do it all over again and relive every moment. Having had the experiences I’ve had makes me appreciate so greatly my dad for serving his country and giving us the opportunity to live the life we did, and also my mom, who somehow managed to home school all of us kids while constantly moving around. It takes a lot of patience and courage.
Although we live in America now, my family seems to have grown a sort of nomadic blood. We have moved all over America, to countless different states, and we have finally settled down in Maine. New England seems to be the closest thing that we could find to Europe, which is where we would all much rather be. Maine has a sort of rustic, rugged coastline that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. Although I would much rather live in Europe, Maine makes me very happy. As happy as a clam, at risk of sounding lame.
Anyway, it is my goal to do a good amount of traveling, and document my experiences, as well as recap my past travels. When traveling is in your blood, you just can’t get enough of it.