Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Visit Germany

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I spent last week in Berlin. And as I often do upon returning from a foreign country, I thought I’d devote today’s post to sharing some insights I had about my trip.

(Warning: these won’t be nearly as exotic as those I gleaned from Helsinki. Nor will they smack of the acute nostalgia I felt upon returning from Vienna.)

But they will, I hope, motivate you to go and visit Germany, and especially Berlin. Here are five reasons that it’s a worthwhile trip:

1. Germans grapple with their history. Berlin is a city where you literally can’t walk for five minutes without bumping into some reference – whether physical, historical or cultural – to World War II, the Holocaust or Adolph Hitler. They’re everywhere. They’re on the sidewalks. They’re in the museums. They’re in the book stores. It’s as if the country – and this city, in particular – is wearing a giant sign that reads: “We will not forget.” And while my six-year-old did confess at one point to being a bit “Hitler-ed out,” that’s a good thing, in my opinion. We can’t remember enough.

4. You see the East-West divide in a whole new light. Much like the Holocaust, the whole East-West divide in Berlin figures front and center in the city’s layout and architecture. It is, quite simply, impossible to miss. Because of a friend here in London who’s from East Berlin, I’d already begun to re-think the standard Western narrative about East Germany before I arrived. But what’s nice about actually going to Berlin is that you get to see both sides of that story, and not just the “Gee, isn’t a shame they lived under Communism for so long” thread. In this vein, particularly worthwhile – and especially for kids – is a visit to the DDR Museum (Museum of East Germany).

3. Germans clean up after their dogs. From the sublime to the ridiculous? Perhaps. But it bears mentioning, especially if you live in a country like I do (the U.K.) where dog poop is, quite simply, everywhere. In the four days before departing on our trip – and I’m not exaggerating here – everyone in our family – all four of us – stepped in dog poop. (To add insult to injury, I did so again this morning while taking my daughter to school). And we allegedly live in one of the “nice” parts of town. It’s actually unfathomable how little people attend to their dogs here. Whereas in Germany, this whole issue was blissfully absent. And yes, this is going to be my next rant against living in England – which I’m otherwise quite fond of – (right after I finish a tirade against the dearth of paper napkins.)

4. Germans follow the rules. I’ve never seen a country where people are so attuned to following rules. No one cuts in line. (Trust me, we tried.) If the carry-on luggage rules say that your bag can’t be larger than 30 x 20 x 15 cm, sorry, but your 32 x 21 x 18 wheelie bag just won’t cut it. The museum guards actually watch you when you walk too closely to the paintings or graze the wall with your backpack (rather than chatting or sleeping as they do in the States.) And even if it’s three a.m. and there’s no oncoming traffic, a German wouldn’t dream of crossing the street when the light wasn’t Green. Obviously, this attachment to rules can be irritating – if not dangerous – when taken to an extreme. (See point #1 on Nazis.) But as a parent of two quite headstrong kids, I can definitely see a rationale for summer camp in Germany.

5. Germany has delicious Turkish food. I’m not a huge fan of sausage. (As a friend of mine put it bluntly, there’s something profoundly unappetizing about chopping up a pig’s innards into little bits and refashioning it into a phallus.) So German food will never do it for me. But Germany has a large Turkish population. And, boy, did I have the most delicious kebab in the Kreuzberg section of Berlin.

I’m over on today talking about a new study arguing that alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the U.K.

Image: Scoop The Poop by teaeff via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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  • Reply Louisa

    November 3, 2010, 3:42 pm

    I am quite fond of sausage – or was, but I think I will now always think of the above description! You have made me even more interested to visit Berlin though – I will add it to the list!

  • Reply Shelley

    November 3, 2010, 4:56 pm

    We went to Germany once and loved it. I need to go back to Saarland – to a village called Weiskirchen, as my father’s family came from there. I’ve found them in the parish records back to the 1600s so far. The overnight train from Berlin to Heidelberg was an experience!

  • Reply Erin

    November 3, 2010, 10:44 pm

    Sounds like a fantastic trip – interesting to say the least. My brother-in-law is German and he is a sausage loving, beer aficiando, law-abiding, tidy fella and I adore him.

  • Reply Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    November 4, 2010, 11:30 am

    What a great post! I love Germany, I have been there 4 times, mostly to Bavaria and also around Stuttgart. It is a highly underrated country in my opinion. One of my German highlights is a trip that I took to Berlin in 2005.

    Your post does this city justice and elucidates so many reasons to go. It is quite different than other parts of Germany. From your historical and cultural observations, to the mention of the most outstanding kebabs from Kreuzberg, you have offered us much to consider.

    I am also reminded a very fabulous chicken meal that we had at Henne. If you go back or for others who go, I recommend it! Dark, smoky, crowded and the best chicken I may have ever had!

    Thank you!

  • Reply Hilary

    November 7, 2010, 1:26 pm

    Hi Delia .. lovely insights .. recently I’ve been to the outskirts of Hamburg and into the town on short stays with my mother .. but would love to visit culturally.

    The difference between East and West .. and the museums in Berlin must be so interesting to see ..

    Thank you – I know that I will enjoy my visit and will be stimulated by the references .. and I love Turkish food ..

    Good to see you back .. Hilary

  • Reply Daryl Boylan

    November 7, 2010, 10:38 pm

    Berlin was, of course, fascinating. As to the PD piece on alcohol, it’s nice to know that it’s also a major health hazard in the US; the statistics, which I don’t have handy, are appalling here.

  • Reply Veronika Weiner

    November 14, 2010, 9:54 am

    Thanks that you found some good reasons to visit Germany!
    I´m german living since 27 years in the “Muddle East”.
    Quite a difference! Here still sunshine and warmth in November – there rain,storm, darkness, grey sky – I think I could not bear that anymore, but it´s nice to go for a visit! I also know a bit about GB, since I´ve relatives there. All the best!

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