It has been almost 2 years since the last time I spent a long holiday in Bavaria, where my cousins live. Although the last one was one of the memorable trips I had (partly due to the shenanigans while we got semi-drunk during the Christmas holidays and partly due to the wonderful “family time” we had both in Franconia and when we visited the Neuschwanstein Castle and crossed to Austria), this more recent visit was quite exciting in itself – it was my first time attending a German and Lutheran wedding (as one of my cousins got married) and this time, I will visit them during spring, when the weather is way brighter and we could do more outdoor activities.
During my stay, we managed to visit 3 places which definitely tapped my huge interest in history and nature.
Geisa, Hesse – An Iron Wall Down Towards German Reunification
After my cousin’s wedding, I was left at my uncle and aunt’s home and they decided to spend the next few days with me. The first trip we did was to travel an hour and a half towards the Point Alpha Border Museum in Geisa, in the Rhon region of south-central Germany. It’s been around 28 years since West and East Germany reunited to become the modern-day Federal Republic of Germany. While we are currently enjoying watching the formidable football teams within the Bundesliga (immediately, this popped first in my mind as I am writing this post while the 2018 FIFA World Cup is taking place), and while we enjoy the schnitzels, bratwursts and beers during our visit to the German cities, as a great lover of history, it was important to me to know German modern history from encyclopedias but at the same time, important for me how to at least partly remember the developments right after 1945, how German society was split between the opposing sides of the Cold War and how certain historical figures and the countless civilians risked their lives for the promise of freedom and a better life and eventually, to once again unite an inspiring and power nationality that we see today as contemporary Germany.
Amidst the warm summer heat, the museum retained a few hundred meters of the fence that separated East and West Germany from the Baltic Sea to their border with Czech Republic. It was definitely a thick one, and even harder to climb. And with the observer towers built in the area, one could just imagine the perils there were when one attempted to cross to the western side. We culminated our visit with a family stroll along with our baby Australian shepherd, Joey. Heading towards the car, there was this feeling of renewed appreciation of our freedom. A lot of people live a happy life today due to the sacrifices and hopes of people before us. The freedom that we just enjoy today for free was the freedom that many of them had hoped for themselves and the generations to come… and some of them even had to pay a price for them. Even if I’m not German, I still felt that air at that moment. For in the Philippines, there had been many of colonizers, and even up to this day, I can’t fathom the sacrifices that heroes in the past had to make in order to give the rest of us the hope of freedom.
A Fresh Taste of the Franconian Countryside
The next day, my “parents here in Europe” decided to take me to one of the hills in Poppenhausen in the neighboring region of Hesse. My uncle and aunt usually bring Joey to the countryside to do some hiking and camping. Although I’ve known that Germany is quite flat, with most of the mountainous terrain in the Alpine region towards its borders with Austria and Switzerland, it was incredible to view the vast plains from the top of the hills. We spent an entire afternoon hiking along a relatively easy route winding to the top of the hills and beneath a good shade of trees. Finally, we relaxed and ate lunch in a restaurant by the lake.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber – a Glimpse of Medieval Germany
Would you like to buy at Christmas shops open in summer? How about seeing locals dressed in medieval attires as farmers and soldiers and marching through the streets of the town? Or how about enjoying the cool breeze and sunny weather of spring (all before it gets so hot) while drinking your favorite beer in a cozy biergarten? Then, you would find all of these in the Middle Franconian town of Rothenburg ob ter Tauber. The town is quite special due to its retention of medieval architecture on most of its buildings, particularly the ones surrounding the main square, the Marktplatz. The locals really showed their warm hospitality especially and even encouraged me to march with them in one of the parades. I wish I had more time but definitely, we made the best out of the time that we had there.
So I’d like to end this post by saying a huge “danke schön” to my relatives in Schweinfurt for always making me feel like family. Whether it be my cousins in wherever city we end up meeting (and getting drunk in) or my uncle and aunt who always make me feel that I belong (along with their friends and the secretly hospitable character of their German friends and the Germans in general), I always feel that even though I miss my family so much, their presence and proximity constantly remind me that the World is too small nowadays to feel homesick. I’m sure we still have unopened chapters in our experiences together. In fact, my uncle already mentioned to me the places which we will go to the next time I visit them. ‘Til the next time, Germany! xoxo