Only 6 ½ weeks to go. It seems both a long and a short time. It’s a long time to be in-limbo, where we are now. Not soon enough to pack things up (we have to wait for the movers to do that on May 26), too early to start a really thorough house cleaning, and too soon to start making any serious arrangements on the other side since we don’t close on the house until May 5. But, it’s too short a time to fit in all the things we have yet to do and see everyone we want to see before we go. So, we plan and make lists and make insignificant efforts to get ready, like cleaning drawers and purging the closets.
Suzi, from the masters swim team, asked what I’ll miss most about Germany. The short and glib answer is ‘everything’. Then I started to list some of the small things – krokettens, walking and biking trails, curry ketchup. From there, the list grew. Each day, some small thing will remind me of more things that I’ll miss. There are so many things we take for granted here that we won’t have when we return to the states – things that have become part of our typical day and typical life. These things are so ‘average’ here that we don’t think about them, but so foreign in the US that the impact of not having them will be drastic: Green space around each town with easy access to biking and walking paths; each town being a livable and walkable community where I never have to get in my car to get groceries, run errands, go out to eat, or find entertainment, but if I do want to venture farther afield, I can easily jump on a bus or train and get anywhere conveniently. I know regardless of how much more outdoors I am here – walking Spike on the trails, going to the farmers’ markets, eating and drinking at outdoor cafes – it’s not a fraction of how much we could or how much German’s do take advantage of the pedestrian friendly environment they’ve created here.
Even in the winter or with bad weather, there’s more going on outdoors here all year round than there is in most places in the US, even Charleston with its wonderful climate. THAT is something that isn’t easy to articulate to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, and something that I’d imagine will be difficult to adapt to when we return. How do you adjust to that live your life indoors, behind privacy fences, sequestered in your house or car lifestyle that we have in the states? I keep imagining things like biking to the store, then the practical side hits me – there are no/few bike paths or sidewalks, and drivers aren’t taught to watch for bikers and pedestrians, and the crosswalks, where they exist, aren’t really for pedestrians because of the abuse of right-on-red that drivers take to mean ‘right of way’.
Here’s our list of what we’ll miss most. It gets longer every day – not surprisingly food and drinks make up a big part of the list!
WHAT WE’LL MISS MOST (see pics of these in the photo album with that title)
Biergartens in medieval castles, in the forest, along bike trails in the middle of nowhere – EVERYWHERE!
Dog-friendly malls, restaurants, stores, historic sites, etc
‘Toothpaste tubes’ of condiments (mustards, wasabi, tomato paste, horseradish, ketchup-mayonnaise, etc)
The Filder-Neckar-Teck Senioren Schwimm Gruppe
My SMART Car
Our house – and solidly built brick/block houses, in general
Driving on the Autobahn
Semis and slow drivers staying in the right lane
Döner Kebabs and Imbisses
Our town’s Eis Café and their awesome gelato flavors
All of our friends – especially the Perrys, Taylors, Ballards, Saylors, and those who we already miss – the Pukanskys, Lenkeits and Lucases
Outdoor everything – regardless of the weather – hiking, biking, dining, sitting on park benches, swimming, walking
Walking and biking trails EVERYWHERE
Ritter Sport candy bars
Müsli and good yogurt
Dr. Oetinger Frozen Pizzas
Edeka (grocery store)
Walkable, pedestrian friendly towns
Twice a week farmers’ markets
German Wings, TUIfly and other discount airlines
BIO-products readily available in all the stores
A real ‘downtown’ with everything we need in walking distance
Restaurant Zum Trauben
REAL and the AWG Center (shopping)
Good, cheap wine
The Nurtingen Hallenbad and Friebad
Trains, buses and easy public transportation
The Fests – Frühlingsfest, Volkfest, Weindorfs, Zwiebelnfest, Knoblauchfest, Vinzenzenfest, Fasching . . .
The Patch Ski Club and ski trips to the Alps
Full and comprehensive waste program – recycling, incineration (waste-to-energy), reclamation, and land-filling as a last resort
Cheeses – lots and lots of cheeses
Frischkäse-stuffed peppers and tomatoes
Sit-as-long-as-you-like restaurants with no-hassle wait-staff
Dr. Richters (the vet)
People doing environmentally sound things (recycling, building energy efficient buildings, stormwater runoff control, bio/organic, developing solar and wind energy, fuel efficient vehicles, etc.) because it’s right, not only if/when you have to
Hills and mountains
Historic to prehistoric sites all nearby
The cool shutters on our house!
What won’t we miss? Matt won’t miss work – that’s been a struggle for him since he got here! We won’t miss the weather, either. While I’ve toughened up some, I’m still a Caribbean girl at heart and need some sunshine and warmth. We were incredibly lucky our first two years here, and I really didn’t believe those who told us "this is unusual, just wait until it returns to normal." This last year, it returned to normal and what a depressing year it’s been! Thank God for travel to warm and sunny climes, otherwise I’d sit in a corner and cry! Last April was the last consistently nice weather we’ve had. After that, it went downhill and stayed there. May and June were cold and wet. By then, I’d given up on the Freibad. The summer before, I swam every day starting in May through August. Even when it was still cold, the sun was out and the water was nice. Last summer, it seemed to be in the 50s and rainy most of the time. All the yard work and housework that required opening windows or hanging anything outside had to be done on the few warm or sunny days we had. I only went to the pool a few times. I thought I’d miss the onset of real summer while I was in the states. I did get a short dose of sun and warmth during my few days in Charleston, but then went right back to ‘scheisse wetter’ in New York and even more of it back in Germany. AAARRGGGHHHH!
Of course, with all the crap summer weather, we were due a spectacular Indian summer, right? Wrong – more rainy, cold weather. And just when we thought we’d have a brilliant, snowy winter with those gorgeous, crisp days with cloudless blue skies for winter, we got more of the same weather. It rarely snowed, but I’d have loved the snow over the cold, damp, drizzly yuck that passed for winter this year! We’ve had a few nice days this spring, but they’ve been few and far between. Each false start brings hope, only to be dashed a few days later by snow (twice in April – more for Easter than for Christmas and New Year combined), or more rain.
Still, I’d be willing to tolerate the miserable weather for another year to take full advantage of the items on that big, long list of things we’ll miss most.