29 September 2006

Wilkommen zu Deutschland Part 1

I slept long and hard last night after the long flight to Munich and the bus rides to Eichstätt. Now I'm in one of the computer labs, suffering because apparently German keyboards are slightly different than those in America. The y and z are switched, there are keys for ö, ä, and ü, and other variances which make me feel like I'm back in typing class. However, I have so much I want to say and tell about journey here and Eichstätt. So bear with me and any typos you come across.

The flight itself lasted for around 7 hours, in which I was asleep for only one. I flew on the German airlines Lufthansa, which I have to say is now without question my favorite. The meals come with actual silverware, they don't skimp on the drinks and snacks, and every passenger is supplied with pillows and a blanket. Basically, their coach is like first class on other airlines. I think I was too excited to fall asleep for the most part, so I watched to movies they played for us: "Akeelah and the Bee'' and "Over the Hedge." Now I'd seen the latter before, but I think it was actually better to watch in German. As for sleeping, I got lucky for the one hour I got it because no one was sitting next to me so I could stretch out fine. I also spoke my first German for the year on the flight with the attendents.

I arrived in Munich, or München as the Germans say, around 8 in the moring local time, 1 in the morning Memphis time. Most of the signs were bilingual and I found my way around easily. After a short stop in customs and the baggage claim I preceded to find out where to catch the bus.

I went to one counter that looked appropriate and waited for any of the four men behind it to assist me, but they seemed a little busy. After a few minutes of waiting without any of them looking up I remembered reading about a certain cultural difference between Germans and Americans. For one thing they don't like standing in lines, and they don't like waiting on others. In other words, a much more self-assertive culture. So I spoke up to one man and with that he turned into a perfectly attentive employee. I guess I can't really know for sure if his initial lack of attention to me had anything to do with cultural differences, he may have just been too busy to see me at first, but in America it seems like when one walks up to a business counter the employee will greet one in some way, even if only by saying to wait a minute. Whatever the reason, he told me where to catch the bus and I boarded it at 9:30.

This bus took me to Ingolstädt, a city of 60,000 a little east of Eichstätt. The ride lasted an hour and was mostly on the highway, but even from there the scenery was enjoyable. No hovering fast-food signs or bleak landscapes, rather clusters of red-roofed houses and church steeples and farmers, not the industrial kind, tending to their land. Some of the things that I find most fascinating and interesting about being in another land are not the large and obvious differences like language or food, but the tiny ones, the minutia, of the built environment and landscape. Things like odd looking roadside signs, the cloth, not alluminum, sided semi trucks, and the different style of construction cranes used. Once in Ingolstädt I waited for the final bus to Eichstätt, which arrived at 10:15.

The final leg of the journey lasted about an hour, but was the most interesting. The drive followed local streets and rural roads to Eichstätt, not major highways. With every twist in the road my envy in these local communities grew. Behind every turn was another equally attractive view of quaint red tile-roofed homes and exposed private gardens with flowers in full bloom. Seemingly random statues and shrines dotted the roadside, even ornate crucifixes in the public rights-of-way, an act which some in America would probably consider a violation of church and State (Heaven forbid we reveal a little bit of local culture because it might inadvertantly offend someone.) In between the villages laid farm fields and pastures, complete with thick vails of fog in the distance to ensure a bit of mystique to the land. My envy grew to downright lust after witnessing the amount of people walking in the villages or riding their bikes in the road. Unfortunately, such a lifestyle is nearly impossible in America due to our current development patterns and city design, but I hope to learn a little on good urban planning from Germany to take back to America and use latter on in my future profession.

Finally, the rolling land gave way to the valley that Eichstätt lies in and the mountains on either side, but my view was still partially hindered by the fog. As the bus drove further into the city contemporary buildings gave way to those of centuries past in the Barock style. Grand and gorgeous buildings with facades of inticate detail lined the streets, many times almost actually on the cobblestone streets. I saw bricked public plazas with stone fountains, vendors with stands in the open air, and school children getting out for lunch. I wondered if those school kids had any idea how lucky they were to have this town as their childhood home, as opposed to some suburban tract housing in America. Of course, I speak now of the amazing wonders and advantages of this land over America, but in a month or so I might be in disgust of these things and desire their American alternatives. I doubt it, but we shall see.

I'll go ahead and start a new entry here to break up the reading.

1 comment:

Mycroft Jones said...

ingolstadt was where dr. frankenstein created his monster. be careful nick. be very, very careful.