|Brandenburger Tor (i.e. Brandenburg Gate) in Berlin.|
This being my last week in Germany - a country that has been stereotyped in both extremely positive and extremely negative ways over the last century or so - I've been thinking about how stereotypes come into play as travelers. Dan and I have spent more time here than in any other country during this trip, and honestly, we have come to love the land, the beer, the people, the beer, the sausage, the beer, the culture . . . the beer.
So let's do a little free-form, stream-of-consciousness type thinking, shall we? And let's just be honest about it because lying is stupid and gets us nowhere.
|Bicycles and the Berliner Dom (plus a ghostly-looking Fernsehturm/TV Tower in the background).|
Here is what I associate with the word "Germany" now: warm, welcoming, extremely different from region to region (side note: Germany is a lot like the United States in this way. There are so many pronounced differences between the East and West and North and South: landscapes, accents, dialects, foods, cultural traditions - hell, even the glass they put their beer in changes from state to state and city to city. This country has a marvelous diversity of unwritten conventions and social mores, but one thing remains the same: you must - and I mean MUST - look a person directly in the eye when you clink glasses. Should you look elsewhere as you say "Prost", that is SEVEN YEARS OF BAD SEX FOR THE BOTH OF YOU. And nobody wants that. Am I right?!), cheerful people who are quick to help a confused visitor, a hilarious, slightly subversive sense of humor (just my style!), lots of opportunities for students and artists (read: waaay better subsidies and an actual respect for people who make a living by doing creative work), and a population with an interest in travel and a knowledge of world politics and economics that, so far, exceeds any other nation I've been to.
|Jazz hands for Germany!|
And Berlin? Well, Berlin is happening is the same way Paris was in the 1920s, or the way New York was in the 1960s. It is an absolute hotbed for artistic expression, good design, new intellectualism, and stylish nightlife. And as far as capital cities go, it is dirt cheap. Go there. Right now.
Finally, the whole German propensity for punctuality is true. Straight up: if you invite someone to meet at a particular time, they will absolutely be there at the scheduled hour. If they will be even so much as five minutes late, they will call you and say so. I think this is extraordinarily polite, because if there is anything I hate in this world, it is waiting. For anything. Ugh, even just thinking of it makes me want to hurl. So there you have it. I am in love with Germany. Deal with it.
What do you think, fair readers? Has any country or place you visited given your expectations the smackdown? How?
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