Variety is the Spice of Life – and Germany


The many faces of Germany

“So…,” I began with a sudden look up at my host, a younger guy, probably in his late 20’s, with the darker physical features of someone from a much, much warmer place than SW Germany. We were standing around an old wine barrel, a make-shift tasting table in the cellar of Walter J. Oster, with my face buried in various glasses of riesling. I took a half-step back from them and continued.

“You’re German?”  The question was a sudden left turn away from all the wine babble we were engaged in about vintages and soil types. He paused for a second to understand what I was asking him. I imagined his brain silently responding “NO – I’m just living and working here at a winery in the heart of Germany’s wine country, speaking perfect German to everyone else who walks in except your special self.” I flashed a sort of apologetic and curious smile, attempting to remove any insult by my question and assure him that I was, in my usual direct and bone-head way, just striking up a bit of personal conversation outside the realm of wine.

He smiled back and told me he was, in fact, German (duh), but originally from Tunisia. I blinked and tried to quickly remember where the hell Tunisia was – North Africa somewhere? Damn you, geography!

Tunisia…” I repeated out loud and in a mysterious way, as if I had never heard such a strange word before. And for an added dimension of sophistication I blurted out an emphatic  “Huh!” A group of older men, sitting at a table in the far corner of the cellar, glanced over at me now with raised eyebrows and wondered how the mentally handicapped were allowed to taste wine here.

“North Africa” he quickly added, seeing me trying to place where this place was, and excused himself to the table in the corner.

“Sure-sure-sure…”, I recovered, trying to sound like I knew all along where Tunisia was and sounding totally unconvincing. He made his way to the table and, in German, began firing off passionate descriptions of the wines they were tasting. I stood there half-watching, half-listening, and considered what it would be like to grow up in place like Tunisia and transition into a place like Germany. What a story…

IMG_3695And these types of stories had been all around me in Germany; whereas Italy and Scotland have not been totally without diversity, Germany in my experience has been all about it. I have constantly encountered drastically different people in terms of language, physical appearance, and outward behavior. And here’s the kicker: they’re not segregated. This might be your everyday experience if you live in a place like New York City, Rome, Paris, Los Angeles, etc., but I didn’t expect this in Germany and it definitely adds to the pleasure of being here. Of course it’s always fun to go somewhere and feel like you’re immersed in a distinct, sort of singular culture, where everybody pretty much dresses the same way, sounds and acts the same way, even eats and burps the same way. But personally, there’s nothing as exciting and interesting as a place where multiple cultures intertwine and freely mingle amongst themselves.

I leave you all with some video footage of this beautiful and diverse country. Leaving here wasn’t easy and I’ll likely have kölsch withdrawals for some time now. But, as always, I feel blessed and enlightened by my travels and will reserve a spot in my brain – and heart – for Germany. Hopefully, it will reserve a spot for me somewhere should I return someday…

Alles Gute und Prost!!



~ by Jared on August 1, 2009.

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