Deutschland Diaries volume 3: Bayern

July 2007

OK, so: though Bayern (Bavaria) is part of Germany, Bavarians are, first and foremost, Bavarians. In this way, and with its strong regional accent, the German state of Bayern is much like the American state/”republic” of Texas, only with really cute painted buildings, smaller belt buckles, and the Alps. Also no tornadoes.

What have I noticed in Bayern, you ask? Well:

Fashion

  • Mohawks, mohawks, everywhere. I’ve seen at least a half dozen of these, on individuals from age 10 to 30. Those west of the Atlantic, consider yourselves warned. (2018 note: I warned you, didn’t I? Fortunately this trend was short-lived.)
  • The random bright red streaks in the hair of otherwise conservative-looking women are stylish, not accidental. The even brighter red streaks adorning the hair of punks and/or goths are also, for some reason, deliberate.
  • The prevailing style is… well… a bored Punky Brewster crossed with Tim Burton. For women, anyway. Men manifest individuality through mullet-meets-mohawk hairstyles with bright yellow or red streaks, or through socks with sandals, or all of the above.

Nature

  • There is a miraculous tree whose leaves glitter and shimmer when the wind blows. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see several of these from your window. (2018 update: I finally found out, in 2016, that these trees are called quaking aspen trees, and Colorado has them.)
  • Johannisbeeren are nearly incandescent and entirely delicious.
  • The weather changes every couple of hours—while most of today was hot and sunny, at 4:00 a massive storm blew horizontal rain past my window for an hour. Now at 7:00 it’s sunny again. This makes for a lot of rainbows, so is overall a plus. (As of July 4, I’d seen seven, including two on July 4 itself.)

Die Leute

  • Men in Germany don’t walk. Their ambulatory method is a wholly nonchalant saunter/stroll, jacket slung perfectly over one shoulder.
  • German people don’t understand peanut butter. I knew this in theory, but the reality is sobering. Please to send peanut butter M&Ms. (On the other hand, Germans are really good with hazelnuts, which mostly compensates for their peanut butter deficiencies.)
  • No matter where you are, you’re downwind of someone smoking.
  • Although exactly two people in the entire country have your contact information, the mobile phone that starts ringing noisily during a movie may be yours.

Daily Life

  • The key really will open the door. No, really! Once you get the technique right, this will no longer take ten minutes.
  • City centers are generally adorable, though inconveniently paved (note to self: cobblestones are more charming in theory than in practice).
  • Train stations have up- and down-stairs conveyor belts. As in, you put your luggage on the belt, either at the top or the bottom, and the belt magically knows which way you want your suitcases to go, thus preventing the possible hernia that could result from carrying your myriad and very heavy possessions up or down the stairs.
  • The chocolate here is so good that even I, who will NEVER know how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, can allow it to melt in my mouth.

And now, favorite moments:

  • The first time I carried out a five-minute conversation completely in German (June 13)
  • When I went to the electronics store and managed to successfully describe, locate, and purchase an outlet adapter with a voltage converter entirely auf Deutsch (July 3)

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