Liebe Deutschland, I liebe dich.
I love you for your language, which others claim is harsh and ungainly but which I find the most natural tongue to speak in other than my own native tongue, English. I love those long, frightening compound words which turn out to be perfectly simple and sensible, even if I must admit I hate all those cases and article endings that change all over the place.
I love the castles and the palaces dotted about the country, and your gorgeous Gothic churches which even the most hardened atheists must appreciate, with their soaring spires and fascinating curlicues. And the Fachwerker houses, all lined up together, sometimes higgedly-piggedly and sagging, and sometimes neat and perfectly well-kept, in orderly rows separated by the old-fashioned cobbles that jolt you like a tumble-drier if you ride over them.
I love the Fahrradstag, when all the inhabitants of the little villages near me pour forth on their bikes to ride up the Weinstrasse, even if they get caught up in a temporary Biergarten along the way or stop to eat fresh Waffeln mit Puderzucker, or just to talk and laugh and eat Bratwurst.
I love all the sausages, the Bratwurst and the half-metre wurst from the Markts and the Currywurst that’s far too spicy for me. I love in particular the Wurstmarkt, which is surprisingly enough a wine festival, and all the rides and lights and the smell of sugared almonds and sausages, and the sight of the unassuming parking lot turned into a bustling fairground for two glorious weeks. And then there’s the Weihnachtsmarkts, held throughout the country and full of Gluhwein and candles and gingerbread and what is surely a thousand kilos of onions frying gently and mingling with all the other delicious aromas in the frosty December air.
I love your summers and your snow, even if I cried myself to sleep from cold and exhaustion on that freezing night when we visited for the second time, and I was only 6 and it was snowy and dark and treacherous outside, and I’d come all the way from Australia. I love how the fields and hills transform into ski-slopes, and the forests are cold and clean and silent. And I love the summertime when the trees are full of birds, and you can spot squirrels and rabbits darting about, and rest in the cool shade before returning to the sunny outside, where children swim in the fountains and half the world seems to be at the camping-grounds beside the lakes, venturing out on paddle-boats and steering clear of the infamous, vicious swans. And if they’re not in the water or out hiking, there’s the hundreds of Eiscafes with their beautifully swirled gelato, all topped with berries and fruit and nuts and looking far too tempting to cost less than a euro a scoop.
I love your food, with the Gulaschsuppe and Brotchen and the numerous different Schnitzels, and Spatzle and salmon and dumplings and the delightfully bad-for-you Griebenschmalz, which tastes so good on rye bread. I love your croissants, even if they’re stolen from next-door, and the streusel and the Nusschnecke and gugelhupfen, and the hot chocolate I used to drink for breakfast from that little bakery up-around-the-corner in town. And even if I don’t like all the fruity desserts which are so popular, the Apfelstrudel and so on, I love the blackberries I picked beside the little stream, when my brother and I rode out to the week-end gardens and scratched ourselves collecting berries and jumping the stream and idly considering climbing the fence into a garden, just to have a look.
I love the town I live in, and I love Heidelberg and the Altebrucke and the church opposite my best friend’s old house on the Hauptstrasse, even with the milling tourists all calling out in American accents. And I love the hundred little towns we visited, some by choice and some by happenstance, and the fountains and statues and imposing old Rathaus that we almost always found there.
And I love Australia too, and I think France is a beautiful place and I want to see Portugal again properly, but above all that, I miss you. I want to come back and slot back in to waking to the church bells and sipping Weinschorle under green vines and trying not to mangle the language too badly. I miss you so much sometimes, when I see a picture of the Ganzliesel or read about Heidelberg in a book, and I want so badly to be back.