Ten Things I Love About Germany

After spending more than a year in Germany, I’m ready to go home for a holiday. But there are definitely some things which I will miss about this country, and Bremen in particular. It’s not just the good and plentiful beer, nor the delicious breads, nor the DIN 1451. Here’s my top ten list….

1. Bicycles

Sexist street signs

It’s so easy to get around by bike, and so pleasant, too, in the spring and summer months. In Bremen and most cities there are bicycle paths so you don’t have to jostle with pedestrians or worry about getting run over by cars. In fact, you may get yelled at if you cycle on the walking path, but that’s another story….

2. Trams

Tram!

When it’s raining and cold, or if it’s too far away to cycle, the tram is the next best thing. I love how the streets look with the tram lines running through them. Vintage trams, rented for parties, occasionally trundle down the street filled with drunken revelers. The byzantine fare system adds to the charm.

3. Street lamps strung between buildings

Walking down the streets at night you see that they are lit up, but there’s no shadows from lamp posts. In fact, there aren’t any lamp posts. Look up and see that the lamps are suspended from cables between the buildings. Add to this the power lines for the trams, and it’s a spider web up there!

4. Opening bottle caps with everything

Everything except a bottle opener, that is. It seems that all Germans are taught from an early age how to pry off a bottle cap with a lighter, but I’ve seen it done with tables, cutlery, rings, other bottles…. I was very proud of myself when I finally learned how to do it, but I still have to practice controlling which direction the cap flies off to.

5. Kleingartenkolonien

Passing by one of these places for the first time, I wondered: what are all these small houses? Is this how poor people live in Germany? They take awful good care of their gardens despite being poor! These little gardens are actually owned or rented by middle class people who want to keep a green space but don’t have room at their real homes. They can get very elaborate, and it is the perfect getaway for a picnic with friends on a nice sunny day.

6. Pfand

8 cents is the usual deposit for a glass bottle

It’s the end of the month and I’m feeling poor. I clean out my kitchen, take all the empty bottles back to the supermarket and lo! I have enough money to buy myself a bar of chocolate. The bottle deposit is a great incentive to recycling, and also a great incentive to cleaning up the morning after a party.

7. Improvised grocery baskets

Alternative uses

Alternative use

Forgot to bring a bag to the supermarket and don’t want to spend good money on a plastic bag? Just carry everything home in an empty carton!

8. Umlauts

Germany, the land of the Umlaut! Where people say “äääh” when they’re lost for words. Where the letter U shrinks a bit on electronic displays to make space for its little hat.

9. Windows that “kip”

Proud homeowner shows off window that doesn’t open all the way

My first encounter with these things was when I was couchsurfing in Munich and wanted to open the window in the early morning, but when it started tipping downwards towards me instead of swinging out sideways, I thought I had broken my host’s window! I don’t know whether they are popular in other countries, but it fits very well with the German obsession with letting in “fresh air”, even in the dead of winter.

10. DIY Lakritzlikör

Looks sinister, tastes horrendous, but oddly refreshing. Made by dissolving licorice candy in a bottle of vodka, so definitely an acquired taste!

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