In June 1963, John F. Kennedy visited Berlin to rally the West against the USSR’s newly constructed wall that was designed to separate the Eastern (Soviet) part of the city from the Western part, with dire consequences for those who tried to cross it. In his speech to an appreciative crowd, President Kennedy famously uttered the phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” – meaning, I am a person of Berlin; I am one of you. As the story goes, the crowd both applauded and laughed at Kennedy’s words, because unbeknownst to him those words had a double meaning.
We’re writing this post on a rainy evening in Cologne, while we hang out at our hotel’s bar drinking red German wine. Yes, red German wine. It’s quite good, actually. We hope to drink more of it during this trip. Oh, who are we kidding? Of course we’ll drink more of it.
The city of Cologne, which the Germans call Köln (and it’s their city, so they can call it whatever they like) is one of the oldest cities in Germany. As a result, it has lots and lots of churches that were originally built during very different periods in history.
We expected our next destination, the city-state of Bremen, to be just a convenient base for nearby adventures. But as luck would have it, our interactions with two Bremen residents made our time there far more fascinating.
In August 1845, Johann Heinrich Germer left his home in Sichte, Germany, accompanied by his wife and four children, including a son who was also named Johann Heinrich (Junior). The family traveled to the port city of Bremerhaven, where they boarded a sailing vessel headed for America. A shoemaker by trade, Johann Heinrich Senior believed – as did many of his countrymen – that a better life awaited them in the New World. But the journey was risky.
Seven years before he took his family to Bremerhaven to board a ship to America, George’s great-great-great grandfather Johann Heinrich Germer married Dorothea Stichmann in the small village of Sickte where they both lived. Johann and Dorothea already had two sons by then.
We decided to stay an extra day in Braunschweig, to spend more time with Cordula and her family (and we’re so glad we did). But as a result, we had to shave a day off somewhere else in our itinerary.
When people think of German traditions, what often comes to mind are images of Oktoberfest, with busty women in dindle dresses serving beer and pretzels to drunken men in lederhosen and felt hats. This is all quite accurate.
In the southwestern corner of Germany, there is a freshwater lake that borders three countries: Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Lake Constance is the international name given at the conclusion of the 15th-Century Council of Constance. But in Germany the lake is called Bodensee (literally, land-lake) after the nearby town of Bodman. The most fascinating aspect of the lake is that it is the only portion of Europe with no official borders, because the Germans, Austrians and Swiss can’t agree on exactly where the borders should be.