For the first time since the world shut down, I am finally off on a multi-month adventure, and it is one I truly couldn’t be more excited about. In December of 2019, I became a German citizen, acquiring the citizenship that had been stripped from my grandparents and great-grandparents by the Nazi regime. Now, I will finally be able to step into my new home country, and for only the second time in my life. (I spent two nights in Germany as an eleven year old as part of a bus tour of Europe where each night was in a different city. I remember little of it.)
I don’t know what to expect from this trip. It will certainly be different exploring a foreign country that I am technically now a part of, although my language skills in German are elementary at best. I will be exploring some of my family’s history, seeing some family who still live in Germany, and paying homage to places my ancestors lived. Perhaps even more interesting will be my reaction to places like Berlin as a Jew. I am expecting this to be a more emotional trip than most, and am both excited and a little anxious about that.
For purposes of organization, I am going to divide the trip into four parts, each of which will get its own introduction as it begins, although writing from the prior section may not have even begun at that point. After all, I expect that an eleven week trip like this will result in 30-50 articles, depending on what inspires me and how, and I will need a bit of time to write up even what I do in week one. So please bear with me on that.
The trip, as mentioned, will be eleven weeks, and the parts are as follows:
Part One – Western Germany (and Paris)
I’ll be flying into Frankfurt and spending my first week there, before heading up to Bonn for another week. While the former West German capital will be my base, I’ll also explore Cologne, just a twenty minute train ride away, and hopefully check out a castle or two along the Rhine. Then an unexpected side trip to Paris for a wedding, before flying to Berlin to begin Part Two.
Part Two – Eastern Germany
I have more than two weeks in the German capital. There is so much to see and experience, and family members to get together with. This is where my father’s side of the family is from, and I will be tracing that history. I’ll also take a side trip to Hamburg for a few days. From here, I head south to Dresden, probably most famous for being nearly destroyed by a single night’s bombing during World War Two.
Part Three – Former Austria-Hungary
Here I’ll be leaving Germany for a few weeks, spending a week each in Prague, Bratislava, and Vienna. While Prague and Vienna are absolutely full of sights, Bratislava will offer me a bit more of a relaxed intermediate city, a chance to experience the quieter side of Eastern Europe.
Part Four – Bavaria and the Alps
I’ll close out the trip being based in Munich, a city known for its high quality of life and similarly high quality of beer. While most of my time will be spent in the city, I’ll also head out on day trips to Neuschwanstein Castle and hopefully to Salzburg, as well as a three day journey to cross Liechtenstein off my list, although my hotel there will be just across the Rhine in Switzerland.
I hope you find that general plan as exciting as I do, because you’ll likely be reading about it through the end of 2022, and maybe even a bit beyond. I can’t wait to see my new home, to see if it feels like home at all, and to write about this portion of Europe. There are so many stories I am already salivating over, from writing of Beethoven in Bonn to telling of Frederick the Great from his palaces in Potsdam, just outside Berlin. And so many more. I hope you’ll follow along and learn with me!
Below is a map with my cities flagged (except for Paris). At the far left is Bonn, with Frankfurt just below and to the right of it. Hamburg is at the top, with Berlin to the right and a bit below. Then moving down is Dresden and Prague. The two flags close to each other on the right are Vienna and Bratislava. Munich is in the middle, while Liechtenstein is at the bottom toward the left.