Castles and Canals
9 November 2017
Home is going to be a fluid concept for the next year or so. Nate and I have a pretty solid list of countries we want to see while we have the time, but Augsburg will, for all intents and purposes, be the place we hang our hat and unpack our suitcases. Since I’ve been here for all of 10 days now, I feel I have the authority to tell you a little about it.
Augsburg is a mid-sized city with mid-sized people. If I’d fallen asleep in Ohio and magically woke up in Augsburg, I wouldn’t really notice a difference. The climate, the landscape, the pace…they all seem the same. There are even Buckeyes trees everywhere! Rick Steves, travel-guide to the gods, seemed unimpressed. In his book on Germany he reduced the city to one paragraph, calling Augsburg “pleasant” but lacking the “must-see sights.”
There are some notable differences that even old Rick must admit, though. Ohio seems like an infant compared to the 2,000 year-old cobble stone street that runs through the center of the city. The street is end-capped with churches that are both over 1,000 years old. Everything is old. Nate and I had dinner the other night in a Brewery that was established in 1464. For those of you who remember the old child’s rhyme will remember that In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That brewery alone was around 30 years before American was colonized. Later, we went to another bar for a “Honky Tonk” (a three-piece band playing rockabilly music) where they served beer from another Augsburg brewery built in 1386.
A quick walk into the woods reveals a Hitler-era, white water kayaking course that was built for the Olympics and is still used (in parts) today. And the “streams diverted” that Rick mentions above are these amazing canals that run everywhere and conveniently contain ladders at intervals so that folks can swim during the summer months, like one enormous lazy river. Oh, and about a 30-minute drive outside of the city takes you to a castle. A CASTLE.
So Augsburg has some awe-inspiring highlights to be sure. Still, beyond those, there isn’t much that really shocks the system. I guess my only point of comparison is Indonesia where I always stood out like a sore thumb physically, linguistically, and culturally. Here everyone looks and behaves just like I do, just like everyone back in the Mid-West does. This probably has a great deal to do with Mid-West America being founded by a large amount of Germans, my ancestors included.
Growing up, I always felt a little jealous of my friends who seemed to have a clear cut traditions to follow from their clear cut heritage. They ate certain foods at holidays, decorated with particular decorations, even spoke their own secret language. With my ancestors emigrating in the 1800s or earlier, everything we did just seemed plain old, mutt-variety American. Now, though, I see things in Augsburg - particularly inside the homes - that seem to be a reflection of life back home. A wreath on the wall, a beer stein, the clocks, the china patterns, the lace curtains…they all transport me back in time and space to my great grandparent’s homes in Pennsylvania.
Maybe I had my own, unique culture after all. Of course the lines get blurred after a few generations, but it’s still there. Maybe being immersed and invisible in this culture is slowly demystifying my own.