Did you ever have the mouth-watering experience of walking down a grocery aisle and feasting your eyes on a wide variety of European chocolate? Ritter Sport, Milka, Lindt, Stollwerk Sarotti, Kinder Surprise.... Herz was begehrst! I soon determined that my personal favourites are Milka and Ritter Sport. No, it wasn't all about the chocolate.
Summer 2003 I had an opportunity to
Brandenburgtor in Berlin
study in Berlin, Germany with my two friends, Tirzah and Alyson. We arrived in Berlin dead tired, but excited to have finally arrived at our destination. Kai Pelz, our host for the first weekend, met us at the airport to take us to his home at Rostock. We had met his daughter, Dorothea, a few weeks before, when she was an exchange student in Portage, Manitoba. Upon arrival, the first thing Kai presented us with was a giant Milka chocolate bar and I knew as sure as the Autobahn is made for speed that this would be one sweet trip. Besides opening their home to us, the Pelz family gave us a tour of the area, including the famous International Gardens and an historical castle. Right on the Baltic Sea, Rostock was a beautiful introduction to Germany and our host family ensured we experience a warm German ‘Herzlich Willkommen’.
In Berlin, we stayed at Menno-Heim, a small motel and took the S-Bahn to Goethe Institute everyday. Being immersed in a culture is definitely the best way to learn its language! Besides studying German grammar and practicing the language daily, Goethe Institute offered field trips, so that we could learn more about the city and German culture. We toured museums, castles, a concentration camp, art galleries and the German Parliament - Das Reichstag Gebäude. Some days we went to local restaurants to savour German cuisine, like Bratwurst, Brötchen und Bier.
Burg Hochosterwitz in Austria
After our course we took the train to Klagenfurt, Austria to visit friends. They kindly showed us around this picturesque area. Nestled in the Alps near Spittal an der Drau, is Kleinsasserhof, a tourist resort. This is an historical place for us as it once belonged to the Kleinsasser family, who joined the Hutterites. The owners are well aware of this and were very friendly, and in true Austrian Gastfreundschaft served us delicious dessert and coffee. Sitting in the shade and visiting with Trudy Basl, the owner of this resort was just like chatting with our own Oma. I’ll always be grateful that I got to know her, for I will never have another chance – she passed away a few years ago.
Before heading for home, we visited another historical site – Das goldene Dachl in Innsbruck. This is where on February of 1523, Jakob Hutter, one of our founding fathers, was burned at the stake for his faith. While German chocolate afforded some sweet moments and Goethe Institute enhanced my German language skills, it was history, namely Jakob Hutter’s plague that provided me with overwhelming reflections, awakening deep gratitude for all our forefathers suffered for the freedom to live the faith, which to this day is still an integral part of who we are!
To everybody in Germany and Austria, visiting your beautiful countries was a dream come true and I would go again if I'd have the chance. Aufwiedersehn! But next time I also want to take in Switzerland.