Moin from Hamburg! Already a week has passed since I arrived jet-lagged and sleepy-eyed in Germany. Despite my grogginess, my first day in Germany was also already one of new beginnings. After driving from the airport to Bad Oldesloe, a small city fifty minutes north of Hamburg, I met with longtime family friends of my uncle, who offered to house me until my dorm was completely situated.
Though I was grateful for their generosity, I could feel myself cringing at how my German sounded the moment the words left my mouth. Despite my own insecurities, they made me feel right at home, and we spent the last few hours of the evening discussing each other’s lives, drinking coffee, and eating freshly baked Kaesekuchen, or cheesecake.
Though I had not planned to stay in Bad Oldesloe for so long, staying with a real German family for a few days helped me to easily transition into not only speaking the language but also the German culture. As someone who stayed with a host family for five months in Austria, I was surprised to find out just how different the two German-speaking countries were. Unlike the smaller and sometimes more pastel-like colors of Austria, northern Germany is home to brick buildings and dark, brown houses sprawled across narrow alleyways and streets. Likewise, hearing the Plattdeutsch, or Low German, dialect was strange to my ear but also fascinating.
The food culture here is also far from that of the southern German or Austrian diet. Every day around 6:00 we sat around our dinner table and ate bread. Not toasted bread. Not baguettes or croissants. Just dark, rye bread. Okay, I know it may sound different from the warm dinner you eat at home, but trust me when I say it’s quite tasty. Abendbrot, or evening bread, is a common way to eat dinner all throughout Germany. Cheese, creams, butters, meat, tomatoes, and cucumbers are also usually cut up and stacked on to the bread as well. I know a cold dinner is not everyone’s first choice, but it is practical, easy to make, filling, and delicious.
Seafood is an essential part of the traditional cuisine, as northern Germany borders the North Sea. Though I am a huge fan of fish and food that comes from the sea, I admit that I was skeptical when I was served a large plate of raw herring mixed with cream sauce and potatoes. But after my first bite, I was hooked, and I wiped my plate clean in minutes.
After a few days of rest, relaxation, and rehabilitation in Bad Oldesloe, we began to check off the boxes on my Hamburg to-do list. I spent the rest of the week running around the city from one place to the next. Whether it was registering myself in the city, opening a bank account, buying a new SIM card, meeting more friends out for lunch, or finding essentials for the dorm, every day was an adventure. When I was not running around the city, I found myself walking along the Elbe River in Hafencity, exploring diverse residential neighborhoods like Altona, or visiting Hamburg’s biggest attractions in the city.
Though a week has passed since my arrival in the small city of Bad Oldesloe, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to experience a cultural and historical part of Germany that I most likely would not have been able to enjoy had it not been for my family friends in Schleswig-Holstein. Though I do love the crowded and bustling city that is Hamburg, exploring the suburbs allowed me to truly experience the rich northern German culture for a few days. And while visiting or living in large metropolitan areas can be fascinating, taking an excursion to visit the outskirts of the city is just as eye-opening and incredible.
Be sure to stay tuned for the next post! Bis dann!