Here is a small collection of memories I have made in Germany. To some, they might seem small and insignificant, but to me they are the quintessential example of my exchange year, as they have taken place in my new home of Husum with people I now consider family.
In the small city of Husum, there is an even smaller food stand built right in between two buildings. There is always advertisement banners and the smell of fried food emanating from this stand. It looks bright and the prices are cheap, so once after grocery shopping we stopped at this stand to get what he called “Futjes”. At first glance, the mountains of fried dough balls that he pointed to did not look appetizing to me. They looked like giant burnt doughnut holes. They taste, however, like nothing of the sort. You can get them with or without sugar, both are delicious. The dough is extreme soft and palatable, mixed with sweet raisins and fried. After the first time we ate them together, every time we would go out I would ask to stop at the Futjes stand. (If Futjes don’t sound like your thing, they also sell warm waffles with powdered sugar and regular doughnuts,) I have probably gained a pound of fat in Futjes alone. If you ever go to Germany, get a Futjes. They also sell them at the Weihnachtsmarkt 🙂
a dark foggy drive and the light at the end of the dock
On one particular night, the fog that is so typical of Husum was especially thick and suffocating, almost as suffocating as the air inside of the house. Somehow, we got the idea to bike to the Dockoog, the closest point in Husum that touches the sea. In warmer months, the Dockoog boasts a very active playground, restaurant, and swimming location. Too cold for those activities now, it’s a great place to go to escape from people and the city. It’s about 20 minutes to the end of the bike path at the Dockoog and the beginning of the sheep filled fields, and it was getting dark. Once you get on the road to the Dockoog, located at the edge of the city, all of the noise seems to stop and you enter a world that looks a little bit like it should be in the movie “Intersteller”. The fog was so thick in places that at the edge of the water, also the left edge of the bike path, we couldn’t see anything. This created an illusion that the world appeared to suddenly drop off a foot to our left. We reached a point in the path that goes past a dock. On the dock were rows of yellow lights, lighting the way for no one to walk across. The lights provided just enough illumination for us to see all the way to the end, where again the edge of the world layed. We stopped biking to take some photos of the transcendental sight, wanting to walk to the end of the dock. Disappointingly we found a locked gate standing in our way, too high to climb over. We still managed to get some pretty creepy photos that look like the setting for a sailor ghost story.
Farther down the path at the, we found another dock, this one with no planks to discourage walking across it, and we sat on the edge. The remains of the dock looked like the bones of a beached whale that couldn’t make it back to the sea. In the distance we could hear the calls of birds, but we had no hopes of spotting them through the mist. We biked back home in silence, back to the the brightly lit city and the stuffy house.
Ice cream, outside, in the winter?
One of my favorite cultural differences between Germany and the USA is that Germany doesn’t let the cold stop it from enjoying traditionally “summer” subjects. For example, my favorite ice cream shop in Husum is STILL open and enjoying a relatively steady business, even though all of their seating is outdoors. To be fair, they have large outdoor heating devices, blankets, a half enclosed seating area (with wind barriers and a roof), and an alley that is warmed by fire to a bearable temperature. From the seating areas, you can see the Harbour, various ships, and a steady stream of people going out to dinner. It really is one of my favorite places in Husum. My first experience there was with a local AFS meeting in September and I’ve gone countless times since then, whether it was for a one-euro ice cream cone or for a five-euro Becher, a large bowl of ice cream with excessive toppings. I have only ever eaten the Schokolade Becker, filled with dark chocolate ice cream, chocolate-nut nougat, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and crunchy chocolate shavings.
One night, we went for a walk by the Harbour, going through a slightly hidden passage I’ve never seen to get to a hidden part of the Harbour filled with boats of every shape and size, from police boats to privately owned boats, during which I had such a craving for this treat that I made my friend sit outside, in the freezing wind, and eat ice cream with me. The fire was really warm and bright, but I was still freezing by the time we were done. This act of eating ice cream in the cold night is not so typical in American culture, and it really made me feel German.
At the end of my exchange, it will be some of these experiences that I remember the most. The small, yet profound experiences that made me feel at home.
Thank you to the person that made these happen.