|My little brother Tobi and me|
And if you haven't seen the flag on the left, you'll certainly recognize that the flag is part of a famous emblem we all know as BMW.
There are several changes and observations I made about Germany. One, the German State has done away with the law that upheld a monopoly for long distance transportation, which was owned by the German train companies. No more, though. Long distance bus rides can be done by buses as well now, and that's good for the consumer like me. So, when I saw Volker in Goettingen, the train ride would've cost close to $80. But because of the long distance bus, I only paid $13. This change just happened in the last year.
Because trains are so expensive, I used to get around Germany by car ride sharing. In Western Europe, it costs $8.00 a gallon for gas. Can you believe it? So, there was a ride sharing company where people who went on long distance rides would post that they needed passengers and everyone would pay a small gas fee to the driver.
I used car ride sharing twice: first, from Goettingen to Munich and then from Munich to the Allgaue, the deep heart of Bavaria.
The ride down to Munich was interesting. I shared a ride with a medical student from Northern Saxony and a Bavarian mechanic. They were both in their twenties. They asked me a lot of questions about Los Angeles.
After, I was dropped off at a Starbucks in the city center. I waited for Nils. Remember; Nils is the guy who who took me running up the castle two years ago in the German winter. He's a very kind person, and he was happy to see me.
I changed into my lederhosen, which is the traditional Bavarian outfit, and all of us went to Biergarten to watch the Soccer Championships. Over the radio, Angela Merkel, the German prime minister (who in America would be president), wished Germany luck. The game was between Germany and Portugal. It was sunny outside. Many people had their faces painted with the German flag. Others wore lederhosen like me. The crowds roared and cheered every time Germany made a goal. In the end, Germany won four to zero.
I think Bavaria is in a great economic position. All the young are working. It's not like America or any other country. The unemployment is low. The Germans appear to be a happy people, as they all know that their economy is doing well.
Back at Nils' house, Nils asked me to stay longer. Volker, in Goettingen, also asked me to stay longer. Tobi, in the Allgaue also asked me to stay longer. To each of their requests, I said, "Sure. Why not? I don't have anywhere I really need to be." I feel like a wealthy person because my German friends value our relationship.
Yesterday afternoon, I took another ride share into the Allgaue. I was so happy to see Tobi, who's like a younger brother to me. Although he had to work, his friend Lukas picked me up and took me to another biergarten. We drank bier and ate white sausages, a Bavarian dish, with pretzels. You can't get more Bavarian than that.
I visited Tobi at his bar. He fed me more. Not that I needed more. I went back to his apartment and his cousin Florian came and visited me and we chatted for several hours.
I know them all, since I've known them now for five years. The three of them, Tobi, Florian, and Lukas all came and visited me in the winter. Now, I see them in the summer.
I'm going to see Tobi's family tonight. I'm excited to see them. His father's like my Bavarian father. He's always treated me well, and even took me with their family, on a family holiday in the Swiss Alps, once.
The most common comment I'm getting from friend is: "Don't you work?"
Now, if anyone has ever observed me working - people say I work like a machine. People just find it unbelievable that I took one month off. When I worked in New Zealand, we were all given five weeks a year off. I took three more weeks unpaid a year - totaling having 8 weeks of holiday a year.
Probably in law school, I was also the only student I knew of (maybe there were others) who made a concerted effort to get away every year. My first year I went to the Philippines and Singapore. My second year I went to Belize. My third year I went to France, Germany and Lebanon. It was fantastic year of travel. After sitting the bar, I went to Russia, Germany, and Spain. After I became a licensed lawyer, I went to Cabo San Lucas. This winter, I took my brother to Cabo and La Paz.
Am I bragging about all my travels? I hope not. The point is that something is completely wrong with the way Americans work. It shouldn't be a shock that people get away for a rest and a break, even if it is a month. I'll write more about this later, as I think it'd be a great oped topic.
For now, I'm back in the heart of Bavaria with Bavarians. Outside, it's a beautiful, sunny day.