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The Munich Post

May 8, 2013

Thirty years ago, my father returned to the United States after living in Germany for three years. My mother left Germany a year later, also after living there for three years. They were in military families, so they frequently talked about their time on the bases as my sister and I grew up. The hub of most of their stories, though, always seemed to be in Munich, where my father spent two years as a student.

Ten years ago, my family and I were going to spend a week in Munich during our spring break. It would have been my sister’s and my first time abroad and my parents’ first time back in Germany. But when my father lost his job, we cancelled the trip, each of us terribly disappointed.

Munich’s been on the bucket list, obviously, for a while. It wasn’t even on the list to do a particular thing; I just wanted to go. Go where Dad studied and Mom visited and where we as a family were supposed to visit long ago. So, being in Europe and having possibly my only chance to make it, I took a six-hour train ride and spent last weekend in Munich.


It’s a truly lovely city, and I can understand why my father loves it. There’s an energy, a bit of a quirky energy, but it’s a calm city. People are happy. They have their lederhosen and beer and traditions, and they have their roads and pedestrian streets and gardens. It’s German and Bavarian,  and it’s old and new. I took a walking tour and learned a fraction of its history. What I love about Europe is how its cities build with their history instead of on top of their history, like I think we do in the States. Statues of kings still stand, and the 1972 Olympic Park is now an athletic garden. When the majority of the city was destroyed in the WWII, buildings were reconstructed to look as they would have pre-war, only with a bit of a modern touch. And even the uglier pasts, like that of WWII, has its recognition. History is important to this place.


History, of course, was the entire reason I came: to see a bit of my family’s. And I confess, never in a trip had I wished my family could have been with me more. When you travel solo, you have to discipline your mind to ignore the downsides. Usually, it’s easy — there was so much to do in Amsterdam and London that I didn’t have time to feel alone. But in Munich, a smaller and less busy city, it was easy to notice that the trip, no matter how nice it was, probably would have improved were my family there, having the trip we were supposed to 10 years ago.

Yet I’m still immensely glad I went. I don’t think I would have forgiven myself if I had decided not to go, and I’m glad I had Amsterdam and London under my belt before I took on Munich by myself. It was a bittersweet trip, but some of the best things in life are. It was a very good last European trip. I learned German history and words, and I crossed Munich off the bucket list. Being in Munich was enough. And the nostalgia was completely worth it.


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