In 2009 I came to live with a German family as an au-pair so I could learn German. Little did I know this would be my first step towards moving to Germany permanently, as I grew to love the family, the town, the country and even its harsh language. This past weekend I visited them again after 9 long years (some of them I had been lucky enough to see again in Berlin during short visits) but this was the first time going back and seeing them all at once: the family (including extended and new members) and the neighbours, whom I call my German Family.
Alsbach-Hähnlein is a charming small town belonging to the district of Darmstadt-Dieburg in the region of Hessen, surrounded by mountains and forest where I used to love biking and walking around. With just below 10000 inhabitants, the region invites bike tourism to go around the Melibokus, their highest mountain, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. I even indulged in what was supposed to be a short walk that ended up much longer than expected since my German mum got us lost. We eventually ended up finding our way back to the top of the mountain – in between fits of laughter – where the castle is, and enjoyed some radlers in the shade of the trees surrounded by German flags and similar World Cup related decor.
This is just a small example of the excitement surrounding the World Cup: the Auerbacher Schloss castle had prepared a big open area with tables and seats and a huge screen, and the ever present large beer provisions that German celebrations always include.
There are a few Bed & Breakfasts, or Ferienwohnung as they call them in German, some of them in one of my favourite styles: Fachwerk or timbered house (have a look at the pictures below). Don’t tell me you wouldn’t enjoy a weekend away, surrounded by beautiful nature, waking up to birds singing, staying in one of these charming houses and indulging in a typical breakfast with Brötchen with butter and homemade marmalade, eggs, ham, salami and a variety of cheeses, before wandering into the greenery of the forest and maybe even see a deer or a wild rabbit.
This is the place where I learned all about German cuisine and how to make my favourite schnitzel recipe, where I first drank a Hefeweizen or wheat beer (one of my favourites), where I picked cherries in the heat of the summer, pitted them and made jam and pies with them, and many many more happy memories. This is the place where I met my best friend and where I opened my heart to new people and a new culture that I have since adopted as my own.
Going back was almost like travelling back in time: we sat in the garden and had long chats about nothing in particular just as if we hadn’t last seen each other several years ago, we cooked together, we enjoyed the nature and walked around the town and mountains, we grilled and had friends over, and I really enjoyed meeting the family’s new members. I felt so at home it was almost as if I had never left (even though my charge can now drive a car and that makes me feel slightly old!). Leaving wasn’t easy, but sometimes we have to say a short goodbye in order to enjoy each other’s company again a little later.