Thursday, August 30, 2012

Things I'll Miss About Germany: Gelato

My favorite gelato shop in Mannheim, Vittoria Gelateria.
I remember my first scoop of gelato distinctly.  I purchased it during my first four months in Germany, during the summer of 2010, while Kyle and I were busy hurdling unfamiliar German customs (and a language barrier) so that we could be married.  

One day while Kyle was working a painfully long shift, a friend invited me to explore the local mall.  I agreed immediately.  I was dying to get out of the tiny room I'd been inhabiting for weeks.  The two of us, with her two tiny sons in tow, hopped on the tram for a single stop, then plunged into an impromptu shopping marathon.  We browsed every shop in the building without pause.  By the time we reached the end, everyone was exhausted.  So when the older of my friend's boys said, "Mommy, I want ice cream," with wide eyes, droopy limbs, and lower lip slightly protruding, we were quick to oblige.

We marched up to a counter filled with the most unusual "ice cream" I'd ever seen.  It looked like American-style soft serve poured into large metal tubs.  Some were garnished with an array of colorful toppings, others left plain.  Each tub bore a label emblazoned with the flavor and illustrations for clarity.  There was bright strawberry, speckled with the fruit's seeds, dark, rich chocolate, and creamy mocha, dusted with coffee powder and chocolate curls.  My eyes caught on a tub of cream only slightly tinged yellow.  The protruding label read "Zitrone," and showed a little pile of lemons.

Lemon ice cream?

Curious, I shuffled forward on my turn and ordered a single scoop of the unfamiliar flavor.  "One of the...lemon?...please," I gestured toward the pale yellow ice cream.

The lady behind the counter smiled and said, "Ah, Zitrone."  Her accent made the word sound beautiful.  Later that night I'd practice repeating it: "Tseet-ROH-neh."  She rolled a scoop into a large ball, plopped it into a paper cup, and we made our exchange:  the ice cream for a single euro coin.

My eyes widened on the first taste, and I thought, "This is not ice cream!"  It was better.  I had another spoonful.  The consistency was nothing like I expected, and the taste was incredible.  Gelato is smoother and more dense than fluffy, American ice cream, and the flavor is much more concentrated.  This lemon tasted exactly like my favorite lemonade from the states:  a perfect balance of tart citrus and simple, sweet sugar.  I ate every last bite, and then unabashedly licked the cup clean.

Eiscafe Italia in Bacharach:  home to the best lemon gelato I've sampled.
The next few times I ordered gelato, I requested the same, wonderful Zitrone.  I was happy to try out the pronunciation, and happier to indulge in my new favorite treat.  But soon I wanted to sample everything.  In the two years I've spent here, I have tasted almost every flavor available.  I adore the rich berry flavors and the almost bittersweet chocolates.  The caramel and mocha are creamier than you can imagine.  Grapefruit is true to flavor -- sweet at first, with a bitter aftertaste.  Two of the most unusual flavors, "Schwarzwaldkirshe," (black forest cherry:  a dark chocolate base drenched with tart cherry sauce, speckled with whole cherries) and "Muffin," were fantastic.



My favorite flavor is still the tart, sugary lemon.  Kyle, on the other hand, loves Stracciatella, a creamy vanilla swirled with bits of chocolate.  But then he has never tried any other flavor.  He isn't exactly adventurous where food is involved.


Oh, gelato.  I will never forget you.  (Or what you did to my waistline.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vacation Planning

Kyle and I will have just over a month of free time between his last day of work in Germany and our arrival in New York. In the spirit of making the most of things, I'm vacation planning.  A lot of our "month off" will be spent doing move-related errands, but the free days are going be awesome if I have anything to do with it.

My twenty-second birthday sets these plans rolling on the 15th.  I'm thinking a return trip to Cologne would be the perfect celebration.  After all, we never did get to leave a lock on the Hohenzollern Bridge...

Locks adorning the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne last Spring.
Then the following week, I've booked two nights for us at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, an adorable little town nestled in the Bavarian Alps.  While at Edelweiss, Kyle and I will tour the two castles of Schwangau, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, and ascend the Zugspitze (the highest point in Germany).  On the way home, we'll detour through Munich to see one of the largest polar bear exhibits in central Europe at the Hellabrunn Zoo.

The Bavarian Alps on our first visit to Edelweiss last summer.
A few days after we return from Edelweiss, Kyle and I will pack our bags and board an eight hour flight to Baltimore with Brinks.  We couldn't find any connecting flights with room for Brinks on board, so we're spending a mini-vacation in Maryland until my mom can make the road trip out to bring us to Kentucky.  I'm particularly excited to visit Baltimore's National Aquarium.

Incredible photo of the dolphin show via Aaron Riddle.
We'll spend about two weeks in Kentucky visiting friends and family before heading to New York.  Those two weeks are already filling up with plans:  we've organized another group trip to Kings Island in Ohio; my grandmother is throwing an early Thanksgiving since we most likely won't be home for the holidays; and we're attending a belated birthday dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.

I just can't wait.  We have twenty-nine days left to spend in Germany, each one a blessing, then a week or two in Kentucky, surrounded  by people we love, and finally, a year and a half in New York.  This move, which I thought was the end of an adventure, has turned out to be an incredible new beginning.  I am positively giddy with excitement.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Schloss Ludwigsburg Part 2: The Gardens


The gardens surrounding Ludwigsburg Palace are both massive and stunning.  Hidden among winding paths and tall trees are countless statues, topiary, and exotic blossoms; a "fairy tale" garden filled with storybook characters and their homes; even a second, smaller palace, dubbed "Favorite Palace," which is actually an overgrown hunting lodge.  Every step through this wonderland reveals something unexpected and delightful.

"Schloss Favorite," the royal hunting lodge.


Rapunzel's castle, nestled in the "Märchengarten." (Fairy Tale Garden)

Notice Rapunzel's braid, dangling from the tower.


This magic mirror, when illuminated from behind, reveals Snow White and her seven dwarfs.






Replica of an 1802 carousel.




Entrance to the Japanese style section of the gardens, tucked away in a back corner of the grounds.



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Recent Reading: My Nonfiction Love Affair

My latest reading 'phase' started in 2010 when I picked up a used copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.  It was the first nonfiction book I'd ever read by choice, and I loved every page of it.  Before, I had always acquainted "nonfiction" with "boring."  I don't think I'd ever set foot outside the fiction section of my hometown library.  I followed up Eat, Pray, Love with Gilbert's best-selling sequel, Committed.  While I wasn't as impressed with it as I hoped to be, it was still a good read, and it kept me interested in this previously unexplored genre.

And so began my current passion for real, honest-to-goodness, true stories.

Over the past couple years I've powered through a long line up of memoirs, interspersed with the occasional biography and self-help book.  I fell in love with Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken (I recall using words like "sensational" and "magnificent" when I first talked about it last February); drooled over As Always, Julia, a collection of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto; and nodded in agreement through Jacey Eckhart's The Homefront Club, a sort of self-help book for frustrated, overwhelmed military wives everywhere.  I can't seem to get enough of this stuff!  These accounts of personal struggles and triumphs strike a chord within me.  I feel as though each one teaches me a valuable life lesson.

Most recently I finished Pamela Druckerman's controversial parenting book, Bringing up Bebe, closely followed by Wild, Cheryl Strayed's powerful memoir about her adventures and revelations hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  These were wonderful books, and I found I could relate to both, despite their dissimilarity.

It was a few months back when Laura Harrington (author of Alice Bliss) invited me to a Goodreads discussion group for Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe, and though the book was already causing quite a kerfuffle among readers, it was the first time I had heard of it.  I downloaded the book to my kindle immediately, but then left it to sit idle for a while.  I am not a parent, and wasn't thrilled at the prospect of a book about child rearing.  However, Bringing Up Bebe resonated with me in unexpected ways.  By the time I turned the last page I felt as though Druckerman had taken thoughts from my own head and wrapped them neatly into this half memoir, half parenting guide.


Bringing Up Bebe is, simply put, the story of what happens when an American woman raises three children in France.  Druckerman's book is filled with charming anecdotes, brutal honesty and a good deal of research.  She illustrates the merits and downfalls of typical parenting among both French and American families, and explores the evolution of her own definition of the "perfect" mother.  When she discusses the average American child-centric family life and it's detriment to mothers, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief.  I was glad someone else had crushed the eggshell I've been unwittingly tiptoeing around for years.

The mantra of most American mothers today is, "My child is my life."  Several of my friends with children say this repeatedly, and my own mother has said it more times than I can count.  I grew up hearing this expression and never questioned its implications.  It was hardwired into my brain that a mother's sole purpose is the raising of her children.  In fact, not long before I moved to Germany, I told my mom that I thought I was too selfish to have kids, because I couldn't imagine giving up my future for a baby.  It wasn't until I finished reading Bringing up Bebe that I realized why saying that didn't sit well with me.

Druckerman writes, "American women typically demonstrate our commitment [to our children] by worrying and by showing how much we're willing to sacrifice, even while pregnant; whereas Frenchwomen signal their commitment by projecting calm and flaunting the fact that they haven't renounced pleasure."  This one sentence was what finally set the proverbial light bulb over my head aglow.  I don't believe the roles of "successful mother" and "successful woman" should be mutually exclusive.  No matter how many times all the mothers in my life assure me that they "didn't even think twice" about the many things they gave up for their children, I can't shake the feeling that they don't need to let so many experiences pass them by in the first place.  At long last, I've realized having a baby doesn't dictate losing your "self."  (Why isn't that common sense?)

Cheryl Strayed's incredible memoir, Wild, recounts the dark days after her mother's death when Strayed's world was ripped apart.  Her marriage was in shambles, her family had scattered, and her spirit had been profoundly shaken.  So, in a moment of desperation, she decided to do the most nonsensical thing imaginable to stitch her life back together:  hike more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Solo.  Having had no experience whatsoever.  The resulting story is one of fierce determination and hope in spite of harrowing odds.  Strayed survives countless rattlesnakes, a few bears, and perhaps most impressive of all, "Monster," the enormous backpack she lugged up and down the mountains.  Through it all she retains a dauntless attitude and uplifting sense of humor.  (Even while walking for days in shoes made of duct tape.)

Wild
is charming yet gritty, beautiful but terrifying.  It is exquisitely written.  Every last word feels raw and real.  It held my attention so effortlessly that I finished it in two days.  Needless to say, this book is one of my all time favorites.  But the reason I love Wild so much has less to do with wonderful writing than with Strayed's catharsis.  One line in particular speaks to me.   One day, while alone on her journey, she thinks to herself,  "Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world.  Maybe that was okay."

I adore this message.  I relate to this message.

My life could not be any more different from Strayed's, and yet this one revelation makes me feel innately bonded to her story.  There have been several times in my life, most of them since moving to Germany, when I have been utterly alone and was suddenly struck with a sense of complete helplessness.  Ten thousand scenarios flash through my mind, and in each one of them I am faced by a problem I cannot solve on my own.  And yet, on most of these "alone" days, I pick myself up and say, "Yes, I can fix that.  I can handle that," as if I can simply will myself through any situation.  I was reminded of this habit when Strayed mentions her mantras, "No one is tougher than me," and "I am not afraid."  She reassures herself with these statements even after facing down two very large bears and countless other obstacles, and somehow this simple chant sees her through every challenge.  It has taken me a long time to be comfortable relying upon myself.  Finding that I am not alone in my coping methods makes me feel as though I am a little less unprepared for whatever comes my way.

As I type, I can see bookmarks jutting from the centers of Appetite for Life, Noel Riley Fitch's biography of Julia Child, and Paris in Love, Eloisa James' memoir chronicling her year-long sabbatical in Paris.  Both are enchanting, but I hasten toward the last pages so I can start in on the next books on my ever growing to-read list.  My taste in books is eclectic for sure, spanning more genres than I can count, but I have a feeling my love affair with nonfiction will last a good while.  I have found too many inspiring stories to ever write nonfiction off as "dull" again.

What are you guys reading these days?
  Have you read any of the books I mention?
  I would love to hear your opinions and recommendations!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Thousand Four Hundred Eighty Nine Days

Recently I realized that what with all the crazy moving drama dominating my life, mine and Kyle's two year wedding anniversary passed unnoticed here in the blogosphere.  (Rest assured the same did not happen in real life.)  Then I looked back through the archives and discovered that I didn't post anything about our first anniversary either.  I chalk it up to the fact that we've spent both those anniversaries wrapped up in our own celebrations.  But considering how much of our relationship has been documented on this blog...  Well.  Simply put, I'm just not cool with such an important day slipping away quietly.

As of today, our love story is one thousand four hundred eighty-nine days old.  That's four years, and twenty-nine days.  By happy accident, Kyle and I were married exactly two years from the day we first started dating.  The series of elaborate coincidences which allowed that to happen make silly words like "fate" and "destiny" go bouncing around my brain.

Four years and twenty-nine days is a long time when you're twenty-one years old.  Four years and twenty-nine days is almost miraculous.  That number means I have dedicated almost one fifth of my life to someone other than myself.  It means that all those hundreds of days ago, when I sat alone and anxious in my room, convinced that a boy who barely knew I existed was about to turn my world inside out...  I wasn't wrong.  It means that when, two days into what sane people call a crush, I flopped down on my best friend's sofa and said, "I think I might love someone," I hadn't lost as many marbles as she suspected.  More importantly, the past one thousand four hundred eighty-nine days have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am an incredibly lucky girl.  Because I found the love of my life on the first try, and was crazy enough to recognize it.

Naturally, the universe had to balance out such wonderful luck.  So my easily spotted, innocent, fragile love was tempered with time and separation.  Luck may have brought Kyle and I together, but it wasn't enough to keep us that way.  It was determination and faith, hope and stubbornness, a strong will, and immense amounts of love on both our parts which saw us through until now, and I believe with all my heart that those things will carry us through decades of anniversaries.

When I think about the long road that has delivered me to this place, to Kyle and our marriage, I am overwhelmed with gratitude -- gratitude to Kyle for taking my heart when I offered it; to my family and friends for supporting me when I chose to pursue love instead of more logical things; to whatever tiny, ancient event set this path in motion; and to my seventeen year old self, who was naive and reckless and brave enough to take the most significant risk of a lifetime.  So, to honor the one thousand four hundred eighty-ninth day of our love, and the many people and circumstances that brought us here, I would like to share a single snapshot:  the memory of one early morning in December of 2009, when after months of separation Kyle and I were finally brought together again.
I feel so small. I am lost in a sea of faces plucking luggage from the conveyor belt. I am completely helpless. All the signs meant to herd me in the right direction are written in a language I can’t understand. I hang back and follow people who look like they know where they’re going. Their strides are confident and their shoulders are square. I try to imitate that dauntless attitude.

My heart is pounding. My legs are shaking. It has taken nearly thirty hours to complete this journey that should have taken twelve. All my body wants is a bed and a glass of water and sleep. By some divine act of God, I navigate my way to the customs gate, present my empty passport, and watch with bloodshot eyes as its first stamp stains the thick blue pages. Part of my mind is already trying to put this scene to words for later, while another part tells my lips to say “thank you.”

I gather my bags and take one step after another toward huge double doors. I breathe in, concentrating on the oxygen flooding my body. I breathe out.  I savor the emptiness.  I memorize the way this feels. I half expect a camera crew to roll out and start filming.  This moment is so enormous.  It has taken so much time, so much work to bring me here, over 4,400 miles from home.

As the doors begin to part I close my eyes and hold my breath. My heart is hammering so loudly that it mutes the busy airport completely. The doors slide open and his voice breaks the silence.

“There she is!”

I feel a smile burst across my face before my eyes have completely adjusted to the harsh light in the next room. And then there he is. He’s only fifteen feet away from me and suddenly I am full to bursting when only five minutes ago I was nothing but a shell. I am walking as fast as I can manage with four bags draped around my shoulders.

But then the bags are on the floor and I don’t quite remember dropping them.  It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is his arms around me and the feel of his face beneath my fingers and the few hot tears sliding down my cheeks for the thousandth time. What was and what will be blur into this one incredible moment and I am so light that I swear I could lift right off the tiles, but I don’t. I stay right where I am, locked in this perfect first embrace, for once not worrying about the long road ahead. 
(Originally published February, 2010)
Kyle and me in downtown Mannheim, during the week-long visit that followed the reunion above...
...and again, about two years after that date, at the Mannheim Christmas Market.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Schloss Ludwigsburg Part 1: The Palace


On August tenth, we grabbed some friends, jumped in our Jeep and hit the road.  An hour of confusing directions later, we arrived in Ludwigsburg, home to one of the largest Baroque palaces in Germany.  Having done copious amounts of research over the last week, I was well prepared.  We marched up to the entry booth and ordered four Combi-Tickets.  At sixteen euros each, it was a hefty price, but the palace grounds are immense.  We had set aside the entire day to explore the complex, which encompasses not one, but two palaces (tours included in ticket price), two museums, a small castle, extensive gardens, and a small petting zoo, among other things.

Our first glimpse of the palace was impressive.  It dwarfed my only comparison, the much smaller residence at Schwetzingen, by far.  The main palace is made up of a series of buildings set in a square around a cobblestone courtyard, and surrounded by stunning gardens on all sides.  The facade is painted a cheery, pastel yellow that I can't help but acquaint with cold hard boiled eggs, and out front is a massive fountain (more are hidden throughout the shrubbery) that bubbles invitingly.  The gardens are immaculate.  Though we didn't spy a single gardener, I imagine it takes dozens to keep the grounds so beautiful and pristine.



 
Bees buzzed from blossom to blossom and tourists sat to dip their feet into the shallow water, all while puffy white clouds lazily drifted overhead.  It was idyllic, picturesque.  Statues littered the grounds and clung to any available surface of the palace.  There was something beautiful around every corner.  It quickly became clear why our ticket was good for two consecutive days.  We spent our entire first hour combing the front gardens and circling the main residence.  (I'm sure it didn't help our schedule that I was stopping for a photograph every ten feet.)
 

 


At one point while we wandered the grounds, I kept repeating, "It's just all so pretty!"  Truthfully, I never thought to find such beauty in Germany.  Before I moved here, I knew virtually nothing about this place.  The only stories I'd ever heard of Germany or its people had their roots in my great-grandfather's war stories.  He fought almost the entire duration of WWII, so my expectations were a little skewed.  Before my first visit, around Christmastime in 2009, on some subconscious level, I expected to step off the plane and find myself in a rubble-strewn war zone rather than in this gorgeous, vibrant, history-filled wonderland.  Admittedly, a quick google search had prepared me for scattered castle ruins and the majestic Cologne Cathedral, but those things are only a tiny fraction of what Germany has to offer.  Every day I spend here I am astounded at my past ignorance.

But I digress.

 

"Ludwigsburg" literally means "Ludwig's Castle."  Lots of "Ludwigs" crop up in German history.  This one was Eberhard Ludwig of  Württemberg, reigning monarch between 1693 and 1733. The palace he commissioned began as a hunting lodge, but eventually grew to become the principal royal palace of the Kingdom of Württemberg from the 18th century until 1918.  Ludwigsburg was completed during the final year of his reign.

A decade later, Ludwig's successor had a new palace built in Stuttgart, and over the years fickle monarchs would flip flop between Ludwigsburg and newer constructions.  However, Ludwigsburg avoided destruction during WWII, so in the mid-20th century the palace was nurtured back to its glorious state, and the Blühendes Barock (Blooming Baroque) summer garden show began in 1953.  Today Ludwigsburg is a beloved tourist destination, a shining example of Baroque and Rococo style architecture.



 
 

We spent so long admiring the palace from the outside that we missed the only English tour.  Our group was feeling adventurous, so we decided to give the German version a go.  A tour guide provided us with flyers in our nattive language which highlighted the important features in each room, and we set off to explore the inside. 

We didn't emerge for over two hours. 

However enormous the palace may look from outside, trust me, it is bigger.  I was thankful for our guide, because left to wander on our own we would surely have been lost.  Hidden servants' corridors and maids' rooms complicate the floor plans, and the elegant main rooms could have held my attention for hours.  Everything from door frames to chandelier chains was a work of art, dripping with gold, silver and velvet.  Though we struggled to catch even the gist of our fast-talking guide's narration, we were all glad to have seen this royal home.



I could not have enjoyed my day at Schloss Ludwigsburg more. Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I share photos of the second palace on the grounds, an adorable baby goat, and the "Fairy Tale Garden."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Moving Out, Moving In and Moving On

This week we picked up the keys for our furnished temporary housing in Heidelberg, where we'll live for the three weeks between the time the movers come to ship our household goods and the day we fly out of Germany.  When we toured the available apartment, it was all too familiar.  Bare walls, empty rooms, and a wealth of possibility.  Kyle and I explored each closet, opened each cupboard, glanced through each window.  The walls filled up with laughter as we joked about how we'll fill our last twenty days.

The last time we wandered through such empty rooms was the day I arrived in Mannheim, where we've lived for the past two years.  The was nothing but a pile of papers in the dining room floor, a bed made of blankets, a handful of white towels and one curtain in our home.  It would take weeks for our possessions to make their way across the Atlantic.  And yet, as we dragged my suitcases inside, I'd never been so happy.  I threw my arms out wide and spun in giddy circles that day, thrilled to be young and in Europe and in love.  The two years ahead felt enormous, solid.

They passed so quickly.

Every day spent here is a cherished memory.  Kyle and I have gained friendships, roamed a bit of the world, experimented with strange foods, learned a smattering of German phrases, and bought our first new car together.  There were hard days, when we missed our friends and family at "home," and resented each other for petty reasons.  There were dull days, which was a possibility I never imagined, convinced that every second in Germany would be adventurous.  There were exciting days filled with travel and history.  Most of all, there were beautiful days, when we overcame challenges together, and our love thrived in spite of all odds.  I am so happy to say that I have no regrets.

Kyle and I outside Heidelberg Castle last September.

After a few weeks of leave, we'll arrive in New York in late October, where we'll live for seventeen months until Kyle's Army contract has run its course.  Everything after that is uncertain.  When I try to picture the future, the image comes up grey.  We have yet to decide where we want to settle in post-Army, or what careers we will pursue.  We're both split, half wanting to return to the familiarity of family and home, half wanting to forge ahead to somewhere new.  I am grateful those decisions are a long way off yet.  We have another home to fill with memories before then.

In New York I'll finally find work again, possibly return to school, and (hallelujah!) be able to bridge the gap between my "Army home" and "old Kentucky home" more often.  Kyle eagerly anticipates being back among English speakers, and we are both thrilled to return to the many conveniences of America.  (Twenty-four hour shopping is not overrated.  Neither are free refills, ice, non-carbonated water, and the wide acceptance of debit cards.)  I am impatiently looking forward to Niagara Falls, New York City, DC, and a few trips into Canada.  I can't wait to see my favorite TV programs live again.  And libraries!  I have missed having hundreds of free books written in my native language at my fingertips.  Leaving is bittersweet, of course, but we are so excited about our next home.

I will never forget anything about our time in Germany.  We were married here.  We traveled here.  We did a lot of growing up here.  And now we are moving on from here.  I couldn't possibly feel any more blessed.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Things I'll Miss About Germany: Incredible New Friendships

By far the most difficult part of moving to Germany was leaving behind an amazing network of friends.  The first few months in this new place were lonely and miserable.  I didn't do myself any favors by constantly comparing every new acquaintance with the people I left behind in Kentucky.  No one could compete with the years of history my old friends and I share.  Eventually, I realized that while I might not have a long list of shared experiences with the other women here, we do have one very important thing in common:  We all know exactly how difficult it is to abandon all things familiar for our husbands.  And that one common thread allows us to understand each other in a way that no one else, not even our wonderful friends at home, can.

Me with my first friend in Germany, Holli, and her oldest son, Kaden, at Luisenpark last Easter.

Amber and I in Paris, August 2011.

Holli, Brogan and me on our last day together in Mannheim, January of this year.

My newest friend, Chanell, and me posing in front of Ludwigsburg Palace last week.
They say friends are the family you choose, and I have been blessed with a second wonderful sisterhood.  I absolutely dread leaving my new Army family behind.  Within the next few years these women and I will be scattered across the globe, but I know for certain they'll always have a special place in my heart.  I hope more than anything that we'll cross paths again someday in the not-too-distant future.

Other things I'll miss about Germany: