by Joshua McGinnis
Germany is an adventure in itself. It is a lifestyle and a whole culture that has changed the world. The U.S. Army sent me to Germany in 2006 after I graduated the DOD fire academy. My first stop placed me in Frankfurt. I would never see this city slow down. A small trip to an outdoor restaurant filled my palette with distinct flavors and textures not found in most family meals of southwest Missouri.
The anticipatory smell of the food is more than enough to strengthen an appetite as the aroma enters the nostrils and sends the mind into a trance in which is difficult to recover without another bite. Pork, or schnitzel, covered in some type of mushroom sauce or a long, skinny bratwurst covered in Bavarian sauerkraut and curry mustard on a hard roll was more than enough to find me riding shotgun in my best friend’s car on our way to Weiden or Amberg to absorb the atmosphere with a warm colaweissen in hand.
The final assignment left me in Grafenwoehr. This military reservation had been host to the German army long before World War II. Every direction was an adventure back to a time that moved much slower than how it seemed in America. The sun came up and could not penetrate the depth of the Bavarian pines. It seemed as though a castle stood on every other hill. Rothenberg, Nurnberg, Amberg, Flossenberg, Nanstein, Wolfstein, and many more stood for centuries. They had seen engagements and hosted royalty and clergy. Now those same stones were smoothed under my feet and before my eyes.
Their history came in the form of translated German, which usually included a restaurant for the tourists and generations of locals. Gift shops seemed rare at each of these sites. The only souvenirs I could find within these old buildings were postcards of the cathedrals for a small donation. These castles were more than an attraction. They seemed more suited for someone attempting to add exercise and adventure to their pictures and memories.
Some of the coldest mountains were found to the south in Garmisch where a friend and I left the Edelweiss resort and climbed as far as we could reach on an adjacent mountain before returning. A warm glass of gluhwein awaited us. Each sip seemed to pour over me in waves of the strong alcohol mixed with the thick flavor that dissolved the Alpine chill. It was a warmth on my face, seated in front of a fireplace. I listened to the constant tick of the Black Forest clock with that tiny little bird that will fly out and shock anyone not anticipating the dancing wooden figures at the beginning of each hour.