by Josh Lodoly
In the summer of 2012, I studied and worked abroad in Eutin, Germany. During this time, the Euro Cup took place, a soccer tournament similar to the World Cup, but just for European nations. With games being shown at every restaurant, bar, and outdoor venue, I was able to enjoy the atmosphere soccer brings to Europe: the happiness and joyful cheers (which actually sound like angry jeers if you don’t speak any German) when their country wins, the sadness and despair when they lose, and every emotion in between.
The way Europeans treat soccer is comparable to how we treat Jayhawk basketball; some people follow it religiously as if it were invented by Jesus Christ himself, some just enjoy the talent and skills, while some, usually the girls, are solely there to fawn over the players’ good looks and greasy hair. One thing is for sure; the game brings all walks of life together for an environment of fun. Plus, Germany has some spectacular tasting beer, which really excites the pallet for anyone who doesn’t enjoy soccer.
When I think of Germany, I think of bustling, industrialized, concrete jungles. Much to my surprise, Eutin, and the surrounding areas, were very much like Kansas. Eutin is a very flat area, covered in golden wheat fields, bright yellow rapeseed fields, wind turbines, and serene lakes surrounded by fairytale like forests, with bicycle paths cutting through to enjoy the views.
But what struck home the most were the down to earth people who always had a friendly demeanor to everyone, which I found out later is very uncommon when you enter larger cities like Berlin. Needless to say, that Midwest friendliness we all know very well can be found in a quaint town called Eutin.
When seeing how similar Kansas and Eutin are, you might ask, “So why would you waste your money to get out of Kansas, only to see another Kansas.” Well, person who’s reading this, whose opinions I value, I need to tell you about the differences and what makes this place unique. Germany’s cities are laid out in such a way that everything is in one area. This made life much easier.
I rode my bike or walked to work everyday, while enjoying the beautiful, yet simple sights of the farmland, lakes, woods, and the more historically significant sights like the castle that lies on the edge of a lake, a cathedral that leans so much that it started to bother me every time I looked at it, a water tower that allows you to see the entirety of Eutin from above, and the archaic cobble stone roads carved between traditional red roofed buildings and houses. My lunch break consisted of either a visit to the best Döner shop known to man, or I could make my Italian grandparents proud and have a small pizza from a little Italian place, where I soon discovered that Italians still use hand gestures, even when speaking German.
A nearby city, Kiel, is home to the world’s largest annual sailing festival, which lasts an entire week. While at the festival, I was able to enjoy food and drinks from all over the world: a Belgian waffle, smothered in chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a fruit topping, various succulent meats from South American and African countries, and a “unique” yogurt drink from Turkey, which tasted like someone left half a carton of yogurt in the sun, filled the other half with ocean water, shook it up and added a gallon of salt. Of course, by “unique,” I mean disgusting, but I always like trying new things.
Traditional musicians from around the world perform during the daytime, and more famous bands perform at night. Boat rides are offered every day of the festival. Every type of ship imaginable can be seen: retired military ships, enormous cruise ships, luxurious yachts, and an abundance of sailboats strongly resembling those used by pirates long ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw Johnny Depp drunkenly stumble onto one of the pirate ships, trying to commandeer it to relive his glory days of being Captain Jack Sparrow.
The only negative that came with this trip was a very simple aspect of life that I usually just take for granted: Water.
People always say, the beer in Germany is cheaper than water. That sounds fantastic, and yes the beer is very cheap, considering how high quality it is, but that’s because water in Germany is very expensive. Ordering water at a restaurant will cost money. As will a refill. There are virtually no drinking fountains. I say virtually, because I know they exist in Germany, but I never saw one while living there.
Germans love their bottled water, which seems odd considering they go to extremes to be environmentally friendly. They also rarely drink water that isn’t carbonated. They have an attitude of, “Water’s great and all, but I wish it tasted like soda that’s gone bad. Then I’d drink it.” If you’re one of those people that actually enjoys carbonated water, then you’re probably lying.