To the Editor:
I had a lovely time visiting Christmas markets – Weihnachtsmarkt – in Germany with my best friend from first grade. In 1972 she settled in Munich with her German husband. For most of the years since then we have stayed in touch, and get together when she travels Stateside to visit family. This was my second time to Germany; the first in 1970. Here are a few takeaways from my latest adventure:
Germany is very clean. Except for cigarette butts at the train stations, I saw very little litter. A traditional drink at the markets is hot mulled wine – Glühwein – served in porcelain or glass mugs. At one market we paid a deposit for the mugs, but everywhere else, the honor system prevailed. The hot beverage would not have tasted as good from a disposable cup! Similarly, we ate outdoors at a market with real plates and real cutlery. No trash barrels overflowing with single use plates and utensils.
Germany takes recycling seriously. Community composting is the norm. Collection of bio-waste takes place weekly in my friend’s neighborhood.
Everyday German conversation is polite. The words please and thank you – bitte und danke – go a long way. I heard and used the expression Entschuldigung – excuse me – many, many times.
The European Union (EU) works. I was able to make use of Euros left over from my trip to Italy with the Watertown Savings Bank Club 50. I also purchased Euros from AAA, but I needed more. Many businesses and restaurants don’t take credit; besides, most of my purchases were small. For our day trip to Salzburg, Austria, we did not have to make a currency exchange. Also, it was lovely not to go through customs at the Austrian border.
The EU mandates four weeks annual vacation for employees. German workers often get even more days off. In contrast, one of my relatives took a new job here in January with only one week of vacation.
News of the shooting at the Strasbourg, France, Christmas market was very disturbing. At no time in Germany, even when I was out and about by myself, did I feel threatened personally.