Travel

Going Home: Tracing my roots in Germany. Part 1

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I’m a confusing individual, people talking to me are never particularly sure where I’m from: “There’s an American twang in your accent”, “You don’t sound Australian”, “Are you British?” All results of my travels and my desperate want to not sound like Steve Irwin. But slightly more interesting is the fact that I’m only First-And-A-Half generation Australian. My Dad was born in Australia, to Scottish parents (which is how I was able to obtain my visa for the UK) but my mother was born in Germany, before emigrating to Australia with her parents (when she was six months old). My family’s Australian based history is not very long, only dating back to around the 60s, and perhaps that, mixed with the wanderlust that is naturally passed down through German genes, is the reason I can’t get enough of moving, and why I’m yet to find a place I really call home.

Recently my grandparents were making a trip to Germany and decided to pop past London on the way through, so I could show them my new city and then join them for my own little jaunt in Germany. The first time I would be returning to one of my ancestral homelands since I was 2 years old. A short flight from Heathrow saw us landing in Hanover, where we were picked up by family and escorted (incredibly promptly) down the Autobahn to Braunschweig. I had heard many tales of the infamous Autobahn, and the speeds that people drove down it. In the car I was told about how the road now has a number of restrictions on it. We were still driving faster than I’d ever driven in a car before.

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I didn’t have a lengthy window of time to stay in Germany, so my days were planned with a number of activities and road trips. Our first to the medieval town of Goslar. What I love about Europe is how different every country is from one another. Here was architecture I’d yet to see on my previous jaunts. Here were classic old buildings, supported by giant, ageing, timber beams, the palatial grounds of an old King’s summer home, cobblestone streets, and tiny craft shops filled with locally created products and lots of witches, we were close to their home, the Harz mountains. That was our next stop.

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On top of one of the tallest peaks in the area we stopped for coffee at an Alp House. Considering how warm it was in Germany, on top of the mountains it was still cold. During winter the area was a popular ski resort town. During the spring there was a great view of the forest all around, and the Russian outpost that represented the old divide between East Germany and West.

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IMG_1151Our journey continued into old East Germany to Castle Wernigerode. An imposing castle sitting atop a small mountain, that you can spot from all around, almost appearing like a miniature version of Hogwarts. It oversees the village like town below, which again was filled with stunning medieval buildings, many of which had fallen into disrepair during communist occupation, but had recently been restored.

A ‘train bus’ takes you to the castle where you’re free to explore the grounds. A path winds up in a circular fashion around the walls to the main castle building. Along the way are shops, houses, watering holes and a B&B built into the walls. The view from the top (pictured at the start of this post) is stunning. To be immersed in this kind of history, that predates colonial settlement of Australia is always something that blows my mind. And while the castle seems to be located in the most impenetrable place in the surrounding area, it was captured (at least once).

Each place we visited was something I’d never seen before, I loved the German landscape, and how each town oozed with history. Thanks to the Autobahn we were able to see all of the above in the space of an afternoon. While this day had been a fantastic opportunity to see places I’d never seen before, I was excited for the following day, when I’d return to the streets of Braunschweig and see if there were any memories locked away in the back of my mind from when I was 2 years old .

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About Sean Bryan

Creator of Mortimer Sparks, one part of Duck and Mouse.

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