Brigitte Kiepert

There’s no place like home

By - Jun 15th, 2010 04:00 am
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Karneval in Cologne

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a girl with a pair of ruby slippers tapped her heels three times and chanted, “there’s no place like home.” It took a wizard, a witch, a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion for her to realize how wonderful her home really was.

Now, I don’t have any magical shoes, but I have experienced a life in which is completely opposite of the one I knew back home, and am coming to appreciate that life more than ever.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was eager to get out of Milwaukee — I wanted to see life differently. I wanted to travel down that yellow brick road and see what awaited me.

Life has been great on this side of the pond, and Germany is one of the most beautiful places I have traveled to. There is nothing like being immersed into another culture and way of life. After ten months, I am head over heels in love with the place, but Milwaukee has crept back into my heart and I don’t think it is going anywhere.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: once you are able step away from your everyday life, things really fall into perspective. Since arriving in Germany, I have come to appreciate my family, friends and my home in Milwaukee in a way that I never have. The people, the music, the food and the neighborhoods all carry such diversity. It’s a city with so much character —  travel from Brady St. to the Third Ward  and you’ll notice that everything from the fashion to the drinks being poured changes drastically.

Milwaukee’s strong German influence and history made it a bit easier to adjust to a life here on the other side of the Atlantic. One place in particular where I saw prominent traces of home was in Cologne (Köln). The city carries hints of Milwaukee flair, with traits of grunge but also sophistication; it embraces diversity, has a strong love for the arts and music and of course, a deep-seated love of beer.

Any of Cologne’s art galleries could be straight out of the Third Ward. The people possess a sort of friendly Midwestern charm. The streets are filled with tattooed, fixed gear bicyclists. If you’d replace their German beer with a PBR, you’d think you were smack-dab in the middle of Center Street — hipsters galore.

All over Germany but specific to Cologne is the celebration of Carnival (Karneval), which takes place every year — it’s known as the “fifth season.” The holiday begins on November 11th at 11:11 a.m. and comes to a close on Ash Wednesday, to prepare individuals for the abstinent rituals of Lent. The holiday is mostly celebrated during the months of November and February, and boy do they ever know how to party.

The streets are filled with people dressed up in costumes, parades, music and complete debauchery. Kölsch, Cologne’s own brew, is at a constant flow and served in special 10-ounce glasses. It is light, hoppy and goes down smooth. Milwaukee doesn’t necessarily have it’s own holiday per se, but the celebration is akin to something like Summerfest, and the last time I checked Milwaukeeans will pretty much raise a glass to anything (and I mean that in the best way). I’ve experienced Carnival first hand and as fuzzy as those memories may be, they will stick with me forever.

When I think about it, I don’t know if I would have the same affection for Milwaukee had I stayed in the city. I am truly thankful that I have the ability to step back and really evaluate what it means to me. My weekends in Cologne have been a welcome escape from my life in Bonn. It’s great to be able to sink in a world of familiarity.

I will see you again soon Milwaukee, but until then, prosit!

Categories: Detour

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