I recently visited Germany and spent five weeks staying with both Servas hosts and in hostels. I stayed with four different Servas hosts in order to better understand what living in Germany is like. I started my trip in Berlin, where I stayed for five nights at a youth hostel. Staying at a hostel gave me exposure to fellow travelers and fellow english speakers. And although I met many interesting people I wasn’t able to practice German, nor did I really get to know the city because I wasn’t spending time with locals.
After Berlin I traveled to Leipzig, a city I found to be charming, historical, and full of music and art city. This was my first week-long Servas stay. I learned way more that I thought possible in such a short period of time about German history, politics, and language. I learned of regional foods (I got my first exposure to Spätzle), and I really got to know my hosts because I was staying with them for a week instead of the standard stay of two days.
After a week in Leipzig I traveled to Stuttgart to spend a week in a small city to the north called Weissach im Tal. I saw the beautiful countryside, learned of Queen Katerina of Baden-Württenberg, ran through the forest, saw some amazing views from the top of several towers, and enjoyed listening to and trying to understand spoken German at a Toastmasters meeting.
The next week I went further south through Höllental to visit Freiburg. Freiburg was on the top of my list to visit because I want to go to University there. It’s beautiful in Freiburg and I loved the plethora of bike paths, lakes, gardens, parks, and the lovely outdoor market. I learned many more German words in Freiburg and also got to try many new types of cheeses, including several French ones, as Freiburg is just a short drive from Colmar. I also learned a very useful and important phrase with my host’s help: „Kann ich bitte die butter haben?“
After Freiburg I went to Munich, a beautiful city with many beautiful parks. I found myself again very happy to stay for an entire week instead of a few days because I had such a wonderful, interesting time there and really got to know my hosts and share many wonderful experiences with them. I walked through old Munich with it’s four gates, went with my host to witness the start of the process some refugees must go through just to find a place to live. I also went to my first beer garden and tried a traditional Bavarian bretzle.
Overall, I’ve had a wonderful month in Germany and I’m so glad I traveled the way I did with extended stays with Servas hosts. Now I know lovely people and have wonderful memories in places all over Germany.
I really enjoyed being able to stay for a week at a time in each city I visited. It meant I was able to really get to know my hosts and the city much more than if I were staying for two days. There is a pressure to do as much as you can if you’ve got a limited amount of time – as two days gives you – but with a week I felt much more free and relaxed to explore, converse, and relax as one ought to when traveling. And to top it all off, I went to Germany to experience the people and culture. I got to see cities as well, but I got much more out of interacting with and learning from people. After all, the people are what makes places special.
Thank you to my hosts and to Servas for making this possible.