A Whirlwind Trip to Germany

A few months ago, I got invited to be the keynote speaker at Biofach, in Nuremberg, Germany. Biofach is the world’s largest trade fair for the global organic industry. I accepted right away—not only because of the honor of being asked, but also because we have publishing partners in Hamburg, and this would give me an incentive to go visit.  But I decided to keep it quick and all business; after, all February in Germany is not necessarily vacation weather. But I was very curious to see how the rest of the world views organic, and how Germany is faring. After all, the organic idea first originated in Germany with Rudolph Steiner in the 1920s!

After about 30 hours of straight travel and the usual horrid travel incidences, which I won’t bore you with, I landed in the perfect German bed. Actually, they are all pretty perfect. Down duvets and soft pillows, all covered in clean, fresh cotton. I slept it off and was up and running the next day, beginning with a walking tour of Nuremberg, which is home to one of my favorite artists, Albrecht Dürer. Highlights included seeing plots of privately rented gardens being tended inside the shadows of the thousand-year-old castle walls, and learning about the importance of bratwurst to the city.

Off to Nuremberg Messe, which is the most beautiful convention center I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot!). I am still amazed at the escalators that don’t move unless there are people on them. “They save electricity!” said every person to whom I commented about them, as if common sense is enough to make things happen…. I mean, why doesn’t that happen in America? In a jetlagged, dreamy state of mind, I sat on a panel while listening to the other panelists through a translator speaking through my headphones (weird!) and got a vague impression that I was an unusual specimen representing my gender. Germany is a land of large, manly men and, as a small, outspoken woman, I sensed that they weren’t sure what to make of me.

It turns out there is a phrase for women like me in German: Rabenmutter—a Raven Mother—a woman who “leaves her children” to go to work. It’s not a good term. And I think I wore black, too! (It’s good for travel.) Unfortunately, because I was reluctant to spend even more time away from my children, I didn’t have time to walk the convention floor the way I would have liked—it would have taken days! Suffice it to say that the global organic industry is alive and well, and everyone is angry about GMOs and the government’s role in supporting chemical agriculture. My speech seemed well received.

So then, off to Hamburg—yes! Home of the hamburger!—to visit our publishing partners at Motorpresse. Hamburg is a city of merchants—the southernmost Scandinavian city, they say. It has a huge port and elegant, beautiful buildings, both old and new. I had three incredible meals, a fantastically thorough and impressive tour of the city, and great meetings with wonderful people who work hard to bring our brands to Germany and make them even better!

For photos of Maria’s trip to Germany, check out the Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen Facebook page.

My overall impression was complicated—as a woman of both German and Jewish heritage, I have mixed feelings about the history of Germany, and yet the efficiency, orderliness, and resilience of the country are so impressive. Again and again I heard about 50 to 60 percent of its cities having been destroyed and completely rebuilt. Could you imagine if that happened here? One of my business partners told me he tells his children that Germany has been “cured” of the desire and need for war. And it does seem that the energy is focused on building and business, and also celebrating a long and rich history and culture. I will certainly be working on recipes for bratwurst and creamed cabbage to share with you in the future!

But most impressive, to me is that, rather than bickering and dithering the way we do in the States (by the way, Germany no longer has an extreme conservative party, and will not allow it, said my associates; according to them, it is the extreme conservatives who drove Germany into world war twice—are you listening America?), they have moved boldly into the future on the environment. You get a sense that not only is it possible to live a greener, more organic, and more energy-efficient life—but there is no sacrifice involved, either; in fact, it’s even better. Quality of life doesn’t suffer, it expands and blossoms, just like the snowdrops blooming in glass cups in the airport coffee shop as I was leaving.

Can you imagine that in America?! Snowdrops. In the airport. Good coffee, in real china cups.

Other than hearing the gasps of joy when all the Germans in the plane saw the Statue of Liberty from the air, returning to the Newark airport felt like coming back to a third-world country. C’mon America! We can do it too!


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8 Responses to A Whirlwind Trip to Germany

  1. Alina February 28, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and impressions of Germany. Being Polish, with most of my family having gone through Holocaust, I will always be more skeptical about the perfection of Germany. But it’s true – each nation, just like individuals has its splendids as well as dark shadows, lots of examples of European social intolerance even today. I miss Europe a lot though and especially the simple natural food grown in Europe on small farms. I think that Europe being more diversified, especially agriculturally with its strong traditions of family farms has retained more common sense in plain understanding what food is, meaning it is a whole food and what is not (a boxed processed powder). We can definitely learn a lot from them.

  2. Laura B. February 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I was reluctant to read this one, but glad I did. What a wonderful experience! I was never interested in visiting Germany, now perhaps on my bucket list.
    Seems Germany learned a hard lesson. The people who were once so mesmerized by Hitler & his propaganda perhaps have been awoken with a harsh slap. As long as future generations never forget their past atrocities.
    America could learn a lot from Germany’s history.

  3. Donna in Delaware February 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Ah Maria! I am happy that you enjoyed your trip to Nuremburg and Hamburg. I have been to both places so many times that I can find my way around with my eyes closed. Nuremburg is one of my favorite cities in Germany. Isn’t it just beautiful? The next time that you visit, you must eat at the Spital Restaurant. You can’t miss it as it is right on the right side in the water. It used to be an old hospital, but now a pretty restaurant with lovely views and of courst, excellent food. Don’t forget to pick up some German gingerbread called “lebkucken.” It comes in different flavors and you can’t stop eating it. Hamburg is not a city for me, but my husband loves it! Great fish restaurants!

    Everytime we go, my husband and I always comment on how quickly the cities and towns were built after the war, and no one can tell that such atrocities happened there! Berlin is AMAZING!! Yes, people there, despite their past history, are altogether quite civilized. Men don’t drink from beer bottles and put their feet up on someone’s coffee table, no one goes around spitting, people generally talk quietly in restaurants, people actually drink from cups and glasses, no matter what is in them, they sit and eat like people should, the food is excellent no matter where you go and always fresh. I must say that in the 20 or so years that I have been traveling around Germany, I’ve never had a bad meal!!

    The quality of life is just so much better and no, I can’t imagine people in the US government doing anything near what they have done, and what they are doing in Germany. This is not to say they they are perfect, far from it, but they do put a lot of thought into the things that they do to make life better for the people. It’s usually common sense things, which I think is quite lost on most of us in this country. Of course we can do better, we just don’t for some reason, and it is sad and heartbreaking for such a country as ours. I always after a trip to these places, compare us here to them and realise that we have a long way to go with many things and quality of life issues.

    One big difference between us and the Germans is that they are very DISCIPLINED!!!!! We certainly don’t have that going for us here!
    This is how they get things done, and quickly. They may grumble that they have to do it, but they hunker down and get it done! Usually they are better off for it in the long run. And NO, I can’t see us being that disciplined here. I know that I will probably get a lot of flack from readers about what I have said, but the truth is the light, as the saying goes. People here need to travel more often to some European countries to see how others live without a lot of excess, just what we would label as “quality.” Maybe it’ll rub off. I know what you mean about returning home, The backwardness is AMAZING!! No one here realizes that unless they have traveled.

    One other thing, don’t let what they say in Germany fool you. If the situation arises like it did following WWI, the same thing will happen again. Germany isn’t even supposed to have a military, their constitution states this, but they do! Beware, history can and does repeat itself! As much as I like places in Germany, I too have mixed feelings about it. My husband is a German Jew.

  4. Donna in Delaware February 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    The correct spelling for the German gingerbread is “lebkuchen.”

  5. Sue Stewart February 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    Having lived in Germany during the early sixties (reconstruction everywhere) and again in the eighties, I must comment that they had a head start on us in the recycling, and organic area – even in the sixites they only used the tiny garbage cans that equal our inside cans, and every bit of packaging was used and reused – I stiil have my market basket from that period as there were not even paper bags in use – except the tiny cone that the candied almonds came in at the fests! It is true about the discipline, but add to that practical common sense about eating, and all that walking.

  6. Elliott E. Fisher March 1, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    I’d love to go to Germany. My sister and both my sisterinlaws have been and loved their stays.
    Please choose me!

  7. Judith (from Germany) March 6, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    It is good to hear that you seem to have enjoyed your stay. I hope you will have a chance to return again in summer someday and will like that, too.

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