At Home & Abroad
The Other Emerald “Isle”
First thing to remember when making a trip to Germany: although English is a “Germanic” language, the only thing German and English have remotely in common is the phonetic similarity of the greetings “Guten Morgen” and “Good Morning.”
Despite my pitiful German, I was able to ascertain the meaning of most signs and maneuver the streets and “honor system” subway of Munich. Those who observed the confused look on my face upon addressing me in German would immediately rephrase in English, and those who didn’t speak English would speak slowly in German, which unfortunately did nothing to facilitate my understanding, but I appreciated the effort nonetheless.
I traveled up through the heart of Germany on the bullet train from Munich to Lübeck. If Ireland is the “Emerald Isle” then Germany is the “Emerald Landlocked Country.” I was pleasantly surprised and impressed to find a country of rolling, green hills and plains.
Standing in St. Marien’s church in Lübeck, I experienced an unexpected, eerie feeling. The ground floor had been converted into a living memorial, and I observed a cracked, brass bell lying partially embedded in the floor. I had never pondered “being on the other side”; the “Allies” were now the “Axis” and I was seeing my homeland through the eyes of a WWII-era German citizen: bombs falling overhead, destruction everywhere. I imagined civilians screaming, crying, and running in all directions. To them, we were the enemy. I even felt a bit guilty, however unfounded that emotion may be. I knew it was war, that it was them or us. However, this knowledge did not diminish my empathy towards those who were innocent of the crimes of their government.
I left with the feeling that all is forgiven, but never forgotten.
Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, GERMANY