I really enjoyed the time I had in Germany before and after my Balkans adventure. I haven't spent any time in Germany since 2006, and it was great to immerse myself in German idioms for several days.
Following is a list of five discoveries that delighted and intrigued me.
1. Milka with Daim. The mere sight of Milka's violet wrapping paper makes me hungry. I know that my love of milk chocolate disqualifies me from the good chocolate snob leagues, but I don't really care. Everyone knows that nothing makes milk chocolate better than liberal sprinklings of toffee throughout. This confection does just that, and it's dreamily perfect. Apparently, drfossie agrees.
2. Turkish language signage. This may not be new at all, but my recollection is that most public signage in Germany—regarding, say, which objects should not be thrown into toilets—has historically been restricted to German, English, French, Italian, and occasionally Spanish. The appearance of the Turkish language in such contexts is a no-brainer, considering that Germans of Turkish descent comprise the largest immigrant group in Germany by far. (Incidentally, I was also much more aware of the presence of Deutschtürken/innen in the German media on this visit. One media phenomenon, Gülcan Kamps (née Karahanci) seemed to follow me everywhere I went.)
3. How awesome the Süddeutsche Zeitung is. I think it might just be the best newspaper in the world. I really enjoyed Robert Knight's article in Monday's edition on the Germanization of southern Carinthia. It was fifty years ago this autumn that the southern Austrian state limited bilingual education dramatically. Knight writes about the introduction of bilingual education in the first years after the Second World War. The system was the brainchild of Josef Tischler, an ethnic Slovene who for a time was a member of the state government. Tischler sought to create a "second Switzerland" in Carinthia, within which Slovenian and German would coexist fruitfully. Alas, as we all know, Carinthia chose a more provincial path.
4. Great trashy pop tunes. Every time I turned on VIVA I came across delightful poppy songs, like "Florida Lady" by Frauenarzt & Manny Marc featuring Alexander Marcus, which samples Fancy's drastically underappreciated 1984 disco tune "Slice Me Nice." Also satisfying: sugary "2 Herzen" by Kate & Ben; the moody "So Soll Es Bleiben" by Ich & Ich; and, because shame is unknown to me, "Häschenparty" by Schnuffel.
5. Air Berlin. Free drinks, a sandwich, and newspapers and magazines on my cheap flight? Yes please.