This trip to Germany is different than the two others we have taken with the girls in the past. G-girl, in particular, is reacting differently to the changes around her. She is three years older than her last visit and knows that she is coming to stay for a year, so is seriously studying her surroundings, gathering clues on native behavior so as to better understand her place in this place. She has made some excellent observations, the key one being: “this is the first time I’m in Germany and really know where I am,” as an explanation for why she has to constantly interrupt us and ask questions.
Leipzig is not a particularly large city—180,000 residents, approximately—but it sure is ginormous by the girls’ standards. The density of people out and about on the sidewalk, in the parks, on the bike paths on any given day is quite a change from our small-town Kansas locale back home. Given Germany’s population density and, some would say, their natural reticence as a ‘people’ (ugh), this is not a place where you generally say hello or nod and smile to people on the sidewalk or on the streetcar. This dearth of open, friendly, smiling faces strikes many Americans as proof of Germans’ essential unfriendliness but I really think it is best explained by the fact that daily life in Germany is spent more out in the open than daily life in America. If Georg-German had to smile and nod at everyone he saw on the street while doing errands, he’d never get anywhere! Joe-America has that luxury because, chances are, if he is out walking around, he is simply out for a walk! Whatever the reason, however, G-girl noticed this difference within her first 36 hours here. She remarked as we were walking back from a local ice cream shop: “nobody says hi to us!” She didn’t sound particularly hurt by this realization, just aware of the differences.
And speaking of differences—boy howdy—are they visible in spades this weekend. The weekend of Pentecost (a German national holiday) is also the weekend, in Leipzig, of the Gothic-Wave-Festival: an international gathering of Goths, with merchant booths, music stages, and a daily sidewalk freak show with all the trimmings all over town. We’ve heard, in addition to German being spoken, English, Danish, Swedish, and Dutch and we’ve not seen much at all. Suffice to say that Goths come from all over Europe and the world to Leipzig this weekend to see and be seen, buy things, listen to edifying (cough, cough) music, and drink a whole bunch. Sunday we went with our friends to Dölitz, where a medieval village of sorts had been erected for the cavorting of the Goths. There were weavers and blacksmiths and mead vendors and jugglers and the like, but the real show was just people watching. I was too shy to get many good pics, but the variety of Goths is simply remarkable: Goths in vampire mode, Goths in Baroque mode, Goths with a death fetish, punk Goths, leather and PVC Goths, mostly naked Goths, Goths that looked more like Ren-Faire attendees than Goths. . . lots (and I mean LOTS) of black. The winner in my own private score book was a vampire Goth who had done up his ears Nosferatu-style. I couldn’t get to the camera in time: tall, thin, pale, big, pointy ears. . . some spooky make-up, a cape, and a young harlot in tow with the bustier and ripped tights and lace and . . . like Halloween in May.
I wonder if either girl will forever associate the Goth look with Germany, or if we are permanently imprinting the Foo’s fashion sense (she is most impressed by tall boots with lots of buckles). It’s been a fun introduction to the local culture, though, that is for sure!