One great thing about living in Karlsruhe, Germany over a spot like Munich or Berlin is that I feel like I really get to see what life in Germany is really like. There are plenty of internationals here, but none compared to these bigger cities. As fast as I found my English-speaking groups here, I would find them twenty times faster and waves of Americans in one of the larger cities. It would be so easy to fall into a group with a familiar accent, enjoy the sights and cultural events together, and not look back. However, living here, 80 percent of my friends speak German fluently, I live with Germans, I date a German, I eat homemade German meals by Germans, etc.
When you travel, particularly when time is limited, opportunities to get outside the main city center just do not present themselves. With so many sights packed within walking distance, it’s easy to fall into the normal tourist routine of each city. Luckily for me in Madrid, Dani provided a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of life in Spain outside Madrid. A friend of hers hosted a goodbye party at a family member’s home about 20 miles outside Madrid. The home was an iconic Spanish stucco mansion with a clay tile roof that homes all over the US, particularly California, imitate. The house also defined prime party house: huge, huge yard, swimming pool, and NOTHING inside to break (the house had been robbed of everything, including the flooring). During the day, everyone gathered outside and drank homemade sangria (cue the Jerry Jeff Walker) and barbecued. At night everyone moved indoors, lit up the fire places and played some EXCELLENTE Spanish techno jams. It was such a treat to party with a ton of Spaniards on their true home turf.
Homes are an obsession of mine. I love making new friends and getting to see their house or apartment. Living spaces say so much about a person: decorations, tidyness, art, photographs, which items they put their money into within the space, etc. So, seeing homes in another culture is always a special treat and a great learning opportunity. I also had this opportunity in Istanbul! Seeing some local culture outside the city limits is such a unique experience.
Have you ventured outside the city limits of any major tourist cities?