Lee County High School graduate Lindy Massey, second from left, watches the German national soccer team compete on TV while at a restaurant in Stuttgart with friends she has made during her summer stay in Germany. Special photo
After making home with my German family in small Schwaebisch Hall for four days, I packed my bags again, this time to visit the bustling city of Stuttgart. A town of slightly more than 605,000 people, Stuttgart is the main city of the Schwaebia region of Germany. The city is so large that the people refer to living in its regions as if they were living in seperate towns. I spent my time in Stuttgart-Ost, or, in English, Stuttgart-East.
Stuttgart-Ost, and much of Stuttgart, is a bustling city, full of streets for shopping and plenty of fast food, like tasty Turkish meat pockets or Greek gyros. H&M sits nestled among several other brand-name stores, but the difference with the shopping in Stuttgart is that there is a broad, welcoming park incorporated into the area; it comes complete with a proud stone fountain and live musicians (usually violinists or cellists) lining its sidewalks to play for a few spare euros.
After seeing the mall two years ago, I remembered its free-flowing nature and intricate architecture among the modern stores and occasional McDonald’s.
This time around I didn’t have an opportunity to visit the area, though. While winding through a back neighborhood with my cousin, I slipped on the rainy pavement and badly injured my foot. I had the view of Schöenburg Street for several days, but still managed to get out and learn quite a bit about the German youth and Stuttgart itself. After I sat through several foot treatments — coating the area injured in a soured cream called “Quark,” sold medicinally in Germany — I ventured out with Mia, my cousin, to watch the German national team’s soccer game at a restaurant with some friends in Stuttgart-Ost.
I met several of Mia’s friends, each with an interesting name and story, but we all united for one cause: cheering on Germany against a crew of skilled Portugese soccer players. That night the teams were playing each other for a point to advance into the next round of matches in the UEFA EuroCup. Germany has won the European Football Championship in the past, claiming three titles, and that night much of Germany sat in unison, watching Podolski quickly pass the ball to Müller and various other players, craving a German victory in order for the team to advance toward another title.
Together, we all ate German dishes and our table became a sea of bratwurst and spätzle (egg noodles) as we sat glued to the large projector in the restaurant. The atmosphere had a bright spark as we all groaned at missed opportunities and hollered for close goals. Needless to say, as the final minute ticked away and Germany claimed victory, the place fervently erupted with cheers and high-fives. In the streets, cars zipped by past miniature parades of people blowing horns, singing and displaying German flags draped over their bodies like robes. The celebration was national, and everyone smiled as cheers and songs filled the streets.
On the train ride home, I sat with some friends I had made in Stuttgart-Ost, and we discussed everything from politics to getting a driver’s license (which, in Germany, is a huge accomplishment). But while we all laughed and joked, I started understanding why the Germans celebrated so feverishly their soccer team. Soccer is an outlet for acceptable German nationalism. It’s a chance for Germans to be proud of their country and not be chastized for it. Sandra and Hita, friends of mine, explained the mindset in much of the German people, especially the youth, in regards to their country.
Germany clearly has a darker past that is internationally known: Need I mention World War I and World War II? However, this malevolent shadow hangs over the promise of the Germany that exists today and its inhabitants who know the past and understand its grave importance. And yet, there is a ubiquitous cloud that hangs over most of the Germans today for vicious crimes and actions they themselves didn’t commit. As we discussed the implications of being German in other nations, Sandra looked to me in a moment of dismay: “I [just] want to visit another country and say, ‘I am from Germany,’ and be proud,” she said.
I nodded, understanding the desire to express love of a nation, loving my home, the United States of America, myself. We all agreed as we parted ways that this problem was something only time could heal, but we, as the youth, are able to help change the international mindset. As we walked into the night, we agreed that there needs to be understanding of the past, but, with this perspective, no attacking of the innocents of the present.
Beginning around 20 years ago, Germans started celebrating Germany again for the sake of a victorious soccer game. This has grown into a broad, electric celebration when Germany wins a match, after which Germans display flags and honk horns while rounding street corners at night, and shout at the top of their lungs, their German pride apparent. Not only is soccer a national tradition, but it serves as a blanket for the German people to come underneath and celebrate the fact that, yes, these people ARE Germans.
Soon, I leave for the city of Hamburg, but I will be writing about the remainder of my time in Stuttgart before doing so. Just last night, Germany put another soccer match in the bag by winning against the Netherlands, and another national title may be on the cusp for the German nation. And so I, along with the German team, will advance onward to whatever the next adventure brings.
This is the second installment of Lee County High School graduate Malinda “Lindy” Massey’s account of her summer trip to Germany. Lindy is staying with relatives in Schwaebisch Hall.