MeiĂźen, 14th of July
We've made it! It's the last week of our two years in the medieval town of MeiĂźen, in the former East Germany.When we sat down as a family three years ago and set our 'family goals', we all voted for an experience abroad with the aim to discover another European culture, to learn another language and to enjoy outdoor activities. We can confidently look back and say we've definitely fulfilled all three.Not only were we exposed to German culture on a daily basis, but we were also at the heart of European history, including more recent events. We experienced the entry into the EU of the new countries and the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, the liberation of concentration camps and the end of WWII.
We discovered that the divisions between East and West are still very strong around here. Our very location enabled us to go ĂĽber die Grenze, across the border, to explore Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and to really feel the energy, creativity and hopes of other European people. Whilst celebrating the differences, we also felt we had so much in common. I only wish there weren't such negative and scare-mongering stories in some of the UK press.
The learning of another language was most beneficial to Kingsley who is now 10-years old. He is now fully trilingual. The very same boy the local primary school would not have two years ago has passed all his PrĂĽfungen, exams, to go to das Gymnasium, grammar school, and is in the top 5 of his class. He has been selected as the best reader to recite by heart in front of all the parents the 2-page long poem Der Handschuh, The Glove, by Friedrich Schiller for die ZeugnisĂĽbergabe, ceremony of the school reports, which closes the last year of primary school. Spot the very proud parents! ImogĂ¨ne, 4, is also fluent in Kindergarten German and regularly corrects her mother! And if I tell you that we've filled in our German tax return ourselves and are no longer scared to deal over the phone with the dreaded Amt, administrative department, it shows the tremendous progress made.
The outdoor life is undeniably what we shall miss most, having thoroughly enjoyed the three months of snow in the winter and hot temperatures and swimming in the lakes in the summer. The clearly marked seasons with local products and a rhythm of life based on the change of seasons reminded me of my childhood in France.We have met a myriad of fascinating people and have been particularly impressed by the kindness and openness of the generation who lived through the war and then the GDR regime, a lesson of tolerance unfortunately not always shared by the younger generation.
If you move to this part of Germany, don't expect though, especially if you're British, to be welcomed with open arms. It is a long, slow process to be accepted, but once a friendship is forged, you are part of the family. We feel we came across several types of Germans in Saxony. Firstly there are the West Germans 'in exile' who immediately embrace you as one of their own - and they do speak superb English. Then there are the East Germans who had been suffocated under the oppressive GDR and who welcome you as a breath of fresh air in the somewhat stilted Saxon mentality. Shy and reserved at first, they will quickly do anything to help you and feel at home. And finally there are the East Germans who still have very little contact with 'Westerners' and will accept you from a distance, as you may as well be someone from Mars. On the other side there still exist East Germans who aspire to a return to the 'good old days' of communism and view any change as a threat.
We realise even more now what a formidable and brave gesture it has been from all the people who have invited us and shared a slice of their life with complete strangers. We can only say a big herzlichen Dank, heart-felt thank you!It has been an extremely positive experience, with its ups and downs. Our family has grown so much stronger. We know we'll always look back on our life in Germany with great fondness and happy memories.
Sent by: Frederic