From what I have learned, traveling can lead you to unexpected situations in the most unexpected places. I found myself at the airport in Madrid with the destination Stuttgart, Germany on my boarding pass. I was heading to the sixth-largest city in Germany just south of Frankfort to attend the wedding of a friend’s cousin, who was marrying a German woman. A few days earlier, I had started to read about Stuttgart, but when I was told the wedding would be held in a village outside the city, I decided to stop gathering information, eliminate any expectations and enjoy the upcoming adventure.
After flying all night and finding my bed, I woke up to clear blues skies in a fairytale village of brick houses surrounded by rolling green hills. I spent the day exploring the village and its surroundings with some other Americans attending the wedding. We walked through cozy town squares bustling with people and hiked paths enveloped in tall green trees. Everywhere we went, the locals were helpful and welcoming, wanting to show us their village.
The wedding party was half German and half American. The ceremony was lead by a German priest who had an English translator. Watching these two languages come together was like watching two puzzle pieces slide together for the first time. Being a part of a ceremony that united these two cultures was a very special experience for me. The language barrier seemed to dissipate, and I felt that we all bonded in watching the couple exchange vows.
As we were headed for the reception after the ceremony, we experienced odd but really entertaining German wedding traditions. A ribbon had been tied to the back of each car heading to the reception, indicating that it was part of a wedding. As soon as the car I got into started moving, the driver started honking the horn relentlessly, and did not stop until we reached the reception. As each car drove off, heading for the reception, its driver immediately joined in. As the last cars started moving, we became a loud procession of continuous honking cars snaking its way slowly through the village to our destination. Cars we passed would wave, smile and honk back. We finally arrived at a haunting, yet beautiful old building with a picturesque view of the rolling hills. Before the reception started, another German tradition was enacted. The bride was hiding from the groom and he was supposed to find her and bring her into the reception. Surprisingly - or not - he found her at her favorite bar and brought her in to the room full of cheering and clapping guests.
The atmosphere of the wedding and those hundreds of happy faces – and honking horns – was something I will never forget. This experience of celebrating two sets of families and friends with language barriers and cultural differences in a small obscure German village was a truly heartwarming and special experience. I had been very hesitant about flying to Germany from Spain, to attend a wedding where I only knew two people. I am so happy that I decided to “jump” into that adventure. Getting a better understanding of other cultures happens as much through these personal moments, as it does by walking around a foreign city’s streets and museums. My travel abroad trip has exposed me to so many amazing cultural differences, and new friends. What sticks with me, however, is not our differences, but how similar we humans are, no matter where we live on this planet. I think that a Spaniard at a café in Madrid, a local from a small German village and a random college student in America have common denominators like wanting to be surrounded by love, have fun, be curious, laugh a lot, work hard and hope for a happy life. I hope to remember this, when it matters the most.
Barbara Levin is the Summer 2015 CEA MOJO in Madrid, Spain. She is currently a junior at California Polytechnic State University.
|Green Trees Throughout the Hike|
|Midway of the Hike|
|Enjoying Brunch Before the Wedding|
|View From the Top of the Chapel|
|Local Church Visit|
|View From of the Small Town|
|Beautiful Buildings in Small Town|
|Enjoying the Sunset the Day Before the Wedding|
|The Wedding Ceremony|
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