Prost Prost, Kamerad. My Adventure in Badem, Germany
I never understood the term “sleepy village” until I came to Badem.
If you blink while driving through Bundesstraßen 257 you will easily miss this town. The main drag consists of a bakery, a small grocery market, a Turkish Kebob shop, a soccer field and a bar.
This is a huge contrast to someone who came from a large US city such as Phoenix. If this village was located in Phoenix it could fit within the footprint that any shopping mall consumes.
Turning down next to the bakery will lead you to Kirchstraße. It took me a few days to learn that the street names are a concatenation of two words. In the US we would write “Church Street”, not “Churchstreet”. Kirch is the Deutsch word for “Church” and straße is the word for street. This street leads to the focal point of the town.
This beautiful work of architecture and craftsmanship was finished in 1842. Stepping up close and admiring the sightly distressed brickwork will pull you back a century. Looking at the cryptic chalk writing next to the doorway will have Any American confused. The writing reads like an algebraic equation without any variable definitions. I asked around and found out that this is a blessing. It’s also found on most doorways around this little village.
Strolling further through town will lead you to various barns that have seen better days. Some residents have modern homes with what us Americans would consider luxury cars sitting in the drive way. I don’t know if BMW and Mercedes are “luxury” here as they are a common domestic brand. Either way, I can’t look at an M series without wondering what it’s like to drive it on the autobahn.
At the edge of town you will find nothing but lush fields. Some fields contain nothing but green grass for the cattle to graze. Other fields are full of wheat and stocks of corn. The wheat looks different from what you see growing in the USA. The stocks aren’t chock full of wheat berries like their genetically modified equivalents in the states. GMO crops aren’t permitted in Germany.
I could go on about the way that the buildings bring you back in time. We all know that architecture is a big part of travel and experiencing new sights. Yet, it’s not what really defines a place. What defines any locality is the people.
I spent nearly a week here before meeting any locals. I walked past many individuals and said the casual “Allo” or “Guten Morgan” over the past week, but that’s not a real interaction. My adventure with the locals started late on a Saturday night.
I had returned to town after visiting Burg Eltz. My wife and her niece went to another village for a wine tasting. Jeff (who is technically my nephew) and I stayed at home with the kids and put them to sleep for the night. A few hours later Jeff received the call that it was time to pick up his wife and mine.
He returned home and said that he dropped them off at the local bar. The kids where asleep so he was fine with me heading out too. It was late, but I thought it would be a good experience to checkout what this tiny village offers. I grabbed my wallet and walked the 550 meters to Jedermanns, the local Gasthaus.
I walked in and my wife was surprised to see me. She looked a little bit tipsy from the wine tasting, but she sat with a local brew in front of her. She was excited that the bar tender spoke English and kept asking her questions about the town, and how to say certain words in German. We learned that the “head” of a beer is called Schoam. Easy enough, it sounds just like foam. I ordered a Coke and listened to their stories about the wine tasting event.
Around midnight we started to walk home. As the walked past the soccer field we heard music playing and observed people around what seemed to be a mobile bar. We decided to investigate what was going on.
We listened to the mix of German and English songs playing over the speaker. My wife and her niece had a few more drinks while we listened to the locals laughing and singing what appeared to be drinking songs in German. My wife said she was determined to find someone that spoke english before we left for the night. She walked over to a female and asked if she “Sprechen ze English”. My wife lucked out, as she picked someone in the local group that is a fluent speaker of our native tongue.
This little action brought us into the existing social circle. This circle consisted of people from ages eighteen to thirty (ish). Eighteen being the legal drinking age in Germany. Most of the locals spoke some English. Even the ones that spoke very little communicated with body language well enough.
Music was a common bond. I wore a shirt of the punk band Rancid. This caused a few of the males in the group to converse with me. Our conversation consisted of saying band names and getting excited if the other party had seen them in concert. I was told that I need to come back for Wacken Open Air, which is a massive Metal festival that occurs in the Northern part of Germany in August of each year. This is actually an item on my bucket list.
Then I felt an arm around my shoulder as someone asked my name. His name was Lars and he was absolutely excited to meet someone new. He asked me if I was living here and working in the US Air Force, or just visiting. When I explained that I was visiting he insisted on buying me a drink. I tried to explain that I can’t drink beer due to a food allergy. He persisted and wanted to buy me something. He asked me if I drink “Kofee”. I said that I occasionally drink “Coffee”. He shook his head no. Not “Coffee”, but something different.
Lars took me to the mobile bar and ordered two “Kofees”. I’m probably murdering the proper spelling of this drink. It’s pronounced “Co Fee”. It’s apple wine mixed with Coke. I’m told that this is a drink of the Eiffel area in Germany. Any local bar will know what I mean if I say the name.
I don’t drink alcohol, but why not. Anyone who watches Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern knows that culture is heavily influenced by food and drink within a region. This was my chance to experience something new with great people.
Lars and I talked for a while about the region. He’s lived here his entire life. He told me about the soccer field and why people were here at 1am. It’s the week of Sportfest. I was told the story about how much the town has changed over the years. When Lars was younger the field would attract everyone in town for this event. The bleachers would be bustling with enthusiastic community members. Now, only a small portion show up for the event.
We talked about Germany and what happened in 1939. He was not proud of what his country did to the Jewish people during this era. He was disgusted and knew that it gave his homeland a bad reputation to many other countries. This bad reputation still haunts Germany to this day nearly 80 years later.
Lars then talked about the people of small villages how they welcome visitors. When a visitor comes to town, they will treat them well. The big cities have lost this aspect of hospitality. That’s why he was adamant that the guests of the town have plenty to drink and have a good time.
We raised a glass and I said “Prost”. That’s when he thought it would be a great idea to teach me how to say “Prost” properly. The proper way when with this group is:
“Prost Prost Kamerad”
“Prost Prost Kamerad”
“Wir woll’n noch einen heben.”
“Sack sack sack”
I then shared a conversation with a local girl named Melina. She didn’t like to speak English, yet she spoke it very well. She asked me about Arizona and I showed pictures of the Saguaro Cacti, and told her that it was currently 49 degrees celsius (120 Fahrenheit). She was shocked to hear that I live in that type of heat.
We talked about the acceptance of tattoos and piercings in Germany versus the USA. I explained that some professions don’t care about the visibility of tattoos, yet others are highly conservative. Germany is very conservative in this aspect. The large cities are more accepting, however visible tattoos are more frowned upon than in the USA.
This is what I wanted out of coming to Europe. I wanted new experiences and to hear about life from the perspective of others. What’s the point of going somewhere if you don’t experience the local culture? The two and a half hours I spent with the locals of Badem are something that I will never forget.