Munich, Germany

Dates of Trip: Oct. 25 – 26, 2014

         I went for a short trip to Munich, Germany. I have a distant relative there by the name of Jürgen Sengenberger– we’re not exactly sure where the family trees converge, but there’s no doubt about it that we have the same forefathers. Sengenberger’s not really a common name. My father had connected with him before via e-mail, chatting back and forth about the family line, and when my sister had her semester abroad, she went to visit him in Munich. On Wednesday I messaged my friend Emily on Facebook and said “Do you want to go to Munich this weekend?” None of my friends wanted to travel this weekend, feeling exhausted and broke from 10-day, so I was really hoping I could find someone to go with me. And Emily said yes! So we planned the trip in about 20 minutes and everything was set. We left Gaming at 5am on Friday morning (ouch) and arrived in Munich around 10:30am. We found Jürgen pretty easily- he was waiting for us right as we got off the train! He drove us to his apartment to drop off our things and then we went into the city!

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a ton of pictures, so you’ll just have to trust my ability to use descriptive language to guide you through Munich. As far as bigger cities go, it reminded me a lot of Pittsburgh. Walking around the Advent Markt was reminiscent of being in the Strip District. Jürgen graciously explained to us the important sights, the big buildings, the historical locations…but most wonderful of all, we made a lunch stop at the famous Hofbräuhas. It wasn’t quite the craziness of Oktoberfest, but it had a feel just busy enough to make it exciting. Jürgen gave us the low down on the must-have items on the menu, including white sausages, originally form Bavaria, with sweet mustard, bretzels (pretzels), and their wheat beer. It was perfectly, wonderfully delicious, and that beer is one of my most memorable from all of my travels. Sometimes it’s more about who you share it with.

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A couple other notable stops were watching river surfing on the Eisbach, where waves are generated in the river and locals have made a sport of it. We also walked through the beautiful expanse of the English garden, enjoying the simple beauty in the day of perfect weather.

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         After a day of exploring the city, we went back to Jürgen’s apartment, where his wife Petra made dinner for us. I can’t even explain to you the immense joy at having a home-cooked meal, surrounded by a family. Something so familiar makes you feel like you aren’t so many, many miles from home after all. Emily and I basically sobbed over the mashed potatoes (they don’t have good ones in Gaming) and enjoyed Jürgen’s excellent wine. Jürgen took some time to tell me about the research he has done in regards to our family tree, attempting to find the point at which some of our ancestors when to America and where it has gone from there. The most interesting part of it all was when he explained what our name means in German. “Berg” means mountain, while “sengen” means to singe or scorch, referring to a farming technique in which farmers would light the fields on fire after the harvest, burning away whatever remnants were left, so that they could re-till the soil and prepare it for new crops. I found that beautiful, in a spiritual sense: how what is dead must be removed, burned away, so that the soul is purified and ready for new life, new growth. Basically my name means Scorching Mountain. I’m pretty okay with that. The next morning, we left Jürgen’s after some espresso and made the journey back to Gaming. We didn’t do much on the trip, didn’t go to all of the major tourist attractions or get pictures of every monument. But being able to touch a part of my history I had never known before was an unforgettable experience. I am ever so grateful for the hospitality of Jürgen and his family and the dear friendship of Emily.

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Jürgen Sengenberger and I

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