Grace Lower | May 23, 2017
One of the most challenging parts of travel is saying goodbye to a place you’ve grown to love, without knowing when you’ll return.
Short-term travel can be bittersweet. A brief trip offers just a glimpse of a destination, and it’s easy to feel a touch of remorse when you consider what you might have missed. And then there’s the classic traveler’s dilemma: when your next great adventure rolls around, do you revisit a beloved location or explore someplace new? Although I nearly always decide to visit a new destination, Augsburg, Germany has been the exception, time and time again.
Tucked away in Germany’s foothills, Augsburg is as rich with beauty as it is with history. There’s plenty to marvel at as a tourist, but I have a personal connection to the city, too. I grew up in a German-American household, and a good portion of my extended family lives in the Augsburg area today. Although I didn’t get a chance to visit Germany as a child, much of who I am was shaped by my German heritage. From my love of sauerkraut to my mild obsession with cleanliness and order, it’s no surprise that I’ve felt right at home in Augsburg each time I’ve visited. In fact, I’m already planning ways to get over to Augsburg again—and there are plenty of reasons why.
While Augsburg is beautiful, it’s the people that always keep me coming back. Germans are often stereotyped as being aloof and stern, but the fun-loving family and friends that I met in Augsburg certainly don’t fit that description.
When I first visited Augsburg with my family, I wasn’t sure what to make of the people I met. Interacting with distant relatives can feel forced, at times—and when you throw in a language barrier, things can get downright awkward. My command of the German language doesn’t extend beyond basic phrases like “pass the butter,” and my cousins’ English had been largely forgotten. But there was one thing we could all get behind: good food and good beer. When we sat down to dinner together, my German aunts heaped wurstsalat and potatoes onto my plate, egging me on to eat more and more. We ended our night laughing uproariously over pints of beer.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to cherish the relationship I have with my German family, especially my younger cousins. Finding a group of peers is a great strategy to make any foreign city feel like home, and my cousins create something of a built-in friend group when I’m in town. While they are sure to accompany me to all of Augsburg’s tourist hubs, my cousins also go out of their way to ensure that we have fun, too. We spent one afternoon racing go-karts (and if you’ve never go-karted with a group of Autobahn-seasoned Germans, you’re missing out on a major adrenaline rush). Another night, we sat around at a bar and talked politics for hours on end. We even spent a rainy afternoon binge-watching Sons of Anarchy, for some inexplicable reason. Although I have only met my German cousins a handful of times, our easy friendship is always the highlight of my trip. And I know that no matter where my travels take me, I’ll always have people to see and a place to stay in Augsburg.
And then there’s the city itself. For me, Augsburg is a place that feels at once incredibly familiar, yet distinctly German. As the largest city on the Romantic Road, Augsburg is also one of Germany’s oldest destinations. Its cobblestone streets, centuries-old buildings, and wealth of outdoor cafes give it an undeniable charm. Despite its historical prominence, Augsburg isn’t as tourist-dense as destinations like Munich or Berlin. As a mid-sized city, it’s fairly easy to navigate—even for a directionally-challenged person like me. What’s more, Augsburg’s electric tram system makes transportation a breeze.
Yet despite these factors that make Augsburg unique, there are plenty of elements that remind me of home. Like many of my favorite U.S. cities, Augsburg is teeming with hip coffee shops and proud local breweries. And if you think Americans have a thing for meat and potatoes, the Germans will give you a run for your money. The traditional food in Augsburg—and throughout Bavaria—is hearty, starchy, and calorie-dense. But that’s not to say that Augsburg doesn’t offer diversity. Because of a recent uptick in immigration, new African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern restaurants have begun emerging along city streets. While the U.S. likes to call itself the world’s melting pot, there’s plenty of multiculturalism in Augsburg, too.
The Thing About Augsburg…
Beyond any of its attractions or people, what I love most about Augsburg is its familiarity. I’ve visited the city several times now, and while there’s something new to discover each time I return, the city’s key characteristics and unmistakable charm remain unchanged. As a traveler, there’s something comforting about revisiting a favorite place. Sometimes a bit of familiarity is the perfect cure for homesickness—even when I’m still thousands of miles away from home.
Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.