Trains


Originally posted during the summer of 2012, while I was studying abroad in Bonn, Germany.

I’m traveling on a train through Germany. When I told one of my close friends that I was studying abroad in Germany for the summer, he got angry with me. Many people just can’t forgive.

Even though people take trains every day in this country, and in the rest of Central Europe, for me it’s an interesting experience. As per usual with things regarding Germany, mere ideas like that of a train, can bring certain connotations that I’d rather not discuss. The stigma of German equals Nazi has never been part of my language though; maybe because my grandmother was German, or maybe because I try to be tolerant and have studied enough about the subject; I erased that backward idea from my head long ago.

Likewise, a couple of years back, when I traveled through Poland to visit several concentration and extermination camps, learning about the Holocaust, I didn’t have any kind of resentment, fear nor hatred towards the locals, as many of my peers did. Knowing about the high rates of anti-Semitism in Poland, I wasn’t afraid to walk on the street on my own (even though I didn’t, and wasn’t allowed to) and had no problem with being openly identified as Jewish. Even months later, when I traveled in Europe with only two friends, I enjoyed my stay in Germany much more than in other European countries we got to visit, and had no bitterness whatsoever.

So why is it that the moment that I sat foot on the Frankfurt airport on this trip my judgment had changed so much? Why is it that, suddenly, hearing people speaking in German, particularly old men with white hair, felt so uncomfortable and deeply disturbing? There is only one explanation I can find: unlike before, I’m traveling alone. Interestingly, every time I’ve traveled to Europe, it’s been not from Costa Rica, but from Israel. As I sit here, at least three policemen and one soldier have walked through the cabin. I have absolutely nothing against them, or any other of the people surrounding me. The important thing is to forgive, but never forget. More on this uncomfortable topic to come soon.

-Bonn, Germany. July 2, 2012.

*Update: Effectively, as soon as I got together with the group, the awkward feeling disappeared completely. 

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