/48/ Everyone has roots somewhere…

The plane touched down on the runway at Flughafen München with a jerk, and my stomach leapt into my throat. I’m not a nervous flier at all. In fact, I fly far too frequently to have a good conscience about it, self-proclaimed environmentalist that I am. But arriving in Munich, whether that means pulling into the cavernous central train station, driving down the Autobahn with the majesty of the Alps straight ahead, or alighting on the tarmac just outside of the city, will never fail to bring up a wealth of mixed emotions in me, which were on this occasional elegantly expressed through a gentle churning in my gut. I suppressed it, and got on the train which would take me “home”…

{The S-Bahn train to my town, just outside Munich}

Of course it’s exciting to return to the city I was born in, visit the town I grew up in, reunite with the family that once surrounded me, and encounter the familiar Frau Krug, a florist who remembers six-year-old me coming in to buy flowers with my Mama. But there is always this uncertainty about whether I am actually allowed to call it (Munich – Bavaria – Germany) home anymore, closely connected to the anxiety that someone will call me their “British niece” or say “oh, that’s Andrea and Bill’s girl, from England”. And I won’t have you calling my anxiety stupid. You try having a well-meaning friend or family member casually and obliviously divorce you from what forms a good half of your identity and see how it feels. Huff.

{My grandmother’s Advent table}

But of course, no such disaster took place. I got to spend an incredible day with my intelligent, inspirational and interesting grandmother, who told me about her youth. She was sent to a convent in Berlin, where she met and soon became engaged to a young man. They fell in love surrounded by a Europe in upheaval, as a failed artist called Adolf Hitler rose and rose and rose. Before long, her young man became a young soldier, and she would spend evenings sitting with his mother, writing him letters. He fought in North Africa, and was taken captive by the American troops, but survived and returned home to find though the war had left him his life, it had not left them their love.

{My grandmother on her balcony looking at the Alps} {The view from my Munich hotel}

That evening I walked through the magical Munich Christmas market, eating Germknödel, and realised that clinging to my childhood made no more sense than my grandmother clinging to her fiancé. Times change, and people with them. My grandmother ended up meeting and marrying another man, and I ended up in England. Are those events sad? Are the stories tragic just because they ended? No. Hopefully next time I come to Bavaria, I will be more at peace with my national identity and less dependent how others see me and where I’m from.

{Christmas isn’t complete without Glühwein!}


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