Best of both worlds... beloved Bavaria.

We recently returned from Southern California, where we were lucky enough to spend a year and a half exploring the Westcoast. Upon our return to Germany, we are frequently asked what we miss about California (which we happily reminisced about here) and what we have missed about Germany.

So here is a little list about what we love about being back in Bavaria, in no particular order, as we consider ourselves blessed to have had such an incredible adventure abroad. And to now safely be 'home' again.

So here we go.

Beloved Bavaria, here are twenty things we love about you:

1. we love being closer to our family and many of our friends again and to be able to (physically) be present for meaningful moments and major milestones. In the few weeks we have been back there have been births and baptisms, announcements, and engagements, weddings and yes, also some sadder news. And we are grateful to be closer in proximity to share in all of this with the ones we love.

2. we love having easy access to fresh-baked, healthy bread again. This was not easy to come by in California. We vowed to bake our own bread while in the US but, of course, that did not happen. I blame Corona. So you can imagine our delight to easily find healthy bread again. At the moment our family is obsessed with the "Whole & Pure" bread by 'La nouvelle Boulangerie' (available here). This oat-based whole-food bread consists solely of natural oil seeds (as well as pumpkin and sunflower seeds) and is therefore rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and fiber. It is made without any flour, yeast, or additives. The benefits? Omega-3 fatty acids protect our cardiovascular function and unlike other healthy bread, this one tastes heavenly (try it with some avocado, a dash of salt, and some micro-greens) and is also 100% kids approved! And no, this is not an ad. We are just really happy to have discovered this bread.

3. we love having easy access to traditional, hearty German (ok, ok and Austrian) dishes again. I am talking Wienerschnitzel, Weisswürste, and best of all, Kaiserschmarrn.

4. we love German infrastructure, and whenever we return from the US, the first place we notice this is on the road. Compared to most US highways, the German Autobahn is better maintained, allowing for a smoother driving experience. While living and traveling around California, it became quite apparent to us just how much urgent attention the US surface transportation structure requires (looking at you here, future POTUS!).

Oh, and needless to say: we love to drive faster again too!

5. we love that we now live somewhere where we don't necessarily have to use our car. While in California we would easily sit in our cars for hours just driving the kids back and forth to a birthday party, we now ride our bikes, walk, or use public transportation as much as we can. Better for the environment. Better for us.

6. we love that we arrived back in Germany just in time for our youngest daughter Florence (6) to enter first grade and to experience this special day with all its German traditions:

🎓 the (hour-long!) selection of the best-fitting Schulranzen (backpack)

🎓 the creation and hand-over of the traditional Schultüte (dating back to the early 19th century, a paper cone is filled with candy and school utensils to 'sweeten' the thought of having to attend school for the next 12 - 13 years)

🎓 the special welcome ceremony where teachers (and in our town even the mayor!) greet the children and where parents, relatives, and godparents all join to celebrate the child as he/she embarks on their academic journey. Unforgettable!

7. As dedicated soccer fans (the FC Bayern Munich being their team obsession), my husband Philip and son Nicolas (11) are beyond thrilled to be back in close proximity to "The Reds" as well as their place of worship: the Allianz Arena - the infamous soccer stadium located in the north of Munich. While Philip made sure to immediately set up ESPN+ in our home in California (which has the exclusive rights to the German Bundesliga), I know my boys are happy to have the 'real deal' again and to be watching games at civil times. And needless to say that I don't miss having to watch breakfast!

8. we love being so close to the water - still.

Germany has more than 12,200 scenic lakes, most of which offer water activities throughout the year, such as water sailing, surfing, waterskiing, swimming, kayaking and canoeing, and windsurfing. And when you are standing at the shore of a Bavarian lake, Lake Starnberg and the Tegernsee being our favorite, chances are high that you will get some of the best Alpine scenery there is.

9. we love walking in German forests and the kids love collecting beechnuts, chestnuts, and pine cones during fall. These were a little hard to come by in California (with the Coulter pine more native to the coastal mountains of Southern California).

10. we love that we have German bakeries again transporting us back to our childhood memories: Stollen, Black Forest Cake, Lebkuchen, Marzipan & Co. Bring. It. On.

11. the kids love living somewhere where it rains (more than in California). Now, I do not agree with them (at all) but I do see where there are coming from. My daughter Josephine, especially, missed the rain in California, and on the few occasions it did rain, she grabbed all her rain gear and rushed outside only to realize that the rain was barely existent... and warm. So now my European kids have one of the things they missed the most: cold rain, muddy puddles that would make Peppa proud, and being able to use their FROZEN umbrellas. What's in for me, you ask? Rainbows. I am always looking for rainbows.

12. we love that we no longer have to calculate the time difference between the Westcoast and the rest of the US or Europe before calling (most) people. That was somewhat tiresome but, at the same time, also the cause for many surprising and comical conversations, exchanges, and situations...only time can tell!

13. we love that where we now live, we are able to get a dog. In California (where we rented our home, knowing it was only a temporary stay) landlords are allowed to put a restriction on the type and size of pets (which is what happened to us) or even deny pets altogether (with the exception of service animals). In Germany (besides the fact that we have a landlord who is permitting us to have a dog) landlords can also include an approval clause in the tenancy agreement, but on principle, they have no way of prohibiting dogs altogether. In any case, we will soon be joined by a new family member. And are looking forward to it!

14. Philip loves drinking real beer again. Real beer. Plain and simple. Happiness in a glass.

15. we love that we can go to Oktoberfest again. Maybe not this year, but hopefully next.

16. we love being so close to other countries and cultures again with Germany sharing borders with nine other European countries (Denmark in the north, Poland and the Czech Republic in the east, Switzerland (its only non-EU neighbor) and Austria in the south, France in the southwest and Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in the west).

And just like the saying suggests, we didn't really realize what we had 'at our doorstep' until it was gone. Only when traveling and exploring the Westcoast did we come to understand the wealth of European history that we had yet to discover. And the privilege of living so close that we are able to do so. So on that note: Prag, Stockholm, Oslo... as soon as we are allowed to travel again, we are coming for you!

17. we love being able to (re)discover Germany again now that we are back in Europe (and the kids are older). Schloss Neuschwanstein, the black forest, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg.... so much to still see! Yikes!

18. we love that we get to experience the enchanting German Christmas markets again (maybe not this year, but soon enough). Our favorite one in Munich is the one at the Chinese Tower in the English Garden - magical. Oh, and did I mention that I love having Glühwein back in my life? Double magic.

19. we love that most bars and clubs (and even some restaurants) in Germany are usually open until dawn. It's not like we need to stay up past 2 am (California's 'last call') every night, but we like to know that we have options. Yes, even at 40.

20. I love that stores are closed on Sundays and that you can use this day to rest.

Ok, this is a total lie. It drives me crazy that I have to plan for the weekend on a Friday and that most stores in Bavaria close at 12 pm on a Saturday. It annoys me that stores are completely closed on Sundays (with a few exceptions during the year) and that I am the ONLY ONE who is always standing in front of some locked door on one of Bavarias many religious-based holidays. And knowing that my only options to buy something on a Sunday are a gas station, a train station or the airport doesn't make this any better. BUT, here is the thing: I really want to love that stores are closed on Sunday. That our family is being given the gift of time to unwind and be together, without any distractions, without any to-dos. So it is just a matter of getting used to the Bavarian shopping hours again and until then... I'll see you at the airport. But only on a Sunday ✌🏻.

Beloved Bavaria, thank you for the warmest welcome - literally. Your heat-filled summer nights made our transition to Germany easy and the love and support with which we were welcomed back by family and friends (old and new) are everything to us. So thank you.

Philip and I plan to stay put for a while. But then, again, one never knows.

Our hope is to always keep moving. To keep discovering.

In body. Or mind.

Because remember: in life, you are always a student, never a master (Conrad Hall).

On that note, sending love and light to all of you,

xx Chantal

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