In March 1987, I was selected to attend a course in the then Bundesrepublik Deutschland (or Federal Republic of Germany), more popularly known as West Germany.
The course itself would last for about one and a half years, until August 1988 and was part of a program by West Germany to channel its contribution to the continued development of developing countries, and for us who got selected, the course was fully funded by one of Germany’s well-known foundations, the Carl-Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG).
The first five months was dedicated to the learning of the German language, comprising of Hochdeutsch (official German) and Fachsprache (Technical language). And we were to be given our introduction to the German language at one of CDG’s centers, located at Saarbruecken.
Saarbruecken is the capital of the state of Saarland, and is located not far from the German-French border as well as from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (see map below).
It’s also not far from the town called Trier, which is the birthplace of the founder of Socialism, Karl Marx (1818-1883). The house where he was born is now a museum and a very popular one at that, especially with tourists from China.
Despite it all, I have never been to Trier and have never visited the museum, which over the years, a decision I came to regret, for historical reasons. If ever I were to be again in the area, I would definitely make a beeline for Trier. For historical purposes, more than anything else.
Saarbruecken is a typical German town, but with strong French influences. This is not surprising as it is near the French border and after WWII, was under the administration of the French. The main attractions that I can remember are the Rathaus (which is loosely translated as the City Hall), the Flea Market (held on Saturdays), and the many pubs in the city known as ‘kneipe’. And as like many modern cities, they have their fair share of supermarkets eg Kaufhalle etc.
All these were a part of our introduction to Germany, its language, its culture and its heritage and its way of life. One of the things that is the pride of Germany is its beer. Apparently, every state and/or region in Germany has its own trademark beer and the German state of Saarland is no different. And the Germans love their beer, they do.
My group, comprising of 2 Malaysians, 3 Thais, 5 Indonesians and 3 Filipinos, were based for two months in Saarbruecken before we were moved to Dortmund for the next phase of our German adventure.
Located in the Ruhr Valley in the state of NordRhein-Westfalen, Dortmund was deep in the industrial area called the Ruhrgebiet. The Ruhrgebiet played a very important role in the German Industrial Revolution and still is the heart of the German industrial scene. Coal is still being mined albeit not as much as before.
And looking back, that was what it was, an adventure. A new country, a new language, a new culture, a new way of life and a new experience. And the adventure continued when we moved to Dortmund. But that’s another story.
Bis Naechtes Mal, Tschuess!!!!!