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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carlos

Romantic Germany

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

Germany is my second home as well as my gateway to all things European. I've always had this affinity to European culture and history. Follow me as I write about how living in Germany has opened my eyes to a bigger world and how it has brought spark again to my creative passions.

aerial view of a landscape
Inspired by the German landscape viewed from a hot air balloon. "Up in the Air" | Mixed Media | 2019

A Ride of My Life

While riding my practically antique second-hand bicycle on my way to my German language class, which happened four hours a day, five times a week for the first three months of living in Karlsruhe, a charming little city at the western border of Germany adjacent to the river Rhein and France, I stopped to look around my surrounding. "I am in Europe," I thought. "I AM IN EUROPE!" I screamed in excitement in my head and then carried on.

landscape of fields and trees
Soft light and shadows sweep the German landscape

What I saw in that moment were the pastel-painted apartments with their gabled rooftops towering over me and the fact that I was riding a bicycle along narrow streets together with other bicycle riders on their way to their daily routines. Life seemed so effortless and simple. What I also saw was the softness of light and shadows as though a delicate haze filtered the surroundings. The sun never went directly overhead and I never sweat even after the exercise.

Storybook Land

The first thought I had when I saw the villages along the Autobahn, German highway, was that they all looked like they sprouted straight from a storybook page: uniform vermillion rooftops bedeck white-washed boxy houses, church steeples shoot up the sometimes blue, sometimes dull skies, and endless rows of pine trees and wheat fields provide no empty space. If you're lucky, you'd catch a glimpse of grazing deers on vast green meadows and I always looked out for them. No wonder fairytales were born from these lands for the stage has already been carefully set.

Four Seasons

Having been born in a tropical country, the coming of the seasons was such a treat to me. Where I came from, we only had either rain or shine or both at the same time! Experiencing the four seasons made me appreciate more the beauty and wonders of nature. Everyday, on the way to the university, now in Stuttgart, I strolled for half an hour or longer through a cemetery so I could just marvel at my surroundings. I followed little blue birds and red squirrels from tree to tree, touched and smelled the alien plants that constantly changed colors and photographed literally and in my mind’s eyes everything I saw.

Spring time saturated my eyes, while summer was a feast and winter on the first day of snow was thrilling until everything turned muddy and grey and disappointing. Golden autumn was my favorite maybe because I‘m a November baby.

I wanted so much to keep the seasons within my reach that I began gardening even though I haven't a clue how to nor a plot to start with.

My tiny urban garden in Stuttgart, which I tended with help from my husband.

All Things Old and Kitsch

Where else would you find a perennial Christmas land than in a Christmas-themed store in Germany? And I thought my country, the Philippines, is quite severe with celebrating the happiest holiday season in the world. Have you been to any of the traditional Weihnachstmärkte, Christmas markets, and ride a miniature train or wind through the kiosks of Christmas goodies amidst the rushing people carrying either warm packets of candied almonds or glasses of muled wine? We even did a Christmas market hopping with our Parisian friends in Alsace, a province of France but formerly German and then French again. It's all marvelous and crazy beautiful! You will find all sorts of knick-knacks you think you need but end up boxing away after the holidays. The kitschiness, though, goes beyond this season because you will find inside and outside every house a certain kind of odd decorations and details that weirdly work all together. One home I've been to had sheeps all over even on their serviettes just because they are a family of shepherds. Garden gnomes? Yes, please! They are, by the way, generally believed to be of German origin.

A Good Education

Studying again was never a plan but under the circumstances, it was the only preferable option to reunite with the love of my life in his own country. In our case, someone had to move. It was a good way to expand my film restoration expertise anyway and so I went to a prestigious fine arts university in Stuttgart to take up my masters degree in new media conservation. Though I didn't really attend any of the traditional fine arts courses there, I felt and witnessed how a proper art school should be. In there I was acquainted with Bauhaus design and architecture, performance art, video art and art restoration despite the language barrier. It was the most academic work I've done in my life that proved to be a splendid means to learn and understand the German genius and discipline.

Where I came from, we only had either rain or shine or both at the same time!

Going Global

Once I started speaking their language, I was able to break through the communication barrier, buy bread on my own and in two years finish my degree with flying colors. Strangely, by learning German, I was able to meet so many people from everywhere, who greatly contributed to my global education. The country has also been my gateway to an unfamiliar world that is now incessantly expanding. Living and breathing Europe also brought me closer to the great works of art that I only used to admire in books. For example, I've frequented museums, art galleries, adjacent bookstores and gelato stalls. But more importantly, the entire expatriate experience also gave me a sense of who I really am and what I am capable of achieving. How does that relate to making art? You'll see.

a dark lake surrounded by animals and trees
A fairytale land plucked from my mixed memories of Germany and Japan. "The Lake" | Watercolor, Gouache and Acrylic | 2019


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