SLICE OF LIFE: There's no place like the homeland

2013-02-17T00:00:00Z SLICE OF LIFE: There's no place like the homelandBy Vanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

Back in the day, when I was young and dumb and swiping my credit card so often that the numbers turned soft and rounded, I went to Europe.

Well, I went a couple of times, hence my decision a few years ago to cut up all my credit cards and put them in an envelope dramatically labeled "Never Again."

But this isn't a story about my love/hate relationship with credit cards, which I have since learned are to be respected and are quite necessary when you want to rent a car. 

It's a story about Germany, my second favorite country. Actually, it's a story about family.

In summer 2006, I joined my friend Megan and her family on a trip to Europe. Her brother, Nick, is in the Air Force and was stationed in England.

We spent some time there, but the bulk of our trip was in Germany, at a military resort called Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It's a vacation town in southern Germany.

The train ride from Munich was breathtaking. Big, open green fields rolled out like carpet, butting up against the base of the Alps that cut jagged into the sky. From our resort window, we could see the Zugspitze, Germany's tallest mountain.

A lot of our time was scheduled. A bus trip here, lunch there, a visit to a castle. But during those in-between moments—the winding down before bed or the silence of the bus ride on the way to our next stop—I soaked in the country.

I felt a connection. It was that "home away from home" feeling you get at a best friend's house or your favorite baseball stadium. This was my motherland.

My roots are varied, with connections to Germany, Hungary, Ireland and Lithuania, mostly. I've been to Ireland and loved it. But it was Germany that really felt like home.

This week, a relative I know only through e-mails posted a link that traces our family tree. It was like a virtual trunk in the attic.

There were lists of names, places of birth, years of death and occupations. And it traced back to Germany.

Whenever someone says something stereotypical of an ethnicity, "Oh, he's got an Irish temper," or "She's Italian, so she must be a good cook," I roll my eyes.

Temper and cooking skills aren't inherited. We're individuals, with our own DNA, our own interests and our own set of strengths and weaknesses.

But when I saw that link, and I read the German names and birthplaces, I couldn't help but think that there's a reason I bonded with Germany.

It's in my blood.

Vanessa Renderman is a reporter for The Times. You can reach her at

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