My Inner German

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

Today I am not going to write an educational post. This is a more personal post. It is about my journey with touching an innate vein within myself and one that I am still trying to find answers with. It is about my brush with my inner German.

Zurich, April 2014

It was a trip that I was looking forward to. I planned the Switzerland self-drive trip meticulously and tirelessly. My wife and me were travelling back to Europe for the first time since our honeymoon in 2011. Being a Top Gear fan and petrol head, I was looking forward to driving on the Stelvio Pass in Italy as well as on the speed derestricted German autobahns. The journey for this free spirited trip would require me to drive through Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Northern Italy. I had not driven in the continent before, hence there were much preparation like reading up on the dos and don’ts of European driving, driving through weather and even the testing of cars which I could potentially drive there.

We landed in Zurich on 17 April 2014 and the first thing we did was to get our rental vehicle from Hertz. It wasn’t the smoothest of transactions but eventually we ended up with a Volvo V40 D3 and our journey commence. Now, I did try to rudimentarily learn German phrases through an audio book before my trip. But it wasn’t really useful. The German speaking Swiss and Germans spoke English to me even when I tried my awkward German phrases with them. I never did learn to read German. Not ever in my life.

Reading German

My first surprise actually happened before we landed in Zurich. I was on the flight from Helsinki to Zurich when I saw a businessman reading a German newspaper. I looked at the first page of his newspaper and read the German words and realise I could decipher what was the news about. I brushed it off and thought I was probably just guessing it wrong.

Driving the Volvo out of Zurich Kloten airport, I realised I could read most of the road signs and proceeded on my way to Liechtenstein, a small little country within Switzerland. I reached Liechtenstein and we stopped at a supermarket to buy some groceries and drinking water. I saw a parking space when I saw the word, “Für Kunden” written on it. I thought it meant “for customers”, hence I parked, and went over to some of the old ladies at the supermarket to check on its actual meaning. They said, “Für Kunden means it is for customers’.

I was taken aback.

We walked around Liechtenstein, exploring the surroundings of Vaduz Castle and I began reading more signs and 70 percent of the time, I could guess the meaning. I remembered telling myself, this is queer.

The Principality of Liechtenstein

My wife and I drove on to Austria and the revelation stuck on the back of my mind. Probably, I had a good grasp of language and after all the German language is written in a way similar to English, maybe I could guess the same for other languages.

This was untrue,  I had no such faculty for other languages such as French, Italian and Finnish. I was all at sea when I got to those places.

Déjà Vu Feeling

It was during a drive in Southwest Bavaria where I encountered a strange Déjà vu feeling, we had wanted to visit Lindenhof Palace but realise that we were too late. The palace had closed for the afternoon and we to cross back into Telfes Im Stubai, Austria where our hotel for that night was. The sun was setting as I drove almost hastily to try to reach Telfes before it gets dark. For in my mind, I was worried that I might encounter snowy roads as I approach Innsbruck, Austria. I would not want to drive in the snow in the dark.

Shortly, after I left Lindenhof Palace, I was driving along a German country road in Southwest Bavaria with the sun setting in the horizon. A feeling struck me. The country felt familiar. It felt comfortable and almost homely. The golden sunset was shining through the windscreen, the pine trees and forest lined the roads. The trees waving gently in the breeze. The snow-capped Alps in the distance. The winding road simply felt very familiar. To put it simply, it felt that I have come home.

Somewhere in Southwest Bavaria but not near where I encountered the déjà vu feeling

Munich in 2015

I went Munich in 2015 and also went round much of Germany in this further trip. The Déjà vu feeling didn’t occur but Germany felt very comfortable to me. I did not went back to that road near Lindenhof  Palace. However,  I managed to travel around Germany with ease. I was comfortable with the environment, the food and my reading ability served me well. Perhaps, the only thing that didn’t agree with me in Germany was the abrupt weather. It could be sunny in one moment and snowing, hailing, raining in the next moment.

I couldn’t say I felt at home in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. The environments felt foreign.

At ease with the German language

I continued to have the ability to read German fairly. It served me well especially I need to purchase items from for business, I do not even need to change the language to English to navigate and make purchases. I could also read news websites like in German for a more European view of world matters as opposed to BBC or CNN.

Was I, in my previous life a German?

I wonder if anyone out there have an experience like this before?


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