After an almost 18 month hiatus from European trips, we managed to celebrate Johan’s 20th birthday in Germany -a tradition we broke last year due to COVID. From the moment he joined FSV Zwickau for pre-season, the club has showed him plenty of love and we were there to witness it all. Caveat: this post contains many pictures for us “visual learners“.
The experience was superb. The 5260 mile trip (just to Frankfurt) from the Dallas Fort Worth airport was all worth it. It was a 9.25 hour flight plus a 4 hour drive from Frankfurt to Zwickau but anytime you go see your son, distance is never a factor. Upon our arrival, Johan had just returned from practice and welcomed us with open arms (and a spanking spotless clean apartment). Mom was proud.
Renting a car was extremely easy from Enterprise; it’s normally very expensive but we found an excellent rate. We made a reservation for an automatic transmission and were given a VW Passat stick shift (which I loved). Driving in Germany is very fun other than getting used to driving in the autobahns. One needs to stay super alert especially while occupying the fast lane as there’s many no speed limit zones and there’s always a car going faster than you. That’s right, I was able to accelerate to 225 km/hr (150 miles/hour) effortless. Also, there’s no passing on the right lane. Absolutely none.
Station wagons are extremely popular in Germany and that’s what we rented. We first rented a 2021 Volkswagen Passat until it gave up on us. After that, we got a 2021 Škoda Octavia which we loved because it had a lot of bells and whistles that you don’t typically find in American sold cars. Both did a great job taking us all over Germany and the Czech Republic.
One of the first family activities we did was grocery shopping. Johan’s apartment is very close to an Aldi. We didn’t know that Aldi was a German company so these grocery stores are everywhere. Aldis got us out of trouble in a bind as their setup is very similar to what we have back home. Thus, even if you don’t speak German, it’s easier to locate items and navigate the store without needing to be fluent in German.
Having learned Portuguese the past couple of years has helped us learn other languages. Currently, we are learning some German but not at the same rate as Johan. He’s fully immersed in it day in and day out. Our first impression is that it’s not as difficult as people make it sound. Juan Carrera gave us some pretty good advice prior to our trip: the younger generation speaks English fluently due to their frequent social media interactions; however, the older generation doesn’t. It sets expectations when we were out and about. Some phrases that came in very handy:
- Sprichst du English – Do you speak English?
- Ich spreche kern Englisch – I don’t speak English
- Nimmst du Euro – Do you take Euros?
- Ich bin Amerikaner – I’m American
- Wo kann ich ein nei taxi nehmen – Where can I take a taxi (they don’t have Uber service in a lot of cities in Germany)
Zwickau is the fourth largest city in the state of Saxony. Located in the mid-Southeast part of the country, it is surrounded by a lot of wind farms. Summers are beautiful, and the 60-70 degree Fahrenheit summer days are ideal for strolling through downtown which we often did.
Zwickau is one of the centers of the German automotive industry. While there, we were able to visit the renowned August Horch Museum.
August Horch Museum
The automobile museum covers the history of automobile making in the town of Zwickau. It takes us back in time when the company Audi was founded by August Horch. Note: The first part of the museum is described mostly in the German language while the more modern sections are in both German and English languages. There may be English speaking museum tours available but there weren’t any when we went. Allocate at least two hours to see it all.
The museum is a must see for automobile lovers (especially German automobiles). There are cars that date back to both World Wars just as seen in the movies. The museum is housed within the old factory where Engineer August Horch established Audi Automobilwerke GmbH in 1910. Audi was founded in 1909. The four rings of the Audi (now subsidiary of Volkswagen) logo each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union.
Fortunately, we were there to accompany Johan for the obligatory club welcoming pictures. See Instagram post below. Good quality, wonder who took most of them.
Start of the season
The first game was at home (GGZ Arena) against recently promoted Borussia Dortummund II. From the moment we entered the stadium, that experience requires its own post so we’ll leave it at that for now.
We are glad we got to see your pre-match European ritual and at the stadium were treated as VIPs. Thank you Johan.
Unfortunately, the outcome of the game was a 1-2 defeat but it was a great game to watch (Zwickau should have won it). It was his first official game as a professional in Germany in his new position, with the first team. Johan had a very solid game. Below are a couple of actions where he almost impacted the game directly.
For the second game, we drove to Köln. It was a five hour (481 Km) drive from Zwickau on a Saturday morning but the fan support was never lacking and the game against Viktoria Köln did not disappoint. It was Johan’s first game as a starter and the final result was a 1-1. We took the obligatory pictures at the end of the match and coach allowed him to drive back with us. We made some memories on the way back and even got lost…
Mondays are normally off days for Johan and we always wanted to sight-see Berlin. The cosmopolitan city is not only Germany’s capital; it’s a must-see city with so much history. We decided to embark in the 300 kilometer trek in a one-day trip rolling down autobahn 4 from Zwickau. There’s so much to do and see, we’ll have to visit it again in the future.
Berlin Wall Memorial
We visited the Berlin Wall Memorial. It’s an incredible feeling when one is actually at the place where so much history took place. Quick trip but educational and meaningful for the “kids”. At a personal level, the Berlin Wall brings back so many -not so-pleasant memories.
Berlin Television Tower (aka Fernsehturm Berlin)
Erected at 368 meters in the midst of the East Germany superiority, the television tower is the main visible landmark in Berlin and the tallest in Europe. We now have visited towers throughout the world. Dallas, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Seattle, etc. They all offer a unique perspective and view of their respective city. Unfortunately, an due to COVID protocols, we were unable to have lunch at the top of the tower.
Prague is beautiful. One must reserve several days to see it and truly enjoy it. Driving into it from the north, makes it seem like the old communist Czech Republic with its old coal power plans. However, once one reaches Prague, one finds a very cosmopolitan city with a contrasting of old European architecture everywhere. As any big European city, there are designer stores everywhere. We had an opportunity to visit Saint Charles Bridge, Town Square, etc. It was too short but we know we’ll be back to see Johan very soon.
Return to Germany
If the delta variant continues to spread in the US at the current rapid rate, it’s possible entry to Germany may be limited to non-citizens (us). There were changes made yesterday already (they are revised every two weeks).
Thus, we will return to visit Johan before October to ensure we regain entry into the country and stay with him an adequate amount of time to provide him family support. For now, we left him with his super equipped apartment (nice view), his car setup and more importantly, in great hands with Coach Joe and staff. Enjoy the time in Germany son. #theGomezway
Give Chumchat’s new episode a listen. Johan talks about his move to Germany from Portugal and how that is going. For those of you thinking about playing in Portugal, he compares the Portuguese playing style to the German playing style and sets some expectations based on his experience. Playing for the first team now is a different responsibility (player experience-wise); one that still carries the weight of a promotion/relegation eco-system but one that he has welcomed with open arms. Go show Johan and the Chums some love.