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Fernweh, Heimweh, and Coming Home


The German language has a lot of really interesting words. For example, “brustwartze,” literally translated “breast wart,” is the German word for nipple. More on topic though, and one of my recent favorites, is the word “Fernweh.” The literal translation is “far sickness.” It’s a longing for far away places, an ache for travel and exploration. Of course, the German language also produced the ever popular “wanderlust,” a desire to wander, but something about Fernweh strikes a deeper chord in me. It’s like you HAVE to get out and see the world because there’s an aching in your soul, a sickness that can only be cured by far away places. It’s the feeling that amazing things are going on all around the world and you just have to get out there and see them and you just wont feel like yourself until you do.

In my case, my Fernweh is always coupled with “Heimweh,” or homesickness. When I travel, by the end of the trip, I’m ready to go back home (whether that’s Mainz or the US), get in a routine, eat at my favorite restaurants, cook in my kitchen, binge watch Game of Thrones and New Girl, and get back to the gym (or not).  I’m ready to get back to my own familiar nook in the world.  In a recent episode of Girls, Hannah was hesitant to move to the midwest for grad school for multiple reasons, but the one she voiced was that she’d need to find a new yogurt place and that’s really hard to do.  Truth.  There’s nothing like your hometown yogurt shop.  Or that sports bar around the corner that has the best ever chicken fingers.  I’m looking at you Maddy’s in Dupont Circle.  And then, after I’m home for awhile, I start coming down with a fresh case of Fernweh and I’m ready to set out on another adventure. In my case, Fernweh and Heimweh are like two alternating viruses whose symbiosis produces a beautiful balance. And this, I think, is a very lucky way to live with equal parts adventure and comfort, craziness and stability.

This week, I traveled to one of my homes – the one with the Old Bay and the Ravens and the Berger cookies and the parents and the snowball sundaes and all of those familiar things that make me feel home – to celebrate my mom’s monstrous achievement of completing her masters degree. Go mom!! More on Charm City soon. But before succumbing to my Maryland Heimweh, I soaked up one more adventure with S in my other home, Mainz, in which I learned that (1) extra scharf (spicy) currywurst should be eaten with extreme caution and a large cold drink (preferably a beer); (2) extra extra scharf is only for the insane or those whose taste buds have already died; and (3) I really love my adopted home of Mainz.

That weekend, over seventy winemakers, plus food trucks full of bratwurst, curry wurst, crepes, and spaetzle with cheese lined the Rhine in Mainz for the Mainzer-Weintage, a wine fest ushering in spring with many of the best things Mainz has to offer. Neighboring Eltville held a smaller, but even better, festival the same weekend, complete with a French market, pizzas with fig and walnut toppings (yum!), and the best ever 90s rock cover band.  All weekend, we danced our faces off, ate more spaetzle with cheese than anyone ever should (but who’s counting?), and had an altogether wonderful time.  I couldn’t have asked for a better way to say auf wiedersehen to S for a month.

























While I’m in the US curing my Heimweh, I’ll be soaking up all of the family time, Tex-Mex, IPAs and craft beers (my only complaint about German beers is the lack of variety), and Maryland blue crabs that I can, but at the same time, I can’t wait to get back to summer time in Mainz with S.

Funny enough, one of the first Baltimore beers that I had when I got home was made by Union Craft Brewing and called the Balt Altbier. Talk about a marriage of my fernweh and heimweh – a Baltimore beer brewed in an old German style. The brewer’s even wrote a little description of their combination of American creativity and old world German methods on the can, ending in a half German, half Baltimorean cheers: “Prost, hon!”

It feels so good to be home and, at the same time, I think my next bought of Fernweh is already brewing….


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I'm an American living in Mainz, Germany and, after a a one-year sabbatical from office life, working as a corporate lawyer in Frankfurt. While living in Europe with my fiancé, my goals are to see as much art, taste as much food, and experience as much life as possible.

6 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Love this and completely agree! It’s incredible being home, yet I am already planning my next and possibly last, adventure in Europe


  2. Hi there!

    I am a television producer working on the US travel show ‘House Hunters International’. We are looking for English speaking expats who have moved to Germany within the last 2 years or so… I wonder if you would like to share your story?

    House Hunters International is a half-hour TV show currently airing on the Home and Garden Television Network (HGTV) in America. The series is designed to de-mystify the international home-buying / renting process, by going behind the scenes of a house hunt where expats and their real estate agents tour 3 homes. At its core, House Hunters International is a travel show concentrating on the idiosyncrasies of the locales and what makes them special and different.

    Here are some links to show you what our show is all about!

    Here are some examples of the show that you can watch on Youtube: – Charlottenlund Denmark – Athens Greece – Marrakech Morocco

    We would love to film in Germany so please get in touch if you might be interested in finding out more!

    Best wishes,


    Michelle James
    1-3 St Peter’s Street, London N1 8JD – +44 20 7704 3300


  3. Great photos! I really love the filter on them, and welcome back to Germany. If you head to Mannheim and want to meet other expats, drop us a line.


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