The past week has been one of my best since coming to Europe. A full 10 days of traveling through Germany and Prague with no other cares than where I would venture next. To be honest, I abused my exhausted body, worn thin from trekking in crisscrossing webs around ancient cities and the erratic sleep schedule of a traveler. I put off recuperation until I returned to Poprad, though, determined to see everything I possibly could.

I stood in the sparse, upper-story bedroom of a house on the edge of the small Bavarian town of Freystadt, which I had yet to even see by the light of day. Despite knowing nothing of the place in which I found myself, I was amazed. No matter how much of Europe I have seen or how long I have been here, there are still moments in which I cannot believe my great fortune. I am living on a different continent for a year with no other purpose but to learn and travel. How few people ever get such an opportunity!

The sun rose over Freystadt and, after a simple German breakfast at a nice cafe, I emerged onto the main square, free to explore for a couple hours. I didn’t know what to expect of the town. My host parents had told me that we would be visiting Nuremberg and I researched that city quite extensively. The fact that our residence would be in a different location entirely came as a surprise to me! I took advantage of it though, altering the academic and historic perspective I had prepared for Nuremberg to a more experiential one. Freystadt became something like the travel equivalent of a Christmas present! I looked forward to each and every new and splendid thing I might find around the corner, no prior knowledge to form exceptions or guide my exploration!

This method certainly severed its purpose, leading me to several beautiful areas I would not have seen otherwise. The cemetery beneath a blanket of snow, a church which doesn’t seem to match the rest of the city, and the expansive fields that stretch into the horizon to name just a few! It also led me into a modern suburban area, which sounds rather more dull than the previous list. Contrarily, it was extremely special to me in its own way!

Slovakia, for a number of reasons (not the least of which is several decades of communism) is less than exceptional in its public spending. Roads and sidewalks are patchy, many buildings rather dirty, and its infrastructure dated. I do not say this in any negative sense! I love my beautiful country of Slovakia and I have grown accustomed to these mere appearances. Germany, on the other hand, which has seldom in its history been anything less than an economic powerhaus, blew me away!

Each sidewalk looked as if it had been laid just days before, the roads seamless tarmac. Most of the houses wore fresh coats of paint and featured landscaped yards around which fences gleamed. The neighborhood was tidily planned out and maintained. Freystadt residents surely take pride in the appearance of their community and I really adore that.

Now, I must be fair. The reason we stayed in Freystadt was because the construction firm my host father works for is based there. When we visited their Freystadt office, I saw quite a quite disproportionate number of other administrative workplaces for such a small town. It is reasonable to assume that many of Freystadt’s inhabitants are white-collar workers and, accordingly, both the city’s expectations and financial resources are increased.

Whatever the reason, this Bavarian town is absolutely beautiful. The main square is perhaps the nicest I have seen in all Europe (for a village of course). I just loved the rainbow of burgher houses which wrapped town-center and the care that had been taken in maintaining city hall. Freystadt is no sleepy hamlet either! Despite the tiny feel of the city, it is home to 8.5 thousand people (a fact I could not have believed while wandering its streets) and a surprising amount of motorized and pedestrian traffic flowed around me that Saturday morning.

I fell in love with Freystadt. It was the little European village I dream of… and a perfect position from which to explore Nuremberg and surrounding Bavaria. Those stories, I will relate over the following week.