So I was at a bookstore in the Ostbanhoff (Eastern Train Station) the other day and I came across something troubling. I was browsing the reisen or travel section of the store and what I saw there gave me some interesting insight into the German brain. Nestled among travel books was one book that was not like the others. There, beside books about huge European cities like Barcelona, fascinating island nations like Cuba, serene mountainous countries like Switzerland, and rich culinary destinations like Madeira, was there just one book featuring a place in the United States. You might be thinking it probably featured New York City or Los Angeles, but, alas, you would be wrong. Maybe a book about the state of California, with all of its amazing beaches, redwoods, mountains, and wine country? Still, no. Maybe New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz music? Perhaps the beautiful Hawaiian islands? How about Washington D.C. with its history and many political monuments. Maybe Arizona and the Grand Canyon? No, no, no, and no. There, sandwiched between Dresden and Dubai was a book about Florida. That's right. Florida. A whole book. Of all the places one could travel to in the United States apparently this German publisher and/or bookstore was sure Florida was the one place to go. I stood there wondering how many European passerby's saw this display and were given the impression that if you had only one opportunity to go to the United States, one place to spend ones Urlaub or holiday, Florida was the ultimate destination for an American vacation. On this small shelf the entirety of the United States was represented by one state and that state was fucking Florida.
I understand that many Americans do go to Florida on vacation and to be clear, I have nothing against Florida in particular. The weather is great, there are lots of beaches, Miami has delicious Cuban sandwiches, everyone's grandmother and grandfather lives there and plays bridge and wears cool track suits, and Deion Sanders was born there. These are all equally fabulous reasons to consider maybe traveling to Florida. BUT there are also lots of horrible things about Florida like hurricanes, alligators, pythons, mosquitoes, the band Creed, George Zimmerman, and the guy that smoked bath salts and tried to eat someone's face. Also, according to my meticulous internet surfing, its coastline is where there are by far the most shark attacks in the U.S., it has one of the highest rates of obesity in children in the country, and it's consistently ranked in the top three for pedestrian traffic fatalities (maybe tell Grandma to put down that Cuban sandwich whilst driving her Oldsmobile). Also, one third of the population of Florida owns a gun making it #3 out of 50 in 2017 for gun ownership by state (343, 288 guns to be exact). Or maybe, in order to have a noteworthy American holiday, the Germans prefer to go where the myriad of stereotypes of Americans can be seen in real life, before their very eyes. Guns! Fat kids! Old people in track suits! Or maybe they, unlike me, really enjoy the band Creed. Or maybe they are retiring there. Or maybe they're into smoking bath salts and eating faces. Who knows? What I do know is that if I were to suggest to a German where to go on holiday in the United States, I would probably choose approximately 47 other states before I settled on Florida (apologies to the Dakotas). Truthfully, I would tell them to spend their time in California (totally biased, however unabashed) because California has everything Florida has but less pythons and face-eaters. But regardless of all that, my hunch for why this book stood alone is because one of the only castles —albeit fictional—in the USA is at Disney World, Disney World is in Florida, and the Germans have a serious thing for castles as I learned once when I met a young German guy at a hostel in Thailand. He told me when he visited the States, he was disappointed that the castle at Walt Disney World did not live up to the hype. Apparently he thought it was going to be a real castle, like in Germany (there are hundreds of old, legit, beautiful castles here). I had to explain to him that the Disney castle is actually a fictional castle and was not built for a wealthy monarchy but rather for the likes of young girls pretending to be Cinderella. However, my explanation did not satisfy him and he continued to insist that Germany's castles are better. And to that I agreed and told him next time he was traveling to the USA he had to see our other castle... at Disneyland... in California.