Usually I dreaded Sundays because it (1) punctuated the last day of the short weekend, (2) signified that Monday, the start of the work week, was right around the corner, and (3) brought anxiety that I had not accomplished all the things I had planned to do at the start of the week. As a result, Sundays were always stressful and full of anxiety. It was never a day to enjoy for itself, but more a transition day from Saturday, a fun day, to Monday, a not so fun day. Moreover, for much of my adult years, my full Sundays were spent outside my home, either traveling back from a short weekend trip somewhere or running last-minute errands that I had neglected to accomplish during the weekend. Now, my Sunday routine has changed, and I credit Germany for that welcome discovery.
Unlike most other countries, where commerce flows 24-7, Germany still honors tradition and firmly protects their Blue Laws, which pretty much closes almost all commercial activities on Sunday. If you want to start your European road trip holiday or drive somewhere, Sunday is a great day to hit the German autobahns. Because transport vehicles (lorries, tractor trailers or semis), otherwise known as LKWs in Germany, are verboten to be driven on Sundays, it makes driving on the autobahns that much more enjoyable for the rest of us. As with the LKWs, all stores are shut, with the exception of a few non-German restaurants and cafes which may stay open.
At first I was annoyed by this inconvenience on Sunday closures. After all, Sundays were my preferred days to shop for groceries or run errands. It was my last chance to get things accomplished, but the German laws wouldn’t allow me to do it. Fortunately, instead of moving slowly through the five stages of loss (yes, I felt like I was losing my Sundays, my catch up day), I have come to accept and even relish my Sundays in Germany.
Although my husband and I often speak about sleeping in on the weekends (his idea of ‘sleeping in’ is to wake up at 5:30 instead of 5:00; mine is a little later), he is always up before me. This Sunday my husband woke up even earlier than usual to finish preparing the sourdough bread he had started the night before. He roused me from bed as the espresso for the cappuccino was releasing its last hisses, the egg neared perfect poaching, the bacon was crackling just right, and the smell of freshly baked bread wafted from the kitchen to the bedroom. For all the arguments ‘they’ raise about women trumping men in terms of multitasking, my husband beats me hands down in the kitchen for multitasking; I can barely boil water without scorching a new pot and starting a fire. Yes, I have done that before, much to my husband’s horror and dismay.
After our leisure Sunday breakfast, my husband busied himself with this and that around the house while I read in the living room. I looked outside and saw that the sky was clear, a rarity this time of year in Germany. I asked my husband if he wanted to go for a walk and he answered, “Sure. How about after lunch?” In keeping with German tradition, I was thinking we could walk over to the Palmengarten and have cake and coffee at Siesmeyer Cafe. But then I remembered that we still had a few pieces of the Baumkuchen my mother in law had given us as we left her house to return home. The cake doesn’t stay fresh long and it would be better for us to finish it up today. When I looked outside again, it was as if the skies were in agreement; it was raining and the clouds had rolled back over us. In the past, I would have felt guilty staying home all day on Sunday, but now I don’t feel guilty or even like I am missing out on something that I should have accomplished or done.
It is important for us all to have at least one day a week, where we are not tied into the 24-7 commercial machine, where we simply stop to observe the clouds rolling by outside, or smell the bacon frying in the kitchen, sink deep into an engrossing book, share and laugh about silly things with family and friends, or reflect on the week passed. Sundays in Germany are allowing me to do that. I didn’t embrace it at first, but I am learning to embrace it now. I hope that you are able to create your own Sunday in Germany, wherever you may be.