Be welcome

Against a solemn backdrop of austerity and industriousness, Germany can be surprising in its often radical politics of acceptance. For starters, there is Berlin: long Europe's pleasure-dome, it is truly a playground for any queer techno enthusiast or gay-rights idealist who longs for a community where sex, however one wants to have it, isn't a shame-fueled affair. There is also the burly port-town Hamburg, posh Munich, sullen Frankfurt, and idyllic Cologne. Though each can pull off convincing poker faces during the day, stay out long enough (past twelve) and they morph into vibrant, hedonistic landscapes, each with distinctive music, art, and party scenes that all have post-industrial-wasteland flavor.

And this is not to mention the more touristic side of the country, where smaller towns such as Heidelberg and the incredible Schloss Neuschwanstein feel almost as crowded as theme parks and have very sentimental effects. Though suffering significant damage after the war, Germany has rebuilt many of its famous cities and restored most of its older cathedrals to their former glories (like the Freiburger M√ľnster). But there is also a not so stage-designed Germany among the regions that once straddled the divide between the western and Soviet territories, where a less familiar eastern European influence is palpable.

It is clear Germany is undergoing a significant self-reckoning and transformation, cashing in all of its bleak chips with the hopes of playing a decidedly different role in history than the racist villain bent on world-domination. For of all the countries in Europe, none is opening its arms wider to the immigrants fleeing persecution in the troubled Near-East. It's an astounding move of both ethical reasoning and Realpolitik that makes Germany seem more accepting and fearlessly welcoming than ever, and more forward-facing than most of the rest of the western world.