Goethe Intern #4 Spring Blossoms and Crab Cakes

Lara with Magnolia blooms
© Lara Hansen

The arrival of spring marks the start of a very special time in Washington: the cherry blossom season. This is a huge celebration here, with a whole host of festivals and concerts. That said, given how many people travel to Washington in the spring, some of them with the sole purpose of seeing the trees in bloom, it can prove a real challenge to capture a good photograph of the famous cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.

Personally, I have fallen far more in love with the magnolias that have been blossoming here since mid-March, though I discovered them rather by chance. When taking a stroll along the National Mall after work one day, I spontaneously decided to turn into a park that revealed itself to be a sea of pink clouds. This was Enid A. Haupt Garden, a park created in the heart of DC during the Victorian era. The garden was almost too perfect to be true; I was more than happy to enjoy this unexpectedly beautiful scene that allowed me to completely tune out the omnipresent chaos that is the capital’s traffic, despite it being just yards away.

It is not only the local flora that is blossoming here; the endless series of restaurants and bars can hardly cope with the influx of visitors. The streets of Washington and Alexandria are now teeming with life: as soon as happy hour begins at four in the afternoon, people are sitting outside with music blasting from every direction and their laughter echoing through the streets. And I don’t mean only on the weekends. After all, even in the restaurants back home in North Frisia it can be hard to reserve a table on a sunny weekend. Here, however, the restaurants are actually packed every single evening, every day of the week. Unlike the somewhat more modest North Frisians, the Americans I have encountered so far can hardly be described as penny-pinching. Though, given the horrendous supermarket prices, it is understandable that people often prefer to go out to eat than cook at home – if you are on your own you may even save money that way, since American portions tend to be large enough to last a few days. While a waiter in Germany will only offer you a “doggy bag” if you still have half a pizza left on your plate, you’ll get a bag here even if you just have a few fries left.

With the advent of spring, the menu here has also changed: crabs are now being served up all over Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. To celebrate the start of spring, I drove with Nancy to Annapolis, the capital of Maryland. The weather was glorious and we found ourselves in an authentic fishing village with exhibitions by local artists, a harbor with sailboats, and one stall after the next selling fish – which immediately made me feel at home. It’s not fish rolls that are served here, though, but crab cakes – a kind of quiche made of crabmeat and all kinds of other random ingredients like egg and breadcrumbs. So on this wonderfully sunny spring day, I enjoyed my first crab cake with Nancy down by the harbor – and it was delicious. Even so, it can’t compete with a shrimp roll from Dagebüll. But now it won’t be long before I can sink my teeth into one of those lovely, crispy fish rolls back home again.

On the one hand, I am really looking forward to going back, yet on the other the idea makes me feel a bit sad. I have found Americans to be extremely open, interested, and sincere, which naturally has a lot to do with the social circles I have been moving in here in liberal Washington and Virginia. The diverse cultural scene, the endless range of culinary options, and always being on the cutting edge – I will miss all of that. At the same time, I know that I will stay in touch with the Goethe-Institut in Washington, with the other interns, and of course with my host Nancy and her Germany-obsessed friend Keith. And I know that I will return soon.