The other day as I was visiting a church in the older part of town to take pictures. The church is pretty old and they have a small gift shop in the base where you pay a small fee to go up to the top of the tower. While I was waiting to pay to go up, an elderly woman who was accompanied by a man with only one arm was talking to the cashier. I was standing there, zoning out, waiting to pay so I wasn't intentionally listening in on their conversation but it caught my attention after about a minute. I had missed the first part of her conversation but she was talking about when Rostock was bombed by the Allies during World War II. How she was outside when it first started to happen and rushed inside for shelter. She said she was lucky to be alive because her neighbor's house had been completely destroyed.
We all learn in school that there was a war, and it was bad. We occasionally see pictures like the ones above from the Allied bombing of Rostock in 1942 in books, but they rarely have any meaning to us. Underneath the two black and white photos I have pictures of the same areas today in 2009.
I've been living in Rostock for almost a month now. These are streets I walk every day without a second thought to their history. These pictures suddenly become very meaningful and humbling, to think that these things happened right here where I'm standing. How many people's lives were changed forever that day when the city was leveled to the ground?
Going abroad is about many things including gaining another culture's perspective to further your own. We often examine the differences in our cultures without wondering how we got there. It was 67 years ago, but however horrible, it helped shape the modern cultural perspective. This is hardly the whole reason for cultural differences, but if you think about it, you'd act a little differently if your neighborhood was bombed to the ground too.