Back on the Road

Hotlanta, place of memories and friendship

On the last stage of our almost three months tour, we take a bite at the South in Atlanta. I stayed here 15 years ago, as a 26-year-old post-graduate student, enrolled in the one-year LL.M. program at Emory Law School.

We arrive in Atlanta on August 19, the golden southern evening sunlight spreading across this vast city under gigantic trees, almost like a rain forest. August in Atlanta means 100° Fahrenheit every day and a high humidity in the air.


We are here to reunite with friends and law school mates from that time, among them Ben and his family, who we stayed with for a week on Cape Cod, but also my friend Jeff with his family, who is not in Atlanta anymore but has traveled here last week end just for a day to meet us, as well as my Korean friend Jae-Il and his wife Mia.

And I want to show this city to my family: Atlanta, yes, home of Coca-Cola and of the Olympic Games of 1996, but so much more than that. The “Southern Swing”, which carried me gently through that time, the rolling hills and curvy streets with gardens and charming houses with spacious terraces left and right with blossoming trees bathed in the sunlight, are what makes Atlanta special. Although the attacks of 9/11 occurred just three weeks after my arrival in Atlanta back in 2001 followed by all the scary war mongering thereafter, the softness of Atlanta lets me recall this year here as primarily golden times.

As my wife Juliane puts it throughout our stay here, we were probably at the height of our academic knowledge then, surrounded by bright people and the academic sportsmanship of Emory, and hence just capable of seizing each day at its best. It was a wonderful time of comradery on and off the Emory Campus, be it at our home in the Virginia Highland which Ben so kindly shared with me for a while, on the tennis court with my friend Jeff, at the self-proclaimed “World Cup Camp” mostly at Jae-Il’s place, or at the Brick Store, a wonderful pub and our local hangout in Decatur in the North East of Atlanta.

Of course, we visit all of those places, including the Emory Campus, where I resided in an apartment tower built in the 1970s before moving in with Ben, together with two African museologists from South Africa and Zimbabwe who opened my eyes for their home continent and a whole other world then totally unknown to me. Now, Marifel Verlohr, responsible for Alumni relations, welcomes my family and me on campus, and we share with her the story of our trip and my past at Emory.


I notice that the Emory Campus, just as the rest of the Atlanta, has been growing enormously over the last 15 years, but the infrastructure is lagging behind. Rush hours are not pleasant and traffic more congested then in any other major US city we have seen so far.


As to the “World Cup Camp”, it was an invention of Jeff, Jae and me, and served as headquarters to watch most of the matches of the 2002 Soccer World Cup in South-Korea and Japan at 2:00 am, 5:00 am or 7:00 am in the morning. Tough nights they were. When I left Atlanta in the summer of 2002, Jeff and Jae gave me the then current jersey of the German national team which, as many of you know, I proudly wear until today. I am thankful that Jeff organizes a reunion with Jae at a Korean barbeque place where we enjoy some time together, now side by side with our growing families. What a precious gift. The Camp is strong!


Jeff is the friend who is somewhat responsible for the title of this blog, because it was his Washburn guitar that he gave to me in 2004 and that has been my American guitar ever since. We had planned to jam together a little, but the time we have is too short. We will have to postpone it and do it on the occasion of our next encounter.

We spend other special moments with Ben on the nearby Stone Mountain, watching the solar eclipse, over lunch at the good old Brick Store – the warm pretzels with sweet mustard are still as good and as affordable as they were back then – and touring our old neighborhood, the Virginia highlands, and with his family at their house and at the nearby neighborhood pool, under the shining star of our friendship and of our golden memories of the academic year of 2001/2002.


I also take my family to visit Ben’s parents in Sandy Springs in the North of Atlanta, and its such a lovely moment we spend together. They were almost host parents to me back then, inviting me for dinner and to weekend trips, allowing me to snuggle under their wings from time to time, which gave me a lot of comfort at times when I missed my family back in Germany. I am very grateful for this connection and the love they shared with me.


The four days fly by under the sunny Atlanta sky, and all of a sudden, as I had known it would happen at some point, it is time to say good-bye. To our friends here, to Atlanta, and to our Summer in North America. A Lufthansa airplane is scheduled to take us back to Berlin through Frankfurt tomorrow afternoon, arriving Friday morning. And my heart is aching.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *