Sophomore Manson Tung is currently in Switzerland and Germany on the school’s trip and will be writing periodic travel blogs from Europe.
It hit me the minute I walked out of the airport in Frankfurt. The stench filled my lungs and made me gag. I’m talking about the smell of cigarettes.
Practically everyone smokes here, from teens to 90-year-olds. People smoke in restaurants, on the streets, at the church, in the subway stations, even in the department stores.
As a Californian, I’m used to some of the strictest smoking laws in the world, so this surprised me to no end when I first got here.
In Rothenburg, I noted the smokers were out in full force, but it was still manageable. The constant breeze and small city size diluted the smell.
This was not the case in Munich.
In Munich, it was easier to count the people who were not smoking than those who were. In the heart of the old city, you could actually see clouds of cigarette smoke at night, created by clumped-together groups of 20-year-olds puffing away.
My usual method of holding my breath when I walk past smokers (which works fine in Sacramento) fails here because of the sheer amount of cigarette smoke. I would have died of self-induced asphyxiation had I tried that technique.
In fact, I have even stopped smelling the smoke after several days in Munich.
Sophomore Emily Berke described it best.
“I’ve held my breath more here than when I go swimming,” she said.
Funniest of all were 20-somethings in the prime of their lives, smoking while wearing Adidas tracksuits, or those huffing and puffing while climbing up to Neuschwanstein Castle, only to stop halfway up the hill to light up.
The only place relatively devoid of cigarette users was the Dachau Memorial Concentration Camp. Even then, though, smokers still puffed away outside the Russian Orthodox memorial center, which was just out of sight from museum minders.
Interestingly enough, just across the border in Switzerland, the streets are clear of the smoke. And the clean air blows in from Lake Lucerne.