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MUNICH — The German government has drawn kudos for opening the nation's borders to an influx of asylum seekers — but everyday Germans are also winning hearts through an outpouring of generosity to new arrivals.
Refugees and migrants at the Munich Fairgrounds on Tuesday raved about the warm welcome they had received in Germany after their long and difficult journeys through Europe.
The nation is expecting to shelter about 800,000 foreigners who are pouring through its borders this year, many of them escaping Syria's civil war. The country is planning to take in a half-million migrants a year for the next several years, officials have said.
This latest group of arrivals was applauded upon entering Germany, given candy, water and backpacks filled with clothes. Then they were taken to the fairgrounds where they had shelter and — most importantly — safety for a good night's sleep.
There was also an overwhelming supply of clothes, gear and toiletries to choose from — and then a final treat— of the Italian variety.
As some refugees and migrants waited outside to board buses to take them onward to immigration processing centers, a delicious smell filled the air.
A local Italian joint — Lovely Pizza — had heard about the thousands being housed in the fairgrounds and came to offer some comfort food ahead of their journeys.
The staff brought party-size pizzas and pasta — and the donation was a big hit, especially with the many children present. They put down their new toys and dug in, sitting on the sidewalk.
"Germany, good!" one of the new arrivals shouted, giving a thumbs up.
One migrant had an etiquette question about eating the food: Should he use a fork? A volunteer who came to distribute the pies showed him the best way to enjoy a hot, steaming slice.
The timing was perfect: As the pizza boxes emptied, a bus pulled up. The migrants and refugees finished their snacks, hauled their bags over their shoulders and lined up to proceed on the new phase of their journeys.