Jan. 1st – 6th
I hope the New Year is treating you all well, and that there’s plenty of snow for those of you that want it! Today is the first official blog post from Deutschland; I apologize in advance for the length, but there’s so much to tell!
Wednesday afternoon I arrived in Frankfurt to cloudy and slightly chilly conditions, a weather pattern I’ve yet to see the end of, but it did nothing to dampen my spirits as I was soon met by my friend Simone. After a happy reunion, we wasted no time in getting to sightseeing, and hardly 30 minutes after I’d stepped off my plane I was traipsing through the busy streets of Frankfurt!
Our first stop was the Main (pronounced mine) tower, which is home to many companies, the main one being Landesbank Hessen-Thüringen. Our visit, however, had nothing to do with banking. Instead, we rode an elevator up 200m in 45 seconds to be greeted with spectacular views of the city. Despite the clouds we were able to get an excellent panoramic view of Germany’s financial capital.
My short visit to Frankfurt also gave me a brief introduction to German Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmärkte), and the general traditions of Weihnachten. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the markets in their prime (seeing as how it was January 2nd), but there were enough remnants, including lights strung up over the streets, a plethora of decorated Christmas trees, left over Christmas trinkets, and of course Glühwein, to give me an idea of what they would be like. In general, I noticed that the Germans are not as quick as Americans to pick up from the holiday festivities and move on. In fact, when I arrived at Simone’s house, their Weihnachtsbaum was fully decorated and still standing (ahem, mom…dad…), and the sounds of Michael Bublé crooning Christmas carols emanated from the kitchen. It was a nice feeling to be able to bask a little longer in the afterglow of Christmas. We were even treated with a visit from the Three Kings later in the week. And by the Three Kings, I mean three children dressed up as kings, carrying incense and who sang a song and blessed the house. This tradition is carried out every year by children all over Germany who collect donations for charity and in return give the residents of the home a sticker that has the year and the first letter of each king’s name. This sticker is placed somewhere near the door so that others will know that the house has been visited by the kings.
On Friday, I went with Simone, her sister Steffie, and her parents to Bonn, which was the former capital of western Germany. In Bonn, we made an obligatory stop at the Haribo factory store. Haribo, for those of you who don’t know, is the name of the extremely popular German brand of gummy bears and licorice. Needless to say, the store had just about every kind of gummy (not just bears, but mice, pandas, vampires, etc.) that you could imagine. Our next stop was the Haus der Geschichte, or the museum of German history. This was a fascinating place that was overflowing with information about German history, post WWII. After about two hours my brain was bursting at the seam.
During my stay with Simone, I had my first opportunity to go to a German movie theater (Kino), when we to see the movie Skyfall, and yes, it was dubbed completely in German with no subtitles… At this point, I’d like to clarify a questions that I have received countless times. Do I speak German? Well, yes, if you consider small, broken phrases, with a very limited vocabulary speaking German. I have, however, been surprised by my ability to understand a considerable amount of German when it is spoken slowly. Long story short, I can survive, but when confronted with rapid German speakers with an expansive vocabulary my general response is a very confused stare. Here’s hoping for a more definitive “yes” answer to that question by the end of the month!
The night before I left Simone’s house, I was treated to a very special dinner. Her sister Steffie, who spent a year as an exchange student in India, cooked us all an absolutely delicious Indian dinner, which included everything from naan to mutter paneer. After, I felt like I needed to be rolled from the room, but it was well worth it!
Sunday was finally the day to head north. I caught a train north from Siegen at precisely 7:12 in the morning (gotta love the European rail system) and was on my merry way. I switched trains twice before arriving in Schleswig around 2 in the afternoon. As my first experience taking the German train by myself, it went quite smoothly. The only hiccup was when I almost got off one stop too early, but by using my German knowledge (see, I told you I could survive) I was able to ask someone if I was at the right stop. He promptly told me it was the next stop, and saved me from disaster… or at least a very long and confusing wait. Phew!
So finally, Louisenlund! The part you’ve all been waiting to hear about. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait a bit longer to get the good details, but for now I’ll tell you that I’m living in a student dorm (more like a house) which is home to 17 other girls. I have my own room, that would make my dorm room at Colby look like a closet, complete with a couch and chalkboard. When I arrived, the place was very quiet and empty, but later in the evening the students started returning from their holiday breaks and I was able to meet a few of the girls in my building, they all seem very nice and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better.
That’s all for now, I”ll be back again soon with more details of what I’m going to be doing and how my first day went. Best of luck to all of you returning to work and school after the holidays!
P.S. For those of you that are still wondering, London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaul are the two busiest airports in Europe.