It’s 1:54am as I write this post. Today is my last day in Germany. In just nine hours I’ll hop on a train bound for Ljubljana. Well, not quite so fast. There’s the changeover in Nuremberg, and then in Munich, and then in Villach….but auf jeden Fall I will arrive in Slovenia! It’s a bittersweet ending to what has amounted to be an incredible summer.
I know it’s been a while since I wrote on here. Honestly between working everyday, soccer, and traveling on the weekends, I have either had no time or no energy to sit down and think about what to write for the next post. I will of course tell you all about these latest adventures.
Munich was the first of four straight weekends that I traveled to visit a friend(s). Following that weekend, I took the train at the end of July to visit family friends in Vienna. Stephaan had lived as an exchange student with my dad’s family many years ago and graciously invited me to his house. This weekend was a whirlwind of activities; the punctuality I would expect in Germany was actually much more present in this household. This was only because Stephaan and his wife had been invited to so many events for the weekend that they hardly had a second to waste! I was able to accompany them to a diplomatic networking dinner at a beautiful botanical garden, followed the next day by an orchestral concert in the center of Wien. Hearing such music has me missing my cello and singing…so I will have to see what can be done in Ljubljana to get back into the music scene! I took Sunday to explore downtown Wien and some of the many museums sprinkled throughout. Prior to Wien, Strasbourg was on the top of my list of most beautiful cities; there is something about the beautiful tall white buildings, crafted statues, and the feeling of history of every turn however that set this city apart. The museums were full of fascinating artifacts, but I was frankly happy enough just wandering the buildings and admiring the architecture and craftsmanship which was necessary to build such stunning buildings. The Kunsthistorishes Museum was one of the most grand structures I have ever seen. What I enjoyed the most though was roaming the National History Museum. In each room hung various paintings of fascinating natural wonders all over the world. This museum also has a huge meteorite collection, and I’m pretty sure over half of the specimen came from the US, so I’ve put it on my bucket list to find a meteorite sometime in my life!
The following weekend, I caught up with a friend who came to Grand Valley last year as an exchange student and was on the sailing team. First awesome thing about this trip – I was in a car. I love the fact that I can ride my bike everywhere in Erlangen and that the public transportation system here is so extensive, but sometimes (especially on a road trip), there’s nothing better than rolling the windows town, popping the roof back, and jamming to some music as you head down a winding highway. Aaron and I went to hike in the Pflazerwald, a forest which treks through both Germany and France, and is home to various old castle ruins as well as huge sandstone formations popular for climbing. (Did I mention that pretty much every important building around here is made of sandstone?) On Sunday we just relaxed at a lake, which was absolutely perfect. Cities are great to visit once in a while, but going to the lake made me realize just how much I miss living in a quiet place where it’s easy to just relax and sit by the water.
My last trip was to Dresden, a city in eastern Germany which sits a few dozen kilometers from the Czech border. In Dresden I stayed with Annalena, a friend who I had met in Peru four years prior. This is the weekend when I think my German really picked up. I spoke only in German over the weekend (and plenty of it!) during the few meals with Annalena’s family, and during our treks through the Sachsische Schweiz (Saxony Switzerland). I really lucked out with my roommates in Erlangen, but there is definitely something about living with a family that greatly enhances one’s ability to pick up a language. Staying at Annalena’s felt so homey, which definitely gave me a boost of confidence to talk more.
In the Sachsishe Schweiz, Annalena and I spent the night camped out under a giant sandstone formation in the woods. We didn’t bring a tent because the stone is large enough to provide rain from the weather. It was incredible to fall asleep looking at the stars, but unfortunately it took me a few hours to fall asleep, which left me with a lot of time to worry about all the sounds of the forest! Having just eating local boar a week prior, my mind kept jumping to the conclusion that there was a wildschwein roaming around our campsite, but thankfully nothing got too close. I’m also pretty sure everything I heard was probably mice. Nothing like some good outdoor adventure!
Last weekend I went out to grill with my colleagues. This has been one of my favorite days so far: just sitting by the river, grilling wurst and steaks, listening to music, and dancing to the good rhythms. Everyone’s schedules have been pretty busy so this was the first time we were all able to come together to hang out. I love doing these sorts of things, because not only are they a great way to spend time with others, try new foods, and relax, but I can also make pointers for what to plan the next time I meet a German exchange student or friend back home!
P.S. I’m splitting today’s posts into two because the topics are so different. Recap vs. reflection!