My last few days here have been fairly busy. I can hardly believe it has already been a month. Time really does fly. I’m afraid at the end of my six months here I will be saying the same thing. Yesterday I went to Trier once again with my exchange partner and three of her friends. We did not do the normal sightseeing, but just some shopping at H&M, the only store that German teenagers seem to have any interest in. After coming here and realizing that my wardrobe was very American looking, I decided it was time to Germinify my clothes. Yesterday (at H&M of course) I bought three plain, different colored cardigans and another scarf ( in addition to the three I have bought since I got here). My collection of scarves has now tripled in one short month. But I am now fully confident that I can pass as European…that is, of course, until I start speaking. Then I am a complete foreigner.
After shopping we headed to the movies. Germans have the best popcorn; it is sweet and delicious. Of course, I will always love America’s salty buttery popcorn too, just in a different way. Another thing I learned, it doesn’t matter what country you are in, the concessions at a movie theater are ridiculously expensive. We saw Bad Teacher yesterday, and I have also seen Harry Potter 7 and the Hangover 2 recently, all in German. Movies are much easier to understand than everyday conversations. It is easy to learn when I can see the characters performing the actions as they say it. When I am just sitting with a group of people chatting, they could be speaking about anything. It is much more difficult to follow. Maybe from now on I’ll just stop studying German and start watching lots and lots of movies!
Today we went to three parties! Germans will look for any and every excuse to throw a party, I love it! The first was a family party, then a street party, and then a friend of Nora’s birthday party. We got all the bases covered. In the last month I have been to more parties here than I have in the last year in America. And trust me, Germans know how to party.
Just a few pictures I took of the graffiti in one tunnel. It seems that Germans seem to take a little more pride in their vandalism of buildings than Americans do with their scribbled profanities written in Sharpie.
Never before have I been affected by the beauty of a city like I was by Trier, the oldest city in all of Germany. I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with a place, grand as it may be, but something about the thousands of years of history moved me that day. It is such a beautiful city, with old roman ruins that have remained intact for hundreds and hundreds of years, some of them lasting through wars, although many of them required some sort of restoration. The first place we went to was the Porta Nigra, a fantastically preserved Roman city gate. Even in Rome they don’t have one as intact. We also visited the Amphitheater, the Palace of Trier, the Cathedral of Trier, the Roman Bath Houses of Trier and many other monuments and cathedrals. I just can’t get over the beauty of the city. It is not like anything we have in America. All our polluted cities are overrun with McDonald’s. We simply don’t have cities that old in the first place, because of our relatively new country, at least when compared to European countries. It was so amazing being able to see the different time periods through the buildings and the different styles of architecture used. Even the streets had different styles and levels, the oldest ones being six feet below ground level. It always makes me kind of sad though to see frivolous shops and restaurants overtaking all the gorgeous buildings. I wish I could have seen these great cities when they were in their prime. But there is still something equally amazing about seeing monuments that have been there longer than one can even grasp.
When I used to think of Germany (before living here) I immediately thought of beer and sausages. Likewise, when I arrived I expected to be eating a lot of meat such as sausages, brats, and so on. I mean, who here hasn’t heard of the famous German schnitzels? However, upon coming here, I found out that the German obsession lies not in meat but in bread (the German stereotype about beer though is 100% true). Bread for breakfast, bread for lunch, bread for snack, and occasionally bread for dinner! But I am not complaining, I love bread! Wheat, rye, white, seeded bread, it’s all good to me. Germans here pride themselves on their bread. In every town there is at least one bakery and in every house there is Brötchen, the name for German rolls. We eat them every day for breakfast, and I always find them packed by my host mother for lunch.
Another thing you better like if you are planning on living in Germany…nutella. But how could you not like that delicious, chocolaty, nougaty, creamy spread? Another discovery I made whilst here: nutella cereal. A crispy chocolate wafer with none-other than a hazelnut chocolaty filling. I wasn’t the least bit surprised either when I found nutella flavored yogurt stacked high in the shelves of my host family’s refrigerator.
The only thing I had a bit of trouble accustoming myself to was the German sprudel water. It took a couple of weeks of forcing the bubbly water down my throat before I actually started enjoying the fizz that came from the carbonated water. I may even prefer it to normal water now, which by comparison seems dull and flat. But I do miss my ice, which I have only seen once or twice since my arrival.
This is what my daily diet may look like on any given day:
Breakfast- Brötchen, normally topped with nutella (what else?!) and a room temperature glass of milk (bleh! Something else I had to get used to.)
Lunch- Either a delicious hot meal prepared by my wonderful host mother or, you guessed it, more Brötchen. Yaaaay for German bread!
Snack- With my current family it is yogurt and/or fruit, but with my last family it was more yummy German bread. (Yes, definitely a good thing I have a new host family…I would have come back to the United States as a giant whale)
Dinner- Normally a hot meal consisting of meat and/or pasta. Then ice cream for dessert (and German ice cream is yuuuummmmy!)
Yes, THIS is the notorious donkey that attempted to eat my jacket! The picture was taken moments after I managed to pry the leather from its deathlike, toothy grip. Needless to say, I was a little more cautious around the animals after that.
You know…just a normal day, hanging out with some monkeys. No big deal.
So, after an exciting morning at the Daun Wildlife Park, we headed towards the geyser located nearby, in Manderscheid.
It has been over a month since I first set foot in Germany, so by now my memory is a little foggy on all of the exact details in the beginning of my stay. However, one of the first things I noticed stepping out of the plain was how everything seemed smaller than in America. Even the airport itself in Frankfurt was not nearly as large as the one we departed from in Chicago. I don’t think it could even compare to the smaller one located in Milwaukee. I still had yet to use any of my acquired German skills after a few hours of being in Frankfurt, for everything was translated into English, and everyone working at the airport spoke English also. Another thing I was seemingly quick to notice, were the many places for smoking in the airport that we do not have back in the US. In fact, ever since I arrived, I have noticed the abundance of smokers here in Germany, even among young teenagers. Luckily for me, I have worked at a gun club since I was twelve years old, and gone there with my dad since I could walk. Now, being around smokers is pretty much second nature to me, and it didn’t bother me like it did a few of my classmates who abhorred the smell of cigarette smoke. Stepping out of the airport, it was easy to spot the difference in cars here. They were nicer, smaller, and clearly more environmentally friendly than those in the United States.
We arrived in Daun, the small town where TMG is located, around 9:00 AM. TMG, or Thomas Morus Gymnasium, is the school that I will attend a month from now. The bus ride there left me slightly dizzy with my ears popping from the winding, hilly roads of the region; something I have yet to get used to since I have been here. I managed to stay awake the entire day, even after the exhausting plane ride and killer jet lag. I was very excited to see my host family, and most of all, Meike. She is a 17-year-old German girl who I had the pleasure of hosting last year for three weeks when she came to America with her class. I only stayed with Meike for the first two weeks of my stay, before moving to Nora’s house.
I had my first taste of (delicious) German food that day, consisting of Schweinefleish and Kartoffeln. Following lunch was two desserts, strawberries and icecream (something I have learned Germans eat a lot of) and strawberry shortcake. It is probably a good thing that I did not stay with my first host family for very long because the mother, sweet as she was, insisted on feeding me probably twice the amount a normal person needs to eat in a day! I also got my first taste of the native German language, because Meike’s parents spoke almost no English. But it was better that way and helped me to improve faster. However, that first week was very difficult and consisted of a lot of “Huh?” and “Mehr langsam bitte!” from myself.
After eating, we explored the area I would be living in by visiting one of the many famous Maars of the Vulkaneifel region, climbing to the top of a tower overlooking many German fields and volcanoes, hiking through the woods, and finally, climbing the monstrous boulder in Daun. If the 7 hour jetlag didn’t exhaust me enough already, that day sure did. But I got a look at how Germans treat and view nature with a reverence that we Americans seem to lack. German land is rich with green foliage and beautiful fields everywhere you look.
I caught the adventure bug a year ago, and since then I have spent a large portion of my time pleading to my parents to allow me to take part in a six month exchange to Germany. And for some reason (nothing short of a miracle) they agreed! I like to think that they realized the greatness of the amazing opportunity ahead of me rather than of their easy consent used as some ploy to get me out of the house. Either way, here I am, seven months after the finalized decision, already one month into my German adventure. I currently live in southern Germany with a wonderful host family, the daughter of which, Nora, will come to live with me in America for half a year when I complete my stay here. Unfortunately, I did not think of starting a blog until now, and even if I had I would not have had much time to spend creating it, due to the crammed schedule full of sightseeing and activities my first three weeks here. I originally planned to come to Germany on a short three-week long class trip, but when they left shortly over a week ago, I stayed to experience the German Culture for a while longer. In an attempt to catch up on everything missed, I will surely post many, many pictures of my first month in die wunderschön Deutschland.