Urlaub And Old Friends

Wednesday morning was fairly relaxed: I walked through the rain to finally mail a package to a friend that I had been meaning to mail since I arrived (better late than never I guess!) then I slowly meandered to Tegel Airport, once again.

I was happy to have a very uneventful flight to Stuttgart airport. Marie (the older sister of my exchange partner from high school) picked me up from the airport. It was so nice to see her again! It was a little less nice to drive home to Pforzheim through a lot of traffic.… We stopped at Lidl (grocery store) to get some Bretzeln (of course) when we got home. It felt just like the good old days when I was staying with them in high school, it didn't matter that there was a new house, and a new dog—I still fell right back into the old routines as if I had left yesterday, rather than 5 years ago.

After eating a late lunch, Marie and I took Stella (the new dog) for a walk in the lovely meadow across the street, and were proud that we averted any escape attempts by, even when there was a very interesting bird that she darted after, pulling the leash out of Marie's hand, tangling it around her foot somehow, and causing her to crash into me!

When the parents Jean-Yves and Christene got back from work, we all got in the car and drove to a nice Schwäbische Restaurant, as I was promised. It was very delicious, and I enjoyed the typisch Deutsche Essen that I hadn't had too much in Berlin, where I was busy eating Turkish, Thai, and Tibetan! It was so lovely to catch up with them, tell them about my internship, and my life in the last 5 years, and to hear all about theirs as well. After the kind waiter saved Jean-Yves from himself, by asking if he was SURE he wanted to give a 50 Euro tip, and we paid a reasonable amount instead, we went on a digestive stroll through the city. It really was funny the way all the little details came back to me—here is where we always caught (or I got on the wrong) bus, there is where I had to go to get my visa renewed, that is where we would get coffee sometimes, that is the park where we watched the Euro-cup Fußball on the big screen…After a little more chatting when we got home, we all went off to bed—me to the skylighted attic, just like my old room in the other house.

Thursday morning started out slow, and after a typical Duetsch breakfast, we sorted through some of Christine's flee-market ready clothes, to see if there was anything we would want (I found 2 dresses that I didn't NEED, but really LIKED…) and we then went to a thrift store, since we hadn't had enough clothes somehow…It was fun to chat and catch up while making fun of the occasional ridiculous outfit. I ended up leaving with some striped overalls and another dress.

After some shopping for dinner ingredients, we packed up Stella and met Christine and her horse Lucy at the stables, for a nice stroll through another meadow. I hadn't really realized how much I missed greenness living in a big city (despite all it's parks, Berlin is still a big city, with less green space than Westby WI or Richmond IN!) so I was happy soaking up the sunshine and greenness.

We then went home, and Marie and I cooked some yummy fajita-inspired stir fry that we then burrito-ed up in some tortillas. It was pretty good, and Jean and Christine were happy that they didn't have to cook it. After dinner Marie and I walked down the hill to the ice cream place we always used to go to. We got there right as they were closing, but luckily they let us get our treat. We struggled back up the hill (it is rather steep, ok!) and eventually made it home. At one point Marie dropped her cone, and immediately picked it up and continued eating, the only appropriate response, really. Luckily she was about half done, and the ice cream was safely below the rim of the cone, so there wasn't really any harm done.

When we got home, the parents were watching a dubbed version of "American Ninja Warriors" which we then all proceeded to get way too invested in…Kinda funny though. Funny how I never watch these US shows in the US, but when I'm abroad…

Friday morning Marie had to get back to school, so we dropped her off at the train station at the same time we picked Louisa up. Lou and I then went to lunch at a nice and pretty empty restaurant, and we caught up, since the last time we saw each other I hadn't even started my internship yet.

After lunch, we went home to an interesting chat with Jean-Yves and Christine about the nuances of du and Sie (the formal and informal "you" singular pronouns) and when to use each. It is such a complicated issue, because every generation, and every person has a slightly different opinion about it.

Louisa and I then ran some errands in the afternoon, so that by the time we got back it was already dinner time. We set the table in the backyard, and had a lovely dinner of more bread and all the cheeses and jams and meats (for them) that I remembered fondly. We lit the candles as it got dark, and chatted and chatted. I had forgotten what a goooofball Louisa is when she is with her family. So nice to be back in the old rhythms, and I was kind of glad we didn't do anything too spectacular, activity-wise, since my main goal was really just to see them all again. After dinner we played Mäxle (a cross between Yahtzee and BS, kinda…) which I am really bad at! I blame the weird way that Germans say their numbers…(32 is "two and thirty") but really I am also just a bad liar…but it was still fun. From there we drifted off to beds.

We woke up on Saturday morning and dropped Louisa off at her bus stop, then Christine and Jean-Yves walked me to my train platform, so that there was no chance I could get lost, they had learned from last time I was with them! After all of these sad goodbyes, I got on the train towards Konstanz.

I should probably do a bit of explaining about why I was going to Bodensee. While I was staying with the Kaisers (Louisa's family) in high school, I had to make a Rube Goldberg machine as a group project for our physics class, and this is where I made friends with Ellen. The same time I left the Goetheschule frei Waldorfschule Pforzheim, so did she, to move down to southern Germany to finish high school at another Waldorf school on the beautiful Lake Constance that shares a boarder with Switzerland, and had stunning views of the alps. Ellen and I kept in intermittent contact over the years—exchanging long emails every once and a while, updating each other on our studies, families, and travels. We hadn't been in contact too recently, until she surprised me with a nice email on my birthday, right before I came to Germany. This led to an exchange of Whatsapp numbers, and eventually this plan: for me to come down and visit her before I flew home to the US. As I sat on the train, I found myself wondering if it would be strange to see her again, since we hadn't seen each other in 5 years, and hadn't had much contact recently.

When she picked me up on the platform in Konstanz however, it was totally natural, and it felt like we were just picking up where we left off, like it had with the Kaisers. First thing was first, we dealt with our immense hunger, by walking along the lake till we came to one of her favorite pizza restaurants. There we filled in a lot of the gaps between the emails over the years, and each managed to eat an entire pizza (no exactly personal sized either…)

From there we strolled though the lovely town center a bit, did some shopping, then drove back to her apartment, where we changed into bikinis, and took the beautifully short walk downhill to the lake. I always love swimming in lakes and rivers, but I must say the experience was extra refreshing after the morning's train ride, and with a view of the Alps. One of Ellen's friends joined us eventually, and the three of us splashed around for a while, till the sun sunk behind the trees. We then walked back up to Ellen's apartment, to make some delicious Quiche, salad and apple bread. One of Ellen's housemates and his boyfriend joined us, and it was a really nice little group to cook and eat with. We ended up adding champaign to our classy meal on the balcony, with a view of the lake…Not that I don't love my housemates here in Foster House in Richmond Indiana, but classy isn't usually ow we get described… so it was nice to see another possible college experience. We played cards after dinner, and then finally ended up going to bed.

By the time I woke up on Sunday morning, Ellen had already been studying for several hours, because my visit was basically right in the middle of her finals week! Just to give you an idea of how intense Ellen is, she had also just passed the qualifying rounds for her Southern German Championships in Judo…casually…

After some breakfast on the balcony, we set off for the high ropes course in the woods not too far from her house. Despite the bugs, it turned out to be the perfect day to come, since it was apparently the emptiest it had been in weeks, so we had plenty of space to climb around without waiting on other groups. I had a very proud moment when the guy checking us in thought I was German, because he couldn't hear my accent at first! Granted, I had only said about 20 words at that point…but still, I patted myself on the back.

After we had done a number of routes through the trees, and over/under/through/around the obstacles, we decided to call it a day, and walked back home. The original plan was just to take a short nap then go swimming again, but it turned into a longer nap, which left no time for anything but a quick dinner before we drove to her Judo studio. She leads a workout class every Sunday evening for her friends and Judo-club members that is basically a "guts, butts and thighs" program. This is only a small side project in Ellen's workout regimen, by the way, she normally trains for around 3-5 hours every day during the week, so Sunday is her day of rest! Lets just say I didn't do all of it, but was still exhausted at the end…THEN we walked the short distance to jump into the refreshingly cool lake.

On the way home, we stopped at 3 different banks looking for a place where we could exchange Euros for Swiss Francs for tomorrows adventure to Zurich. After a bit of research about the best route tot the Zurich airport, we went off to bed.

I awoke on my last full day in Germany (Monday) quite sore! We ate breakfast on the balcony once again (where she did admit that the climbing had made her pretty sore as well, which was a relief!) then we set off for Switzerland! Because the Swiss are weird (It has to be said) they don't have tolls on their roads, and instead make everyone who wants to use their highways at any point during the year buy a pass at the beginning of the year, and if you don't have one, you can't use the Autobahn at all. This made traveling toward the Zurich airport rather more challenging than it otherwise should have been. We also had to contend with the fact that the Swiss (being weird) are not a part of the EU, and therefore our phones did not have service, and so we had to hope we didn't get lost, because google maps couldn't save us this time.

We drove through some lovely countryside, and it looked pretty much like Germany, except for the Swiss flags sprinkled around. The accents (Schwyzerdütsch) on the radio were also tricky to understand, I realllly had to concentrate to grasp their simple tips on how to make a good salad, which I would have been able to catch while half listening, were it in Berlin German (Hoch Deutsch, if you will.)

We eventually arrived in Winterthur, which is a smaller town north of the Zurich airport (which is north of the city, which is why we decided not to go into the actual city itself.) We had a nice time wandering around the cute little town, and after we started to get hungry, we found out way into "Co-Op City" which is apparently not an actual cooperative, to my great disappointment…We did buy some delicious and apparently very typical Swiss butter cookies, chocolate-chip pastries, as well as some bread and cheese, however, so I guess it wasn't all bad. Ironically, the cheese is not actually what we think of as "swiss cheese" at all! After a bit more strolling about, and eating of our cheese in the park next to where we ended up parking the car, it was already time to set off for the airport.

Finding the airport was quite an adventure, because of the aforementioned navigational challenges, and also because we left half an hour later than planned and were therefore kinda stressed. Also the pitiful lack of signage was alway leading us toward the autobahn, which we couldn't even drive on! We eventually got me to the airport, where I said a sad (but fast!) goodbye to Ellen, then rushed through security, just in time to wait at the gate for the delayed flight—classic.

Before I knew it, I was back at good ol' Tegel Flughafen, and soon enough, I was back at home with Ayse. After dumping my stuff at home, we walked down the street to the pizza place at the end of the street, that I had walked past every morning and night for 2 months, but never been to. We each had a glass of wine and shared a delicious tomato, pesto buffalo mozzarella pizza, while we each chatted about our weeks. Back at home we had our very last tea chat. Although it was bittersweet, as lasts often are, it was also as rich as all of our other conversations had been.

Before saying goodnight, and finishing my packing, I gave her her parting gift: all that yarn I had gotten. It was such a perfect demonstration of why they say giving is better than receiving: it really was delightful to watch her overwhelmed happy reaction, and to see her eyes light up as she planned all her future hats. She was at first ashamed that she didn't have anything for me, but I think I eventually convinced her that 2 months of delicious food and wonderful conversations waaay more than made up for a couple of skeins of nice yarn and some needles.

I then continued to pack well into the night (rationalizing the lateness by telling myself that I was already setting myself up for US time…I am pretty proud of being able to get everything in my suitcase and somehow only being one kilo over the regulation 23, despite Ayse having no scale.

I wrote Ayse a letter thanking her once again for being the best host I could have dreamed of, and left it on her little table before giving her once last hug, and heading back to Tegel with allll my stuff, for the 6th and final time of the summer. I had a pleasantly uneventful flight back to Chicago, with an extra seat next to me, which in addition to my exhaustion from my 3.5 hours of sleep from the night before meant I slept most of the 9 hours.

I can't believe it has already been more than a month since that journey! I am now into my senior year of college (which I also can't believe) and although I do miss Ayse (when this happens I eat one of the turkish olives she sent with me) and the other fabulous people I met, I am glad to be back, and glad to have had such an amazing experience right before my last year of undergrad. I am about to have to make so many decisions for my future, and this was certainly a valuable experience that I will consider when thinking about where to go after this year.

Photos #

Chalkboard with magnet that reads: If you love someone get them cheese.
View from the attic skylight that used to be my room
The view from the attic skylight that was my room when I visited (essentially the same view as 5 years ago).
Selfie with Marie, Louisa
There was pretty much only time to take this picture when BOTH Marie and Louisa were in Pforzheim with me, but at least we got it in!.
Selfie with Louisa's family
A quick bus station picture with Louisa, Christine and Jean-Yves
View of the beach
Swimming with the alps on the horizon…
Sunset view of the lake from the balcony
The sunset view of the lake from her balcony…not too shabby for a college house!
Our classy balcony dinner
Our classy balcony dinner
Watchtower/tree fort as part of the high ropes course
Watchtower/tree fort as part of the high ropes course
Tree house (nest?)
Tree house (nest?)
Post climb pic
Post climb pic
Selfie with Ellen
Taking a leisurely walk after climbing
Me on the bridge with the ocean behind me
She insisted I pose on the bridge…
Classy dinner on the balcony
Classy dinner on the balcony
Ellen at the Southern German Judo Championships
Just to give you an idea of how INTENSE Ellen is (gotta brag for her a bit) This is her being judged in the qualifying rounds of the Southern German Judo Championships.
Ellen and I wearing two pairs of sunglasses each (from 5 years ago)
5 years ago we were this goofy with out plethora of sunglasses (and longer haired) and now…
Ellen and I wearing two pairs of sunglasses each (from today)
We are still goofy, and still friends 5 years later!
Crossing the boarder into der Schweiz
Crossing the boarder into der Schweiz
a Swiss church
A Swiss church…
Building with a sign that reads: coop city resturant
The deceptive Co-Op City…
Bread and cheese
Bread + Cheese = Happiness
Protest signs hanging from apartment windows
Back in Berlin, this active city keeps protesting: against gentrification in Kreuzberg this time