Hello folks! This is the link to the photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jqhd8qPvYxRXfCrk8

It was snowy on Christmas Eve when I woke up in Rostock, and prepared to board the train bound for Fulda, where Louisa would pick me up. The ride was fairly uneventful, and the snow had stopped by the time I got that far south, so I didn't have to roll my suitcase over the slushy sidewalks like I had when boarding. After much texting and a phone call, I did eventually find Louisa and we headed for her Grandma's house a village or two away. We met Oma (Louisa's dad's mom) Marie (her sister) and Leanne (her aunt.) I was grateful to have been able to get a free covid test in Rostock the day before, so I wasn't worried about infecting any of these people as I hugged them all.

It was a pretty relaxed day of catching up, attempting to help Oma in the kitchen as she prepared the elaborate feast, and getting a bit dressed up for the big dinner that evening. In Germany the main celebration takes place on the 24th, or Heiligabend (holy evening) which is also when gifts are exchanged, after dinner. There was a bit of a sad atmosphere, given that Opa (Louisa's Grandpa) had died a week or two before, so he was certainly missed. We still managed to be quite cheerful though, which is what he would have wanted, I'm sure.

Christmas eve with three generations of Kaiser ladies
From left to right we have Marie, Oma, Louisa, me and Leanne

Louisa's dad, his girlfriend and three teenage kids showed up shortly before dinner, so the small house felt quite cozy and festive with all the visitors. We tucked into the delicious feast, which featured two kinds of meat options for the carnivores, and a deliciously buttery vegetable pie for the veggies Hans (Louisa's dad) and I. We had to take a digestion break before diving into Louisa's delectable tiramisu and the mountain of Christmas cookies. I was glad that my peanut butter balls were enjoyed too.

After the meal was done and the dishes had been cleared away, we got ready for Schrott Wichteln, which is basically the German version of White Elephant. Everyone had brought a wrapped "present" I say that in quotes because Schrott means junk essentially, so I had been instructed to wrap up something old I had lying around the house, rather than buying something new to gift. The way the game works is everyone puts their presents in the middle of the table, and a die is rolled, the number determining how many times you have to pass around the present you pick from the middle.

A 3 meant the passing direction reversed, and a 6 meant you got to trade with someone. After a while we picked a new number that meant you got to open the gift you had in front of you, so it became more clear which ones were worth stealing. The quality of gift ranged from a cheap plastic Rubik's cube that barely turned and had emojis on it rather than colors, to the quite cool homemade jenga game that Hans contributed. There was also a Bierstein, a box of little wooden figurines, a beach-themed snow globe (I ended up with that) and a few books, including the one I brought that I had found in the paper recycling in Rostock and felt compelled to rescue.

It was a fun game that provided some festive gift unwrapping possibility without the sometimes stressful process of finding the perfect gift for everyone, since they had agreed to not get each other presents and just focus on being together. This worked except in Oma's case, since she still got everyone a little something. It can be hard for grandmas to resist getting people presents, I guess. I got a cute little heart-shaped decoration and a crocheted ornament that was remarkably similar to the gnome I had knitted for her, and now hung on her mini tabletop tree.

Eventually the locals headed out and Louisa and I went across the street to the neighbor's house where she had kindly offered to let us sleep on her pull-out couch. There wasn't much room at Oma's house, so just Marie slept there. Louisa and I eventually settled down, after a good bit of giggling about the porcelain dolls watching over us from the back of the couch, hoping that we were not concussed by one of them falling, or by standing up and braining ourselves on the low-hanging light fixture…We survived the night, don't worry.

The neighbor's couch/doll collection…
I just feel like a shelf would have been a better place for that menagerie…

We woke up on the 25th and did our best to reassemble the couch into its original configuration. We headed back across to Oma's, carrying our bedding and wearing a strange combination of pajamas, boots and coats. Hans joined us for a nice relaxing breakfast, and we enjoyed the festive look of the snow fluttering past the windows. Luckily the roads weren't slippery when we eventually packed up, said our goodbyes and headed for Pforzheim and our raclette dinner with Christine and Jean-Yves.

It was great to see my "German parents" once again, and to see the completed kitchen remodel. Adam and I had just seen an empty room with heated floors when we had been there in October, so it was impressive to see it all finished, complete with remote controlled colored lights in the ceiling molding!

I snuck up to the bedroom that had formerly been the kitchen to hop on the Buche family zoom Christmas call. It was nice to check-in with the family, and Jean-Yves delivered an aperol spritz for me to sip while I chatted, which was lovely too. Louisa joined me for a bit to catch up with her US family as well, but was not quite prepared for the noisy digital chaos of a Buche family zoom call. It is a lot for the uninitiated to take in. There was breakfast in matching pajamas, gift opening and oh so much simultaneous talking (and this was before Grandma even joined!) It was a nice full circle though, since she had spent Christmas with all of them in Waukegan 10 years ago, and there I was spending it with her family in Pforzheim a decade later. Christine and then Jean-Yves stuck their heads in to say hi as well.

The technical challenge of getting Grandma online (inevitably involving multiple phone calls to multiple aunts and uncles) was eventually achieved. I stayed on a bit longer, but then wished everyone a Frohe Weinachten and headed down to the Kaiser-Coly kitchen. I had missed most of the raclette prep work, but was in time for a hot mug of Marie's friend's homemade white Glühwein. I also got to meet Marie's boyfriend as he was joining us for dinner, which was nice.

As a Wisconsin girl I love a good cheese-based meal, and the DIY nature of raclette is always sort of fun and creative too. I think I like it for a similar reason that I enjoy a traditional German breakfast: you get to carefully craft each batch you eat with different ingredients. Since my parents spent so long in Germany, I was familiar with the basics of the meal (we had it last year for our tiny lockdown Christmas in fact) but they stepped things up a bit, I must say. Some ingredients were the same, of course, like the potatoes, cornichon pickles, olives, salami and of course the raclette itself. The Kaisers added to this some sweet corn, mushrooms, pickled and fresh bell peppers, salmon, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts and even pineapple! We had some salad, and being German, there also had to be at least some bread too. It's so fun to concoct the cheesy goodness in your little pan, then slip it under the grill and sip some wine as you wait for it to get bubbly and browned and delicious.

Louisa's mom's family at the dinner table eating raclette
Marie, Kevin, Jean-Yves, Me, Louisa and Christine, with Stella chillin' under the table

It was quite late and we were quite full by the time the dishes were cleared away. We headed back to Louisa's that night, where we went to bed shortly after arriving. Ever the determinedly generous host, Louisa insisted on sleeping on the couch and giving me her bed.

The next day was decadently lazy: filled with knitting (for me) and watching movies, doing face masks and chatting with just Louisa. I mean when you start the day with leftover tiramisu for breakfast you know it's gonna be a good day. We did manage to leave the house for a short stroll on the path near her apartment, so we got a bit of fresh air and exercise, but it was a great introvert recharge day for both of us I think. We were together but did't have to be actively socializing, and could just hangout in the same space.

On the 27th, we stopped at a pharmacy where I picked up a box of covid tests, and I took one before Louisa dropped me off at the Karlsruhe Hauptbahnhof on her way to her Opa's small funeral. With my negative test results texted to Mara and Maggie, and one last big hug and my condolences for Oma and everyone else, I boarded the train to Bonn.

On the train I discovered that if you tip your chin down just right, your mask can cover your nose mouth and closed eyes, and provide a nice dark nap sanctuary, which I took advantage of. Before long, I arrived in Bonn, where Mara was waiting for me on the platform. We meandered our way past the cute old Rathaus (city hall) the under-construction castle and the main shopping streets before dropping off my suitcase and backpack in her mom's car and heading to a cafe for a quick coffee before meeting Maggie back at the station.

The three of us then wandered over to a park with a lookout over the lovely Rhein river. Mara then produced her homemade marble cake and delicious sandwiches from her backpack to enjoy along with the view. Next, we headed to a Bonn landmark and favorite haunt of Mara's: the HARIBO outlet store.

For the uninitiated, HARIBO is a German gummy bear company that (I just learned) was founded by a man named HAns RIegel in BOnn, hence the acronym. So unbeknownst to me, I was visiting the very birthplace of the now world-famous and 102 year old gummy bear company. Their well-know jingle goes "HARIBO macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso!" which translated means "HARIBO makes kids happy, and adults too!" which was really true in Mara's case. It was very fun to become the kid in a candy store though, I must admit.

We loaded up from the self-serve section, so I ended up with everything from shockingly sour melon-wedges to blueberry-flavored "ropes" and even some butterscotch hard candies mixed in! After buying some souvenirs, exploring the gummy fruit mosaics, and the various bear puns incorporated into their signage, I brought my mountain of sugar up to check out, shoving my pockets and Maggie's backpack with the candy. Maggie didn't go quite as wild as Mara and I, but only because she had her eye on the Lindt chocolate store across the street…

HARIBO store self-serve section and gummy murals
You have to admire the artistic twist of the decadent sugar-athon

After purchasing almost as much chocolate as gummy bears, we headed back to Mara's childhood home, where, after a rather lengthy walk around the neighborhood, we made a giant salad to eat with some potatoes for dinner with Mara's mom. We had some lovely discussion both on the walk and during dinner, covering everything from the need for introverts to have some post-socializing recovery time, to feminism to relationships to travel to stress.

After dinner, we headed up to the sitting room and proceeded to re-learn the rules to "Bohnanza" the bean game that Adam and I had played with Louisa, and that Maggie and I had gotten as a hostess gift for Mara the game-lover. It took us a while to decipher the rules, but eventually we got the hang of it and had a nice time cultivating and trading cartoon legumes…as you do.

The next morning we woke up slowly (ok, Mara and I did, Maggie went on an early morning run, obviously) then we went on another daylight walk around Bonn, and managed to avoid the rain almost entirely. I do think strolling around is one of my favorite ways to both explore a new city and also hangout with friends, since you feel like you are doing/seeing something but still have the quiet needed for discussions. We saw a lovely old church along our rambling way, and stopped off at a cute little cafe to avoid the rain too.

That evening we went to Köln (known in English as "Cologne," which I somehow am only now realizing is where the word for that kind of perfume originated, since English speakers struggle to pronounce the umlauted O I guess.) Anyway, Köln is not far away so we got a fascinating insight into teenage Mara as we sampled her middle/high school mix CDs on the drive to meet up with a couple of her friends for dinner.

After striking out at a couple of places, we eventually got ourselves in out of the rain at this delicious felafel restaurant. We were served complimentary cinnamon tea and mini baklava (I mean that's a 10 star review from me right there) and the food we actually ordered definitely elicited my involuntary "happy food dance" as I tasted the many delicacies on the platter. They also had a hand-crank cash register that still said "Mark" and "Pfennig" on it, so was clearly from the pre-Euro days, which was sort of a fun relic.

Because of my Mrs. Gulch impersonation on Mara's bike during Maggie and my bike tour through Hamburg, we had to make sure to watch "The Wizard of Oz" at some point on the trip. The relatively early dinner meant we were back in time to dive in. It was funny to realize just how integral that movie is to the culture—how many references there are to it, aside from me on a bike as Mrs. Gulch, of course. "We're not in Kansas anymore Toto" anytime someone is out of their depth, or "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" when things are being badly hidden, or abilities exaggerated and even "Oh my!" added to the end of a list of three things, like in the "lions and tigers and bears—oh my!" song. It had been years since I'd seen the movie so it was a fun rewatch, especially through Mara's fresh eyes.

The next morning Maggie and I were up and hiking before the sun had risen, using Maggie's headlamp for the first stretch of the journey. We had, after all, 7 "peaks" to do that day, so we had to start early to make use of the limited daylight available so few days after the solstice. The Siebengebirge are really more like bluffs, rather than mountains, especially compared with the Alps, which was the last place Maggie and I had really hiked together. That didn't mean I didn't lag far behind her and have blisters by the end of the day, but it was still nothing like the soreness post-Austrian Alpine hike.

Maggie and Kate in the foreground, the lookout from Löwenburg castle in the background
One of the many lovely views

The hike was really nice, but this is definitely a case of a picture being worth a 1000 words, because I find myself without much to say. The views were lovely. There was a spa on top of one of the mountains, and castle ruins on two others. It didn't rain until we were back down on the streets (another reason we had set out so early.) So yah, just go look at the pictures, really: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jqhd8qPvYxRXfCrk8

Mara hadn't accompanied us, since she was off visiting her cousin that day, so Maggie and I met up with her later that evening after a nap for Kate (we had been up later than intended chatting, since it felt like it was one big sleepover) and a call with a friend back home for Maggie.

Our dinner-prep playlist was early 2000s nostalgic dance songs, and since we played a quieter version of this throughout the meal, dinner cleanup quickly devolved into a full-on dance party when we turned the volume back up. Part of me really misses the ritual of getting dressed up and going out dancing, but on the other hand, there's also something wonderful about dancing your heart out in the living room in a T-shirt and leggings too. Because there's no pressure. You aren't worried about how you look because you aren't even in public, and you can just focus on getting lost in the rhythm and wiggling around as goofy as can be.

I mentioned how relaxing it was to not have to fend-off over-eager men who can't seem to interpret a group of ladies dancing as anything but a plea to be asked to partner up. Perhaps some groups of women are pleading for that, but for me I enjoy dancing in groups of friends infinitely more than with a partner. Perhaps it's because I am quite a spontaneous dancer and therefore a terrible follower. Maybe it's also a result of years of having to dance the boys part in summer camp folk dances, because there were never enough boys to pair up…Whatever the reason, I prefer to dance individually but as part of a loose circle of friends rather than as a couple. Maggie said how she has seen a trend online of women who just start barking like a dog if they get unwanted attention at clubs. Pretty genius. We started brainstorming other animal imitations we could do to ward off people we didn't want to talk to. My favorite was the playing-dead-possum. What a fantastic way to finish off our last night together.

We really only had time for a brief stroll through the park the next morning before I had to take a quick covid test and get back on the train for Frankfurt. The only real eventful thing there was the man who began loudly swearing and yell-complaining when the controller came through and asked to see his vaccine card, test result or doctor's note of covid recovery (one of which you need to be on the train.) I didn't see if the guy ultimately got kicked off the train or not, but I eventually made it safely to Frankfurt.

I was met on the platform with a big hug from Selina, one of my college roommates and her now official fiancé Tino, another Earlhamite. We navigated our way out of the busy station and to the almost equally busy Indian restaurant nearby, where we had plenty of time to catch-up, since the poor waitstaff couldn't even take our order for quite a while, since they were running around seating more and more people.

We tried to explain the complicated German school system to Tino, I heard about their recent Berlin trip, and they asked about all of my holiday travels and how I liked Rostock, and eventually our food did indeed come. Getting the bill was a similarly long process, but eventually we made it out of the restaurant and headed back to the Hauptbahnhof to catch the S-Bahn to Kelsterbach, where Selina actually lives.

We got on the wrong train initially (see it's not just me who makes these kinds of mistakes!) we got off and corrected course only one stop farther, and made it back to her house before too late, even though it was quite dark by then.

Selina and I set out for the grocery store a bit later, to get the ingredients we would need for tomorrow's raclette. I had to remind her several times that I am from Wisconsin, and will take every opportunity to eat a cheese-based meal, so having raclette twice in a week was definitely a treat and not a chore in my book! We were able to find everything we needed for the raclette toppings as well as the ingredients for homemade Glühwein and even the salt-crystal butter that we hadn't been able to find in Paris! It's always amazing to me how even something as mundane as a grocery run can become so fun if you're with a good friend, especially one you haven't seen in too long.

I got to hear the story of how she got her lovely engagement ring, and just get all the other little life-updates that are so hard to do across timezones and through screens. When we got home, we got to work juicing and slicing oranges, and spicing and heating the wine. Selina, her mom, and I were all satisfied with the final result and mugs were then delivered to Tino and her dad who were very much glued to the soccer game on in the other room.

I believe this was the night we also baked the scrumptious chocolate-chunk shortbread with a light sprinkle of the big salt crystals on top. Who needs a normal dinner when you can have wine and cookies?! It's always fun to finally be in a place you have been hearing about for years too. Ever since we moved in together in our first year at Earlham, we had been talking about how someday I would come visit her in Germany, and it was hard to believe it was happening at last, seven years later.

Selina, Tino and I set out for Heidelberg the next morning, to visit Gabi, a coworker of Tino's from DC, whose parents live there right now. Selina drove us there using her newly acquired license, and expertly navigated the autobahn, while Tino took charge of the playlist. This left me free to sit back and watch the countryside go by—enjoying the more hilly topography compared to northern Germany.

We arrived and Selina decided to let Gabi's dad back the car into the impossibly tight garage space, before we headed up to their beautifully spacious apartment in the Heidelberg Altstadt. The large windows and the private rooftop terrace both afforded a view of the famous castle, which we admired while eating a light pizza lunch (mindful of the gigantic raclette feast in our future.) After lunch we set out towards the castle.

Gabi was very keen to talk to Selina about all the wedding planning and proposal details, so they went on ahead which left Tino and I to chat as we walked up the large hill to the castle. It was quite nice to get to talk to him, since I realized that even though we graduated in the same year at Earlham (not what you could call a very big school) I hadn't really had many in-depth conversations with him, since we had pretty different friend circles. Also I had mostly hung out with him with Selina, and her and I had evidently been busy gabbing amongst ourselves, and since he tends to be on the quieter side anyway, was happy to let us. So we talked about family and Earlham friends and DC and future plans as we strolled through the charming city.

My two American parents actually met in Heidelberg, so I had grown up hearing storied about the city and the castle specifically, but despite my two previous stays in Germany, I had never been. The castle was much larger and more impressive than I expected. We didn't actually go inside, because we would have needed tests in addition to our vaccine cards, so we just admired the view of the river winding through town, and the ruins themselves before wandering back down the hill to one of the many the bridges.

Selina and Kate in the foreground, Heidelberg and the Neckar river in the background
Roomies reunited after several years apart. If only we had Nikita the three musketeers would have been complete!

The Karl-Theodore bridge (better known just as "old bridge" apparently) offered a lovely view of the Altstadt from across the sparkling Neckar river, as the sun sunk low in the clear blue sky. We had a lovely view up to the castle from there as well. We decided daylight wouldn't permit us to explore the Philosopher's Way on the far side of the river this time, so her headed back into town. Perhaps since she was caught up in the romance of Tino and Selina's proposal, Gabi encouraged me to ask my parents where exactly they had first met. So having gotten texted confirmation from them both, we headed for the Stadthalle.

Unfortunately the building was under construction, so we couldn't get very close, blocked off as it was, but I was able to stick my phone through the fence and at least get a picture of the place that started the story that would eventually lead to my existence. I think my parents have probably the cutest "meet-cute" story I have ever heard outside of an actual rom-com. They had run into each other before, since the American military community in Heidelberg isn't all that big, but the time that "it stuck" as my mom says, was at a Fasching costume ball held at the Stadthalle.

He was dressed as a bug, and she as the wind, because of course she was—if you know my mom this makes total sense that the future art teacher would have made a costume this quirky and creative. They met in the salsa room, so the story goes. Unlike their daughter they did enjoy dancing as a couple so much so that the groups of friends they had each come with moved on to other floors with other music genres and left them to dance the night away. At the end of the evening, they knew they wanted to meet up again, but didn't have any paper to exchange phone numbers. And it was the '90s, so no cell phones either, obviously. So they ripped a 10 Deutschmark bill in half and wrote their numbers on the pieces so they could stay in touch. It's still framed in their bedroom.

Tino, Selina and Gabi were suitably impressed with the story, and with that we headed back towards her parents' apartment. We stopped on the way to get a pastry called a "Snowball" which wasn't nearly as tasty as it looked, unfortunately, so good thing we only got one to share! After some dog-petting and more chatting, we said our goodbyes to Gabi's family and drove back to Kelsterbach.

After much preparation of grill, toppings and dishes, we were ready for the cheese-athon to begin. It was Tino's first raclette experience, and he preformed admirably, despite his lukewarm feelings towards cheese in general. We had a nice time and I particularly enjoyed the sweet-savory combo of grape pineapple raclette (don't knock it till you try it!)

After no more dairy could be ingested and dinner was cleaned up, we played a German version of Yahtzee. Since Selina's dad doesn't speak much English and Tino has even less German, it was an interesting bilingual affair, which reminded me of playing Mäxle with both Adam and Jean-Yves. It was also funny to really speak German with Selina for the first time ever. The only other time we had really talked in her language was when I enlisted her help to unearth my German from beneath the deep layer of Spanish that had buried it after I got back from my semester in Ecuador. The problem was, I kept inserting random Spanish words in the middle of a German sentence without realizing it, so effort quickly devolved into giggles. Also our whole relationship had taken place in the US up to that point, and in an effort not to exclude other friends, we had only really spoken English with each other. Now, "Denglish" reigned, as we switched back and forth between languages even within the same sentence, to try and bring both Tino and her dad along in the conversation.

We barely finished our second game by the time it was midnight, so we quickly put on coats and shoved our feet into boots and headed outside to ring in the new year with the neighbors in their little compound area. Glasses of champagne were thrust at us, and "Prost Neues" was mumbled through chilly lips over and over as we cheers-ed all the people gathered outside.

The Germans really do ring in the new year, quite literally with at least 15 minutes of constant church-bell tolling. I was also pleasantly surprised to see fireworks popping off on all sides, which I had not been expecting. In an effort to avoid large covid-unsafe gatherings, the sale of new fireworks in Germany was prohibited leading up to the holiday, but one could import them or light off a previous year's leftovers, apparently, and people certainly did. I hadn't been expecting any fireworks from the Germans at all, being such rule-followers so I was thrilled and overwhelmed as I kept turning around and around in a circle, trying to catch all the colorful bursts. Selina assured me it is normally at least 10 times more crowded and full of pyrotechnics on a normal year, but it certainly surpassed my expectations!

Fireworks over Kelsterbach
It was a surprisingly normal New Years, despite everything

Some more champagne and childhood stories about Selina from her mom and we headed to bed. Selina and Tino had to get up early to get his covid test taken care of, so he would be able to get back in the US the day after, on the 2nd. I slept right through them sneaking out past my couch bed the next morning, and then woke up only enough to roll over as they snuck back to bed afterwards. We had an extra late breakfast because Tino was locked in a determined ping-pong battle with his future father-in-law in the courtyard. Sports need no language I guess!

We did eventually get ourselves some breakfast and dressed enough to go on an afternoon stroll along the lovely Main river. The evening brought yet more baking (marble cake and garlic parmesan bites with homemade pizza dough) and a little kitchen movie night. I said my goodbye to Tino that night before bed, because his flight was super early, and I wouldn't be going along to the airport.

He was gone therefore, when I woke up the morning of the 2nd, so Selina and I just had a long morning of chai and chatting as we continued to update each other on everything we had missed since last being together. We never really left the couch until it was time to pack up my things and head back to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and home.

The train ride was uneventful, but just a lot longer than I would have preferred. I finally made it home after 10 pm, and I was thrilled to find that not only was Maggie waiting for me, she had also made curry I could reheat and have as a very late (I like to think of it as Spanish style) dinner. Why, you might wander, was Maggie visiting my empty house? Precisely because it was empty, rather than occupied by her roommates long term guest/maybe almost boyfriend? So she had taken advantage of the peace and quiet of the empty apartment and spent New Years at my place while I was at Selina's.

It really was a nice symbiotic arrangement, because she got some introvert time, and I got a real meal when I got home and some company for the next few days. I utilized this right away by making her listen to my presentation on segregation and Jim Crow that I had to give the next day, and getting her feedback. The class went quite well, although some of it might have gone over the 8th graders heads a bit…

Maggie joined me for the Rostock Fulbrighters' weekly craft night that Monday evening, and got to meet Amber and Kurt, who hosted, as well as Karis. We had to leave not long after eating the yummy curry Amber had made, because we needed to pick Mara up from the Rostock Hauptbahnhof. She had decided to join us, since their school didn't start up again until that Wednesday, so there was time to squeeze in one last adventure before break was over.

We made it back to my apartment once again, changed into PJs, and made popcorn. This turned out to further confirm that Maggie and I have very similar tastes, since she liked my sriracha-soy-sauce-garlic-powder-butter-popcorn. Mara however, opted for just the salt and butter option, declaring she liked that better than the traditional sugared popcorn of the Vaterland. She declined the invitation to engage in the funkiness of Kate-style popcorn because she isn't a garlic fan (how can someone not like cheese or garlic you ask? It baffled me too…) We then utilized Maggie's Disney+ account to watch "Hamilton" which I had never seen, but knew a lot of the music from.

I had the next day off, so we were able to explore the Altstadt and harbor a bit, despite the slightly rainy windy day. We had a nice pasta/pizza lunch in a nearly empty restaurant, combining our leftovers into a surprisingly sturdy to-go container that I have already re-used twice. Mara and I then ducked into H&M to kill some time and get out of the rain while Maggie went back to grab her stuff from the house before heading to the Hauptbahnhof. Mara said she can't really shop at H&M in Hamburg because it's a bit too awkward to run into her students, so we took some time to browse around and giggle at the absurd and/or uncomfortably "trendy" clothes. We saw some partly -fuzzy-and-partly-smooth pants that Mara remarked "Look like a sheep is being erased" it was an accurate description that definitely made me chortle.

Kate Maggie and Mara by some colorful bricks by the harbor
Me with Maggie and Mara by the Rostock Harbor

Before long, we met back up with Maggie at the train station, and they embarked on their Hamburg-bound train, with many promises of future adventures to come in this New Year. I wended my way home, sad to see them go, but happy for a little introvert time of my own too.