Last Hurrah!

Here are the last of the photos:

The day after the end-of-year summer concert, I had to head back into school for one final event in the morning. We were running a bit late (again) since the drive from our rented house was a new one. They managed to drop me off however, and I met Gabi and we snuck in to the final teachers' meeting. The principal was saying goodbye to all of the teachers who were leaving, and he and their various departments were giving little speeches and presenting people with flowers. When it got to me he picked up a bottle of champagne and flipped it upside down, holding it by the neck, and said something like "So imagine these are flowers. I heard you just moved and will be traveling around, so a bouquet of flowers would be cumbersome. This you can enjoy and not have to carry around in water!" I thanked him and the school community, doing my best to express how lucky I felt to have been placed in such a great school.

Next it was time for the pot-luck. My parents and Adam joined us, bringing the cakes they had grabbed from the nearby bakery after dropping me off. It was a bit chaotic, with so much food, so many people trying to eat it, and not really quite enough chairs or room at the table for everyone. We made it work though, and I managed to introduce my family to a few coworkers they hadn't seen at the concert. I also managed to slip my knitted apples into the teachers' mailboxes who I hadn't run into yet. We snacked on some tasty treats and then Max found us again and gave us a quick tour of the biology rooms as he cleaned them out for the summer.

By the late afternoon we were headed back out to Saal, the little costal town where our cottage was. We were surprised when along the way we entered Damgarten (the town Maggie and I had biked to way back in the fall) and encountered what appeared to be a whole parade of Trabis! We pulled off the road and took it all in with the other spectators for a while--really embracing the slow-moving vacation mentality. One could have been annoyed upon finding the way blocked by a random parade of old East German cars, but we decided to be charmed by the random turn of events instead.

We had a quiet night at "home" that evening, making some aperol spritzes to enjoy with our curry, and just relaxing. We were going to use the Prosecco that I had gotten as a gift from the principal at school, but somehow in the course of opening it, Adam managed to drop the bottle right after the cork popped out, and the suddenly horizontal bottle shot mostly of its bubbly contents across the room and under the table and chairs. It was quite a sight to behold, and despite our best cleanup efforts we had some drips finding their way onto our laps from underneath the soaked table over the course of the evening. Luckily we did have a backup bottle, so all was not lost in a fizzy blaze of glory. This was also the night we introduced my parents to "Bohnanza" or "the bean game" as Adam took to calling it, which they enjoyed.

The next morning we headed out to the Darß Peninsula to do some hiking and beach strolling. It was a bit buggy in the woods, but still a decent stroll, and we saw what appeared to be a giant heron, which was neat. When we turned back to walk along the water directly, we noticed several little jellyfish which I have never seen in the wild. In the afternoon we charged the car while we ate some lunch from a tasty Turkish food truck, and then picked up some groceries.

That evening, we were all invited to the Uminski's for dinner. It was just as wonderful as dinner at Gabi and Frank's always is: delicious and great fun! We had brought some wine and bits and pieces for my mom to eat, since she is notoriously hard to feed, between food allergies and vegetarianism, so that made it a bit easier for Gabi to cook. We sat outside in the sunshine on their back terrace, and looked through the book and calendar they had given me as a farewell gift, called "Rostock Then and Now" which was quite interesting, especially after our tour. They even made a note on the page that had a picture of the building where Gabi and Frank had first met at a dance! The evening was the usual mix of German, English, beer, music, sausages, homemade liqueur, various delectable dishes made by Gabi, and on this occasion, a bonfire! It was around 2am when we left at last, with many hugs, thank-yous (on my part) and promises to stay in touch.

The next morning we didn't get the earliest start, as you might imagine, but that felt fitting for a lazy beach day, which it was to be. We drove farther south along the Darß Peninsula and parked in a town called Ahrenshoop, rented a "Strandkorb" (beach basket--one of those super German ones that you can sit in, you know?) and hit the sand. It was a lovely day of beach strolls, shell collecting, some swimming, sun bathing and my mom even did a sketch of my dad--much to the interest of the kids who were hanging about.

Kate, Adam, Jim and Martha at the beach

It started to sprinkle in the evening, so we packed up and headed out, stopping for more fish sandwiches for the boys on the way, of course. I think this was the evening we cuddled up and watched "Fantastic Mr. Fox" back at the apartment--a rare treat of a movie we could all agree on and enjoy.

The next day was the 4th of July, not that anyone in Germany differentiated it in any way from the 3rd or 5th, and indeed our only patriotic act was taking a picture of a collection of red, white and blue(ish) flowers by the side of the road as we headed home near sunset. What we did do was drive into Rostock to finally do the Warnow boat tour I had been wanting to try since we arrived.

We boarded the boat in the Stadthafen with one-way tickets to the Warnemünde port, and enjoyed some drinks and sunshine (along with the rather chilly breeze) on the top deck. It was hard to chat, and drink, while also trying to listen to and translate the informative tour the captain was giving us as we passed the various neighborhoods along the way, so we didn't catch everything. It was cool to see things from that perspective though, and point out the river-view of spots I had visited over the course of the year. We disembarked among the seemingly gargantuan cruise ships in the Warnemünde harbor (truly mind boggling to me to imagine the ones we saw actually sailing anywhere, and yet more astounding to realized how much bigger yet the Caribbean cruise liners are!) We hopped off the boat and dove into the busier-than-usual Warnemünde maelstrom. It was Warnemündewoche that week, which meant that in addition to the summer tourist crowd, there were also sailing competitions going on, with all the people involved in that around as well.

We strolled along the docks and took in the hat, fish and trinket vendors until we made it to the lighthouse. I let the three of them go up and enjoy the view (having so recently seen it with Veronica myself) while I browsed through the amber shop down below. We bought some Sanddorn ("sea buckthorn" in English, a sour orange berry that is a specialty of the Baltic coast) flavored candies and liqueur, as well as some postcards and some amber earrings too. Apparently authentic amber floats, and so it can wash up on the shores from Scandinavia, which I hadn't known.

We eventually boarded the train (thanks again 9 Euro ticket!) and headed back to Rostock to our fully charged-up car. We then made our way to Marienkirche, the last of the big churches for my parents to see. They enjoyed the architecture (and marveling about the piece of trivia we had learned on our city tour, that the old Warnemünde lighthouse they had just climbed would fit inside Marienkirche!!) They also liked seeing the Astrological clock in the back of the church too.

For dinner, we headed over to "Heumond" where the teachers at school had gotten me a gift card. I ordered a Banana Hefeweizen beer, which was a weird as it sounded without being actually bad. The food was delicious though, complete with some elegantly-plated cheese cake to finish. We drove home snagging those patriotic flower pictures, mostly forgetting to miss the fireworks and celebrations going on at home.

The following day it was time to go see those 1000 year old oaks that my mom had been intrigued by ever since I told her about our initial excursion to see them with Gabi and Frank. We set off for Ivenack therefore, and after some slight gps-related confusion, did in fact make it to the elderly trees. Neither of my parents appreciated it too much when I wobbled the winding metal ramp up to the treetop level, preferring not to notice the heights we had reached, despite enjoying the view from the top. My dad and I did enjoy doing all the yoga poses suggested adjacent to the informational plaques on the way up, and of course the trees were as impressive as ever. We decided to skip the zoo portion of the park, and therefore ate our sandwich lunch among the oaks before setting off.

Jim and Kate doing the 'goddess' yoga pose on the tree walk
Vacation is about being a bit silly, at least in the Buche-Pattison family!

We had made the choice to take the indirect route back to Saal (our home base) and make a quick detour through Stralsund, the only other major (ish) city in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that I hadn't been too. I sort of felt liked I had already been, since most of the trains I took back to Rostock from Hamburg ending their routes there. We found a place to charge the car (another reason for the detour) and then disembarked to explore the city.

It turns out Stralsund has its own Marienkirche, but I decided to like the one in Rostock better, out of loyalty, even though it seemed like a nice enough church. I felt oddly affronted that they would dare to "copy" Rostock like that, despite the fact that St. Mary's churches are all over the place, and for all I know Stralsund's church was built earlier... (I just checked Wikipedia and Rostock has more than a century on Stralsund which makes my rancor feel justified. Although Stralsund's cathedral does have the somewhat impressive honor of being the tallest building in the world between 1549 and 1647, which I will admit is pretty cool.)

After strolling through the town a bit, we tried to go to the playing card factory museum, which I'm sure would have been really interesting if it had been open as late as google maps thought it would be. We therefore had to content ourselves with peeking through the windows and continuing to amble through town. We had some snacks in a lovely park before heading back to the car and making one last detour across the bridge to the locally well-known island of Rügen, home of Jasmund National Park.

It was getting late by this time however, and even though the sun wouldn't set for another couple of hours, we wanted to get home for dinner eventually. So we didn't make it all the way over to Jasmund after all, but did have some drinks at a bar on the water. We also got to watch some brave souls (in wet suits) operate some wind-water contraptions (parasailing? Kite surfing? I don't really know, but it seemed a bit cold for whatever it was with the wind and clouds...) We eventually did make it "home" and had a fairly quiet night of it.

The next morning we headed into Rostock to wrap some things up, including the extremely frustrating matter of trying to close my German bank account despite the fact that I hadn't yet received my final paycheck (that had been due to me the week before, on my last day) and according to the Ministry of education, wouldn't be able to get for at least another couple of weeks, due to a clerical error...the fun with bureaucracy really was nonstop!

To save you the suspense: I ended up getting paid for the work I did in June on August 26th... and that was only after Selina very kindly let them deposit the money into her account instead, and then did an international wire transfer to me, something the freaking finance ministry apparently couldn't handle. I had to close my German account because I would have no way to access the money outside of Europe, apparently. Let's also take a moment and remember that I didn't get paid for the work I did in September 2021 until November. I will say that none of this was Fulbright's fault, but was instead due to a series of deeply frustrating mishaps by the local German government who paid me. But it did all mean that due to the nearly 2 month delay, worsening exchange rate and international wire transfer fees, my 850 Euro stipend was $836.04 by the time it finally got to me.

My parents were engaged in the much more enjoyable activity of watching an organ concert at Marienkirche while Adam and I tried to puzzle out a way to handle things with the friendly bank lady. I tried to shrug off and deep breath all of this annoyance away, and remember how lucky I was to be on vacation in Germany with my family. It mostly worked.

We drove to Bad Doberan that afternoon to board the historic steam engine, the Mecklenburgische Bäderbahn, Molli, otherwise known as the Molli Train. It was conveniently included in our 9 Euro ticket, so it was a lovely free tourist experience. We chugged slowly through the countryside, toward the sea on this old-fashioned train originally built in 1886 and made to do just that: take tourists to the sea! It also had narrower than standard tracks, so it felt extra picturesque to be riding a sort of mini antique train.

THe steam engine of the Molli train
The conductor was moving the engine back to the other end so the train could head back the way it came

We strolled through Kühlungsborn (the finally stop on the line) and got some potatoey snacks in one of the beach-side stands before doing a little wading in the waves. Then it was another stroll back to the station for the same trip in reverse.

Back in Bad Doberan, Dad insisted me walk through the ruins of an old brick building, and pose in various ways. What a curious man--he's not too into taking pictures, until he is suddenly and randomly very into it. We all played along and then slowly meandered our way back through the cute little tourist town to our parked car.

We ended the day by stopping to watch the kite surfers enjoy the gusts on the Saaler Boden near our airbnb. It was to be our last night at that particular home base, so we spent the evening mostly packing up.

The next morning we fully loaded up the car, tidied up the house, and headed into Rostock for the last time. I had already said goodbye to the place on many previous "lasts" in the past week so I tried not to be too dramatic with this one, but it did still feel somewhat momentous. I was after all, saying goodbye to what had become my home for the last 10+ months, and although I definitely would like to go back and visit the friends I made there, I have no idea when that will happen.

We spent the morning at the Rostock history museum, which Adam and I had already seen, but were happy to share with my parents nevertheless. We also briefly peeked into the tiny museum housing the University of Rostock's zoological collection where we were impressed to see the white stork that is the collection's centerpiece. Not just any stork, this one is particular because it was found in 1822 with a central African spear through its neck, and the crazy part is that it has flown all the way to northwestern Mecklenburg that way! It's featured in the "77 Things In Rostock That One Shouldn't Miss" book that Gabi had given me at the beginning, when we had met for the first time in the cafe right next-door to the museum, and it had been on my bucket list to see ever since. It felt like a good full-circle moment then, to finally get to witness it on the last day there. Mu mom quickly decided that all those dead animals in one place was too much for her vegan self, so we didn't stay long.

A stork that flew from Central Africa to northern Germany with this spear through its neck
Even she was impressed by the stork though--who wouldn't be?!

Knowing the pacing of my mom and my museum perusal versus Adam and my dad's speedier preference, we sent them off to get coffee at the cafe next door while we got a head start at the Cultural/Historical Museum of Rostock. We learned even more about the Hanseatic history of the city, and got to enjoy the neat old building too. I also liked looking through the temporary exhibit on old local posters advertising everything from the Rostock Zoo to the 1960 "Farmer's Congress" that was hosted there. Before too long it was time to head over to the ferry however, to make sure we wouldn't be late for our ride back up to Denmark. We couldn't resit a quick stop at the next-door art gallery though, where my dad bought a mug and my mom was intrigued by the miniature matchbox scenes, similar to the ones she had taught a class on to her high schoolers the year before.

We ate our sandwiches in the parking lot while the car charged in preparation for setting out with a full "tank" on the opposite shore. I won the award (that I made up on the spot) for most cutely wrapped sandwich, since mine was in the tiny paper bag that had been full of cherry tomatoes, and tied up with the ribbon from the Champagne bottle. Dad was a close second with his creative use of a coffee bean bag.

We drove onto the ferry after managing to eat our sandwiches unmolested by seagulls (not a given that close to the water, as we had learned the hard way!) It quickly became clear that my mom and I also won the award for cutest matching mother-daughter duo on the ferry (admittedly, there were no other contestants) but our yellow raincoats and pigtail buns were definitely prize-worthy.

Kate and Martha with matching yellow raincoats and pigtail buns
I mean come on

We got some naps in despite the chilly wind on the top deck (where I had to stay to avoid seasickness) and arrived in Gedser without incident. From there we drove up to our adorable thatched cottage just outside of Højerup, which was near the Baltic coast, a little over halfway on our meandering journey north towards Copenhagen. We were, interestingly enough, also just north of Stevns Klint, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site "because it is the best place in the world to experience the traces of the asteroid that hit the Earth 66 million years ago." according to the website.[1] Pretty neat! We squinted, but "The traces from the impact can be found between the cliff's thick layer of chalk and lime. A very thin grey-brown layer of clay, called Fiskeler, contains traces of the asteroid and of the soil layers that have been flung into the atmosphere as powdered red-hot soil and rocks where the asteroid hit." We definitely noticed the chalky cliffs, but couldn't quite make out that all-important very thin grey-brown layer of clay. It was cool to know it was there though.

We got some pizza in town that first night, at one of those places you're a little skeptical of, because they also apparently have excellent subs and burgers and gyros...can any place really do all of that well, you wonder. But it was actually decent food. Meanwhile the car charged. The just-past-solstice summer light meant we could fully see and explore the cottage when we eventually arrived, despite the late hour. Charming though it was, the stairs to the upper level where both bedrooms (but no bathroom) were, ended up being both extremely steep and also railing-less. Let's just say that every mid-night bathroom trip felt like a daring adventure!

The very steep and railing-less stairs up to the 2nd floor of our airbnb
Thank goodness you could hold onto the wall!

The next day we decided (despite the cloudy chill) to head to the beach. Thus, we had some breakfast and went to Rødvig Strand. The boys and I decided we had to swim when at the beach on summer vacation, so we avoided the plentiful jellyfish and waded in. Mom, perhaps more prudently, elected to stay on the sand and do a sketch. We emerged from the chilly salt bath before long, and quickly dried off and added many dry layers. We ended up taking a long meander back to the car, up the beach steps so we could look out over the water from there and enjoy the cute little cottages lined up along the coast. We also strolled through a boat yard on the way back, where there was some interesting re-painting and maintenance going on that we curiously observed before continuing on our way.

After a quick stop back at our home base, we continued on to the old Højerup church, which was quaintly situated on a cliff overlooking the sea. Local legend has it that, "a skipper in distress at sea promised God that if he came ashore alive, he would build a church on the cliff" according to the local website. But the location became a lot less quaint by the 1900s, when the soft chalk of the underlying cliff had worn away and been undercut by the sea such that, "Early in the morning of March 16, 1928, a large piece of the cliff crashed into the sea, along with the church choir and part of the cemetery" according to the same website.[2] Now, pardon me while I indulge in yet another translation tangent here. ~It's my blog so I can do what I want~

If you read just what I have quoted here (as we apparently did while visiting) it really strongly implies that a group of hapless religious singers fell victim to some seriously dramatic erosion, right? I'm glad I looked into it further, because my research has now clarified that, as implied by the previous paragraph (which states that the church was closed in 1910) when they say "choir" here they apparently mean "the section of the church where the choir would have been if the church were still in use" and not in fact the actual group of singers themselves. So maybe this is a case of us not reading carefully enough at the time--maybe we missed the line about the church being closed in 1910?-- but I rather think that it is due to a translation error that has had me thinking that these poor pious Danish vocalists got to visit the heaven about which they no doubt sang so sweetly rather sooner than planned...

Ok, so upon looking it up, although Merriam-Webster's first definition of choir is: "an organized company of singers (as in a church service)" the fifth definition does in fact state that a choir can also be "the part of a church occupied by the singers or by the clergy, also : the part of a church where the services are performed" but...come on. When you read "choir," you think of the people singing, right? Unless maybe you're a cathedral architect or church historian? (When I told my dad about my discovery, he admitted that he understood the true meaning at the time, but he is sort of a history buff, so maybe that's why) I'm just saying that it would have been much clearer if they had added "section" or "area" after the word choir, wouldn't it?

Have you ever seen those T-shirts and stuff that say "Let's eat Grandma!" and then a picture of a sweet old lady, and below that it says "Let's eat, Grandma! Punctuation saves lives"? I feel like maybe this is a case where translation can save lives too. Here I was thinking a whole chunk of this congregation had crumbled right along with the church into the Baltic Sea, when probably if whatever Dane who translated the informational plaque had know how uncommonly used (and indeed rather unknown) that 5th definition of "choir" is, they might have worded things differently.

Oooohhhkaaaay. So, to get back on track: we looked through the reconstructed old church (at least I think that's what it was?) and from there we peeked into the historic fisher cottage where they now sold a variety of adorable and/or hilarious handmade items. Next we strolled along the coast for a bit before deciding that mom would turn back and drive the car a bit farther along, and the rest of us would walk over to see the old lighthouse.

Kate and Adam peeking over the top railing of the lighthouse

We enjoyed walking through the old lighthouse, savoring the view from the top, and perusing the little associated museum. Before long we got back in the car and headed back to the area by the church--there was an art gallery we hadn't seen as we got swept along the costal cliff path.

As the three of us did a circuit of the rather small gallery, mom got completely engaged in a conversation with the artist who was staffing the gallery that day. It turned out that she makes her own pastels from local minerals (including the famous Stevns Klint chalk) which was highly intriguing for my mom. As they chatted, my mom ended up getting her picture and a tour of her workshop, storing every detail away to tell her high school art students back in the US, when she talks about women artists.

Locally made pastels and chalks by the artist we met in the gallery
It was cool to see some local minerals on their way to becoming art

At some point during the extensive shop talk (which ended in mom buying several of her locally made pastels) Adam, dad and I snuck off to the nearby cafe, where we ordered beers and sat in some rare sunshine, surrounded by thatched cottages. My dad noted that this was his ideal afternoon of vacation, and pretty soon mom joined us, still in raptures over being able to meet such a cool fellow artist. It was a good day all around. There was also a funny moment when we were finishing up our beers, and we realized that Adam and dad had lapped me: I was finishing my first while they finished their second brews--I'm a sipper, what can I say?

The day ended with a meal on the cottage's patio, where we enjoyed some...pasta I think it was? And salad, while trying not to get too cold. We ended up giving up due to the cold wind before too long though, and came inside to enjoy some chocolate for dessert. We had a lengthy discussion about art that night I believe, as you might imagine.

The following morning was our foray into Sweden, where none of us had been so far. We drove across the bridge and into the city of Malmö, where we would spend the day. Our first stop was the old Malmö Castle, which has been converted into a museum. It really was impressively large. In addition to learning about the medieval origins of the castle, and how it went back and forth between Sweden and Denmark several times, being such a geographically and militarily significant place, we also got to learn about the pre-history of the region and see some interesting art. Perhaps most fascinating to me, we got to learn about the castle's role as a prison and later as the first stop for many jews freed from concentration camps after the second world war. A very old building with a rich and surprising history to be sure.

After we were thoroughly museumed-out we took a nice stroll through the extensive palace gardens. We watched boats on the water features, admired (and posed with) several of the statues, and looked out from the elevated terraces. We then ventured into town to meander around a bit, peeking into St. Petri Cathedral, where we were pleased to see a pride flag displayed at the front door.

Martha posing with her arm draped over her head, next to a statue in the same pose
Ladies and gentlefolk, I present...
Jim posing with his arms thrown up in a Y like the statue doing the same behind him
My goofy parents!

Even though we had just left Denmark, we were hungry, and couldn't resist some Danishes. Unfortunately, my elegantly twisted pistachio raspberry pastry wasn't quite as delicious as it looked, but not so for dad's cardamom treat. After a little sitting and relaxing in the second story cafe, watching the world go by, we continued our wandering.

We passed, and were greatly tempted by the "Disgusting Food Museum"[3] (or maybe that was just me) but we ultimately decided that since we had just had a snack, were about to eat dinner, and had spent the entire morning in a museum, the timing just wasn't quite right. I might have pushed harder for exploring it if my vegetarianism hadn't ruled out so many of the dishes for me to try. But it certainly is an intriguing concept for a museum. Because after all, as their website states, and as I well know from some of my more adventurous culinary experiments: "What is delicious to one person can be revolting to another."

We continued on our way however, because we had some non-disgusting food enjoy--with Max, Michi and their friend Carina, who I had met at the game night at their house. Carina, a fellow teacher, and Max just happened to be enjoying some of their summer vacation in Sweden, and Michi had taken a couple of days off to join them. It was fun to get all those people together, and we enjoyed some tasty food at "The Spoonery" while chatting and hanging out. We snapped a group picture then got on the road back to Denmark for our last night in the thatched cottage near Højerup. We got back around 10:30, and although the moon had definitely risen, it was still competing with the fading light as the sun sank--northern Europe in the summer is wild!

The following day we re-packed the car for the final leg of our tri-country journey. We were Copenhagen-bound! We ended up having to stop along the way to charge the car a bit, after the previous day's Malmö excursion, but even though the charger we ended up finding was in a random apartment complex, at least it was sunny. We took the opportunity to recharge our vitamin D while the car did it's own recharging. I was pretty relaxed anyway, but the rest of them were a bit tense and worried, because, although mom Adam and I were all flying home via Chicago O'Hare, we had all four managed to be on different flights, since they had been booked at different times. They had all booked through Scandinavian Airlines, who were conveniently having a pilot strike at the time... So their flights had all been canceled... My IcelandAir flight was unaffected, so I just got to bask in the sunshine, since there was really nothing that productive that any of us could do, let alone me.

We eventually made it to the city, and it was much easier to figure out parking when we didn't have to worry about charging too. Our first stop was the Little Mermaid, because you can't fly in and out of Copenhagen on your European trip and not at least walk by her. So we did that, then had a picnic on a nearby bench.

Next up we drove over to the airbnb, found a parking spot, unloaded our stuff, and had a brief hour or so of frantic internet searches looking into how everyone was going to get home. For a moment there it looked like my dad might be stuck in Denmark for an extra week (he was stressed about the plans going awry, but did admit that here are worse places to get stranded...) After a couple of calls and many many searches however, it was determined that the only real thing to do would be to drop Adam and I off at the Flixbus stop, and then my parents would drive to the airport as planned, return the rental car, and see what actual real life human being at the airport could do to get them home, rather than relying on phone robots to sort things out.

Jim and Martha sitting in a window alcove on the way up the round tower
Taking a rest on the spiraling journey up to the top of the Round Tower

So. We tried our best to set worries about things beyond our control aside, and enjoy the city. The first stop was the round tower. Although Adam and I had seen it before, it wasn't exactly daylight anymore at the time, so we enjoyed the spiraling ramp and the sunlit view from above. It was also fun to find an impromptu street band playing and people dancing outside the entrance, so we listened in for a while to that, before continuing on our way. We ended up enjoying some shared snacks as a sort of dinner at a sunny cafe that evening. Side note: I know it may feel redundant for me to continually mention how sunny it was, but after nearly a year in northern Germany (and the past few days in Scandinavia wen't much different, on the whole) you start to really get excited when it actually is sunny for once, since it is not in fact the default weather of the region.

After a bit more strolling through the city, we made a fairly early night of it, since our uncertain travel days would start early the next morning. Adam and my bit was less uncertain: everything about our bus from Copenhagen to Hamburg was confirmed, and all we had to do was be there at the right time (which to be fair has occasionally been an issue for me...) and our flights wern't until the next day.

Our drop off went smoothly, and Adam and I hugged my parents goodbye and wished each other luck on the still unsure travel plans, before promising to see each other Stateside soon. Our bus ride was pretty uneventful, and the bus got on a shorter ferry at Rødbynhavn and we got off again at Puttgarden, back in Germany. From there we made it pretty easily back to good old Hamburg once again.

Adam had booked a room in a hostel that was conveniently located near a stop for the S1 strain that would take us to the airport the next morning. Less convenient was the fact that it was also just off of Hamburg's most infamous party street, the Reeperbahn. To be fair, I should have consulted more closely on the location, but it was only one night, so we decided it would be fine.

Our tasks for the day were to write and send the last of my postcards and to spend the last of the Euros my parents had given us, since we would be in Europe a day longer than them (our so we thought..) Speaking of parents, we had been getting nightmarish updates of the worst kind of travel mishaps. Basically, in an attempt not to screw themselves over by inadvertently missing the tight connection in Barcelona that the airline had offered them, they had opted instead to get themselves to Frankfurt and get on direct flights from there. It had seemed like a good idea, but it turned out they ended up accidentally sending themselves on a wild goose-chase all over Denmark. Seriously, they somehow ended up on the wrong train that literally took them to the opposite end of the country...There were racist train conductors who were refusing to help/explain anything to the group of African passengers stuck on the train from Hell too, so they ended up sort of banding together and pooling information. They eventually got to Frankfurt near midnight and got a couple of hours of sleep in a hotel before their early flights the next day.

We fared much better, snagging some tasty Lithuanian dumplings for dinner, and getting to be early. I did end up having to run down the street to the ATM to get like 5 extra Euros out to pay for the meal though, since the restaurant only took cash, but it was definitely worth it. After sipping the last of the tasty beers, and nibbling the last dumpling soaked in sauce, we finally paid and headed back to the tiny hostel room to get some sleep. It was a nice night, so we would have left the windows open, except that everyone else staying near the Reeperbahn was there to partaaaay, which was, ya know, a bit noisy.

Our delectable Lithuanian dumpling dinner
Yes, it was as tasty as it looks

Adam's flight had been successfully rescheduled to a Lufthansa flight leaving the same day from the same place (unlike my poor parents who left the day after they were supposed to from an entirely different country, let alone different city!) The only catch was, while his original flight was supposed to leave an hour or two before mine, which was at 2:10 pm, his new flight left at some ungodly hour the in the morning instead. And let's pause to remember that although Adam was now traveling with his most sleek European travel ensemble, refined over many unexpected trips back and forth, such that he only had like four T-shirts in one backpack, I still had: my giant blue duffel/backpack and the new REI backpack Adam had brought me plus my dusty trusty middle school backpack. But yah, only the one back...

The result being that I couldn't really manage all that on my own without a luggage cart. We had gotten to the hostel by Adam carrying the giant blue monster with me balancing my comfy new REI backpack on my back, and his in my hand with the middle school backpack in my other hand, and that had already been pretty hard. But the entire reason we had booked that hostel was because it was easily walkable to an S1 stop, where we could climb aboard (still for free, thanks to that good old 9 Euro ticket) and be at the airport without having to transfer. So it felt silly to give up on all that just to get a taxi in the end anyway.

So naturally, the solution was for us both to get up super early (about 3am) when the party outside was very much still in full swing, and lugg all our crap to the airport, where I would hangout for like seven hours before boarding my flight to Reykjavik....naturally... It was actually ok honestly. Given my talent for travel misadventures (I don't need to explain any further if you've made it this far into this blog!) I don't ever quite feel like I can relax until I'm safely at my gate, so this was strangely the lowest stress option. I ended up getting some pastries from the various bakeries/grocery stores in the airport, reading, writing the real last of my postcards, and getting some sleep on a secluded bench with my body artfully draped over and looped through my luggage.

My flight and brief layover were uneventful, and no one even batted an eye that I had technically overstayed my visa by a couple of days (ok, weeks.) I'm tempted to say "before long I was landing in O'Hare" but actually it was decidedly after long. So long. I calculated that, though I had dozed off in the airport and on the planes, I hadn't actually been in a real bed in more than 24 hours by the time I landed. The only upside to my parent's travel nightmare was that my kind aunt and uncle were able to pick both my mom and I up at once, since mom ended up landing (after multiple delays, because of course) just after me.

When asked if I was hungry, I said I had last eaten a fruit cup in Reykjavik (which my aunt suggested should be the title of my memoir, so I have dibs on that one!) They gave me some trail mix and we eventually made it back to my Grandma's house. I was far too tired to really process the fact that all of the signs were in English again, and everyone around me was speaking my mother tongue for the first time in nearly a year-processing everything would have to be an activity for the next day. Although the cot in my Grandma's living room where I gratefully fell asleep that night wasn't perhaps technically a bed either, I was way too tired to really care: I was just happy to be clean, horizontal and in PJs.

Footnotes #

Apparently I referenced a lot of links this time? Here they are if you want to check anything else out: