As I mentioned before, I have decided to post a brief summary about the most amazing summer a girl could ever wish for. I have now had my first week back at school in Victoria, so I figure I better reflect now before the workload kicks in and my mind is filled with scholarly matters. Please don’t be intimidated by the word ‘reflect,’ as I will try my best to still make it an enjoyable read.
It is crazy to think back to where my summer began – taking a bus from Frankfurt to Bonn, with the WSP group that I walked by about three times in the airport before finally noticing the sign they were holding up. Unfortunately, I was unable to get together with anyone from this group again through the rest of the summer – but I enjoyed following their personal adventures through Europe, and feel that we would have a lot to talk about if we were to ever cross paths again. There were a lot of memories made within those few days, as we checked out historical sites in both Bonn and Koelln, drank in beer gardens and breweries, and danced in the First of May. While I was unable to stay involved with the WSP for the rest of the summer, (seeing as the location they found for me to work at was unreachable from where I would be living) the orientation was an awesome experience.
My boyfriend Sebastien then picked me up from Bonn, so that we could begin our summer adventure in Berlin together. It had only been three weeks since we had said goodbye in Vancouver, but it was great to be reunited! Over the next few days, we looked after the technicalities of my living at his house for three months, and I was happy to meet with his friends and family again.
The month of May was slightly difficult for me…I found myself spending most of the week lying around waiting for Sebastien to be done school, and it kicked in how long three months would actually be if I didn’t find some way to be productive. I began my job hunt, first through looking up restaurants and hotels online, and then by visiting locations. Seb and I spent a great deal of time planning out what trains and busses I would take to get to the places I wanted to apply to, and I attempted to learn the German phrases that would be crucial to communicating with employers. I got lost on the trains many times, and finished a ridiculous amount of novels during all of the commuting. I had one trial shift at a restaurant that did not go so well (perhaps when they were looking for an ‘english speaking waitress’, they should have considered the fact that none of the other employees can communicate to the new girl in english!) and a position at another restaurant that lasted for about two weeks. While this was not exactly a summer full of earning money, the attempt to find a job lead to my being able to communicate more confidently in German, and becoming quite familiar with the Berlin transit system. I was also extremely pleased to be able to say that I actually was hired by a restaurant in Berlin…while I ended up feeling that it was not the right place for me, I was happy to have made it happen at all. The location itself was in the heart of downtown, and I got to pretend that I was a local for a while.
The best part of my small time working was getting to meet customers from all over the world, and I got to take on new challenges such as finding a way home when all of the trains are no longer running at 2am. Just in case you’re wondering how that turned out, one time after taking a taxi to the nearest night bus, I ended up talking to a guy on the bus who was a minister and had a passion for music…he encouraged me to send him recordings of my bagpiping, and sang songs while we were on the bus. Another time, I ended up walking from Alexanderplatz to Friedrichstrasse with a gentleman who was searching for the same bus I was, and we walked down a few streets that I was very happy to not be encountering alone at that hour. In the end, things always worked out though! Sebastien proved to be an excellent knight in shining armour when the need arose.
It was amazing that I was able to be in Germany for the European Soccer Championships. I got to be at the largest ‘Fanmeile’ in the world during two significant wins for Germany, and there was a lot of celebrating we got to partake in.
I had never really been into soccer before this summer, but I now have a strong desire to be back in Germany two summers from now for the next Championships!
I also got to be a part of some of Sebastien’s important family events. His grandparents live in Lenzen, a small village outside of Berlin, and the entire family gets together once a year to celebrate a summer festival. I got to meet Sebastien’s entire family, practice a fair bit of German, and play bagpipes for the parade. The parade itself involved a shot of scotch and one of schnapps at ten in the morning, but it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and everyone appreciated the performance immensely.
Sebastien’s family was so welcoming and friendly to me, and I got to see a lot of the gorgeous German countryside. I was also able to attend his sister’s High School graduation ceremony. It was interesting to note the differences between her graduation and what mine had been like, especially considering that the size of our classes were so different. While my graduation involved perhaps 600 students, all adorned in fancy robes, hers had a little under 100, and they were dressed in formal attire. It was a great ceremony, and the dinner afterwards was lovely.
I also took a fair amount of day trips while in Berlin, such as one to the Berlin Tierpark, as well as a few various ‘Lush’ store locations. I checked out a free exhibit in Friedrichstrasse on its history as a checkpoint after the second world war, and saw another exhibit about Anne Frank. Sebastien and I also visited the Berliner Dom, and were able to check out the view of the city from the roof. I also became a master at cooking various dishes while Seb was at school, and watched more Family Guy than any sane person should. I also like to think that I have mastered the art of pouring the perfect beer (without too much head) and can (almost) open a beer bottle with a lighter.
We also were able to go to the German Parliament Building and take a look around. Unfortunately there was a lot of rain that day, but it still is an impressive piece of architecture that I was happy to see.
Sebastien and I took a road trip near the end of July, which involved a lot of visits with good friends. We began with spending a night with Sebastien’s grandparents, then met up for the most fantastic ice cream ever with my friend Marina (from UVic) in Mölln. We then did the 6 hour tour through Lübeck, which was enough time to get a good sense of the city. The next few days were spent in Bornholm, Denmark, with Sebastien’s family. While the weather was not necessarily perfect, we still swam in the ocean and spent our time relaxing in a vacation-appropriate way.
We then returned home for a day, which gave us time to do our laundry, pack food, and spend a night in a real bed. Then it was off to Switzerland and Austria. We spent our first night in Würzburg, Germany, which proved to be one of the loveliest cities I have ever seen. We visited my friend (who is also Sebastien’s cousin) in Switzerland where he is working for a year, and had a nice look at the cities of Baden and Zurich. We then drove on to Schloss Neuschwanstein, and continued on into Austria. Verena’s family provided us with amazing hospitality for our stay in Salzburg, and we were able to visit a real live salt mine in the heart of the Alps. It was great to get to see Bettina and Thomas in Graz, and it is needless to say that I was over the moon about our trip to the best chocolate factory in the world. (It’s called the Zotter Chocolate Factory, and I highly recommend everyone to make a visit at your nearest convenience!) We then returned to Berlin for a few days, for one last visit with the amazing people I have been privileged enough to meet.
Sebastien and I then headed for the UK. It was sad to pack up all of my belongings, and was also extremely surprising to see how darn heavy my suitcase was. It wasn’t like I had done a ton of shopping during my time in Germany! After having one last piece of schnitzel, and getting one last glimpse of the West Berlin Tower, we got on a bus to London.
After the most…let’s say interesting, bus trip I have ever experienced, we were extremely pleased to see my friend Jini and her family. We got to see the Olympic rings all over London, and saw a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre. We then headed off to Scotland, where I was able to remind myself of my bagpiping roots and play in the World Pipeband Championships with the New West Minster Police Pipeband.
After this, Sebastien and I had our first-ever flight together, to Dublin! We had a fantastic time there, mainly relaxing but also taking in such sights as the Guinness Factory and the Dublin Writer’s Museum. It was hard to travel from Dublin to London for our last night together, but I figure that if you’re sad to leave, it proves that it was an amazing trip.
So what has life been since I’ve returned home? I’ve been playing my favourite German songs for anyone that will listen to them, and will begin speaking German as soon as I’ve had a few drinks. I’ve actually met up with a few people that have been keeping up with my blog, and I love to hear that people have enjoyed reading it so much. To anyone that hasn’t read my blog, upon their asking how my time was in Europe, I tell them that it was absolutely terrible. Just kidding of course, I don’t think I could ever get sick of telling people how much of an amazing a time I’ve had.
I had a great time reuniting with my Calgarian friends over the two weeks I had at home, before returning to Victoria. It was tough to be away from my family and friends for three and a half months! Now I am back in Victoria, ready to do the best I can in my last year at UVic. I’ve met with the German Klub once so far, and am extremely excited for their ‘Oktoberfest’ that is coming up. I have also slowly begun to investigate how I can get myself back to Germany for an entire year upon graduation. If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!
I am so lucky to have been able to have the amazing summer I have. I have so many fantastic friends all over Europe, and I hope to stay in touch with them as much as I can! Thank you all so much for reading this blog – it’s such a treat for me to know that there are people out there that find my writing entertaining! (I’m planning on getting a lot more involved in writing this year, through UVic’s Student Newspaper, the Martlet). I have thoroughly enjoyed this entry into the world of blogging, and hope that there are many more blog-worthy adventures in my future!