Approaching Auf Wiedersehen

July 28, 2014

(Originally posted on my old personal blog, Adventures with KHill!)

The moment you have all been waiting for…I’m coming home! In a couple of days. Maybe. I could still decide to drop out of college and live in the Alps among the mountain goats. I probably won’t do that though. Here’s what I’ve been up to over the last week…

Monday: School, meh. Afterward, I went to Schloss Nymphenburg with some friends. It is a gorgeous castle conveniently located in the middle of Munich. We didn’t go inside because museums are closed on Mondays, but we walked around the gardens which were surprisingly huge and gorgeous. It was raining for most of the time we were there and there were a lot of picturesque lakes with swans and it reminded me of that part in “The Notebook” when Noah takes Allie out in a rowboat and goes all “IT STILL ISN’T OVER” on her. It wasn’t quite that epic, though, due entirely to the unfortunate fact that I am not living in a Nicholas Sparks novel. Anywho, that was very fun. I saw Nymphenburg briefly the first time I came to Germany but I didn’t spend any time in the surrounding gardens, and they were so so beautiful. I feel like I would definitely hang out there frequently if I lived here.

Tuesday: After school, I accidentally fell asleep for a couple of hours. Who is surprised? No one. Then I went into Munich solo, which I enjoy a lot. It’s a very cool, free, independent feeling I get when I can just walk around here by myself. Mom probably wouldn’t like that very much, but I stay in safe areas and it’s just so nice to be alone and anonymous in the city for a bit. So I walked around for a while and found an awesome book store that reminded me of a mix of two of my favorite places at home, Half Price Books and the Morris Book Shop. They had tons of old, used books for very cheap prices and it was mostly books by German authors rather than translated English books. I can also confirm that Old Book Store Smell is universal. After that, I met my friends at Hofbräuhaus because we hadn’t been yet and felt like it was necessary. Basically, I have had better food for cheaper prices at other breweries, but it is still world famous, blah blah whatever. Fun times, not sure I would go again.

Wednesday: Castles! This was the day we did not have class and instead went by train to the town of Füssen, where we visited the castles Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. I had been to Neuschwanstein before, but it was not any less beautiful or amazing this time around. King Ludwig of Bayern may or may not have been insane, but he knew how to build a nice castle. I hadn’t toured Hohenschwangau before, and I may have actually liked it more than Neuschwanstein (don’t tell my man Walt Disney). It was the vacation residence where King Ludwig grew up visiting, and for starters, the views of the surrounding mountains and lake were incredible. It also had elaborate paintings covering all of the walls that are still original. Gorgeous. Awesome. Made me want to be a princess, but most anything does.

Thursday: Souvenir shopped. Get excited, select family members and friends who I deem worthy of an overpriced gift.

Friday: After school, some friends and I went to a nearby lake called Ammersee. It was very pretty and we sat beside it for a while hanging out and eating ice cream. Then, we took a bus up to the Andechs Kloster, which is basically a monastery on top of a big hill overlooking a cute village. The church in the Kloster was so beautiful, as every church I’ve seen here has been. Naturally, there was a biergarten there because there are biergartens everywhere. So we went and I ate a delicious, giant pretzel and drank Spezi (the orange-coke mix that is my new passion in life). Pretty relaxing and pleasant day.

Saturday: Have I mentioned that my host family is awesome? They drove Meaghan and I to a town in the mountains called Garmisch, where there is the tallest peak in Germany, known as Zugspitze. We took a cog-wheel train up most of the way to Zugspitze, then got on a gondola that took us to the peak. It was SO COOL literally because we were in a cloud but also figuratively because that’s the highest point in all of Germany! As stated, it was very cloudy when we were there so we were inside a cloud and didn’t really have any views. However, it was still really neat to be there and so sweet of my host family to take us. Meaghan and I wanted to climb all the way to the top but there were signs saying “Experienced climbers only” and we decided that Saturday was not a good day to die. Still, an awesome and worthwhile experience. Once we were back at the bottom, we went into Garmisch for lunch. It was, of course, outstanding and in the brief time I was there, I fell in love with Garmisch. It is, of course, surrounded by insanely beautiful mountains and all the houses and buildings were just so cute. It looks like how you would picture a classic Bavarian town and I loved it. The rest of the day involved napping and packing, which is not exciting to write or read about.

Sunday: This was a long-awaited day in which our whole group went to the city of Kaltenberg for a MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL. I don’t know what normal people think of medieval festivals, but I thought it was the coolest. There were so many merchants selling cool little crafts and swords and SO many people dressed in medieval attire. There were a lot of different stages with shows going on throughout the day ranging from fire jugglers to a medieval rock bagpipes band. Please take a moment to appreciate what a specific genre that band finds itself in. Respect. The highlight of the day was the Ritterturnier, which we expected to be a staged jousting tournament. It involved jousting, but it was actually a two-hour production with a full plot dealing with a king who gets killed by the black knight and his sons who must avenge his death. It had drama, intrigue - everything you could want from a two hour medieval jousting tournament production. I joke, but it was really very entertaining and when else am I going to see something like that in my life?

Today: We met Herr Bürgermeister Meisterbürger! Also known as the Bürgermeister (mayor) of Olching, the city outside of Munich where I am living. He was super nice and told us a lot about the history of Olching and the local politics there. We had a long period of question-asking which was cool because he shared some of his thoughts about America and general impressions of Germany vs. America. Fun fact: Germans are largely not so happy that we have spies listening to their chancellor’s cell phone activity. Valid concern, in my opinion. After the meeting, I went into Munich with my friend to finish her souvenir shopping before meeting more people in Englischer Garten, where we sat by the river for a long time. At one point, a German man who had heard us speaking English came over and spoke with us for a bit about a wide variety of topics. One of the things that I found most interesting was when he spoke of being grateful to Americans for being the doctors who cured the “cancer” in Europe between 1939 and 1945. I thought that was such an interesting metaphor for a non-native English speaker to create. I think if I tried my hand at a metaphor in German, people would just think I was speaking nonsense. He was quite interesting himself and it seemed he may have just wanted someone to talk to. I like people. As we left Englischer Garten, we happened upon this spot in the Isar river called the Eisbach, where people actually surf! It was so impressive. That part of the river is basically just a constant wave with the same shape and strength and people take turns jumping in and surfing until they fall. I had heard about how cool it was but had no idea where to find it, so I was so glad we found it today.

Tomorrow, we have our Abschiedsfeier (goodbye party) with everyone in my program and our host families. Wednesday, we do course evaluations. Thursday, I fly home! I know people always say this, but my time here really has flown by. It’s past midnight here now and I have a final exam tomorrow, but I feel the need to get out my cheesy sentimental thoughts about this trip before I forget them. Also I’ll probably feel dumb blogging once I’m back in America so it’s now or never. Basically, I read the book “Paper Towns” by John Green before I left for the summer, and he had this quote that stuck with me. “It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined.” It sounds so simple at first, but one important thing that traveling has always brought to my mind is how FULL the world is of people to meet and stories to be told, and my preconceptions of other people and places are often totally wrong. When I think about it, my part of the world becomes so so tiny and I want to know more about the vast expanse of other lives that are out there. While I’ve been so lucky to travel to many different countries over the past few years and encounter so many interesting people, each trip has ended as soon as it began and I’ve been only a brief visitor. Though I know six weeks here isn’t long, it’s been so enjoyable and eye-opening to live with a family, become comfortable with my surroundings, and get a glimpse of actual life in a place about which I’ve learned so much over the years. I really don’t care that I’ll probably always be that crazy Germany-obsessed girl; this place has become so much more than just a backdrop for my language learning and I love it near the level that I love Disney World. One German phrase I really like is “auf Wiedersehen.” It is the formal way of saying goodbye, but literally translated, it means “until we see each other again.” That really sums up how I feel about this week. I am going to miss most everything here - especially my host family - so much, but I fully expect to come back in the not too distant future. Thanks to anyone who has kept up with my weird musings and shoutout to Germany for making me one happy Kaitlyn. Auf Wiedersehen!

Kaitlyn