Köln, Castles, and Kind of Like Pennsylvania: Teil Eins

Work hard, play hard seems to be the anthem of the Deutsch Volk. That being established, in the month of October, I had three weeks off of school for the Herbst Pause. During this break, I went with my host parents of the most epic vacation I’ve ever been on, and we played hard. This is a recounting of the first day of that adventure.

On the first day of our adventure, we struck of early for our place of residence for the next week: Hessen, Germany. This town is located in the middle/south of Germany, and it was here that my host dad grew up. We were to stay with his parents, who still live there. This was to be our home base as we explored the middle, and a little bit of southern, Germany.

The car ride literally took all day, even though a part of it was on the speedlimit-less Autobahn. We ran into some really heavy traffic and that added a large amount of time onto the already six hour drive, made longer because we took a little detour to Kiel in order to drop Molly off at a friend who would take care of here during our trip. Luckily, we packed many boxes of sandwiches, fruits, and vegetables to sustain us. We took breaks every few hours to use a restroom, which is more complicated than it needs to be in Germany. To use a public restroom in places like train stations and rest stops, you need to pay. Usually, this price is less than a euro, but it still kills me to pay to pee. After you give the machine your money, you can take your redemption ticket and use the restroom. Once you are in the bathroom, it is obvious that the money you pay is actually going to the bathroom, as they, in my experience, are usually cleaner and better stocked than American public restrooms. Most aspects of the bathroom are automated, so after you flush, the toilet seat turns and cleans itself. The menstrual product dispensers, however, were a little special in one of the bathrooms we used (see below). Once you are out of the bathroom, your redemption ticket comes in. These reststops are generally much larger than many American ones I’ve used, and there are many restaurants and food options. Your redemption ticket can be used on any purchase to get a certain amount off of your order, for example, 65 cents. That way, you do get some money back from the bathroom while paying even more money. My host parents and I attempt to use this to our advantage, however, and try to only buy something that is completely paid for with our tickets (usually 1-2 euros total). This can usually get us a bag of candy to share for the road.

As we drew closer to our destination, the landscape began to slowly change from the flat sheep-filled fields to low hills and small forests to small mountains and large forests. After driving the whole day and into the dark, we finally reached our first destination at a town called – to meet with a friend of my host parents and eat something. We reached the town and found it in festival mode for———. There was loud clubish music playing and they had a Christmas market set up with the small huts covered in lights. They also had the typical German Christmas market food: roasting meat, crepes, fries, Curry Wurst, Pizza, roasted almonds, and hot drinks. In the midst of this Festival we met with a friend from my host parents, who is the tallest person I’ve ever met.

We rode the Ferris wheel to get a better view of the festival and ate everything we could. Then, he took us to a good lookout for the upcoming event: fireworks. I was impressed by the amount and size of the show, although it was shorter than a lot of American firework shows. A great start to a great adventure.

After the fireworks, we needed to continue our drive so we took a short walk around the city to see the half-timbered houses and very old architecture, then continued our drive to Hessen. When we finally arrived, we had a short conversation with my host dad’s parents, then went straight to bed. I fell asleep knowing that this vacation was going to be full of laughter and adventure.

Part 2 coming soon,

Abby

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