18 November, 2013

Berlin and the Black Forest

After a bit of radio silence for the past week or so, I'm back. I've realized that my last few posts, including this one, have been all about various trips I've taken or the places I've visited, and while informing my readers about these things is important, I will also be making an effort in the next few weeks to include some more themed posts like I did in the beginning, with more details about Germany and what it's like to live here. (Those posts are more fun to write anyway!)

So, on to business...

Two weekends ago I went to Berlin with Maxim and a bunch of people from his fraternity, spending two nights there in total. We left in the afternoon on Friday (some people left earlier but I had to work in the early afternoon on Friday), and arrived at the Berlin fraternity house well past dark. Then there was the obligatory meeting of a series of people whose names I promptly forgot, greeting people I knew, and drinking beer (of course).

The next day, Maxim and I went to a burrito restaurant for lunch with Maxim's friend Max, followed by a visit to a cafe for coffee. After our coffee Maxim and the rest of the members of the fraternity had a long, boring meeting to attend, so Max and I spent the afternoon hanging around Berlin. When we had finished our coffee we, predictably, went to the Apple Store. I wish I had taken a picture because this was the most massive Apple Store I've ever seen, and of course it was packed with people. Max was just there to buy an adapter, but of course we spent some time playing with the new computers and gadgets.

After that we went to another part of the city to look at graffiti. That might not sound like the most exciting thing to do, but this was well worth it. Plus, since I've already been to Berlin before and saw all the touristy things like the Berlin Wall and the Reichstag, I wanted to see something a little less "mainstream." The area we went to is not the most esthetically pleasing place (i.e., most of the buildings looked dirty and abandoned, and some of them actually were), but it's a popular spot in Berlin because it has a lot of clubs. And while it seems like an unlikely place for clubs or great art, it is in fact a must-see for both. On my previous visit to Berlin I went to a club in that area and had a great time dancing to amazing music, but this time, visiting in the daylight, I was interested in the outside of the buildings rather than the inside.

What I saw on the outside did not disappoint:

After wandering through this outdoor art gallery of sorts, we escaped the cold and dark at another cafe with yet another coffee and amazing white chocolate cheesecake (I didn't realize until after I ordered that the drink I got had a double shot of espresso, so I was pretty wired after that). Then it was time for me to go back to the frat house for dinner.

When I got back to the frat house, I changed into nicer clothes for dinner and ate lots of good food. I was so happy to be sitting down after all the walking around the city I had done earlier in the day. Then after dinner there was a celebration, called a Kneipe, involving beer, speeches, singing, and more beer. I've been to a Kneipe in Karlsruhe before but I couldn't remember what it was called when I wrote my blog post about it. At the first Kneipe I went to, I basically just focused on the beer and didn't even try to understand what was going on, but this time I decided to go easy on the beer and focus on understanding the German. (I've realized that my ability to understand German declines dramatically the more I drink.) I understood much more this time than last, although still not nearly close to enough to make me feel like I was completely keeping up. Nevertheless, based on my improved comprehension and the limited conversation in German I'd had earlier, I felt good about the progress I'd made with German so far.

After the Kneipe Maxim and I had planned to go to a club with Max, but things didn't go according to plan. Maxim and I went to the club, intending to meet Max inside, but after waiting in line for an hour in the cold, we were turned away at the door because the club was full. I was so angry and grumpy, and if we hadn't already made the effort to travel that far to get to the club I would have just gone home. We reluctantly decided to go to another club, thinking that since we were out we might as well make the best of it. Getting to the other club required taking a train and then walking for 20 minutes, and by the time we got there all I wanted to do was curl up in bed. We waited in line here as well, but luckily this time we weren't turned away. I was still grumpy and my feet hurt like crazy, but the music slowly cheered me up and pretty soon I was having fun. We stayed until 6am, met Max for a breakfast Döner (when I write a post about food I'll go into detail about what a Döner is, but for now let's just say it's meaty and delicious), took the train back to the frat house, and had some well deserved sleep.

The next day I was exhausted, and I wandered my way through getting up, packing my stuff, going to the fraternity's second house in Berlin for a brief visit and some food, and finally getting in the car to go home to Karlsruhe. I slept most of the car ride, trying to ignore how much my feet hurt from walking around in heels all weekend (a poor choice by all accounts). My feet hurt for days afterwards, and I decided never to wear those shoes again.

As well as having a house in Karlsruhe, two houses in Berlin and several boats, Maxim's fraternity also has a cabin in the Black Forest, about 45 minutes by car from Karlsruhe. This past weekend a bunch of people went there to hang out and do some work/cleaning. Some people went on Friday, including Maxim, but I and several other people didn't join them until Saturday. It was good timing for me because I missed most of the work and didn't really have to help with anything.

During the time that I was at the cabin, most of what happened involved eating and drinking. And in true German style, most of what we ate was sausage and most of what we drank was beer. One of the rounds of sausages made that night (there were at least three different kinds) was mini sausages wrapped in bacon. I think I can die happy after eating that. It was so delicious! There was also whiskey (which I did not participate in drinking) and Schnaps (which I did drink a bit of).

Contrary to my positivity from the previous weekend about my grasp of the German language, this weekend left me feeling a bit negative. The vast majority of the conversation at the cabin took place in German, and I had a much harder time following the conversation this time than I did the weekend before. To further my frustration, most of what the others decided to translate for me were the things I already understood. At a certain point I gave up even trying to understand, because it was just too hard. On Saturday night I wasn't bothered that much by it, but on Sunday morning/afternoon when I was super tired, hungry, and surrounded by people I didn't know (more people showed up in the morning when I was still sleeping), it was more stressful and isolating. I ended up going back upstairs and curling up in a ball on my mattress, waiting for when we could finally go home.

This weekend at the cabin has gotten me thinking, as I have been a lot recently, about what to do in a few weeks when my current German class ends. I can continue in the next session of the class I'm in now, but that only meets twice a week and I would like to learn faster than that. However, the classes that meet 5 days a week cost about the same amount of money as I make each month as an au pair, so I can't really afford that. I have a dilemma on my hands, and I'm not sure what to do about it. I had no idea before I got here that German classes would be so expensive, and I wish I had known that when I was negotiating my au pair contract.

That's all for now. I don't want to end on a negative note, so I will say that I am still enjoying it here and am happy about where I am. :)

1 comment :

  1. When I don't know what the heck is going on I just zone out (I'm sure you've seen me practice this technique many times in class). Sometimes I try to translate things into German, but most of the time I just daydream or sing Disney songs in my head. This practice will probably lead to insanity, but it keeps boredom at bay while people talk all around you.

    Keep your head up! It might take a few more months, but eventually you will be able to follow and answer more.