A postcard from Germany


Packing up my things from my childhood room has become a customary experience for me with my trips to and from university every term. Good-byes however were harder. Yet, knowing it was more a Bis bald, than auf Wiedersehen was some comfort.

Knowing it was more a Bis bald, than auf Wiedersehen was some comfort

Our family holiday to France by car in July, due to a cancellation of our flights, instilled in us a new-found love and confidence in driving to Europe. So, in the same spirit my Dad and I set off for what turned out to be a 15-hour trip across to Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate. The Eurotunnel was a breeze, and whilst driving through Belgian towns and spotting farms, reminiscent of the type escaped soldiers flee to in war films, a certain romanticised excitement stirred in me. As the kilometres ticked away, I tried to relay in my mind all the things I had heard and read about Mainz, knowing soon enough I would see it for myself. Sure enough, we soon rolled into the city’s outskirts and the Scotland Yard crime podcast we had been listening began to hum into the distance of my concentration. For me, the latest breakthrough was the reality that this is my new home. I’ve had this feeling before; I knew no one before coming to Durham in 2020. However, I was at the same time acutely aware that this adventure would have many more and varied challenges.

After catching the heavy door from a girl also going into my floor, I met two of my flat mates in the shared flat (or Wohngemeinschaft, a common way of living in Germany). We exchanged brief hellos as I stumbled a sentence out in German about our trip over and dropped the bags off in my room. I had already met the flat mates online via a WhatsApp call in my interview for the spare-room style tenancy. It’s a gorgeous flat on the cusp of the old town- high ceilings, Baroque red brick walls, the bedroom furniture was wooden, and I thought the Pulp Fiction poster a cool touch. I left my Dad to start unpacking, as I, knowing its importance, impelled myself to socialise in the kitchen. First impressions took on a new difficulty as I found it difficult to translate my usual chatty, outgoing self, especially given the fact I had barely spoken a word of German the whole summer break. Nonetheless I managed the basics and retreated to my Dad’s less fremd company. We spent the night in his Air-BnB in the Neustadt, the new part of the town. It was hard to form any first impressions of the city as not only had we arrived late, but our car had also been towed away by parking officers, so we decided to leave those for the morning.

The next day was a Sunday, a slow day in Germany. Most shops and businesses are closed yet cafés remain open, so we enjoyed brunch in Willems– a bustling place with charming staff tucked away in the old town. I asked for the table and ordered for us in German yet, after enjoying our bagels, the popular German plate of cold meats and boiled eggs were not immediately appealing, the bill was given to us in English. This seems to be a common trend in cafés and shops here; they start speaking to me in English despite my, what I would argue are, very decent efforts in German. I am hopeful that this will change in time. We walked along the Rhine, an expansive river that runs along the city, that has more expensive, cooperate attracting restaurants dotted at its edges and delved down the cobbled streets of the Altstadt brimmed with cafés, wine shops, delicatessens and churches. My shining, new home was opening before my eyes and the excitement of this adventure filled my every step. That evening, we tried the regional speciality Flammkuchen, a rectangular thin bread dough covered with fromage blanc, onions and traditionally lardons, and enjoyed a Bitburger, the region’s Pilsner, in a local Kneipe before retiring for the evening, this time in my new flat.

My shining, new home was opening before my eyes and the excitement of this adventure filled my every step

I woke up on Monday morning with the bitter-sweet feeling that my Dad was leaving me today. We navigated around the German supermarket, after double and triple checking with a local taxi driver that we could park in our space, as the dread that before long I would be alone grew stronger. I wasn’t sure whether I would get upset by his leaving or going to Germany generally but as we said our last good-byes and his car slipped away down a side street, I found myself walking away, wiping tears from my cheeks. I decided the best thing to do was immediately keep myself busy and found my first distraction in the church a stone’s throw away from my flat. I had read about the famous Chagall stained glass windows of St. Stephens’ Cathedral and found the church’s serenity very centring for my feelings. Later that evening my flat mates invited me to cook with them and watch the prequel of Game of Thrones which was a greatly appreciated gesture.

Overall, my moving experience was very positive and probably easier than some others moving to a vastly different culture and time zone; it is definitely a comfort that home is only a short flight away. When I look back now, I am proud and excited for my current and future self that I can say I moved abroad at the age of twenty and patched together a life in a city that I had barely heard of and I knew no one previously in.

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