I spent the weekend in Heidelberg, a town in southern Germany about 45 minutes from Frankfurt by train. This town wasn't destroyed during World War 2, so it has all that charm of an old European city and was full of beautiful old buildings, statues, churches, etc. I spent the weekend catching up with my friend Annette, a German girl I met about 3 years ago in Paris through Hospitality Club. Me visiting her in Germany is something we've been talking about ever since we met, but in between her moving to Japan and me moving to New York City, it was a hard thing to schedule - until now! It is always such a treat to explore a new place with someone who lives there. On Saturday morning, Annette greeted me with fresh croissants and pain au chocolate from the french bakery. During the afternoon, we stumbled upon an African market, so I enjoyed Ethiopian coffee and food for lunch. Feeling like I might want to actually get into the German spirit, I made it a point to order a locally brewed beer after dinner, which of course came in a nice, big, mug. The beer served in Amsterdam is always in tiny little glasses, so being able to sit and enjoy my beer for more than 5 minutes felt like a treat.
I was delighted that it was very warm, bright, and sunny for the entire weekend. After spending the day walking around and exploring, I took a very unplanned nap while laying on the grass, next to the river. That felt incredible. To feel the sun on my skin, to know that I didn't have anywhere to be or anything to do - it was just total relaxation. And after the past week or so of moving and busy days at work and not much sleep, falling asleep in the sun was just about the best thing I could have asked for. Later on Saturday night, sometime around midnight, Annette and I walked all the way up to the top of the castle ruins and had the most breathtaking views of the city. It was totally ideal.
German and Dutch are pretty similar languages, and while I can't speak Dutch (yet), I have gotten used to hearing it, trying to read it, and being around it, so this motivated me to try my best to use German whenever I could (I have zero background in German, other than learning how to sing "Ach du lieber Augustine" when I was in 8th grade). This was mostly limited to "ein espresso macchiato, bitte, danke," and trying to read signs and street names as I walked around with Annette. I asked her to correct my pronunciation and translate things for me all weekend, and she never seemed to tire of doing that, which was great. On the train ride from Heidelberg to Amsterdam, I pulled out my "Dutch for Beginners" book and actually read it, instead of just skim through it. Here in Amsterdam, I should at (the very least) try and get started by ordering in Dutch when I'm at cafes and bars, even if people will most likely respond in English. I started this morning at the cafe near my office, and the woman (who sees me all the time and always speaks English to me) happily responded in Dutch. I can't wait for Dutch classes to get started in September.
Taking weekend trips to another country is one of my favorite things about living in Europe. When I booked this trip, I unfortunately had to do it by plane (due to time constraints of getting out of Amsterdam on Friday evening), even though I much prefer trains for a number of reasons. However, when I was at the Frankfurt airport on Sunday night, trying to find where I should check in for my return flight, an Air France woman told me it had been canceled. I either shocked or offended or insulted her (or all three) by saying "oh fuck" in response, as the expression on her face was nothing short of disgust. I was more just saying it to myself, because obviously no one ever wants to hear their flight is canceled, especially on a Sunday evening when I had already made plans in Amsterdam. I nervously waited in line at the KLM counter, and was offered the following solutions - a later flight with a different airline, or a direct train to Amsterdam that would get me home by 9.30pm. Obviously, I jumped at the chance to take the train, and made it back to Amsterdam with plenty of daylight still left. My bike was fortunately right where I had left it (just down the street from Centraal Station, near a church), and a friend was waiting to greet me with home cooked dinner.
Next trip: Berlin, in two weeks. It will be my second visit to that city, this time to stay with friends, and I can't wait. This summer is shaping up to be one of the best of my life.