Across the Bridge

6/18/2016

I’d originally planned to go to Cologne and Berlin this weekend, to visit some friends I met during high school, when they were studying in the U.S. Due to scheduling difficulties and expensive tickets, though, I opted to stay home. Instead of venturing clear across the country, I hopped on a tram across the river. It was time to explore our neighboring town of [Ludwigshafen]!

The annual ,,Fesitval des deutschen Films” takes place here—this year’s runs from June 15-July 3, and my teacher had recommended it highly to us. After meeting up with a classmate and her friend, and doing a little window-shopping and browsing in a TK-Maxx (a brand that you can only find in Europe!!), we stopped for lunch!

It was my first time eating Chinese in Europe, and it was DELICIOUS! Thanks to my amazing classmate, Kleina Sun, for the photo <3

It was my first time eating Chinese in Europe, and it was DELICIOUS!
Thanks to my amazing classmate, Kleina Sun, for the photo ❤

Then, on to the film fest, of course!

Then on to the film fest, of course!

We watched a complicated romance about a couple who shrug off their married lives to be together, before later leaving one another. It was a little hard to follow and not quite what we’d had in mind, but the neat thing was that most of the film had been shot in Mannheim! I recognized just a couple of landmarks—otherwise, it really showed me a different side of the city. So cool!

Upon getting home, what should I look out my window to other than…

another rainbow?!?

Another rainbow?!?

Two in three days—can’t say that’s ever happened before!

All in all, a great weekend!

Xoxo,

Susan

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Not Really the End of Anything

5/31/2016

Good-byes are one of my least favorite things. Often, I don’t know if or when I’ll see someone again, and…well, how are you supposed to part ways with friends who’ve grown to feel like family?

To celebrate the end of the semester and the end of a hard yet rewarding month, we went out to eat at our favorite place, Café Vienna.

The food was great...

The food was great…

But the fun we had taking selfies was even better!

But the fun we had taking selfies was even better!

One final game of Catan, one final night talking in English about anything and everything that seemed important enough to discuss. One final night with friends who’ve grown to feel like family. I’ll see them all again tomorrow morning, of course, but somehow it just won’t be the same. And Alex and Catherine aren’t the only ones leaving—on the morning of the 2nd, I depart to spend four days with a friend in Italy!! If I try, maybe I can even pick up a bit of Italian. ❤

I will miss Mannheim, though...

I will miss Mannheim, though…

Xoxo,

Susan

Going Castling

5/21/2016

One of the things everyone should really do while in Germany is spend a little time exploring castles. I got a small taste of that at Heidelberg, but even though we spent all day there, we really only saw one castle in the end. Going around with a big tour group also made for a somewhat different experience than if I’d been there on my own, or with only a couple of friends. So, today, that’s just what we decided to do—my friends and I packed some lunch and got on a bus heading south!

Destination: Dilsberg!

Destination: Dilsberg!

After a few transfers and some slow morning conversation, we were dropped off in Dilsberg, a tiny “Dorf” or village up in the Odenwald mountains. It’s about 15 Kilometers from Heidelberg, and was founded by Romans, like, before the 1200s.

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We spent the morning in the castle ruins, staring out over green country and red roofs under the blue skies.

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After a short hike, we also got to explore a tunnel leading through the mountain to the well under the castle, which was once a cistern, but was expanded when Dilsberg came under siege. According to a tour guide, Mark Twain was inspired by the well, and the story he told then inspired someone in his audience to come hide treasure in a gap in the wall. Not sure I caught every word, though, so don’t quote me on it.

Anyway, the well was definitely loved by Mark Twain!

Anyway, the well was definitely loved by Mark Twain!

A little further down the mountain, we found a door leading back the way we'd came...

A little further down the mountain, we found a door leading back the way we’d come…

And we got to stand INSIDE the well!!

And we got to stand INSIDE the well!!

In the town across the Rhine, we ate a lot of pizza and then resumed our hike.

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All in all, the day was gorgeous, and it was nice getting out to explore. We were all wiped out by the time we got home…

But everyone was really glad we went!!

But everyone was really glad we went!!

Xoxo,

Susan

In Search of Adventure…

5/8/2016

Happy Birthday to my dad today, and happy Mother’s Day to my mom! I’m sad to not be spending this doubly-special day with both of you, but also still enjoying myself so much. I tried to have an adventure today by going to dance NIA in Bensheim, a town about an hour from Mannheim by train.

The first bus/train of many…

The first bus/train of many…

However, because I’d never taken the trains around by myself before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, what I was looking for, what the signs in the station meant, and…

I let it go right by!

I let it go right by!

I then got on another train, to a transfer in a little station in Bürstadt, where there are two levels of tracks: elevated and ground-level. Naturally, I waited at the elevated tracks. Naturally, the train I’d intended to take went by just below me while I sat wondering why it hadn’t come.

At least there was some cool graffiti?

At least there was some cool graffiti?

After a ride back to Mannheim, I passed some pleasant hours in a coffeeshop, walked in the neighborhood, and just enjoyed the day. It was nice having a reason to get up in the morning, but maybe not a terrible thing to not go all the way to Bensheim and back.

If I’d made the round-trip, I wouldn’t have been home ‘til 1pm!

If I’d made the round trip, I wouldn’t have been home ‘til 1pm!

Today’s Big Thoughts

5/3/2016 (This one got lost in my Word doc for a bit!)

So far, there’s been some English, some German, and a minor identity crisis. I’ve been studying German all through high school and college, but with no idea of what I really wanted to do with it. When people asked me, I brushed the question off by saying that I enjoy studying a foreign language, but now I think I understand why I was drawn to it. It’s what brought me here—to Europe, or a corner of it, at least. I’ve seen almost nothing—barely even scratched the surface of Mannheim—yet everything just clicks. While I may never end up getting a job in German or pursuing it at a higher level of secondary education, it really doesn’t matter—what matters is the connection that it’s offered me to this culture, this place, this people. It took me a while to recognize that, and even longer to decide to go after what I saw. But now that I’ve realized what’s out there—just how big and exciting and beautiful the world is—I see no reason to stop. Language is the spice of life—it’s what gives mundane things a spark, what makes them come alive. Without other languages, just think how flat and boring the world would be, and how little it would truly offer us. It’s this mix of cultures and nationalities, this openness and warmth, that’s making me fall in love with European culture. I love it here, love it here, love it! I’m already thinking of ways to come back next summer, though I’d be happy with a little less smoke.

Off to speak more German with people I’ve never met before. Wish me luck!

Xoxo,

Susan

 

Dinnertime in Deutschland

5/4/2016

The last few days have been an utter whirl of activity: finding the youth hostel; getting to Goethe; making new friends. Mealtimes have been crazy, and I definitely haven’t slept enough since I landed (very early in Eastern Time) on Sunday morning. Yet it’s still just such an amazing feeling—being here, in Europe, for the first time, on my own. No responsibilities (other than washing my dishes once in a while and, of course, doing work for class), and the ability to speak to people in the language of the country make the days feel long and glowing.

And having beauty everywhere certainly doesn't hurt!

And having beauty everywhere certainly doesn’t hurt!

Mannheim may not be the biggest city in Germany, but it’s big enough to get lost in, and to find yourself in as well. And everything is just, well, better here. The people are nicer, and life moves along at the right pace. Army time makes sense, writing the day in front of the month makes sense,  speaking German makes sense. It’s barely the start of the adventure, but I can’t wait to see what else this trip has in store.

Even the eggs are brighter!

Even the eggs are brighter!

Xoxo,

Susan

SPAGHETTIEIS!!!

5/2/2016

The day started early with breakfast at the hostel, a quick check-out, a quick S-Bahn ride, and our arrival at Goethe! There are so many international students taking courses here—it’s pretty amazing, since the United States seems to be composed of mostly U.S. citizens, and I haven’t really had this kind of exposure to people from other countries before.

After our placement interviews and getting checked into our dorms, we had the rest of the day to ourselves, so my travel buddy Andrew and I teamed up with new-friend Catherine and went off to apply for Mannheim citizenship! With our Staatsangehörigkeit, we were able to then apply for Entdeckertickets (discovery tickets), which will allow us to ride all the buses and trains for free or at a reduced rate, after paying an initial fee.

Once that was over with, we ventured downtown, where we passed a lot of shops and finally,

Finally,

Found

Some

SPAGHETTIEIS!!!

SPAGHETTIEIS!!!

It tasted every bit as good as I’d hoped it would!

AND, It tasted every bit as good as I’d hoped it would!

We split it three ways while looking down at a beautiful fountain near the city’s monumental water-tower, which is a sight in and of itself.

So lovely!

So lovely!

So historic!

So historic!

I just wish I had more time here, so I could explore as much as possible. Everything is so bright and busy and convenient and clean and fun. My dorm is almost too nice to call a dorm, and is a lot roomier than my friends’!

Sounds like a great place for some future dinner parties.

Sounds like a great place for some future dinner parties.

I’ve already stocked the fridge!

I’ve already stocked the fridge!

Xoxo,

Susan

 

Airport Time

5/2/2016

It’s been a few days since I arrived in Germany, and everything is so lovely, but  Internet access has been a little spotty!

I'd never been on a flight quite this long before, but it was SO very worth it!!

I’d never been on a flight quite this long before, but it was SO very worth it!!

The first night, I stayed in a youth hostel (Jugendherberge) just off the Rhine river (on the Rhein Promenade).

I could not believe how lovely this place was!

I could not believe how lovely this place was!

My room overlooked a playground, and there were kids running around and playing for the entire day on Sunday! I’m traveling with a friend, and once we’d settled in, we walked around, bought meals to-go, and generally took in the sights.

We found little white flowers scattered in-between the S-Bahn (streetcar) tracks...

We found little white flowers scattered in between the S-Bahn (streetcar) tracks…

 

...the ever-busy playground...

…the ever-busy playground…

And a beautiful park, where we catnapped the afternoon away!

And a beautiful park, where we catnapped the afternoon away!

Not to mention that our rooms were pretty great!

Not to mention that our rooms were pretty great!

I’m just loving this so much—so happy I’m in Europe, that I have a buddy to do this with, and that I had such a good experience on my first couple of days here. When I came back to my room, I even found a sweet roommate who was happy to welcome me to Europe, and who made for a great conversation partner!

We’ll be settling into our dorms tomorrow and getting registered for our classes at the Geothe Institut, and I really have no idea what to expect.

If nothing else, I hope to find some Spaghettieis soon!

Xoxo,

Susan

 

Thumbprints? Huh?

While having lunch with a really dear friend yesterday, we were discussing our travel plans for the summer, and specifically my trip to Mannheim, which starts on May 1st! She said one thing that stuck with me: the idea of “thumbprint” traveling, where you put your thumb on the map and stay within that circle.

That’s pretty much what I intend to do while I’m overseas–while I will be exploring Europe for the first time, I have a feeling I won’t have the time or energy (or money) to race around between countries and capitals. And although I’d love to see as much as possible, a month is a fairly short amount of  time to spend in any setting, so I’ve decided to focus in on what I can explore locally. There should be plenty of options–Mannheim isn’t too far from Cologne/Köln,  Neuschwanstein, or Nia classes in Heidelburg, all of which would be great to see and to experience.

I’m really excited to be taking this trip, and also that you’ve decided to join me vicariously through this blog. While a lot of my time in Germany might be spent cooking dinner in my dorm, I promise to get out and explore now and again. Check back here, and you’ll be the first to know about it! 😉

Spaghettieis

Oh, and let’s not forget the Spaghettieis–yes, it really is ice cream!! And I can’t wait to eat some.