And it’s a magical fairytale land.
If you know me then maybe you know I have always, always, ALWAYS wanted to travel to Europe. Like, since high school I’ve been trying to find a way to get here without blowing all of my money. When the opportunity presented itself (I need to give credit to Clothilde for this one) in the form of a prolonged layover through Frankfurt on my way back to the States, I was elated. It just made sense logistically and economically to stay for a bit before flying home. I originally planned to spend ten days in Europe but, for reasons I’ve already detailed, I’m here for a total of five weeks instead.
The greatest thing about this Europe trip is its timing.
I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at the moment – not India, not America, not even Thailand. I lost my patience with Asia, which, in the end, was a good way to go out because otherwise I would have been inconsolably sad about leaving the continent.
I do miss Thailand in some ways…I miss the warm weather and the beach and the smiley people…but Europe is actually perfect right now. (Maybe Europe is always perfect and I just never knew?)
The time is right for me to be here. It’s exactly what I want to be doing after my year in Asia.
I decided straight away that I would make my Europe trip about people instead of places. I figured Europe would be cool no matter what I did here, so better do things with fun people, right? I picked through my friends list on Facebook and messaged everyone I knew living in or near Germany. After about five days here in Germany, I had a pretty clear notion of where I was going to go and who I was going to visit and when it would all happen. I also worked really hard on securing some sort of work exchange position so subsidize my five-week trip since, of course, I had planned my budget to take me through India for five weeks, not Europe.
Speaking of India…
Diana, my couchsurfing host, must have thought I was a ridiculous hash-smoking hippie yoga instructor when she saw me in the Frankfurt airport looking like I had just been living in an Ashram. I had henna’d the entire palm of my left hand and was wearing my patterned, flowy “elephant pants” with an equally flowy shirt and scarf, and jangly bangles and anklets.
I think I knew it already, but my first few hours in Germany confirmed the truth that there are no two countries more different than India and Germany.
Oh, balmy, hearty, loud, congested, polluted, chaotic India, and austere, stoic, organized, pragmatic Germany. Just look! Look at how there is a timetable for every form of public transportation, and everything happens just when the timetable says it will. And look – look how there are bins everywhere, and they sort out the recycling. Look how all the people go to work and come home and ride their bicycles by the river, where there is green space because the city planned it that way.
Germany has met my needs as human being. Germany has gone above and beyond meeting my needs a human being.
I’ve been here just over a week and I’m still SO excited about all of the new (old? familiar?) Western comforts/practices/general ways of living and functioning. For example,
The cars stopped for me to cross at the crosswalk.
No one is staring at me. Even though it feels obvious to me, no one knows I’m not German.
There are no people here! The place is empty, completely empty. There’s all this infrasctructure and no people to take advantage of it.
It’s so organized and well-planned. Things aren’t mouldy and falling apart.
I’m hungry and there are no visible places to eat (street food? no??). But there IS the grocery store which is very ver affordable
I can drink the tap water! And it’s crisp and delicious.
I can flush my toilet paper, although I kept messing this one up a few times in the beginning.
I can have a hot shower. It’s actually the best. thing. ever.
So I spent my first few days with Diana and Julia in Frankfurt and Marburg, respectively. My digestive system was like OH MY GOD THANK YOU as I traded rice and chicken for crusty, hearty breads and cheeses, fruits, fresh veggies. I desperately needed to stop looking like I walked off the plane from India so I spent a day shopping at Primark. I had German beer with Julia and an amazing home-cooked pasta dinner with Diana and her friends from uni.
Then I went to Füssen and did the Cinderella thing for a little while…