My experience of the German variety began at the Floghafen airport in Berlin. After landing and fishing through the sea of suitcases to find my enormous antique steamer trunk, I passed through the throngs of people in search of the balloons and streamers and parades that I was sure would be announcing my arrival. Nothing. Not even anyone holding a cute little sign with my name on it; I was hoping at least for the bus driver to dot my name with a heart or sunshine. In fact, I couldn’t even find where I was to be looking for this bus. Outside was a flurry of buses with words I could barely distinguish as letters, it looked more like Wing Dings font on the computer. When I wandered back inside, all I found was a small over-priced cafe, a staircase, a desk that said, “Tourist Help”, and a gift shop where I later found myself buying some fruit chews made with real apples for sustenance after being informed that my bus wasn’t arriving for two hours.
The lady at the desk didn’t want to learn the secret handshake I had made up in my head on the plane ride over, so I just got straight to the point in asking her about the bus’ arrival. She told me I would wait outside under the sign that said “Dresden”. Made perfect sense, so I apparently was stupid. I went out under the sign and tried to make English of the bus schedule, as well as where I pick up my tickets. Seeing, I was going to be waiting quite awhile, I meandered to the ticket counter to inquire how I show proof of purchase, I had written down the confirmation number they emailed me. The woman just stuck out her hand and said, “To Dresden? 18 Euro.” “Oh, yes, yes I know but I bought my ticket already and it said to pick it up at the counter.” “18 Euro.”
Ok….so, we’re obviously not gonna be pen pals. I decided to go find a place to comfortably await my chariot. There were no seats in this terminal. As in, none. Zero. Negative. There was however a radiator, which four other people were making themselves at home upon, so I joined them. Two hours on a heater makes for really warm buns. After sitting alone for 8 hours, I was in the mood for small talk, so I tried to strike up a conversation by asking if anyone was waiting for the same bus. The Polish woman to my right looked really excited about her sandwich and gave me a quizzical look after I had been staring at her for five minutes trying to get her attention to talk. The older gentleman to my left looked like he was poised and ready to snag my water bottle out of the garbage the second I threw it away. And the girl on her way to Warsaw, two heads down told me, in Spanish, that she doesn’t speak English and she is not waiting for the same bus. So, I sat by my lonesome and watched my fingernails grow.
Precisely on time, the bus shows up, and wordlessly the driver and I reach an understanding about the ticket, which is in an envelope waiting for me on his dashboard. Now, the next quandary. Leah didn’t tell me which stop it was…. actually she did I am sure, I think I just was not paying attention. I find out that there are TWO stops in Dresden. Big station. Small station. I could have sworn she said small station, so after marveling at the size of their TRUCKS and BUSES which are absolutely HUGE, I close my eyes, make my bus seat my own, and find time slipping away as the dreams begin…
I awake to a HUGE bus station and everyone sifting through luggage and getting off the bus. I panic and wonder if this is my stop; stepping outside, I see no signs of Leah and decide to follow my gut and get back on board. I have left her address in my email, which I was unable to get to and I am getting worried now about the lack of love given to me when I try to ask questions. I found out, from my German seat-sharing pal, that the bus station we were just at was the “SMALL” bus station! The next stop sounds like “YouGetOffHereEmily” or “Hubbernoffigrigerhoffenbonn” (something like that) so I decide now is a good time for the ride to end, and step off to see the lovely face of LEAH greeting me!!!!
We have a 90-minute hugging session, drink a beer on the walk back from the bus (it was sort of warm after the long hug, but Leah reassures me, that is the German way), drop my luggage, and EXPLORE. We started at the massive library, which would take me days to write about, days to walk through every room, and I would have to be a cat with nine lives to read all the books in this place! Leah had no class on Wednesday, so we spend our second day exploring the city like children in a zoo. We visit an amazing organic grocery store, an Afrikan wares shop, a bunch of fair trade clothing stores, a head shop which had a huge sign advertising that it sold Absinthe, and got a veggie Falafel sandwich called a döner for lunch. Then we took off again for some giant store Leah is in love with (ForkenFolokenHafen?), got lost, and took note of the intriguing marketing skills of the German, wishing we could walk as straight as they do, envying their bicycles, and the way they make shorts and tights look like it actually IS a fashion statement. After a day well-lived, and the nine flights of stairs to get to her apartment having been climbed three or four times, we crash upon our Ikea-like uniform mattresses with barely enough energy to dream.
Leah and her roommates live in an International housing unit for people visiting Dresden (for school, work, etc). They can stay weeks, months, days, years, and it’s pretty much an everything included room: Beds, linens, dishes, pots, pans, dustpans, etc. While Leah attends class in the mornings, I walk about using my fake German photo bus ID that we created and her highly skilled mapping system that she has drawn all over and ripped into a puzzle for me to piece together while I wait for various modes of transportation.
In the mornings, I awake to eat foods like Quartkspeitzel and I put Dinkel milk in my coffee. Then we make amazing vegetable smorgasbords for our lunches and wash it down with the most amazing of cheap beers one has ever tasted. They are all about .87 (Approximately $1.00) for the best of the best. My favorite was the organic, wheat-free, and locally brewed Dinkel bier (spelt). The pickles are everything one could hope for and more, and Leah does a good job of making sure I am well fed and cared for. Together we create food masterpieces chefs only dream of devising!
One of my favorite moments, though there were too many to recall, was when Leah and I were relaxing at the Bierstube, a local university hang out, when the server sees our empty glasses and says, “Möchten Sie noch ein Bier möchten Sie zu einem Spaziergang, wo Sie kommen nicht aus gehen?” Or something like that…and Leah replies, “No, thanks.” With all the confidence in the world that her answer was the right one. This has been an eye-opening and awesome trip, the three major lessons I learned were:
1. Do not pack two huge expensive containers of honey in your carry-on luggage because you will get to watch as they throw your hard-earned Euro’s into their handy dandy security trash can.
2. All it takes to be the happiest person on earth is to create the life you love and be thankful for every bit of it!
3. Jars (and all packages of any sort) in Germany are way harder to open than jars in France, a bicep workout with every pickled beet sauerkraut feast I crave. By the time I get home, I will be able to open American jars with my pinky finger.
I am back in my mountainous temporary home now, just went to the Farmer’s Market and got my body weight in spinach –a bonus string bean came in with the lot! Now just 16 days in these foreign lands before coming home!!
I hope I can remember how to cook since I start working again in four days…
Indeed seeing you REALLY soon and counting down the Samtags, Montags, Dienstags Mittwochs, and Sonntags until it becomes reality…
— Emily —