I apologize! I had intended to put this darn thing out on Monday and in a rush of… well, stuff, I forgot. My sincerest apologies, you dedicated readers have been waiting more than long enough!
I have been, in some respects, looking forward to writing this blog. In many others, I have totally dreaded it. The reason why I have NOT written my blog is the exact same reason why there is so much to write: it has been a very, very eventful three weeks.
Many of you may already know, my girlfriend Pa Foua flew across the world for the first time in her life to come visit me in cold, snowy Trossingen. Of course, when she got here, the weather was a balmy 10C (about 50 Fahrenheit… shorts weather!). It only snowed on the last day (making all of our delightful train transfers getting to Stuttgart both cold and late). Anyway, I’ve only been writing for a minute and I’m already off topic.
So, Christmas vacation came and went. New Years was nice. Taylor and I went in halfsies (halvsies?) on a 10-pack of Paulaner beer, I came over and made three EXTREMELY DELICIOUS casseroles. Oh my goodness they were amazing. I only made one with meat, and the other two were vegetarian (for our vegetarian Californian counterpart, Edward). I will not tell a lie, the veggie casseroles were better than the one with meat. Something about having broccoli smothered in creamy sauce and cheese just makes my heart skip a beat. You know where to find the pictures of them.
Later that evening, as Edward and I were playing Reversi and having an in-depth conversation about Jelly Bellies (he may come up to Fairfield after we all get back to America and we’ll take the tour of the factory there!), several Koreans and a lonely Chinese guy came to party with us. The nice thing is, the only common language we had between us was German, so we talked to each other for a long time about anything and everything in German, till midnight rolled around. Turns out the Koreans had bought tons of fireworks (the kind that would be illegal if we were in America), and we set them off, along with everyone else in Trossingen. I didn’t realize how many people the town actually has, but I think more people come out to explode things than pretty much anything else.
So let’s see, moving on. Two days later, Taylor and I make a trip up to Stuttgart to pick our girlfriends up. We were both very nervous, I think. It had been a very long time since we’d seen them, and it’s always a bit questionable how those things are going to turn out. But the worries were unfounded. Both Pa Foua and his girlfriend Allison were happy to see us (respectively), and all was right again with the world. We took the tired ladies back on the train, and met an American guy from Chicago, a traveling musician with a chocolatey voice. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see him sing, I bet he was pretty good. He talked about buying prints of pictures of Arnold Schwarznegger in his youth. I don’t know what that has to do with the story, but I figured you needed to know about it. Sometimes these things happen.
We got home about 9:30, and decided to eat dinner out at the Alter Krug, a restaurant that is about as German as you can get. Pa Foua and I had schnitzel, Taylor and Allison had maultaschen (a type of meat/veggie pocket, like a cross between a ravioli and a potsticker), and we all had a beer. I ended up finishing Pa Foua’s. She’s not exactly a beer drinker. Anyway, I think we all slept well that night. It had been a long day.
The next day, we explored Trossingen a wee bit, then went to the town of Villingen, a slightly larger and more city-like place near Trossingen. It was very nice to get out, and the weather was good (if a bit cold). There was more to explore there, and we went shopping, looking at books, and more books, checking out a 3-story store that basically sells EVERYTHING except food. We got some less-than-amazing Doener, and headed back home.
We left for Paris the morning after that. Talk about an amazing experience. We spent more than 6 hours on one train or another. I don’t think Pa Foua enjoyed that part of it very much… being on the 2nd floor of a train going 150kmph is not helpful when one has motion sickness. It was, all things considered, more pleasant than riding the normal Deutsche Bahn trains. The seats were more comfortable, and had outlets for me to plug things into. Pa Foua played Fruit Ninja on my phone to distract herself. Still didn’t beat my high score, though. Maybe one day.
So, we arrived in Paris about 4:30, if I recall correctly. We stuck around in the train station for a while, trying to figure out where to go. Google maps had lied through its digital teeth to us, telling us to take a tram that didn’t leave from the Paris Est station. Stupid Google maps. We had to ask the information desk, which (although surly) was very helpful in getting us to our destination. The Paris trams are truly beautiful things in their usefulness. In a little less than 40 minutes we were able to walk to our hotel in Boulogne-Billancourt, a “suburb” of Paris just across the Seine. In this time, however, we had a couple rather unsuccessful attempts at communicating. It really illustrates the duality of communication: one half is knowing how to say “Where is the hotel?” The other half is knowing how to understand the answer. We fail at French a little.
When we got to our hotel, we were quite tired. We put our things up into our room, got situated, and headed down to get some dinner somewhere in the town. We checked out the French restaurant near the hotel. Turns out “restaurant français” in French actually translates to “Many more Euros than you feel like paying to eat.” I know I shouldn’t be whining about expensive food in a place like Paris, but I’m whining. So there. We ended up at a nice little Italian restaurant about 30 seconds away from the French place. Here, we had another communication fail. I worked on saying “Une table pour deux, s’il vous plait.” But the waitress just said “Deux?” And I said, “Ja.” Whoops. The waiter came by later, after we unsuccessfully tried to figure out what Jambon was, or what the heck the rest of this stuff was. He came by and said something incomprehensible, I said, “De l’eau.” That means water, because I assumed he would ask what we wanted to drink. He didn’t seem satisfied with that. So I said it again, a little firmer this time. Still nothing, so a little firmer yet, I repeated it again.
Then he got an English-speaking waiter to help us.
So, my pizza was delicious, and Pa Foua enjoyed her pasta, but they both tasted like defeat. Afterwards, we decided to walk around Boulogne for a while, to see what could be seen. We could see the lights from the Eiffel Tower, but not the tower itself. Too bad. It started to get late, so we visited a shop and bought me a toothbrush, which I had forgotten. Whoops. We watched Ratatouille, to celebrate being in Paris. What a great movie. And the food looks so good… Mm-mm.
The next day, we woke up to a delicious breakfast in the hotel. My goodness, I was happy. Pancakes, bacon, AMAZING breakfast sausage, eggs, potato pancakes, and mushrooms. Of course, that was just the American portion. They also had a German portion with delicious bread, meat, cheese, jam and butter. And Nutella… gotta have that. I ate more than I should have, probably. But I had a glass of grapefruit juice, so I felt healthy in spite of it all. We got out of the house around 10, to go see the Eiffel Tower.
We walked around the Champ de Mars quite a bit, seeing the beautiful park, and getting a view of the Eiffel Tower. When we got to the elevators… I didn’t think the lines would be that long. But it was okay. They opened up the top just before we bought our tickets, but we decided not to go up because there was a significant wait and it was foggy to boot.
Pa Foua and I walked around twice, seeing what could be seen, and then went back inside to buy gifts. That is, she bought gifts and I examined expensive music boxes and shot glasses, and ogled some pricey chocolate, thinking that the quality made the price high and not the location of its sale. I was probably incorrect, but I didn’t buy it to find out. Look what else they had!
We crossed the Seine after we got down, and came across a huge market that reminded me of the Christmas markets in Germany, but a little more tourist-y and French. There was lots of Vin Chaud (hot wine), Macarons (macaroons), and Sausage (sausage). We tried some of the colorful cookies, and I bought some dry French sausage that honestly was quite delicious, much to the chagrin of Germans, I’m sure. They also had an ice rink, as well as many handmade goods and Eiffel Tower memorabilia. Pa Foua expressed her desire to have ice cream even though it was just above freezing. There was none to be had, but in spite of that, she’s a strange girl.
We walked the couple kilometers to the Musee D’Orsay, getting lunch at a cafe near to it. It wasn’t the best food I’ve ever had, but it was okay for the price. We waited in a long line for the museum, while a dixie combo played out on the street behind us. I wish they had had a sound system, because I couldn’t hear them over the chatter of the people in line. The inside of the museum was quite wonderful. I didn’t know that it used to be a train station, but upon seeing it, I thought, “This looks like it could have been a train station. I wonder if they built it that way on purpose.” Anyway. I’m brilliant, I know.
The paintings and sculptures were totally beautiful. I got to see some paintings by Renoir, Degas, Gauguin, Cezanne, Manet, and (of course) Van Gogh, that I had only seen pictures of. I had learned about quite a few of them in my 20th Century Music Theory class (as the professor also did studies of the art, comparing it to the music). Talk about breathtaking. It was a very significant experience for me. I’ve never actually felt that way about art in my entire life. There was an exhibit showing the artistry of the Paris Opera House, and that was also particularly beautiful and interesting… Another exhibit featured a guy who apparently really liked to paint LARGE paintings. Very, very, very large paintings. And he apparently also liked to paint deer in rather unhappy positions. I can’t really say more than that, though my feet started to get tired walking from one end of his painting to the other.
The main traveling exhibit was the “Fashion of Impressionism,” which focused on what people wore during that era (and how the artists portrayed fashion, as well). They had many paintings with these beautiful, bright colored, extravagant dresses and suits, and then, directly next to them were the actual pieces of clothing (or pieces of clothing that strongly resembled them). Super cool. We didn’t get time to see the whole exhibit, unfortunately, as it closed half an hour before the museum. If I had known the lines for both would have been so long, I would have gotten started earlier. On the whole it was totally okay. I think we had both had a full day, and we plopped down gratefully on our bed when we got back to the hotel. After a rest, we went out to find another restaurant in Boulogne, and came across a Moroccan restaurant. I was intrigued, and Pa Foua was being nice, so we ate there.
Turns out, that was a very good idea. The food was cheaper, the waiter understood us when we ordered (YES!), and it was unbelievably delicious. For just under 30 euros, I got the best meal I’d had so far in Europe. We walked around a bit more after that… Now that I think about it, Pa Foua’s insistence on walking (and my agreeability to it) is probably the biggest reason why I have been staying fit and not gaining weight. Go her! Go us! That night, we watched Hugo, another movie set in Paris. That movie is also quite wonderful, mystical, great. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
We got started earlier the next day, with another good American/German breakfast. I think I’m about half and half in my preference of the two, now… though I do miss the breakfast eggs at the Goldener Adler where I spent my days in Horb. That’s beside the point, though. We took the tram to the Louvre, and went through the bottom, seeing a large mall and the upside-down pyramid on our way in. The inner “sanctum” of the Louvre is one of the most beautiful wonders of architecture I have ever seen in my life. I mean that. The openness, the purity, the beauty and elegance of it all was astounding. How fitting that the most famous house of art is in itself a work of art like no other.
Enough about that, though. I foolishly assumed that there would be modern art in the Louvre, so I was a little disappointed, if only for my own ignorance. However, it was nothing short of amazing. We went through the ancient stuff first, seeing the Egyptian art, jewelry, pottery, and such, and then the Greek and Roman stuff. The Venus de Milo was surrounded by a crowd of people, naturally, but it was beautiful in spite of that. The architecture, sculptures, and everything else was just amazing to consider. Imagining that people could achieve such things thousands of years ago never ceases to blow my mind. I hope only that the people who study us a thousand years from now will think the same things.
There’s a lot to see in the Louvre. We saw quite a bit of it. I’m not an expert on Classical art, and I think that you truly have to be to appreciate the Louvre as a whole. There is SO MUCH Classical and Baroque art in this museum that it becomes overwhelming and, quite frankly, less than interesting.
I hate that I would say that about art of any kind, but I believe that if you had to listen to all 41 of Mozart’s symphonies end to end, you’d say the same thing, and so would I. That’s what the hall of Italian Classical art felt like. And then one wonders why the Mona Lisa is so famous, when there is so much beauty directly next to it. What sets it apart so much, that these other works can be practically ignored, while tourists flock to this painting just to catch a glimpse of the picture on the front of their high school art textbook? I didn’t know, and I still don’t know. Cool, though, I got to see the Mona Lisa. Yay!
We also got the lucky chance to get a picture of Pa Foua standing next to it!
Among other things we saw were some really beautiful religious figures and art, royal diningware, and an exhibit on Scandinavian Classical art (to me, much preferable to the fluffy Italian stuff).
We somehow ended up in the Ethnic Art section, and got to see some interesting (and more modern) stuff from there, as well as a Maoi statue. Pa Foua looks happy to be standing next to it.
We ate lunch in the extremely overpriced cafe. Frankly, it’s a brilliant strategy to make unbelievably long lines to get into the Louvre, because you’ll pay an extra 10 euros for a piece of chicken just to avoid standing in it. However, we got sandwiches and they were both “cheap” and satisfying. So, no problems there.
Anyway, we spent a little more time in the Louvre afterwards. These pictures are not very amazing but I thought I’d post them anyway.
When we were finished we went back under to do some souvenir shopping. Everything was Mona Lisa themed. Shocker. We also spent a bit of time in the mall, looking around. There was an awesome toy/knick-knack store that had some amazing stuff in it. Of course, we also went to the chocolaterie… and had some of the most delicious chocolate I’ve ever eaten. It was only a Euro per piece, which I was frankly surprised by. I guess I never imagine stuff like that to be cheap. Anyway.
Afterwards, we walked over to Notre Dame (a pretty good walk as well. What were we thinking?). When we were almost there, we decided to stop and get some ice cream and mulled wine. I’m going to stop mentioning how expensive everything is. You get the picture.
Notre Dame was beautiful. I have never seen a cathedral so beautifully magnificent in my entire life. The cathedral at Ulm was nothing compared to this. The stained glass walls were gigantic and beautiful, the religious art and figures in the different sections of the church were stunning, and there was a chandelier on display that defied imagination in its opulence and beauty.
I know this sounds silly, but we did not go up. We were both very tired, and Pa Foua tends to get claustrophobic, and I honestly don’t think she would have enjoyed an endless winding spiral staircase. I am NOT claustrophobic and I hate them with a passion. But, we did decide to stick around for Vespers, which was totally beautiful. The organ seemed to fill the room so much, that one could feel the sound as well as hearing it. What an experience.
Afterwards, Pa Foua and I went souvenir shopping, and I found a tin of lavender candies. I realize how insignificant that seems, but as a small child, my mom would always take me to Cost Plus during the holidays, and buy me these oval tins of hard, opaque French bonbons, and I loved them. I hadn’t had them in about 10 years, and I thought it was high time to try them again. Turns out, they’re just as wonderful as I remember.
Anyway, we headed home and looked to get some French food. It was our last night! So we went back to the French place we had snubbed the first night. I looked at the menu outside again, and saw the Entree section. It was a little expensive, sure, but I wouldn’t mind paying 12 or 13 euros for a plate of French food.
Oh, by the way, that’s when I figured out that “Entree” in French means “Appetizer.” We decided not to go there… again. About a minute later, we found a Lebanese restaurant. Again, the food was amazing and not at all expensive. I find that ethnic restaurants on the whole are simply better choices. I’ve always found that in America, too. Here’s my theory: “French” restaurants or “German” restaurants or “Classic Diners” or anything like that, in the country of their origin, are going to have a culture attached to them. Perhaps it’s a chef you know and like. Perhaps you’ve eaten so many Reuben sandwiches that you won’t be impressed if it’s not totally fantastic, or if it’s something “out of the ordinary.” When you run across something like that, the culture comes with it, and adds an element of unorthodox “class” to your meal, making it unique, perhaps more enjoyable but definitely more expensive. In America, you can find a cheap diner that gives you exactly what you order, but in Paris, there is no Foie Gras that is JUST Foie Gras. It’s Foie Gras with a something reduction and yadda yadda, let’s add some truffles! And that means that’s it’s expensive. Restaurants are lent credibility and popularity by not only the taste of their food, but how well they do the “culture” aspect of it. And… well, I’m American. I don’t pay extra for the culture. Also, in a restaurant with “culture,” it is expected that the culture be returned as it is given. This means dressing nice, pronouncing things properly in French, and probably ordering an apertif and a dessert, even if you’re not hungry, or risk getting a stinkeye from some snooty waiter. Ethnic restaurants open up and STAY open because their food tastes good. So, while they may not have a special chef, they may not give you the stupendous experience that Moroccans or Lebanese people might expect from a restaurant of THEIR culture, their food tastes good, and it fills you up. That’s my eating philosophy, and, while I may not be munching on escargot and quiche lorraine, I eat well, and I eat for less than people who think differently.
Anyway, enough about my culinary ruminations. We watched another movie that night. I’ve forgotten what it was.
The next morning, we woke up, packed our things, had one last breakfast, and got out. We had wanted to stop at a patisserie the day before, but had had no chance. So, we dropped by a bakery/patisserie after we left, and I got a coffee. We both got ourselves a little treat, but look what we had to choose from:
So we left Paris, but not before a little bit more souvenir shopping in the train station. The ride back was a bit easier, I think, but we ended up getting to Trossingen quite late. Likely, we didn’t even watch a movie.
The next week, I had school. School means spending less time with Pa Foua, and I was sad about that, but she was okay and so was I. There was quite a bit to do during school hours, and I was working hard to get everything in order for the end of the semester. School is the same way it always is, there’s just more of it, I suppose. We went through some final presentations in one lab, and that was pretty cool. I’m excited to do my presentation. I hope it’s going to be as impressive as I think it is. But we’ll see. Anyway, the week went by quickly and it came time to go to Dresden to see our friend Ina.
Now THAT was a long train ride. It took us more than 8 hours to get there. By the time we arrived, we were totally beat, and Ina greeted Pa Foua with a running hug that I thought would break her bones. Her hug to me was only slightly less enthusiastic, but fortunately, she didn’t have enough space to build up a running start. Her dad drove us to their house, and we ate dinner there after talking to them for a while. Ina’s mother speaks very good English, but her father seems to prefer German (as do I!). We all talked quite a bit, about our trip, about what I’m doing in Germany, about what Pa Foua thinks of their country. Anyway, for dinner it was a delicious rice, eggplant, and zucchini casserole thing. I found it totally delicious, and had seconds. They also had a small plate of assorted pickled things that I tried as well, and I am going to have to get myself some pickled delicacies of my own in the near future. Yum. Afterwards, Ina, Pa Foua and I all went out for drinks on the town.
Turns out, people go out on Friday night. We searched through several of the good bars, to no avail, and after walking around in the snow for a while we settled on a nice little non-smoking cafe/bar that turned out to be perfect. Ina had an Irish chocolate, Pa Foua had a “Planter’s Dream,” which was basically a non-alcoholic fruit juice explosion, and I had a Hot Mayan, which was also non-alcoholic. I think they just took hot chocolate mix and poured in a ton of cayenne pepper. It wasn’t my favorite, but it warmed me up. I miss the Mayan Hot Chocolate from Ginger Elizabeth in downtown Sacramento. That was truly some good stuff.
The next day was the only full day we had to explore Dresden, so we did quite a bit of exploring. We woke up not too early, had some good German breakfast (hooray!), and headed off. Our first stop was an old church where Ina’s boyfriend used to work. We went up into the clock tower and got a good view of Dresden.
It… it doesn’t look like a West German city. You can still see the scars if you know where to look.
We then went to the Frauenkirche, a famous church in Dresden that was destroyed during the war and rebuilt to its former Baroque glory. We stayed for a church service full of organ music, and stayed a little more for the history of the church. I translated the best I could for Pa Foua, but some of it just didn’t come out right. That’s something I have to work on.
After the service we had a bit of time to kill, so we stopped by the mall (THERE’S A MALL) in Dresden and ate lunch. I had a bratwurst and it was yummy. Pa Foua and Ina both had noodles. We searched around for other stuff to buy, but didn’t find anything super significant. I can’t remember if we got ice cream at that point or if we waited, but inside the mall was an ice cream shop that apparently required all of its (female) staff to wear short skirts. Don’t ask me, but it looked totally strange with the snowy weather. It just kind of made me feel sad for them.
We went to the Semper Opera House next, for an English tour. This Opera House, like the rest of Dresden, was destroyed in the war and rebuilt. Truth be told, it had already been destroyed once before, so this is kind of a regular thing. Every 50 years or so, they just say, “Well, time to rebuild the Semper Opera House!” and get on to it.
Jokes aside, it was a beautiful place, and there was a great deal of homage to famous opera composers. Including… Beethoven? BEETHOVEN? The dude wrote ONE opera! He wrote HOW MANY piano sonatas? HOW MANY symphonies? HOW MANY string quartets? And you’re putting a bust of him in your opera house, his name in huge letters on the roof of your building, because he wrote ONE opera? Yay Beethoven…
Anyway, the thing I found most interesting about the opera house was its relevance to Wagner. Everyone knows Wagner as the “German Opera Guy,” the GOG if you will. Well, what a lot of people DON’T know is that Mr. GOG himself designed and built an opera house in Bayreuth. Many people who know that don’t know that this opera house revolutionized the way opera houses were built for pretty much forever afterwards, and here’s why: 1. It had no windows. Opera houses before this time generally had windows to let light in during the day and during the performances. Wagner saw it as an interruption of the complete experience of his operas, and didn’t put any in his hall. 2. The long rows of seats. Wagner’s opera house has no aisles in its seats. Long, unbroken rows of seats that made you really wish you hadn’t picked the middle when you have to get up and go to the bathroom somewhere in the 5 hours of Gotterdammerung. 3. The orchestra pit was sunken by 2.5 meters, to hide them from the audience. Now, when you think of a musical or opera nowadays, you think it would be absurd to see the orchestra. Maybe you get to see the white dandruffy hair of the conductor whiffling back and forth now and then, but to see the violinists sweating as they play Tristan und Isolde is absurd. Wagner thought so, too. He sunk the orchestra musicians underneath the stage so the primary focus could be on the actors/singers, and not the musicians slaving away on their often difficult music.
These elements were all present in the Semper Opera house. At first I was very surprised, because the Wagner opera house was finished in 1876, and the Semper Opera House was finished in 1841, making Wagner an unoriginal hack.
But the Semper Opera house burned down in 1869! I had forgotten! Gottfried Semper partially designed the new building, being completed in 1878, two years AFTER Wagner’s house in Bayreuth! AHA! So Semper is the unoriginal hack!
But then, Wagner’s house was actually based on the abandoned design for an opera house in Munich, used without the architect’s permission. Which architect, you ask? Gottfried Semper, of course. Whether or not Wagner altered it to add his famous “innovations” or not is uncertain, so… I guess we don’t really know which of them is an unoriginal hack. My money’s on Wagner, the thief!
Anyway, the house itself was truly beautiful. I love the opulence of these old nations.
So, later, we walked around some more, and saw a beautiful garden covered in snow. I imagine that it would have been a little more beautiful had there been trees and flowers in bloom, and fountains going, but hey, it was winter. At the very least it was serene. We went back to the mall for a bit, shopped some more, bought some delicious chocolate, and headed back.
Dinner that night was goulash! Yummy! There was a large amount of delicious bread, too, and Pa Foua (not a huge bread eater) was raving about it for quite a bit afterwards (she’s doesn’t usually rave, either). After dinner we watched a video tour of Dresden that Ina’s dad had lying around. Fortunately it was in English, but the narrator did not seem particularly impassioned about his subject matter. In spite of that, it was entertaining and I learned quite a bit about the history of the city and its sights.
We went out again for drinks, but this time one of the “good” bars had a spot open for us. It was called the “Chocolate Bar.” Isn’t that cute? They specialized in, you guessed it, chocolate drinks and such! Pa Foua had a cup of “Hot Ciok,” which was pretty much hot chocolate pudding, almost undrinkable (but they gave her a spoon so she dug in anyway). I don’t honestly remember what Ina had to drink, but then Pa Foua had a Strawberry Colada and I had a Chocolate Colada. What the heck was I thinking? It was yummy, but… chocolate colada? Whew. Talk about a hefty drink. Very sweet and very alcoholic. It took me the whole night to drink it. Turns out, we had ordered our drinks during happy hour, even though by the time we were finished it had been over for a couple of hours. I picked up the tab (without actually knowing ), and was pleasantly surprised. Being a gentleman pays off sometimes.
The next morning before we had to go, we decided to see one of the sights that we had discovered in the video tour, a beautiful royal garden. It was, of course, still winter, and nothing was in bloom (or even really alive), but it was beautiful nonetheless. The oldest camellia bush in the world is there, in a protective greenhouse. There were other greenhouses we could visit as well, and we took the liberty to get warm and see some pretty cool tropical plants. I wouldn’t think to find birds of paradise or hibiscus plants in northern Germany, but hey, the world’s full of surprises. Here’s one:
We came back into the town, got a Doener and some ice cream, and headed back. Yeah, we ate a lot of ice cream in Dresden.
Anyway, as we were about to leave the station from Leipzig (after our first connection from Dresden), the train’s engine failed. So… half hour wait. That, of course, meant that we would miss every connection, and we had planned to catch the last train back to Trossingen. I guess that meant we’d spend the night in a bahnhof somewhere in Germany and have a very rough Monday morning. Fortune was kind of on our side, however. The connecting train at Fulda waited for our train to arrive so we could transfer, and the next connection did so as well. When we got to Stuttgart, however, the train we needed for Rottweil (and Trossingen) had left just 2 minutes before we got there. We waited in the Bahnhof for the next one, knowing that we would not be able to take the train back to Trossingen that night. I called a friend of mine who had a car, and fortunately him and his girlfriend were able to pick us up in Rottweil (only about 15 minutes from Trossingen) and take us back at just after midnight. Friends can really save your life sometimes. It was a relief to get back to my own bed, and I know Pa Foua probably felt the same gratefulness as well.
The next week of school came and went quickly. We didn’t have a lot of time to do much, unfortunately, as there was school. Pa Foua entertained herself by cleaning the house… several times. She went so far as to even wash some of my socks. That girl is a keeper. I cooked her fried rice and we made an evening of it.
On Wednesday, I brought her to Horb. We had to get to Stuttgart early the next morning, and trains don’t leave from Trossingen that early. I wanted her to meet my host parents, too. As it happens, it was my host mom’s birthday! We bought a small bunch of flowers for her as a gift. She said they looked like spring, and seemed to really like them. There was a large party and I’m sure Pa Foua was feeling a little lost with all the German, but I translated again and tried to divide my attention up between the two languages. There was also a lone student staying with my host family from Italian Switzerland. He didn’t speak very good German but we talked for quite a while. At first he was pretty quiet but once we started talking about soccer, it went smoothly from then on. He asked me what the fiscal cliff was at some point, and I relished the fact that I had no idea. Living in Trossingen has put me in a delightful bubble, well away from the idiotic bloodbath of insanity, corruption, and willful misinformation that is American politics. I’m livin’ the dream!
There was cheesecake for dessert. It was worth mentioning. That is all.
When we got to our room, we both pretty much flopped into bed and watched Will and Grace in German. I understood it only slightly more than Pa Foua. German dubbing is… peculiar.
Anyway! The next morning, my host dad Peter got up early to eat breakfast with us. I had pretty much the same thing I had every other day I was there. One roll, cut in half, with one side meat and cheese and the other side butter and jam, with a cup of coffee. It was divine and it made me miss Horb even more. I asked my host dad when we should pay, and he wouldn’t let me. That was really nice of him. I intend to bring my parents to Horb when the come to Europe in the next month or so, and I hope he doesn’t refuse then, because he and my dad will get in a generosity/politeness contest…
Our train from Horb was 5 minutes late due to snow, and every train from then on was at least 5 minutes late for the same reason. The snow kept getting thicker as we went from Horb to Stuttgart. As we got to the airport, we discovered that Taylor and Allison were actually on the same train as us in a different compartment. It gets stranger, though. Allison was flying United, and Pa Foua was flying Lufthansa. Same sort of deal, but different airlines. They checked in with United (where there was no line), and we stood in the long line for Lufthansa. I looked up at the departures board and had a moment of panic. Pa Foua’s flight wasn’t up there! There was a flight that left at the same time, from the same place to the same place… but it was United!
And then I realized that they actually were on the same flight. Whoops. What I realized immediately after that was that we could check in at the United area. So we skipped the line and did that instead… And then we waved goodbye to our sweethearts. I thought it was hard seeing them standing there when we left for Germany almost 6 months ago… but it was much harder being the ones standing there as they walked away. This is going to be a long second half.
Taylor and I commiserated over a Burger King coffee. On the way back to Trossingen we had to go through Horb and I convinced him to get off and stay for a bit. We got a Chicken Box at the old place where we used to get them when we lived in Horb. It’s a box full of french fries, with a ton of shredded rotisserie chicken on top, with your choice of topping. Taylor got curry ketchup and sriracha, I got sriracha mayo. We both felt awful for eating them afterwards, but dang was it good.
The days following their departure have been… Lethargic. Not a lot of class, not a lot to do. I’m waiting to get back into the grind of things so I won’t have so much time to miss Pa Foua, but alas! It’s the weekend and I’m writing my blog. Some things just don’t line up.
So, there you have it. 6 and a half thousand words later, you’ve heard the adventure that has been my last three weeks. There have been good times, and honestly not really any bad times, but I’ve seen more of Europe in those three weeks than in the 5 months before them, and probably smiled more and laughed more, too. Certainly I have watched more movies set in Paris. It was a good run, and although it has made me miss America and my girlfriend even more, I’m glad she got the chance to experience Germany a little bit.
And… I’m already planning our return trip to Paris.
Now, for the weeks in eats!