I have now returned from my short hiatus from my blog writing - this past week was the mid-year seminar for the PPPler in the CBYX program and we all met together in Cologne, Germany. I was pretty excited to see the historic and well known city of Cologne - just a bit north from Bonn, where I had another week long seminar experience not too long ago.
To get to Cologne, I utilized mitfahrgelegenheit once again. This time utilizing the internet-based carpooling system went much smoother than my first experiences traveling to Munich in the fall. My German is better [ and whereas I don't think I will be able to mask the sound of being a foreigner on the phone any time soon, at least I can organize a carpool for myself without desperately butchering German grammar and having the listener on the line add me to their passengers list just out of sympathy].
This trip, from the start, was better - I had my spot reserved, everything was organized and confirmed and I was on-time at the meeting spot to drive a few hours south-west of Göttingen to the Bundesland of Nord-Rhein Westfalen. I think with any trip however, as unconventional and spontaneous Mitfahrgelegenheit is - trusting strangers to get you from point A to point B - there are bumps along the road. My carpool was all at least a complete generation older than me, all businessmen probably off to different jobs in Cologne.
Where we got dropped off at... well... it was Cologne - to put it lightly, I was pointed the direction where the bus stop would be [ am I south... north... 5 minutes away... half hour?]. Fortunately I allotted myself many hours before the beginning of my seminar to get around in the city. I did find the Bahn and was only a couple stops away from the reasonable center of the city - yet, still had to find the Jugendherberger - youth hostel - to officially complete my journey.
I took the scenic rout - and I can humbly admit that it was a lucky mistake of being lost rather than a decision to take the scenic rout - yet, I was able to see some incredible sights of Cologne on my own within my first hours of being there. The city is known for its shopping and the streets were filled with many shops - clothes, book stores, perfume shopes [ does Eau de Cologne ring any bells?].
Then, through my zig-zagging through the city, on one unsuspecting turn ...
my eyes panned up the fortress - der Kölner Dom - The Cologne Cathedral - was standing right there before me, nestled very surprisingly right in the midst of normal life and commercial streets. From the rest of the scenery, with the Rhein river, and other impressive architecture to lure me in different directions, the rest of the journey [ somehow I got to the hostel... my hand drawn map was a failure ] was enjoyable to say the least.
I was able to see many Americans from my language school for the first time in months as well as many others from the program I haven't seen since Washington D.C. in the summer, and I realized that this was really the first time since moving to Göttingen [ the democrats abroad asside... were they Americans?] that I was surrounded by Americans and speaking American English - there is a difference when you have the freedom to ramble on without restraint of being clear and concise to foreign ears. The week was going to be filled with a lot of reflections and new insights on our lives and experiences in Germany, as well as more connections to our roles as young representatives of the states, and the opportunities we can learn from in Germany as our Praktikum-phase is coming up just around the corner.