21.3.15; ERLANGEN, Germany

Tired is not even the word. A mixture of being very busy, being ill (very grim cold and tonsil stones), having to think and speak in languages I rarely use at home, and the fact that really, I am only just more evolved than a sloth, has meant that the most diverting thing I can think to do in my free time is sleep, and thus I’ve been procrastinating writing another entry for several days. As a result, this is going to be dreadfully long. Sorry, not sorry.

Monday ended fairly uneventfully. I’m sure I did the washing up and vacuuming in the evening, as usual, but nothing too strenuous at all. We watched some of The English Patient, my all-time favourite film, which I find exceedingly difficult to sell to any of my friends as the brilliant see it really is, but finally, I have found someone who appreciates brooding Ralph Fiennes in the desert as much as I do! Although my host’s preference is for Colin Firth… (unbelievable, there is not even a comparison… Colin Firth is firmly in the “teddy bear” category.)

On Tuesday, I really can’t remember having done anything particularly out of the ordinary during the day; hung some washing and a bit of light cleaning perhaps. In the evening, I went with the family’s eldest daughter to her archery training! Having taught archery for a couple of months in the summer at Camp Natarswi, a Girl Scout camp in Maine, USA, I was interested to see the differences in how it’s taught there, in England and here in Germany. Amazingly, my host even phoned the club, and asked if I could also have a go with the bow she hires there! Unfortunately I had to go into a freezing cellar to do it, and had to stand through being taught how to shoot all over again. But with a sight? I swear, all the kids at the range were using these high tech compound bows, and even the normal recurve bows had sights attached; what happened to just closing one eye and aiming? Good lord…

Understandably, I was a bit rusty after not having shot for seven months, but I got back into it. I remember how much I love archery. I’ve missed it, though I didn’t realise until now as I so rarely get the opportunity to think about it. Maybe I will try and join the society at uni next year…

Every night when I go to bed, usually before 10pm, it feels like it’s far past midnight. At the moment, my down time consists of throwing more wood into the burner in the kitchen in a futile attempt to warm the house up. Due to the renovations, it’s cold pretty much everywhere. I’ll probably be looking back on it nostalgically when I’m sweating in Asia next month though… Wednesday was my first day off. Perhaps not deserved, considering the relatively small amount of actual work I’m doing, but definitely needed! I love it here but it is exhausting!

That’s not to say I actually rested. At all. Oh no. I took the train to Bamberg, a city nearby which was once the capital of the German Empire and the seat of the Prince Bishop. The city is built across three districts; the Gardeners’ District, the Island City, and the “City on the Hills”. And boy, are there hills. Cardiac Hill on campus at Exeter has prepared me for this moment, so I didn’t struggle too much. Bamberg really is lovely; it’s most significant attraction is its many churches and town buildings. I visited the cathedral and the main churches, and took a wander through the town. I also stood like a halfwit in the street for half an hour using the hotspot, “30 Minutes Free Wifi” to book my flight to India and deal with travel insurance. How productive of me. I had lunch at a little café in one of the smaller streets behind the cathedral, and sat outside to people watch and enjoy the sunshine. Bamberg reminds me a little of Krakow; the visit spurred me to think about maybe making another visit to Krakow at the end of this summer, and perhaps see a bit more than the Schindler’s List trail of the city…

After lunch, I climbed the hill to Altenburg, a castle overlooking the city, with the best vantage point from a tower with panoramic views of Bamberg and the surrounding countryside. Rewarded myself for the climb with an ice cream, before trekking back down through the woods and fields to the main part of Bamberg. From then onwards, it was a weary walk back to the train station, and from there onto Erlangen and Buchenbach. I got back to the house after 8pm, and I was absolutely shattered after walking around all day. Straight to bed!

Thursday was another day off, but I didn’t get going until a lot later, and then spent an hour or so faffing around in Starbucks in Erlangen, utilising that free wifi and doing a few admin type things; booking my flight home, finding a Couchsurfing host to stay with in Munich whilst I visit Neuschwanstein, and catching up with various friends, and of course, my darling mother. Then it was off to Nuremberg! I’ve always wanted to visit Nuremberg because it’s so steeped in history. Nuremberg was the hub of National Socialist rule in Germany between 1933 and 1945. The Nuremberg Rallies were held just outside the city at a purpose-built rally ground designed by Albert Speer, Hitler’s favoured architect, and the Nuremberg Race Laws, making the persecution of the Jews and other so called “undesirables” legal, take their name from the city. And of course, the town is the site of the trials which came after the war, convicting the leading National Socialists of crimes against humanity in a trial led by British, American, Russian and French judges. Nearly completely destroyed in the Second World War and then rebuilt from 1949, Nuremberg is now a city of museums and architecture, which neither celebrates nor shies away from its darker history, but accepts it, and makes a learning experience of it for both visitors and residents.

It’s modern and traditional all at once; I spent some time walking through the city, seeing the Lorenzkirche, a typical postcard-image of Nuremberg, and buying some vegan “currywurst” (yes, this really is a thing) from one of the main square’s many vendors. I headed out to the “Reichsparteitagsgelaende”; the site of the Nuremberg Rally Grounds, where the unfinished Congress Hall now holds an exhibition on the rise and rule of National Socialism and Nuremberg’s role in the regime, as well as housing the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (slightly odd placing). Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go to the museum, but I walked around the lake and along the main parade road, before climbing the steps of the Zeppelin Field front stand and taking a few pictures, and reading the signs dotted around the site. The Rally Grounds are another example of Hitler’s obsession with size and grandeur. The Zeppelin Field is of ridiculous proportions, roughly equal to 12 football pitches. It was odd, to say the least, to stand where Hitler stood to deliver his speeches on the days of the Nuremberg Rallies, to thousands and thousands of Germans who were hanging onto his every word.

The scale of the place, however, possibly didn’t have quite as much of an impact as it would have had I not visited Auschwitz Birkenau twice in the past, and since then, nothing can really be viewed as a large space on that scale. Still, it was interesting to see, though it irked me mildly to see that a football pitch and what looked like a skate park had been built on the inside of the field, whilst the stone seats around the edges were left, crumbling and covered in moss. Places of history, even history as dark as this, ought not to be encroached upon by modernity, in my opinion.

I had to rush home to be back in time for my hosts to go out for dinner, and so I was babysitting for the rest of the evening. The kids are relatively well behaved and so I didn’t really have any problems; I made dinner (note to self, learn to cook basmati rice because that was a train wreck) and played a couple of games before getting them ready for bed and finally reading a Czech bedtime story.

After they went to bed, I watched “Wild”, with Reese Witherspoon. It made me think about one of my bucket list items; hiking the Appalachian Trail. I am determined that this is not a pipe dream. I will do it, one day. Anyone who hiked Katahdin with me last summer would tell you I’m not the fastest hiker. I hate hiking in groups because I slow people down and I’m also really antisocial. And I just generally prefer doing stuff like that alone. Having the space to think and look around, and go at my own pace without feeling like I’m annoying people. I do love hiking, but that doesn’t mean I’m any good at it! I would like to thru-hike the AT starting the spring after I finish university, so that would be around April of 2020. Or maybe even later. I have time. But it takes around six months and nearly as much preparation. And I’d like to be in somewhat better shape before I go, though I hear getting into shape on the trail is a thing. One day, I swear it will happen!

Friday was the first day I started picking up the horrific cold… I think one of the children gave it to me. Great. Jobs on Friday were things like cleaning the bathroom and the stove, doing some washing and vacuuming. Could not be bothered to go and look at the solar eclipse because I felt like death warmed up, already. Spoke to my mum a bit on Facebook; we’re communicating quite a lot, which is nice because I’d gotten into the habit of speaking to her every day at uni, not necessarily because I needed to or wanted anything in particular, but it’s just nice to chat and we never seem to run out of things to talk about.

She says she doesn’t mind what I do and supports my life choices, as long as they don’t involve “committing serious crime”. Mum, you underestimate me. If I was going to commit any crime, it would be something massive and first class like large-scale bank heists a la Bonnie and Clyde, or hacking a media empire, not merely “serious”.

Really though, I’m glad; it is something I worry about, that my new-found flightiness and nomadic ways make me a disappointment to my parents; after all, I’m so far from who I used to be and I don’t have any of the same goals or focuses. I hope I am still making them proud with what I’m doing at the moment, even if it’s not being at Oxford, or studying Law, or even studying at all at the moment. I’m confident that my new course next year, Theology, will be more interesting and enjoyable for me, and even if there isn’t a career path at the end of it, so what? I’m not cut out for the 9-5 life anyway. I’ll think of something.

And I do like Exeter. I wouldn’t want to change to another university at this point. I’ve learnt to be grateful for what I have; in the end, there won’t be any reward at the end of my life for having gone to a certain university or studying a certain subject; nobody gets brownie points in the afterlife for forcing themselves into a mould they decided on when they were fourteen.

So much has changed over the last year. So much is transient; people, places, goals. It seemed that I had it all and lost it, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe what I had, wasn’t really what I wanted. I just hadn’t stopped to realise it. And what I think of as the beginning of the end of my aspirations and achievements, looking back was more like the beginning of a journey to where I really should be.

Because you know what? For the first time in a long time, I’ve got the feeling of being in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time.

X Bea

One Reply to “21.3.15; ERLANGEN, Germany”

  1. Sounds like you’re having a fab time, enjoy every minute and stay safe. Don’t worry about parental disappointment, we have an uncanny knack of loving our children no matter what paths they choose in life x

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