Friday afternoon I set out on the train for the six-hour trip to Marienheide, a small town east of Cologne, where I spent my junior year of high school as an exchange student. The first 4+ hours were on the ICE high-speed train. I absolutely love the ICE. I always reserve a seat at a table, where I can plug in my laptop and watch movies the whole trip. Of course, I could watch movies from home just as well, but somehow that makes me feel lazy and unproductive. And how often do you really spend four hours at home with no interruptions?
On the local train from Cologne to Marienheide, I strained my eyes as the sun went down, trying to recognize where I was. I took that train countless times during my year there, for day trips to Cologne or to catch a long-distance train any time I was headed anywhere else. I even skipped school a few times and headed to Cologne for the day (once you turn 30, you can freely admit these things even though your parents are probably reading your blog).
Upon arrival, I was greeted by my host father, who drove me up those familiar streets to the house. Not much has changed in the last 15 years, which was really nice to see. It was amazing to see my host brother, who has changed so much! He was 11 when I lived there, and I saw him again once at age 16. He’s now 26 and is indisputably a full-grown man. He and his girlfriend, my host father and mother, and I sat around the kitchen table (a very familiar and comfortable conversation spot) catching up for a couple of hours before bed.
Here are some pictures of the bedroom where I lived as an exchange student, and where I slept again this weekend (though the furniture and carpet are different now). Also the view out the window:
The next morning, I got to see my youngest host sister, now 24, when she came over to have breakfast with all of us. Just like with my host brother, it was hard to stop looking at her! It’s so amazing to see someone you’ve only known as a child, suddenly all grown up. I also met my brand new host sister, just three years old, for the first time. I met her when she came into my room in the morning, silently, staring at me. I tried to break the ice by giving her a present, of course. It was well-received!
We became practically inseparable after that.
It was a drizzly morning, but after breakfast, my host father, the dog, and I went for a long walk so that I could see some of the surrounding area again.
At around lunchtime, we discovered that there had been miscommunication between my host parents and my oldest host sister. She hadn’t realized I was there on that particular day until her parents called to ask her why she was late! So, unfortunately I missed out on seeing her this trip. But my host grandmother arrived (with cake!), and we had a nice afternoon and evening grilling outside.
The next morning, after more socializing and sharing pictures from back home, my host mother, host father, little host sister, the dog, and I took some pictures outside and then piled into the car to spend a little time at the lake.
After swinging by the local “Eis Cafe” for ice cream cones (of course), I was back on the train. I had intended to spend a couple hours in Cologne, but I was so tired that I only managed to run outside and take a couple pictures of the cathedral. Then I dashed back in and got an earlier train than the one I had reserved a seat on.
These are pretty bad pictures, but I’m sharing them anyway because this particular building is so precious to me. For half my life now, it’s my favorite building in the world. It always made me feel so tiny to stand next to it. I just couldn’t believe that something of that scale (see how tiny the people look on the steps?) had been built (or at least begun) in the 1300s, before modern machinery.
And now a decent picture so you can see what the fuss is about:
I’m back in Berlin for the week, of course. Work is going well. I got to accompany one of the lawyers to court last week, and I’m periodically out and about in the city doing reconnaissance missions for the firm, playing spy to see if things are really how our clients’ opponents claim them to be. This weekend I’m going to do a day trip to Dresden on Saturday and stay in Berlin on Sunday. Sunday evening I’ll be going to my roommate’s choir concert. During the day I may or may not play tourist. There are still one major (Charlottenburg Palace) and two minor things I want to do in Berlin while I’m here, but I’m awfully ready to spend a day doing nothing! And one of my law school friends is coming to visit me the following the following weekend, so I’m pretty sure I can work in a visit to the Palace then.
Until next time!