I haven’t had the chance to write in a while because life has been busy and life has become well…life. I feel that now I’m more integrated into being an exchange student in Germany, not every experience is as exciting to me as it was when I was imagining my exchange year or when I first arrived. It’s unfortunate to have that feeling as the one I default to, but it gives me the chance to remember that I’m actually here! In Germany! Living like I’ve wanted to since I was a little Freshman!
So I like to remind myself of that and that I won’t be here forever. I need to enjoy where I’m at even when I’m equally excited about the next phase of my life at university. I think being able to take a few day/weekend trips recently has reminded me of the excitement of living in Germany, even when things are sometimes difficult in general and with COVID-19.
The first day trip I took was in early January on a Thursday. I didn’t have school because all my classes were canceled. I decided spontaneously that since many of my other, larger travel plans had been getting canceled due to Omicron, I would start taking advantage of the incredible German railway and take a few day trips, even if they were solo. I left Hamburg’s Hauptbahnhof (main station) and headed to Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern with a chocolate croissant, cheese and rice cakes, and black tea—and of course, my trusty backpack.
When I arrived, I decided to wander around a bit and eventually head to some random sightseeing destinations Atlas Obscura had recommended to me. Next, I visited Schwerin Castle, which is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen because of its gardens and positioning on an island in the middle of Lake Schwerin. I’m very excited to go back and visit in spring/summer when it’s warmer and the flowers are blooming. I also made a visit to the local library, which is something I like to do in every city. It was a lovely day trip despite the cold! I highly recommend short, solo adventures while in Germany.
A few weeks later, after our midyear seminar, I decided to make a visit to a few other CBYXers in southern Germany. I didn’t have school that Friday so I decided to take a night train to Stuttgart (hint: night trains are cheaper but they might make for a rough journey!). I managed to fit everything for the weekend in my backpack and headed to Hauptbahnhof at 8 pm. Unfortunately, when I arrived and began to search for my platform, I realized my train had been canceled (thanks, Deutsche Bahn!). I was forced to take the next one which included four connections at ungodly hours of the night. As much as I want to assimilate to complaining about the railway system here as most Germans do, I reminded myself that it’s very cool to be in a country where (mostly) efficient rail travel actually exists! I decided to view this night as an adventure! And the adventure went fairly smoothly, except for getting off at the wrong stop and having the conductor shout at me in German at 2 am. Ah well. I think my German improved from this encounter!
I made it to Stuttgart at 7 am and began to wander around as I knew I would have to entertain myself until my exchange student friends got out of school in the afternoon. I grabbed some tea and headed to the library. The library in Stuttgart was surprisingly beautiful, and I wouldn’t have even known about it had I not had the goal to visit libraries in every city! The architecture was incredible. I then bought a city ticket and took the train to one of my Atlas Obscura destinations. It was a 24hr library in the corner of a city called Ludwigsburg. I will admit that the library was not that spectacular, but I stumbled upon the Ludwigsburg Residential Palace and Favoritepark, both of which were quite grand! I couldn’t stay for long at either but I enjoyed walking around in the sunshine and remembering that hills exist (being in Hamburg, one can forget). I went back to Stuttgart City Center and headed to the Landesmuseum and learned about the Romans until it was time to head to the nearby city of Aalen with some other CBYXers.
In Aalen, I had a good time catching up with exchange students I hadn’t seen since Washington D.C. We got food, coffee, and walked to a sauna where we stayed a few hours. We ended the night at a Mexican restaurant. The next morning we ate breakfast with our friend’s host family. I was schooled about the Schwabisch Dialect and how Pretzels from southern Germany are much better than those in Hamburg (cannot confirm or deny). We then visited another Roman museum. Later, I and two other CBYXers caught the train back to Stuttgart. I convinced my friends of the merits of Atlas Obscura and we all decided to take an evening hike to Rubble Hill, which is the highest point in Stuttgart. The hike was really fun for someone who misses Colorado terrain! We headed back to Hauptbahnhof and dropped our other friend off at her train. I then headed back to my friend’s host family’s house and stayed the night and made him get up with me for the very early 6 am train I would be taking back to Hamburg. The rest of the journey went very smoothly and I arrived back in Hamburg at 1 pm. Needless to say, as soon as I reached my bed, I took a long nap.
These few trips were a lot of fun and I hope to take more of them soon! I hope you enjoyed this post :)
P.S. here is my Atlas Obscura profile if you want to check it out!