Once again, back in Berlin, and it feels like home. If I could talk to myself about two months ago, when I arrived in this then foreign place, I never would have believed it, but I actually feel at ease when I find myself stepping off the train into the hustle and bustle of Germany's capital. Maybe I'm not a city girl, but I can say that I have found one city that will never feel lonely again.
I spent the weekend in Duisburg with Aila and Marieke, two of my family's former exchange students. They both live in the region of Germany known as Nordrhein-Westfallen, a pretty industrial and tightly packed area of Germany, but beautiful nonetheless. Aila took me to the Landschaft Park the first night I arrived, which is basically an old factory that they used to produce weapons in WWII and later used to rebuild Germany after the war. It sounds bland in the initial description, but I actually think it is one of the best things I have visited in Germany so far. The factory is lit up with green, blue, and red lights and has a slightly eery feeling--think Gotham City in Batman. You can climb all the way to the top and get a beautiful view of the city, which we did but not without a slight fear that someone might pop out from behind some of the old machinery at any given moment. We ran into a woman who was policing the area, making sure no one was out graffitiing the place, and she said she works every night 6 days a week, just policing the area. I can't imagine such a job, especially in such a spooky, lonely place.
On Friday, I went to Gymnasium with Aila, which was quite an interesting experience. Her first class was English, and her teacher kept asking me to explain different words when no one else in the class would. She spoke with an attempted proper British accent and had a very interesting way of explaining and using certain words. But hey, who am I to judge, my German is still a long way from being fluent. In fact, I still feel like I can't open my mouth without sounding like some sort of idiot.
After that, she had Religion class, which was an interesting and surprising concept for me. I guess the idea of separation of church and state is not so distinct here. Still, I learned a few interesting things about Martin Luther and was happy to discover that I could pretty much follow every that was said.
Following a long day of school (which in the middle of, I copped out and walked to the local mall to buy the next book in the Millennium Series--SO GOOD!-- and sit in Starbucks), we went out to club with Aila's friends. To my surprise, it was decorated with all of the tacky Halloween decorations imaginable and they played a multitude of American songs that I had never heard before, but every German around me seemed to know by heart. The one disappointing part was that no one dressed up. I guess I have to make an exception for Germany and let one, and only one, Halloween pass without dressing up and eating lots of candy.
On Saturday, I met some of Aila's extended family and ate these funny potato things called Knödeln, which are kind of like dumplings but in some way totally different. To be frank, I'm not really down with the traditional German cuisine. It's not like it isn't good, but a diet of potatoes and meat just really isn't my thing. Thankfully, they have more ethnic restaurants in Berlin than traditional German restaurants, so I'll never go hungry. We picked up Marieke in the afternoon and then explored Düsseldorf for a bit, walking along the river and having a round of Altbiers, which are particularly famous in the region.
And, on Sunday, the most exciting part of the whole weekend...We ate Essen in Essen! It was quite lecker too. I had this yummmmmmy poppyseed, chocolate, cream, deliciousness cake, that was tasty of course, as all German cake normally is. We also visited the Vila Hügel, which is a bit out of the city up on a hill. It belonged to the big industrial family of the area and is quite beautiful in its own right. I actually liked it a lot better than a lot of the palaces and castles I have seen here because the decor wasn't over the top gaudy, just enough to be beautiful and give an indication of the family wealth.
Now, sadly enough but in a way nice, I am back in Berlin where I belong, gearing up for another week of school. Hopefully, I can get myself a little more organized this week, instead of feeling like I'm going in five different directions at once like normal. That's the trouble with such a big, vibrant city. It never sleeps, and neither do you.
Peace for now! I love and miss you all!