I arrived at my apartment in Freiburg on the evening of July 23 after about 4 hours of train travel (Marburg –> Frankfurt –> Freiburg) and a 20-minute tram ride. Fun fact: you can purchase the “Umwelt-Plus” train ticket option, in which the Deutsche Bahn (train company) purchases some extra green power for the journey, for just a Euro extra. Cool option!
Throughout my train journey, I was impressed by how nice everyone was. I speak approximately three words of German, and although that count is slowly growing, I needed lots of translation help. People translated German train announcements for me at various points of the journey (it turns out my first train was delayed for 15 minutes due to technical difficulties… but it’s okay, because my second train was too). On the second train, the person sitting across from me offered to alert me when my stop approached (delays threw off the timetable, and long-winded German announcements are hard to follow). I didn’t have the correct small change at the tram station, so someone just gave me 20 cents without me asking. I was extremely grateful to all these people for helping me get from point A to point B.
I was greeted at the apartment by Kadda, one of my two flatmates for the next six weeks. The other flatmate’s name is Timo. Timo, Kadda, and their other flatmate Kathrin are medical students in Freiburg. I’m subletting Kathrin’s room while she’s away. The apartment is quite centrally located, with stores and a tram stop almost right outside the building. The picture below is a view from my window, featuring the supermarket, the bakery, and a passing tram.
Not knowing when the stores close, I immediately went shopping. (Turns out they close at 23:00, so I had nothing to worry about.) Packaged goods here — toiletries, cheese, etc. — are much smaller than I’m used to. It was cool to be able to shop for one person, rather than being faced with the choice between family- and. bulk-size options as the U.S.
Timo was home by the time I got back. After taking some time to show me the ropes and the apartment’s eccentricities, he invited me for a BBQ at the park with his friends Toby and Constantine. I didn’t expect the park to be so full on a Thursday night, but it was great to see so many people hanging out outside! (It didn’t occur to me to take a picture until after dark, so the over-exposed, post-peak-crowd picture below doesn’t really do it justice. This pictures just a small sliver of the park, and there was only a gap in front of me because some people were playing Frisbee.)
Toby and Constantine met us at the park with a small disposable BBQ. I’d never seen one before, and when I commented on its convenience, Timo replied along the lines of “Yeah. On one hand, it’s easy to carry on your bike, but it also produces waste.” It was an interesting trade-off to think about. Anyway, the group was super accommodating and spoke mostly in English for my sake. We spent some time chatting, telling jokes, and laughing about Schützenfest. (There’s no good English translation for “Schützenfest,” but Constantine had played music at some of these festivals/parties and had some funny political commentary. I won’t repeat it here, but look the festivals up. They’re kind of funny.)
It was a wonderful night. Well, except for one small thing. Just before we left the park, I took a small spill on Kathrin’s bike (which is just slightly too big for me) and broke the Dynamo cable. In the process, I forgot the bike lock and my food bag (which fell out of the basket), and Timo couldn’t find them when he turned back to look. Oops. Luckily, I wasn’t seriously injured and didn’t lose anything valuable. Timo was also super nice about it/didn’t seem annoyed/was just glad I hadn’t gotten hurt (“Money can replace these, but it can’t replace your knee”). Again, I’m grateful that people here are so nice 🙂 And all’s well that ends well!
Bonus: It turns out there’s a Kumon Center less than 20 meters from my building. (My mom owns one back home.) Maybe I’ll go in and say hi one of these days!