Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ich hab' mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren

So goes the line of a famous folkslied. If the past weekend has taught me anything, it has been that even though Heidelberg is fast a kitschy typical old castle/uni town, it still has a special place in my heart because of the great memories I have and the people whom are there. I cannot believe that I was there for only a mere six weeks two summers ago. At the time, six weeks seemed like a long time to be studying abroad. I know so much better now, and I am amazed at all the things I managed to cram into that short time.

Visiting my old host family was amazing. They are such nice and helpful people, which is probably why I recall my time in Heidelberg so fondly. Sadly, I did not get to see their two songs who are a little younger than my own brother. (They are hosting a student right now, so the reason that I was able to come this weekend was because the boys were gone and I could use one of their rooms.) I did get to speak with the younger one when he called his mum's handy. His voice is lower (though not too much), and he sounded so much older and more mature than the cute/curious youngster that I remember. We did not discuss anything complicated, but it made me feel good that I was able to talk to him all in German.

The weekend went by so fast, but we managed to actually do a few things and relax a bit as well. Friday was a little exciting on my end since I almost did not make my train. I did not want to get into Heidelberg very late as a courtesy to the family. My problem was that I did not wake up early enough to finish packing and needed to have a few minutes between getting home from my internship and going to the hauptbahnhof so that I could throw my stuff into my bag and backpack. (At least I already had everything scattered haphazardly all over my couch.) Of course, this was the time when the S-bahns in Berlin were not punctual. Due to waiting for 15 minutes for one that usually comes every 5 and then other ones being a minute or two late, this really adds up. Upon reaching the hauptbahnhof, I literally jumped into the first open door of my train that I saw just as they were issuing the final boarding call. We left not even two minutes later. Talk about cutting it close.

At least the rest of the night was low key, and we went to a neighbor's birthday party when I got there. I of course had a 'how stupid of me' moment when, while discussing something food related with my host mum, I recalled that I had not mentioned of my switch to vegansim. Whoops. Last time I was there, I had only been vegetarian (of which she had been lovingly accommodating to). I had eaten a few quick things on the train, but at the party I discovered how tasty wasabi peanuts are and that basmati rice with fresh squeezed lime juice and Thai hot sauce is actually really good.

Saturday consisted of a nice leisurely breakfast in the small garden out back. Then we went into the old part of the city by bike (I borrowed the younger son's), but took our time on the way there. Ate Italian, where the noodles had no eggs in them (score!), and the tomato sauce was amazingly fresh. This was followed by a 1 1/2 hour boat tour on the Neckar, the river that runs through the town, adding to its quaint charm. By the time our tour had ended, there were some massive storm clouds that were approaching, and the wind was already starting to make the formerly hot day seem rather cool. We booked it on the way back home, as we did not want to get wet. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing. We had an outing to the grocery store and media store later in the evening, but it was fun to ride around on a bike again. Plus, the grocery run was insisted on by my host mum so that we could get some soymilk so I could have it with my muesli the next morning. Isn't she the sweetest? Dinner was rather late, and, sadly, we ended up not watching a movie together as the parents were tired and ready for bed.

Sunday began with a relaxed breakfast as well. (Yes, I loved how my family was all about the relaxed breakfast. Even on a school day, I would sit down for 25 minutes or so and chat with my host mum.) I got educated and was given a copy of the Goethe poem that inspired the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment in Fantasia. It was funny how we got onto that topic after discussing politics and the actions of people and needing to think ahead. Then, I was told to take a quick ride to the old city by myself via bike because, according to my host mum, I could not visit and not go into the old city. (We had only been on the river the day before and not actually in the old part.) I was proud of myself that I was able to remember the way to get there and back. It was a quick trip because I did not have much time, but fun nevertheless. So many tourists, but I was able to smile at the memories.

By the time I had come back, my host mother had managed to cook up something for lunch. (I hardly had any hunger yet, despite my bike ride, because I had eaten such a big breakfast.) It was so simply vegan orientated that it made me smile. Rice and (boxed) falafel with a coconut milk curry sauce. (She and her husband had fish as well.) But regardless, her flexibility was greatly appreciated despite my earlier absentmindedness.

So there was another amazing weekend away from Berlin visiting acquaintances. Plus, I got to use so much German. Yes, I could not recall a few words every now and then, but I was glad that I could converse more than my last time in Heidelberg. (Sometimes, while we were talking politics, I was unsure of what exactly my opinion on something was, but I was able to, for the most part, understand the views that my host parents were explaining.) It is actually surprising how much over the state of the world and politics that we talked about. Last time I was there, we talked about a lot of stuff, but it was mostly me listening, trying really hard to understand half of what was being said, and not really participating in actual conversation. I can only hope that they were pleasantly surprised by my improvement since last time (even though there are times when I question how much that I have improved, but such is the nature and tribulations of learning another language.)

The rest of Sunday was spent in Tübingen, visiting a friend who was an exchange student at my Uni this past year.  Tübingen is not too far from Heidelberg, and I figured that I ought to go because I had heard, like Heidelberg, it had much old-world charm as well.  The afternoon was a great success, and I rather enjoyed the tour of the town that I was given and speaking about so many different things with my friend.

I got back to Berlin at 1:30, which means that I just missed the last S-Bahn out of the Hauptbahnhof. Just my luck. I managed to take a night bus for a few stops and just walked the rest of the way home. It was not as bad as I thought it would be and only took 45 minutes.  I had eaten so much earlier in the day and had slept on the train, so I had plenty of energy for my trip. It made Berlin seem smaller by the fact that I could actually do something like that.

All in all, this weekend has been a great change of pace, and I was reminded how I need to always remember to mention my (maybe relatively new to my hosts) dietary status. It was even cute how my host dad looked up veganism online so that he could ask me a few questions about it Saturday morning. If only everyone could be so open-minded and accepting, this world would be so much better in dealing with all sorts of differences.

(How is that for ending an insanely long post on a philosophical note?)

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