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The first few days...

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

Hormuz just got my internet working today!

So, the first few days have gone by in a flash. I arrived in Freiburg on Sunday (Austin to Charlotte, a red-eye to Frankfurt, then to Basel only to take a bus back into Germany to Freiburg) and went to my hostel, but couldn't check in for another three hours. I dropped my stuff off and, in a jet-lag-induced daze wandered about the city and somehow managed not to get lost. The hostel turned out to really be a hippie-commune (which verifies my plan, among other random ones, to open a hostel when I retire from some fabulous job) where we had communal living spaces and scheduled meditation-time. Dinner consisted of lemon ice-cream, because I was too overwhelmed to be hungry and too tired to care. The next day I dragged my two suitcases halfway across the Innenstadt/inner city to the IES building, where we had a brief orientation, they took our passports to establish residency for us, and got us a cab to our dorms. It wasn't terribly exciting, except for the prospect of a bed to call my own and meeting a few of my potential class-mates.

My dorm is on Charlottenburgerstrasse, but is called Berlinerallee (as in a Berlin alleyway) because that is the big street it is next to. Most of the building is a very vibrant orange, but some walls are yellow and green. I've determined that after a long day of classes, orientation, and getting around in German, nothing cheers you up like pulling up to the big square easter-egg on the bright red tram. This is, however, in stark contrast to the inside of the building. My room is completely white: walls, ceiling, bed, bedlinens, desk, wardrobe, and heater - all a freshly-painted white. The only exceptions are the stand on which the TV sits (which is a very light brown), the TV (which is a normal TV) and the floor (which is a very light gray). The kitchen is a little more colorful with blue tiling. And the view is amazing!

I live in a Wohngemeinschaft, which is typical German housing. Rather than having a living situation based around a suite or a hall, like many of ours, these are situated around common living areas. They are almost like big apartments. When one walks in to my WG, there is a fairly large dining area/kitchen. Then to the left one enters a small hallway, with the refridgerators, then a larger one with 6 bedrooms (singles) and two bathrooms. All in all it is a bit like having an apartment with a roommate, but everything is made to accommodate more people at once. Most WG's are co-ed, and two girls from my program are currently only living with guys. It is still hard to tell who all of the roommates are because the semester doesn't start for them until the end of September, so only people doing summer programs or internships are here. I only have two roommates right now: Rebecca and Lena. Both are very nice - Rebecca speaks to me entirely in German because I requested it, but Lena and I tend to switch from one to the other.

It is very different living here, though. It is still somewhat like American dorm-life, but it is a standard in Germany to keep the bedroom doors closed. In America, we all tend to leave our doors open so that people may come in and out, and a closed door means the resident wants privacy for some reason or another. Here, the doors are always closed. It is hard to tell when people are here or not, because lights are not used when not necessary, and the walls are soundproofed because the living is so dense. With no sound, no light, and no sight of a person, it is hard to know when anyone is home.

Freiburg is a beautiful town. I wish I could only tell you about things as I discover them, but everything is a discovery! For now you will have to content yourself with the gutters. Yes, I am going to describe the gutters.

There are gutters (called Bächle) in Freiburg that have only clean water (I'm assuming the ones used for sewage are underground, but they're not nearly as charming). Over 500 years ago, these gutters were built in the streets in Freiburg. They are just little man-made streams carrying water, and it's like a very angular river system. Big ones lead into little ones which lead into tiny ones, and vice versa. I have heard three different stories on this: 1) it was meant to provide the local artisans with the water they needed to work without requiring them to go down to the river to fetch it, 2) sewage purposes, 3) for fighting fires. Now they are just there because they always have been, but no matter where one goes in the Innenstadt one is followed by this very cheerful and charming babbling sound of the water flowing by. The Innenstadt of Freiburg is composed primarily of older-styled buildings anyway, so it has a very natural, earthy, and quaint feel to it. There is no way you could possibly be downtown in a city when you sit in the cafés in the squares and not hear the water go by.

There is also a superstition: if you fall in once, you have to marry a native Freiburger, and if you fall in twice, you can never leave. We're going to hope that my klutziness does not come through, because I do need to come home eventually.

Most of the past few days have been spent doing some form of orientation. The other day we did something called "Freiburg as Text" where we were split into groups of 6 and each group was given a task. One group had to explore cafés, and another one grocery stores. One group even was just assigned "people-watching." We were sent out to notice, observe, and take pictures. There was a big difference between the groups that were sent to enter a voyeuristic mode with the purpose of seeing and oserving, and the groups that were sent to experience things.

My group was sent to the Münstermarkt, or the big market around the main cathedral (Münster cathedral). It was pretty solidly split between the produce section on the right (leaving the cathedral) and the candles, spices, wooden goods, etc. on the left. It turns out, only locals are allowed to sell on the right, so the perishable goods all end up there. It was amazing. Everything was so vibrant; the produce was almost too colorful, and the smells too tempting and the sounds too intriguing. I didn't recognize everything, but part of our task was to ask people about the market, the goods, recipies, usw. So I did. My favorite incident involved an 8 year old boy.

There was a booth fairly evenly split between produce and flowers. Right in the middle between the two was

this plant that grew some orange thing. If you've ever seen a Chinese lantern shaped more like a heart than a circle, it was something like that. They were 6 or 7 centimeters long, looked like they were made of delicate and vibrantly orange paper, and stuck out lengthwise in a way that made it seem like there was a wire support underneath (hence the Chinese lantern reference - Stephanie, it looked like a miniature version of your red one). There were lots of these on one plant, and I had never seen them before. The booth was run by this elderly couple, but their grandson who was only 8 or 10 came over to help me.

"Kann ich Ihn helfen?" he asked. Can I help you?

"Ja, bitte." I said. Yes, please. "Was sind die?" What are these?

He responded with a word that ended with "lampen," or lamps/lanterns.

"Oh," I said, and looked at them again, "und was macht man damit?" What do you do with them? Suddenly his expression, which had been one of a charming politeness only worthy of 10 year old boys, turned to a slightly scolding/panick-stricken look.

"NICHT ZUM ESSEN. GANZ NICHT!" he said, and shook his finger emphatically at me.

"Ach, ja," I said, somewhat shocked, and compared them to flowers, "also, sie sind mehr wie Blumen? Für..."

"Dekoration," he finished my statement with a knowing nod. "Aber nicht zum Essen!"

So apparently you can't eat them.

  • *for Stephanie's benefit:

  • little boy: "NOT TO EAT! NOT AT ALL TO EAT!"
    me: "oh, okay. So, are they more like flowers? For..."
    little boy: "dekoration. but not to eat!"

    there you go***

    You're Cool
    permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on September 4, 2008 from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
    from the travel blog: The European Union
    Send a Compliment

    I love you Emily!! And miss you and am very glad that you are having a good time...though you did manage to get scolded by an 8 yr old...congratulations! :) I can't wait to hear/read more about your travels!

    permalink written by  Heather on September 4, 2008

    Oh...btw the view from your window?? It's freakin incredible! So pretty....and I love the gutters...and I like them even better now that I know that they are fresh water! :-P

    permalink written by  Heather on September 4, 2008


    Yay a lantern like mine!! I feel famous that someone would speak to me through a blog on the interwebs!

    Uh...you forgot to translate the end of the little boy story so I have NO IDEA what the end is or why it's funny...and am really curious

    I'm SO PLEASED that your room is nice! Also, I need your address so that I can send you stuff. The view is fantastic!

    You should um...get a cat. That way, you can train the cat to scratch at people's doors, and if they let the cat in you know that they are at home!


    permalink written by  Stephanie Taylor on September 5, 2008

    Die Geschichte, mit der Jungen und die Blumen, war sehr süß! Ich habe die sehr lustig gefunden.

    Ich habe auch ein Blog, jetzt.

    Die zweite Link ist für meine deutschsprachiges Blog. Ich habe auf meinem Blog eine Link zu deine Blog. Bitte versehen Sie die mit eine Lesezeichen!!

    Dein Cariad,

    permalink written by  tommy on January 26, 2009

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