So it has finally happened - I am in Germany! I am currently doing the MOST stereotypical activity for a traveling North American: sitting in a cafe sipping an espresso and eating a croissant. Life's goal has officially been achieved. Now on to the stories!
Where to start?! Well, the flight wound up being comfortable enough, though I didn't get much sleep because it was so LOUD. And I managed to get the worst seat: center of the center. The plane flew in an arc up over the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Greenland so as it so happened the sun never went down on us - hard to go to sleep with all that happening.
As luck would have it though, the gentleman next to me happened to be a tall, blonde-haired blue-eyed and generally handsome Dutch guy. And no, I cannot pronounce his name correctly. The flight became infinitely more bearable with someone to talk to, and now I have a friend I can visit in Amsterdam. It's hard to imagine my journey getting off to a better start.
It turned out it was a really good thing we made friends because when we arrived in Frankfurt I had NO IDEA what to do. It’s one of the ten largest airports in the world, and you have to be shuttled around from your plane to the arrivals terminal by buses. As in city buses. And sky trains. Yeah. I know. Anyway, luckily Mr. Dutch (as he shall be referred to) seemed to know his way around and so things went pretty smoothly, but of course just as soon as I got to the right gate the PA system announced that the gate had changed… to the opposite side of the terminal. Cue running. After I got to the real right gate I discovered the flight was running late by about 20min to an hour. Sigh. My lucky streak continued though, because a German sports team was wandering around the Terminal and made for excellent eye candy. Eventually I got on the plane (though this time I was next to an old guy who just slept the whole time) and things were all good from there. Getting out of Hamburg's terminal wasn't nearly as confusing and getting my baggage was a breeze. A secretary from the company I'm working for came to pick me up, and she has been exceptionally friendly and helpful. She took me to the apartment I'll be living in, which is pretty damn nice! I'm on the eleventh floor and have a beautiful view.
Anyway, after a shower and a nap I had to go out to find a payphone to call my family. That done, I headed back to the apartment, where everything was fine until I got to my door, and couldn't for the life of me open it. No matter how I turned the key nothing would happen, and having no phone and no phone numbers to call I started to panic. Just as I was headed down to the concierge (who wasn't there anyway) I ran into an old man, who thank god spoke English. I think the most useful German I have so far is "spreken Sie English?" Anyway, he was very kind, and at first thought that I needed a whole other key, but eventually he tried it in the door and HALLELUJAH it opened. After several minutes of close study this morning I discovered that you have to turn it 360 degrees twice then pull and give an extra 20 degree twist.
The area of town I live and work in is beauuuutiful. This morning (I woke up shortly before 5am - thanks jet lag!) I went for a walk to get to know the area and it's filled with cute townhouses and lovely brick churches. There are cobbled streets EVERYWHERE which perfectly fulfill my imagined Europe. There are also trees everywhere. Today my secretary friend told me that for every Hamburg resident there are three trees, and it's one of the greenest cities in Europe. They're beautiful, all deciduous and old and they give the city such character. I'm told I live in one of Hamburg's wealthier districts and it definitely shows. There is SO MUCH TO LEARN though. For example, so far I have learned:
- The ground floor on an elevator is marked "E", not "G" or "U"
- Sidewalks have strips of darker brick, which are essentially bicyclist highways. DON'T walk in these and check before you cross one otherwise you are likely going to be run over.
There are red brick churches everywhere here, and one close to me tolls the hours, which I absolutely love. Also, the emergency sirens (police, ambulance) are different here, which I found way more exciting than I should. That will probably wear off soon though.
Today two coworkers took me to lunch, one of whose name is similar to Manuel but more difficult to pronounce. Something like Maniel. They are very friendly and very nice, and the way they tell it there are lots of young people at work. Apparently everyone is very excited to meet me. I start working tomorrow and am a combination of nervous and excited.
I think the most amusing thing I've encountered so far was on TV. In an effort to pick up more German I turned it on and started flicking through the channels, at which point I came across none other than Dawson's Creek dubbed in German. HILARIOUS. Better yet, it was followed by an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 ALSO dubbed in German. You haven't seen 90210 until you've seen Donna whine "David!" in a heavy German accent.
As for future plans, one coworker has said we will go visit Berlin in August, and try to get to Potsdam to see the castle there as well. I hope I'll get up to Amsterdam to look around and to see my plane-friend. Hopefully getting to know people will continue to be this easy, because goodness knows everything else is hard enough. Before leaving I realised that everyone would be speaking German all the time, but it didn't exactly occur to me that all the signage is in German too - a difficulty indeed. The crosswalk signs are also different. Rather than having three stages of "walk", "don't walk", or "get off the fucking crosswalk" there are just two: "walk" and "don't walk". That's not so confusing. What are confusing are the yellow thingys next to them. Some of them are for blind people to give and audio signal for "walk" and "don't" walk. Those ones are marked by three dots. The others (I suppose) are just for regular people. It's looking like a sink or swim type of situation.
Anyway, that about covers it so far. I will try to update again soon, and I am trying to get a feel for the fashion here. Once I have a decent sense of it I'll get a post up dedicated to it, but for now all I've noticed is an absence of skirts. But maybe that just because of the weather today.
Until next time, tschüss!