this past weekend i was able to make a last-minute visit to my friend in erfurt. it’s a city in the center of germany, with a lot of really cool history. it’s closer to dessau, but i never took advantage of that and made a trip there while at school. from berlin it was about a 5 hour trip on the regional trains. there are quicker, direct trains but those are quite expensive so i took the slower ones. the 5 hours weren’t so bad though, and i’m so happy i spent the weekend there. the friend i visited was one of the first friends i made after moving to germany. i spent a lot of time with her and another girl my first here year, and i will really always cherish those memories. they have been so nice to me and so helpful, and it makes me want to be a better friend to other people honestly. it touches my heart so deeply. all cheesiness aside, they are some of the sweetest people i’ve ever met in my life.
i took a train from berlin friday afternoon, and arrived in erfurt in the evening just before 7pm. i had one connection in magdeburg. i met my friend at the main erfurt train station, and then we took a tram to her house to drop off my backpack. it’s nice because her family’s house is a bit outside the main center of the city where it’s nice and quiet, but it’s right next to a tram stop so you can easily get to and from the center. i met her mom and boyfriend, and then we took the tram back into the city to go to the oldest restaurant in erfurt, called the feuerkugel, which means fireball. i guess this restaurant was well-known for it’s “klöße” which are like fluffy bread dumplings. i ordered them with “rinderroulade” which was a piece of steak rolled up with some onions and pickles inside with gravy. it was very delicious, but quite heavy and i could not eat all of it. this heavy meat and potato style dish is typical in my mind for german cuisine. but i enjoy it very much. after dinner, we walked around the city center for a bit, as like an “introductory tour” for me haha. erfurt is a very nice city. it was not destroyed much in the war, so it is very beautiful still. a lot of it is done in a medieval style with lots of timber-framed houses, which i think are very charming. after walking around for a bit, we went back to their house and played some wii before bed. we played wii party and some wii bowling. i forgot how fun wii is haha.
the next morning we had breakfast with her boyfriend and mom, and then we all drove to a castle about 45 minutes away. it’s called wartburg, and it’s next to a small town called eisenach. i felt very nostalgic for some reason when we were driving. i think it’s because it was fall and the air was cold and crisp and it reminded me so strongly of the first fall i was in germany. i can still remember the feelings i had during that time, and this day i was definitely reminded of the happiness and excitement of seeing new things with very sweet friends.
anyways, this castle is actually very important in history, yet before visiting i didn’t even know about it. martin luther stayed here for awhile and it’s where he translate the new testament into german. the castle is on top of a big hill, and when you are up there, there are really great views. i wonder how it felt to live there a long time ago. this part of germany has more hills, compared to where i was in dessau. there it was all flat it seemed.we took a group tour of the castle, but it was in german. luckily my friend is a very good translator :). the interior, as well as the exterior, was very interesting. there was more timber-frame architecture and i found it so charming! after the tour, we took a break in the castle cafe to have some lunch. i had a cup of coffee and some green bean soup. it was delicious! and surprisingly the coffee tasted really good with it. on the way up to the castle, we took a shuttle bus, but on the way down we walked. the weather this whole weekend was perfect. blue skies and sunshine. it was a bit cold, but by the time we walked down the hill in the afternoon it was comfortable and the air felt good. it feels so much like fall now. the air smells like it, and there are lots of crunchy leaves on the ground that are always fun to walk on.
when we got back to the car, we drove to a town nearby called weimar. i’m really glad my friend took me there because it’s a very important city and i didn’t have a chance to see it yet while living in dessau. weimar is where the first bauhaus school was, before it moved to dessau. the bauhaus building here in weimar is very different. it looks more warm and cozy, and although the one in dessau is very famous and important, that one is more cold and block-like. actually, this is how i felt about all of weimar, especially the town center. there are nice colored houses and buildings, cobblestone streets, red roofs, old fountains, and lots of historical monuments. i liked it very much, and i felt like a comfortable, welcoming town. besides the bauhaus, there is also a lot of other important history about weimar. both goethe and schiller, famous german writers lived here, as well as other famous people like johann sebastian bach. we saw schiller’s house, and both goethe’s house and garden house.
then we drove back to erfurt and stayed in for the evening. my friend made really good lasagne (it’s common to use creme fraiche in lasagne here, and i love this), and then we played wii again and ate some good christmas chocolate candy.
the next morning we had breakfast again around 9am. i like german breakfasts. normally what is eaten are brötchen (bread rolls) with things like cheese and deli meat, or sweet things like nutella. it’s all set out like a mini buffet typically. hard boiled eggs are also common, and they are put in very cute little holders. my friend’s family also has this little contraption that cracks the egg shell perfectly. you don’t really need anything fancy to crack an eggshell, but this is just fun to use anyways.
after breakfast we took the tram into the city center of erfurt for a daytime tour of the town. like i mentioned before, erfurt wasn’t damaged much in the war, so it still resembles its original medieval style. there are cobblestone streets, tiny winding canals, old churches, and wood framed houses. i didn’t expect to see so much in erfurt. for some reason i didn’t think there were many interesting things there, but i wad definitely wrong. there is so much history about this town. i learned that the first german empire began there, and i saw the building where it happened. martin luther also lived and studied there, and i saw both the residence and the church. one cool place was this little inner courtyard/beergarten area where he used to gather with colleagues to socialized and discuss politcal things and whatnot, and since then it’s still been a student gathering place. my friend said even when her father was in college, he would meet his friends there too. i just think that’s so cool that it’s still in use today, and i wonder how it feels to socialize with your friends in the same place that someone as important as martin luther used to be. there were a lot of old, historic houses and streets that were really cool. one famous bridge, called krämerbrücke was quite charming i think. it’s very famous, and every year there is a festival for it. it’s interesting because there are shops and apartments on the bridge, so when you walk across it you don’t even realize you are on a bridge. we were able to visit one of the houses on it to see how it looks on the inside. it’s pretty tiny, but i think it would be so cozy to live there. we also saw the basement which is used to be a big refrigerator basically in medieval times. we walked around and saw lots of old things like this. we eventually made our way to the square next to the big erfurt cathedral which seems magnificent in the skyline. there was a mini oktoberfest going on there, with lots of food booths and carnival rides. on the first evening i was there we rode on the ferris wheel. it’s pretty big and there were great views over the city, although it was quite chilly up there! on this day we hung around a bit more, and had some food. we had bratwurst that used a popular type of sausage that i guess is very good. i liked it. we also had some cotton candy, which in german is called zuckerwatte, meaning “sugar cotton.” it was quite cheap, and quite big. i normally don’t like cotton candy, but this was actually tasty. and it’s always fun eating fluffy, cotton-like pure sugar. my friend and i also rode one of the rides that is like a very,very big swing. it’s next to the cathedral, so once you are up in the air you have a perfect view. i normally am not scared of rides, but this brings you up so high that i started actually feeling nervous haha. but again, the views over the city were breathtaking.
afterwards we went inside the cathedral. i love visiting european churches. they are usually big and tall and made of stone, and somehow always smell old. i don’t say that in a bad way though, i like this smell very much. to me it smells old but important and humbling i guess, because you can sense how amazing and important and historic it is. it gives me chills sometimes, and puts me in awe. this cathedral was like that. the ceilings were very high, and this always makes you feel so small. there was a mass earlier in the morning, so it was a bit smoky inside which made it look so cool, and you could still smell the incense. when we were about to leave, there was a small choir group that started singing. it echoed perfectly. this was one of those special moments i get when i feel like all of my senses are in overload mode and i wish i could remember that exact moment forever. the sights of the huge interior and the beautiful stained glass windows, the sound of walking on the stone floor mixed with the silence of being in a church mixed with the chants of the choir, in combination with the smells of the smokey incense still gives me goosebumps now. i get moments like this quite often when i’m traveling. i know i can’t remember them all which is normal, but at that exact moment in time i wish i could freeze time just for a little bit and absorb what i’m seeing and smelling and hearing to experience it for as long as possible. it’s during these moments that i realize where i am and how lucky i am to be there, and how i sometimes still can’t believe that this is my life.
there was another smaller church next to the big cathedral that we also visited. it looked similar, just smaller, but somehow felt just as special. it was less crowded too which always makes it more enjoyable. after visiting the church we visited this big fortress, called petersberg. it’s quite old, and also very big. when you are up on it, there are good views again of the city. near one of the big gates was a mini museum of an old room which was decorated to look like how it used to look a long, long time ago. you could see the old canons and other weapons, and other barrack things that the soldiers would use.
after visiting this, we went back to my friend’s apartment, and then soon after they took me back to the train station. since i took the regional train again, i had a 5 hour trip. it wasn’t so bad, but the train was very crowded and i think every seat was taken. i was quite sad to leave my friend, because i know i won’t see her again for a very long time. it breaks my heart a little because like i said before, she was one of my very first friends in germany and she has always been so sweet to me. i will miss her very, very much. but i hope we stay in contact for sure.
on a side note, i was able to practice my german with her this weekend too. she speaks english better than i speak german, but the best way for us to communicate is when she speaks english to me, and i speak german to her. i have a hard time understanding when she speaks german, depending on the topic of conversation, and i think it’s the same for when i speak english. i wish i practiced my german with her much more starting when i first got to germany. i could feel this weekend that it was very awkward for me in the beginning to switch into german mode, but once i did i started feeling more comfortable with it. that’s always been the biggest problem for me, feeling shy and all trying to speak a new language. i do feel though that my german has come a long way since my arrival two years ago. i can definitely understand more, and am able to write and read a decent amount, but my speaking is still very rusty and slow. i’m guessing that this is normal though. i hope that keeping in touch with my german friends will help me to continue practicing over time.