Monday, July 30, 2007

The Final Day

Today is not only my last day in Altes Lager, but my last day of living in Germany. Writing that down seems so impossible. It still hasn’t hit me yet, I guess.

Keith and crew are returning today and we are then heading off to a BBQ hosted my Ina Albers and family. A nice way to spend my last few moments here.

Tomorrow, I will return to the city of Amsterdam. I am very excited.

The next time I post, I will most likely be in Canada. Odd.

Well, for the record, Germany has been good. There were good and bad times, but I made and I have come out on the other end hopefully a better person.

Dear Europe, thanks for the good time and delicious beers.
-Gary

Baltic Sea

I've been meaning to post this for a while now. I had another small adventure, this time to the Baltic Sea. It was without doubt one of the best parts of my year in Germany. It was really such an amazing time and the perfect way for me to spend some solitary time to reflect on my year in Deutschland.

Right after writing my last post I realized that I was hot. Very hot. So, naturally, I decided that I should go swimming. Seeing as the German port city of Rostock is only a few hours drive from Altes Lager, I went for it. I packed my things in the little red car and left early in the morning.

Upon arriving I parked my car in a back-lot and then found my way to the HBF. From there I went into the city to enjoy its wonderful architecture. Many port cities have a look all to their own, and this one was no exception. The main square was wonderful and let me all the way down to the harbour.

So I made it to the harbour and I wanted to hit the beach. The logical thing would be to follow the water until it gets to the beach right? Apparently not, as this harbour was huge. It took me forever to get to the beach (4-5 hours), and when I finally got there I realized that there was a subway that went right from the HBF (main train station) to the beach in the first place. Oi vey.

The beach was well worth the wait. The Baltic was everything I thought it would be and then some. It was cold and with a tinge of brown. It you took out the salt, I might have thought that I was back home at the Great Lakes! It was so nice to hit cool water it that hot, hot heat.
I sat on a nice spot in the corner of the beach where one could see two brightly coloured lighthouses. This part of Germany is famous for its lighthouses and it lived up to its name. However, all that amazing spectacular…ness…makes one sleepy, so I had a little nap and was consequently burned quite badly my the sun. Prima.

After a while it started to rain so I headed back to the car to make sure that it was still there. It was, which made me very happy. I changed into some nicer clothes and decided I would go out and enjoy the night life of Rostock.

I went back into the train station to catch the lorry into town, when something odd happened: I had the most massive nose bleed I have ever had in my life. It was like a deluge of blood poring out of my nose. As first, I actually thought it was pretty funny. I looked like I had been punched in the face so I thought I’d see what would happen if I started to moan a bit (there were about 30 other people on the platform staring at me). Well, true to their form, the Germans stoically ignored me.

As I rushed to the bathroom to stop the bleeding, I was unhappy to see that the bathroom was a pay-per-use one. All of my change was in my pocket and my hands were currently covered now in my own blood. I asked if there was anyone in there who could help me and a young guy came out, looked at me, and just said, ‘Shit, you…shit!’. Stunning.

30 minutes later, after I had recomposed myself, I headed into the city and entered a nice little side cafĂ©. There was a really nice girl there and we started talking and I ended up receiving a free milky cappuccino. It was really nice of her so I didn’t refuse, even though I suffer from severe lactose intolerance. She was really nice, but the rest of my night wasn’t, I had the head-ache from hell later on. So I figured I’d just go back to the car and sleep it off.

The next morning I woke up at around 6:30am. As it turns out, being cheap and trying to safe money by sleeping in your very small car is not as great as it sounds in your head. Never-the-less, I ventured forth to the beach and sat at the lighthouses and ate a small breakfast and had a small coffee. The rest of the morning was spent swimming and walking along the now mostly deserted beach (the rest of the people were very old and very naked swimmers). I also saw seals, which was very awesome.

After walking a long the beach for what must have been 4-5 hours, I went back and had a conversation with some guys I met at a McDonald’s. They told me that they were Danish and lived in a city called Gedyser. I ended up taking a ferry back with them and spent the day being lost in a Danish town. Despite their Artic island stealing tendencies, the Danish are actually pretty nice people.

After coming back I rested for a bit and then ended up driving home to sleep in my bed. It was the end of a crazy adventure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Today I was bored so I started driving looking for a Media Markt (the Future Shop of Germany). I couldn’t find one no matter where I looked and I was getting pretty far away from my house. All of a sudden there stood a sign before me that said ‘Potsdam 16k’. I’d never been to Potsdam before but let me tell you, it’s nice. Really nice.

Potsdam has a quaint European style setup that is very different from the hustle and bustle of Berlin. I took a nice stroll down the street (keeping an eye open for a media markt) and came across a wonderful array of beautiful parks, churches and markets. There is even a Dutch Quarter which has nice tiny Dutch houses. What more can one ask for?

Schloss Sanssouci was also a treat. The summer home of the Great Electors the park and palaces cover an area of 287 hectares. Needless to say, I spent a very long time and was well rewarded with views of Chinese tea houses and beautiful gardens. A must see for anyone who visits the area, it was easily one of the nicest places I’ve been in Europe.

Well, after a slow lunch in the market I continued my hunt for a media store but was not very lucky. It was getting quite hot after that so I decided to call it a day and head home for a nap. I feel like I’m already retired and I haven’t even held a proper job for more than a year yet.

As for my next adventure? I’m still trying to work that one out.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

This past week has been somewhat of a melancholy one. I’m not sure if it was good, bad or if it just was. Perhaps the last one feels the most correct. I’m not sure what I really expected out of my last week with the kids but I just let it happened and it went by fairly emotionless.

I believe that this state of emotionless stems partially from the fact that I was distracted this week. On Monday night I noticed that I had a slight tickle in my throat and my 12am that evening I was suffering from a high fever and sore throat. I would later find out that this was caused by a bad case of strep throat. It was very uncomfortable and it came at a bad time. I refused to go to see a doctor because it is a hassle and I wanted to see if my body could handle it. As it turns out, my body can handle it but it just takes about a good week longer than if I had gone and received a prescription. No matter, I showed that bacteria who is master of my domain: me.

Even though I was slightly delirious and oozing with sickness I decided that I should rally my strength to do my last week as an English teacher. Many of the kids had planned things for me, so I tried my best to act energetic.

My first attempt was an utter failure that almost resulted in me passing out on the floor. My second attempt was not much better. I had come wishing to say a quick good bye but I was given a gift of a 2 hour horse ride through the forest with the kids. This, normally, would have been great but for some reason the weather this month has been freezing cold and I didn’t have a jacket. I nearly died.

After that things got much better. I went on with my visits and received many good wishes and excellent gifts. I was starting to wish that I could stay with my little friends that I had made this year.

I was starting to get depressed towards the end of the week and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. It was then that Altes Lager received a visit from the First Mennonite Church of Winnipeg Choir. Now, one might think that hosting a menno choir from Winnipeg would be boring and uneventful, but it was amazing and we had a great time. Yes, most people on the choir where older than 65, but there were a couple of young bucks (30-45s) who were a real lively bunch. It was great to talk with Canadians and I couldn’t help but laugh as the conversations always seemed to turn to farming. As it turns out, wheat is very popular in Manitoba. I would have never guessed.

I even got invited along to go to Berlin with them and after a tour of the Charlottenburg Schloss, we had a nice Italian meal and then I went to the Berliner Zoo. I didn’t see Knut, but I did see many penguins which made the day highly entertaining. For those of you who are wondering, yes, the Toronto Zoo is still far superior.