What I’ve learned so far..
I made it to Freiburg, Germany after a layover in Amsterdam and a train ride from Frankfurt Airport. I was definitely excited to get off the plane and be finished with airport security for a little bit. Security was very heightened in Amsterdam, since it has a very large airport, but I was whisked to the front of the line once my departure time was called out to get me quickly through the passport control. After an hour long flight, I made it to Frankfurt, and then had to wind my way through the many terminals to get to the train station that was to take me to Freiburg. I once again did not have any issues while strongly lacking in my German skills and overall sense of direction after 12 hours of traveling.
My apartment is referred to as Berliner Allee, which is conveniently located next to a tram station, two grocery stores, a few restaurants, and it is a 5 minute walk from ,Seepark’. I share an apartment with 4 girls (3 German girls and Ayat – who is on the program with me) along with 1 guy. Even though there are more people to an apartment than what is customary in the U.S., everyone has their own sizeable room, so we are not constantly breathing down each others necks. We also have two bathrooms in the flat, which is really nice. Currently, my room is very white: white walls, closet, bed linen, and walls. Hopefully I will find some treasures along the way to help liven up the place a little bit while I am here. The window in my room has a french balcony, which has been really nice to leave open during the night. The air here is very fresh and smells like a mix between a Florist shop and a Bakery where ever I walk.. life is pretty neat when there is not a lot of pollution :p.
The Eco-Friendly City
Speaking of the eco-friendly city, it is definitely going to be a bit of a learning curve to figure out where I am supposed to put my trash, as you divide it out by rubbish, plastic, and paper. When you look at the diagrams it is more complicated than it sounds.
At all of the grocery stores there is a ‘bottle atm,’ where people bring their plastic water and beer bottles to deposit in exchange for .25 – 1 euro per bottle. My housing tutor, Simon, told us that they refer to it as ‘fund,’ in which they use to buy more alcohol and drinks here, because it is so cheap. Walking towards the grocery stores, you definitely see people carrying reusable bags filled with bottles to deposit before going shopping.
,Seepark’ is a park with swans, ducks, giant fish and turtles, and a lot of the student population in Freiburg hangs out in the green areas playing frisbee, grilling, and drinking with their friends while watching the sunset over the Black Forest.
My flatmate, Ayat, and I met up with a couple of other girls who live in a flat together a few floors above ours and our housing tutor to learn how to take the tram to the institute. It is very much like the light rail we have in Minneapolis, but there are 6 tracks here (given that the population in Freiburg is 200,000), so it will take a little bit of maneuvering to figure out where everything leads. Thankfully, the tram stop that is right by my flat goes directly to the institute, and it takes about 7 minutes to get there.
At orientation, they served us strawberries, sweet breads, and coffee. Lots of coffee. It was a rough morning waking up at 7 am to go to orientation after 12+ hours of traveling continuously. I set 6 alarms and slept with my door open to ensure I would wake up on time.
We attended a few info sessions on housing, safety, and public transportation as a group. I think we were all thrilled that Germans are known for being blunt and too the point, so they did not keep us there terribly long.
My housing tutor led a small group of us on a city to show us where to buy phones, electronics, and clothes in addition to pointing our ‘bar’muda triangle: a small area of the city that has a large cluster of bars together. We all had a good laugh at the slang.
Most of the buildings are ‘fake’ old, because the city was bombed during WWII, but as an American, I found everything incredibly beautiful. I’ll write a post on the city of Freiburg more in-depth once I learn a little more.
I will be hiking in the Black Forest all of today, and I think everyone on the group is very excited to finally see it. We have to take a regional train into it — though I am not quite sure how far away it is.
That is really it for now. Just getting used to the new city, though it reminds me a lot of Minneapolis already. The Midwest for the win. I plan on trying to update my blog every couple of days as long as I have stories. We’re already starting to figure out when we can explore more of Europe. I believe trips to Switzerland (Basel is only 45 minutes away by train), biking to France, Berlin, and Prague are in the works so far.
We leave in a couple of weeks for Bosnia and Herzegovina, where we will spend a week on a field study and meeting with officials.
I’m having a blast so far and cannot wait to share more stories about Germany soon!