4 am starts, endless baggage and Newton Faulkner
Today was the day. My year abroad: it’s started! I qualified myself for the roly poly Olympics with my tossing and turning last night. It was a restless sleep but I wasn’t agitated, just awake in anticipation. My alarm went off at 4 and whilst I didn’t jump out of bed, I was as ready as I was ever going to be. I dressed quickly but time still seemed to run away with me. Before I knew it, it was 5am and Ramsey was saying goodbye.
“See you in a week darling.”
After some faffing, my suitcases were in the car and Dad was waving at the doorstep. The British weather had really come to see me off and the rain pelted down on the roof of the car. We arrived without trouble though and I dragged my (many) bags through to departures. 5:50. The desk shouldn’t even be open yet but I had already checked my baggage in. Mum and I then sat down for a bite to eat and a coffee. I waited for the caffeine to kick in.
“Mum, MUM! That’s Newton Faulkner, over there, over there!”
And there he was, checking his guitar into oversized baggage. A long distance away but his long ginger dreadlocks were undeniable. Starstruck, he was too far away for me to run over. Once there was just unwanted froth left in my coffee cup, I said goodbye and went through security. Peter and I met for a drink in Wetherspoons where I overcame my awe and plucked up the courage to get Newton Faulkner to sign my boarding pass.
“Are you sure this is allowed?!”
“Who knows. Have fun in Baden Baden!”
An empty train took us to our gate where the same lady who had checked me in 90 minutes before checked my passport and boarding pass. Maybe germanwings don’t have many staff? Either way, the flight was highly uneventful with free drinks and food and an early arrival. After some confusion over where my oversized baggage would come out, we found our bags and headed towards the trains. Each sign promised a waiting train around the next corner but to no avail. 15 long and tired minutes later, we had found the platform. After a man intolerant to the idea of queuing got his ticket, I got mine too and Peter and I headed to the platform for the 10:44. We also happened to bump into two more students going to Altenberg whilst waiting and after some stumbling around with oversized and heavy cases, we all arrived in one piece.
From that point on we seemed to pick up language assistants whereever we went, ending up with a rather large pile of luggage and various people loafing on top of it in the middle of Koeln Hauptbahnhof. We then had a long wait on our hands. There’s only so much time you can spend wandering aimlessly around bookshops, buying and eating food, buying and drinking coffee or sampling perfumes whilst wondering if it’s appropriate in Germany to slather yourself in expensive scents for free while claiming you’re ‘trying out’ the perfume you’ve been wearing for years. One particular highlight was Koeln Dom. I hadn’t realised that the cathedral was so close, you could quite easily spit at it from the station entrance. It’s harsh and gothic beauty was breathtaking. It was not a peaceful place but that seemed only to add to its charm. We also managed to catch some street art in its last moment. Some artists had created a map of Germany using photos of the places it incorporated. It was stunning and we felt privileged to have discovered it before it’s end. We later saw it’s last traces disappear.
After some scolding for congregating in the wrong place, we all joined what seemed to be a much bigger group, far dwarfing us and thankfully, our suitcases too. It took a lot of jeering looks from the coach driver to get all of the suitcases onto the bus, but finally we were on our way! The journey to Altenberg was somewhat delayed due to the coach being pulled over by the police and the driver getting a right telling off, much to everyone’s amusement! It didn’t occur to anyone to be worried about his driving, we were just keen to get there and start our adventure.
After arriving, we were assigned our rooms and left to ourselves for an hour or so. My roommate is Jodie and she’s lovely. We have been paired together because we are both going to Erfurt and it’s lovely to know that there will be people I know so close. Amy is even staying in the same halls as me! After a few hours of quiet, we had a heartwarming dinner of rice and a wonderful mushroom dish. It was simple but delicious, like something homecooked by your mum, and after a long day, that was all anyone wanted in the world.
We were then introduced officially to the others in our Bundesland and the teacher assigned to help us. She was lovely and talked us through Altenberg and what we will be learning about tomorrow. Everyone laughed when I said I was from Essex and that only made us all laugh harder. Thueringen has a distinct dialect, just like Bayern. This came as a surprise to me and I am now a little apprehensive about how difficult it will be in the school at first. It is also true though that I have understood much of what has been said to me so far and I am only more eager to learn now that a dialect could be added to my toolbox if I work hard enough this year.
Now though, I am going to go down and join the others at the makeshift bar and then get myself an early night. I have resisted watching Doctor Who so far and God only knows how long that will last! Having seriously looked at the programme today, it is jam-packed with breakfast at 8.15 and sessions continuing after dinner. That’s what it’s all about though isn’t it, making the most of the time that we have. My year abroad has finally started and I can’t wait to get on and make the most of it.