1 January 2013 – Well, I’m on the train to Frankfurt after a whirlwind trip to Freiburg. Thankfully, Nicole stayed with me to ensure I got on the right carriage/seat after my earlier debacle. Yes, moi thought she had it all figured out as to where to stand on the platform in line with the carriage number. As I boarded the train and tried to find my seat I was confused as the numbers went down from 75 and I was 85. I walked (rather fought my way through bags) as people huffed and puffed at me. Carriage after carriage, I couldn’t find my seat and asked someone who said, “You have the right seat number but you are in Carriage 1, you have to go back to Carriage 4”. OMG! I could have cried. I was sweating, tired and had to back track with 20kg bags in hand. By the time I found my seat I was shaking so much I couldn’t lift my bag on to the luggage rack. Luckily a teenage boy helps me out. I settled into my seat and down the aspro to calm my nerves.
After a while, I note its very quiet, no one is talking and I realise this is a quiet zone. An older couple leave and replaced by an older couple that could speak English. I had been chatting to the woman near me as she spoke English and then we all started to talk. It was great as the teenage boy wanted to practice his English, the woman wanted to ask about Australia and before I knew it, it was on for young and old to turn the quiet zone into a friendly exchange of talk. I was excited, as up to this point, I hadn’t really had a proper conversation and was missing it.
I farewelled Katherine and we exchanged cards to keep in contact. We got on well as she told me how hard it was to get a job in the museums, as her degree was art/history. She said it was tea-lady wages, starting at the bottom and with no possibilities of promotion. Katherine moved to a town outside of Frankfurt to improve her work opportunities and now works for the council organising art festivals. She loves the job but the only downside…not many men to date! Like me she was @ the same age and said it was mainly retirement people. I said she could always date an older man – just wipe the dribble every now and then off his face!
The teenage boy was at technical school and starts an apprenticeship with Bosch in 2013. I asked if it was the music group and he said no, it was engineering parts for cars, ovens etc. I told him about a company with the same name which make entertainment systems, noise-reducing headphones etc. Katherine and the older woman had to translate and everyone had a laugh as they teased him saying that’s what he’d rather do!
Okay, onto my adventure – Stefan and Nicole collect me from the station and we drive to Emmendingen (south of Germany). Its dark, I have no idea what the country-side is like and as we get closer the trees are decorated with fairy lights, its starting to feel a lot like Christmas/New Years Eve. We arrive and friends of Nicole and Marion welcome me. It instantly feels like home and I settle in with a quick glass of white wine before we head to the restaurant for dinner. It’s a typical German country style restaurant with lace curtains and Christmas decorations adorning every spare corner. Luckily Stefan helps me with the menu and we decide on deer with mushrooms – little Bambi as Nicole rubs it in!
As the night goes on I get tired and it dawns on me the jet lag is settling in. By the time we arrive at the chalet my words slur and its clear I need to go to bed. I bid farewell and hit the pillow pretty quick. Unfortunately, I wake up the ungodly hour of 4am. The bright light shines through the glass door and while I try to sleep, eventually I spy the most stunning sunrise, and photograph the oranges/pink skies.
By 9am, I get ready so I’m not late for breakfast. No one surfaces till after 10am as they all have dark rooms and it is then that I discover there are outdoor roller blinds that which block the daylight!
I meet people one by one and think how on earth will I remember names and its quite funny as I try to repeat in my head – Stefan, Lily, Katerina, Ben, Kyle and so on. We sit down to a German style breakfast – cold meats, cheeses, bread, butter, jams and freshly made coffee/peppermint tea. Conversations flow in German and English and I enjoy the banter. There are 8 adults and 5 children. Everyone knows each other through work or being neighbours and its funny because they chose Freiburg to have a snowy New Years Eve. As it is, there is no snow and the 6-foot; orange/black snow markers look forlorn against the lush green grass.
I ‘m given the option to go to the supermarket and help Marion buy food for the party or go for a walk in the Black Forest. I opt for the latter and we head on foot into the cold and I’m thankful for my thermal underwear. We head off through masses of fallen leaves, head down the valley and search for the tallest tree in Germany. We eventually find the tree and it’s a bit of a disappointment. Even worse, we realise we have to now walk back up the mountain! But who cares! I enjoy the fresh air and thankful it’s not freezing.
Inside, while resting I realise it’s New Years Eve in Australia and Nicole decides we need champagne to celebrate! By 3pm, we decide to nap and re-group later. However, jet lag prevents me from doing so and instead I write my first (this) blog for 2013. At 6pm, I put on my party clothes and head downstairs where everyone is busy making food and drinking. We watch a black and white film, “One for dinner”, which is a German tradition every NY. It is a comedy skit, which keeps the children (and adults) laughing at the absurdity of the story. Katarina teaches Marion and I to make lotus flower napkin holders for the dips. We have fun as we tackle origami and drink at the same time. We sit down to a yummy indoor barbecue and fondue dinner.
We have a few hours to go till midnight and I check my emails/face book as its 11am in Australia. I get carried away and again hotfoot it down to see everyone has paper stuck to his or her foreheads! They are playing a game; I get allocated a name, stick it to my head with honey and think my new friends are pulling my leg! We laugh and carry on as we try to guess. Mine is not a character, is female, is well known, short and I sing “I should be so lucky” and everyone cracks up! Ya, Kylie Minogue.
Suddenly, coats and scarves are being donned and before I know it we are singing Happy Birthday to one of the friends and wishing birthday and NY wishes. It is perfect. Nicole summons us outside to get the firecrackers happening. It hits me how cold it is and the wind whips through my jeans. But, the town of Freiburg provides us a glorious show as firecrackers go off across the skyline. It is panoramic and a fairy-tale ending to my trip to Germany and being looked after so dearly by my friends Marion, Nicole and Julius and of course their wonderful friends and children.
I fly to Copenhagen in the morning and this is where reality will set in. Like most people, I will be heading to work and madly creating ceramics for 6 weeks.