After a long transit from Australia, I’ve finally arrived in Germany and in this blog post I will reflect on my last few days in Australia, my trip and my first couple of days in Germany.
I spent the last few days of my time in Australia in the hospitality of my sister, brother-in-law and super cute nephew, whilst dealing with ending the lease of the house I’ve been renting for the last 4 years, trapped in a strange kind of purgatory where I was technically homeless and jobless. I managed to spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends and, at the same time, come to terms with the fact that I would not be living in Australia again for a very, very long time.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve already made the trip from Australia to Europe (and back) more than few times that made this particular transit experience go by breezily and problem-free. I chose to fly with Singapore Airlines (Adelaide to Singapore) and Lufthansa (Singapore and Frankfurt) as they are my two favourite airlines and Changi is easily my favourite airport. Since I had a relatively long layover time, I booked a 5 hour block at one of Changi’s many airport lounges (Ambassador Transit Lounge in Terminal 2, to be exact) which was quite good value. S$60 gets one 5 hours of decent all-you-can-eat food and drink, nice comfy chairs and showers with free towels.
My 12-hour flight with Lufthansa literally flew by; Economy class in Lufthansa is amazing and you get an extraordinary amount of leg space and comically large storage compartments by the window seats. This was also an opportunity to get my dust off my German, which I haven’t really spoken since February. I slept for probably 9 of those 12 hours and still managed to watch 3 Tage in Quiberon (“3 Days in Quiberon”) which dramatizes the last interview of Romy Schneider, arguably the greatest European actress of all time.
At border control, there was a funny little, yet somewhat predictable, moment when an American man started arguing with the German border officers because he didn’t like that EU citizens were processed briskly and other passport holders, including USA citizens, had to wait in line; he probably should’ve stayed at home.
After arriving in Frankfurt yesterday, I caught a train to Nuremberg then another to Erlangen. Since my housemates are currently away, I had to meet their neighbour to obtain the apartment key; he told me not to be disappointed that everything in Erlangen closes at 8pm. Maaaaate, I’m from Adelaide.
Not long thereafter I made it to the apartment burdened with jetlag and general transit stinkiness; my housemates thoughtfully left post-its everywhere with endearing instructions. I showered off the travel scunge and went to Lidl and realised how much I missed German supermarkets. Freshly baked bread, a ridiculous selection of cheese, sausages and cold cuts, I’m in heaven.
Today, I got up super early with my timezone-hangover practical non-existent and went on an adventure into the city and to the town hall. The Bürgeramt (registration office) opens at 8am but at 7:50 there were already a score of people waiting silently. I managed to work out the logistics of the process without having to ask anyone, and after only half-an-hour, I was giving a civil servant my proof of address in Germany and she made a few comments about how good my German was, which made my ego swell a little.
Anyway, after this successful appointment, I had to rush back to the apartment as the groundskeeper’s (weird) office hours were 8-9am on Fridays. I paid the grumpy groundskeeper for washing machine tokens and to have my name tag placed on the doorbell and letterbox (which he managed to screw up, since he replaced the wrong person with my name). For some weird reason, German addresses often don’t specify floor or apartment number, so the postie has to search through dozens or even hundreds of name tags on the building to find the right one.
After that ordeal, I walked back into the city to the bank and made an appointment to open a bank account for next Friday and was notified by the bank clerk that I’d need my tax-ID-number, which I should receive shortly after registering my address, on hand for the appointment. After which, I browsed through the closest bookstore and bought a fun-looking non-fiction book on lexical diversity and variation within the German-speaking area of Europe and a novella by Gerhart Hauptmann, the literary naturalist, after whom my street happens to be named.
In any case, my first couple of days have been very productive, even though I’ve been living in an empty apartment and have literally thousands of questions for my housemates when they have arrive (most of these relate to the correct separation of rubbish).
Tomorrow I’ll be having lunch with my supervising teacher, who is super curious to meet me as they’ve never had an Australian assistant before. I also should probably start looking for a bike as it is clearly the most popular form of transport here, but finding a large enough bike for me might prove difficult. There are still two days to go until I have to travel to the outskirts of Köln for the induction course, but my impressions of Erlangen in this short time are very good. For a city of only 110 000 people it feels a bit more alive and youthful than Adelaide.
I’m definitely looking forward to getting to know this city a little more.