Saturday, 17 November 2012


You know you're feeling rubbish when Germans dancing to Turkish men playing Bavarian Polka music next to a Llama during the Saturday market in your tiny home town in Germany fails to lift a smile.

Unfortunately, have had some bad news about Tom - he had to have an operation and looks like he'll be getting chemotherapy. Poor Tom. Please send happy, healing thoughts for him.


I'll keep it short this week as I'm feeling quite down about Tom, so pictures will have to do! Dave and I went to Zurich for the weekend, it was a very Christmassy and cosy. See below for further evidence:
The snail was the best bit

Over looking the Alps and Zurich
So, the last photo has decided to be a bit rebellious and not fall in line with the other photos. Never mind. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The hunt for Blueberry Pie

Ferdinand Hodler: Abend am Genfersee von Chexbreas aus 1894-95 Zurich art museum
After cycling around Radolfzell for an embarrassingly long amount of time (especially given the size of the place) looking for that exact coffee and cake shop that exists in such a sure and secure place in the minds eye (of course it will be there, I’ll know it when I see it) Starbucks swam subliminally into the forefront of my thoughts. Why? I don’t want to go there... but you know – if it wasn’t "Starbucks" it probably would have been perfect. The real reason why I thought of it was because of a very good friend of mine from Madrid (though herself from Sweden) named Helena. Let me preface this with the fact that Helena and I were both preternaturally bored human beings – once while planning an night out we came to the conclusion that the only interesting thing to do that evening was to try to take over the world. We even made a pictoral mind map.I would compare us at that stage in our lives to chocolate easter bunnies – on the surface we did interesting things and seemed like we were interested in things but inside we needed more. More chocolate in my case, I’m not so sure about Helena’s. Maybe lingonberry jam or something?
La Reina Sofia: no, that's not scaffolding. That's supposed to be there.
 Anyway, we sought refuge in a Starbucks after our (definitely mine in any case) one and only attempt to look at an Art Gallery in Madrid. Again, this sounds awful – what an uncultured buffoon I turn out to be – but whatever. I had a mental block about it. The buildings were so impressive and large that I couldn’t figure out what was the entrance while trying to casually walk past it. The one time I attempted to go to El Museo Del Prado – after saying that I was going to go for quite some time and making a definite journey out of my apartment to go there – the queues to get into the “free after 6” time period were laughable. So I went and got a caña instead.

Museo del Prado: intimidatingly looming
 So you can see the sense of achievement Helena and I had when we tentatively walked through the entrance of the comparatively hideous Reina Sofia. The visit turned out to be both disappointing and frustrating. Both of us were restless from caffeine and before us stretched out endless wide white empty corridors on all sides (not forgetting an equally endless up). Everything seemed separated by an enormous gulf as we wandered helplessly in wide circles stumbling upon the odd small pockets of Goya and Picassos which we both looked upon dubiously; skeptically eyeing the paintings from a distance not wanting to show too much enthusiasm. In case it was a trick.
The corridors in the Reina Sofia: yes they really were that big
 Though I know what to expect from Art Galleries, some small part in the back of my mind always expects a triumphant gallery guide or Tv presenter to present each masterpiece with a reverent flourish and an expectant grin. I mean, anyone could just walk right in here and see it. We weren’t even looking for this painting and yet here it is. No one seemed to be paying any attention anyway. I painstakingly studied that painting for my A Levels – give it at least a passing glance! We stumbled upon Piccasso's Guernica by complete accident. Didn't even realise it was here, assumed it would be in the Guggenheim in Bilbao - for logical reasons. That shouldn't be right. After getting the be-dreaded “gallery fatigue” and the lesser heard “leg fatigue” from navigating many miles of offputting blank corridors we descended in the glass lift over looking white statues in an almost entirely unoccupied green garden (thought the day was pleasant) which was certainly the most memorable part of the visit; we both caught each other guiltily eyeing the Starbucks convieniently placed outside.
Starbucks: you could be anywhere

“I don’t really go into it at home”
“No, no me either”
“I’m sick of walking to find the “typical Spanish experience”” Madrileño's do love to walk about
“It just looks so comforting”
“They have the same sofas as mine back at home”
“It’s so easy, I know how to act in a Starbucks – we could almost be at home”
That is the clincher really. After spending so much time struggling to communicate, feeling like a bad person who “needs to learn more Spanish” with a bad accent, where buying milk from the friendly, chatty guy just underneath your apartment is an ordeal you grow to dread and feel guiltier about each time when you can only nod and say “si, si... ha ha…err leche por favoure?” because it’s in the fridge behind the counter so you can't just give the correct money and run... So yes, while we both acknowledged the greater evil of Starbucks and to a certain extent globalization we both – Swedish and English – managed to salve our homesickness (a bit) with over priced coffee and mass produced chintz sofas. We peered out the window. We browsed our leaflets. We sat and sipped. They are doing something right, there's no denying it. 
In case you don't know what I mean - which you probably don't.
Back in Radolfzell, I knew that there wasn't a Starbucks- not that I wanted there to be one - and all the bakeries were shutting and I was not prepared to accept “bar cake” having worked in many bars before – I knew the standard of plastic selophaned sugar with “flavouring of chocolate” I’d be served- I was getting ready to give up. One large, fluorescently lit bakery remained open, however, at this desperately late hour of 5:30pm. From the outside it reminded me of the Salt Beef Bagel shop in Brick Lane actually – so obviously I avoided it initially, not wanting a Salt Beef Bagel or food poisoning. However, it had a suspicious number of old people lingering outside happily chatting and making their way gradually away or into the café. Another suspicious thing about it was that this was Radolfzell, and definitely not East London. Plus, old people always know about these sorts of things, so I decided to trust my oblivious guides and made a U-turn in the road for which I was rewarded with a dirty look and a tut from a man with a baby puller on the back of his bicycle (they are unavoidable here - all the rage). 

Two old ladies on a caffeine and sugar high seemingly congratulated me on having a bicycle as I locked up, I gave a nervous smile as they departed cackling hysterically at my foreign person reaction. As the lights hit me I realised the exterior was a deception to ward off bothersome young’uns! Typical old person trickery. Inside was quaint round tables and low level lighting – the only fluorescent light came from their bakery counter which was sparsely stocked. What they did have however and what every table bore the weight of a generous slab of was blueberry pie. Oh sure, they had bread but – I wasn’t here for bread. It was the only cake they did (other than a convincing looking Seable pie which I nearly got before reasling seable meant Onion!) I joined the masses with a cappuccino and I sat on my circular table with my book and I ate a good, simple hearty blueberry pie and I saved half for the next day because it was massive.

The closest internet approximation of the pie I could find
I’m living in a town where building work attracts a crowd so blueberry pie success stories are about as good as it gets. Ok, so maybe I started the crowd by squealing my old bike to a halt to peer in surprise at three dungaree clad young (attractive) women swinging pickaxes at rubble wearing yellow hard hats in the middle of a building site beside a church. One of them had pigtails. I thought they may have been recording a German music video, but no, just real life. It was difficult not to stare!

As a quick last minute aside - in Radolfzell there is a market every Wednesday and Saturday that for various reasons I haven’t been able to attend so far. Or failed to notice – I mean I must have cycled through it at least three times so far – and I did wonder why Birgit looked so confused when she asked if I’d seen the Wednesday market last week and I said no. It’s huge – sprawls out over the whole of Radolfzell town center and I would have had to cycle through it regardless of which detour I happened to take on my way to the train station. Maybe I was late, in which case I would have mown down a few pensioners as I whizzed through the center – but I checked, no old people residue. Market day is obviously a huge day for the residents of Radolfzell as they were all there gathering round Heisse Marroni (Roasted Chestnuts) and eating Würst under plastic sheeting next to variously bristled broom ends and woolen slippers. Glühwein was for sale – it’s very cheap here- but I’m sure the market only goes on until 1 o clock – the thought of drinking sickly sweet alcohol before lunch turns my stomach just thinking about it. Although that may be because I over did it 2 years ago on the Mulled Wine because it snowed unseasonably early and I wanted to douse myself in Christmas nostalgia.

Stupidity update: It turns out the market was not a typical Wednesday market, as I found out on the way home from Universität as it was still open and only happens once as a build up to Christmas market time. I spent the whole day feeling extremely foolish as well. At least it didn't go to waste..!

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Today (Sunday) is the close of another challenging week, not because I’ve been besting and befriending armored polar bears (sadly), but because a lot of menial things have all begun to pile up. A lot like the unwelcome sight of the snow on my sun roof (I can’t remember the official name for attic windows, maybe if I call it sun roof it will know what it has to live up to). There isn’t even a blind to block it out, I have to physically hide under my duvet and sniffle. Have been trying to melt it away with exorbitant amounts of central heating but it's not really economically viable. So instead of watching Disney films in bed and drinking tea I thought I'd cheer everyone up with a new blog post. 

I keep wanting to take photo’s of where I live and the things I'm doing to belatedly share the moment with someone. I particularly wanted to capture autumn, in my mind I took some pretty cool artistic photos of multicoloured umbrellas and petals on a wet black bough etc. But as I was waiting impatiently for my money to arrive so that I could buy a cheap camera I realised it would be gone before I had the chance. Plus, taking cool photos probably isn't as easy or satisfying as my imagination makes out. Soon it will be winter and the leaves will have faded and crumbled to be replaced by sparkling lights and perpetually cheery music and alcoholic hot drinks. So, I realised that I would have to (try) to share my experiences the old fashioned way – with words and “illustrations”. I can’t draw, but then again I can’t speak German yet I somehow manage to communicate… just quite badly and with much frustration; a collage of words and gestures. Today I have written a bit about the town I live in - Radolfzell, because although it is very small and not at all grand or impressive or chaotic it is where I live and I think it is beautiful. Plus, I have had the chance to spend a fair amount of free time there. 

About Radolfzell
The view from the steps
Conkers have been stored in generous piles inside wicker bicycle baskets. The bikes, which lean against a grey stone wall dappled with slick, wet leaves curling auburn at the edges, have been abandoned by their owners. Their laughter and chatter can be heard through the surrounding hedges of the park as they squeak higher and higher on the swing set. Stone steps lead down away from the children and the gardens and into the hazy blue sky reflected in the calm Bodensee. Boats are resting on the water, side by side with bobbing black moorhens and neurotic seagulls making their fray. Couples canoe gently past. A dark haired woman with a beige shirt and red collar leans happily over her balcony with dark red geraniums to laugh with her passing friend. Her view of the lake is panoramic as it curves outwards on all sides allowing a glimpse of Radofzell’s modest skyline; the white sail of the concert hall (Konzert Segel) and the ocher Gothic spire of the town church are revealed by intermissions between the trees. The afternoon is serene – it seems as though it could always stay this way, frozen azure, the white glare of the afternoon sun lashed in streaks across the water. There is another view I know, just outside of Radolfzell, where you can climb to the top of lookout tower and see the Bodensee surround you on three sides. The final side, behind, is a scorched umber field of wheat-like flood plains. It is in a place called Halbinsel Mettinau roughly means Half Island, it’s a kind of fjord or finger of land pointing into the lake. Every few minutes the train makes its circular progression around the other side of the lake, you can track its progress through glimpses between the olive and golden trees.

A typical church clock tower
The shadows have begun to lengthen and the water, steel grey only moments before, begins to ripple and burn. Across the lake orange lights flicker into focus in the blue shadow of the hill and a small village reveals itself, tucked away arboreal hills across the Bodensee. Against the setting sun's last notes the pier is silhouetted black against thick daubs of pink ribboned with violet. The church bells have begun to ring, loud clear peals chiming through the crisp evening. All of Radolfzell can hear their toll; even those already warm behind double glazed windows. A swan makes her shimmering escapade across the lake side splintering the clarity of the reflected dusk. Gold threads spin away to be absorbed by the indigo ink seeping from the edges of the lake. The clouds are soon just swirls of ash against the fading light of day, evening brings a new peace and new character unfurls from the darkness. 

A side street in Radolfzell
The boats now moored neatly in a line burble and grumble like a brood of hungry goblins. Strangers alight together from their train and begin their solitary walks home through the Marktplatz. It’s has reached that time of year where darkness falls and yet the shop windows are brightly lit, their wares  -fur collared suede coats, whiskey leather bags and uncut, rough emeralds set in burnished gold -  are supervised by store clerks who watch the darkness anxiously for supper time. Fires are lit inside popular German restaurants and bars as the Italian coffee-and-ice-cream shops begin stacking their chairs and refrigerating the tiramisu. There’s a frosted star on the window left over from last Christmas and anticipating the next, and 70’s rock and roll overflows through the open door of the local like plumes of cigarette smoke and tumbles out across the cobble stones.  An emphysemic marionette maker puffs on a filterless roll up as he doggedly scans the crowd for someone to talk to. It doesn't matter if they can't speak any German.

By the lake in Radolfzell
So that's my experience with Radolfzell so far, it's different now because of the blanket of snow. I also went to Meersburg with Klauss my housemate from Taiwan. We went last Sunday and it just so happened to be one of 2 special market days throughout the year in Konstanz. We ate a free lunch of chocolate tasters and different types of cheeses. And I started classes this week - even though I haven't managed to register with the University yet due to a long chain of stupid - which was exciting. Looks like I'll be taking quite a few! Hope everyone is feeling okay, I miss you all and hope to hear from you soon!

On the Ferry to Meersburg

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Learning German

After watching some Grey’s Anatomy I have realised not only that I’m wasting my life but that while I have to deal largely with the same themes, problems and situations as an American Medical Drama, my reactions are monotonously British and underwhelming that it isn't possible for me to exist in the same universe as the people in Grey’s Anatomy. Meredith Grey is so squinty and beautiful languishing in her elegant breakdowns in the shower and open heart surgery. Meredith Grey would never lose her purse in a foreign country and have no money or food for the foreseeable future – I thought sullenly to myself on the train to Uni while gazing at the oncoming Poplar trees, lined up like lonely strangers ever waiting at the platform. There seemed to be an impermeable space surrounding each poplar, marking them out as individuals, their branches never crossing or overlapping though they were many. As you can see I was anxious; anxiety tends to make the best of us philosophical. On Saturday I ventured out for a social get together. It was a tentative evening though the conversation flowed readily all night about the London Riots, homesickness, second thoughts and how beautiful Konstanz was. Our evening was cut short by the disappointing realization that the buses only ran regularly until 12 on a Saturday.
The mystery of the runaway cat-face purse

The next morning after being woken up by Birgit, the house mum, to be invited to a large German Sunday breakfast waiting for me downstairs (soft boiled eggs, 4 different types of cheeses, homemade caramel sauce, jams, nutella, 5 different types of hams and “bacons”, tomatoes, warm seeded bread rolls and butter, orange juice…) I pottered about watching TV, doing washing and tidying up and other Sunday things. I had some missed calls on my phone and a text in German but I didn’t have enough credit to call back and I had no idea who the text was from. I assumed some sort of bureaucratic message from Germany – it seemed like a typically German thing to do; remind you to bring your overdue registration forms in by text. I ignored it like any right minded person would, rolling my eyes at Germany’s ridiculous mothering nature. By the evening all thought of text messages was driven from my thoughts as my bag was tipped upside down and pillow cases unturned and mind in total disarray. My purse was nowhere to be found. It was lost. I kept checking my bag though I knew it was empty and my belongings lined up on the side. I didn’t exactly panic because I went straight into denial about the situation. I told Birgit and she worried and told me to cancel my card… tomorrow maybe, it will turn up I told her. The time I would have to wait for a new card to be sent and processed was impossible, I couldn't do it. 
The morning came and Birgit and I had phoned every Fundbüro (lost property) we could think of without success. I was convinced I must have left it in the toilet on the train – I knew I must have had it at the train station as I tried to buy a snack from the vending machine and almost missed my train because of it, but the machine wouldn’t accept my 5 cents and no one could help me with 10 cents. I dug through my coat pockets – and found the 50 cents – so I hadn’t put it back in my purse. I certainly hadn’t lost it walking from the vending machine to the train so I must have left it on the train – though none of the lost properties had any sign of a Cat-face purse handed in. The situation was bleak.

By the time I alighted the weather had turned grey and rain began to fall. As I hurried to the bus I spotted something strangely familiar on the ground. Krillin? I waiting for some boys to pass me so that I could return to the floor treasure without judgement. It wasn’t Krillin, but a strange soft plastic Buddha. I picked it up for luck. It certainly couldn't hurt.

Lucky Buddah

At University my seminar room was empty and by the time I tried to register with the city it was closed and everything had begun to seem extremely frustrating, almost deliberately so. I clicked around the Uni for a few hours, rejected door to rejected door – passed from person to person – until I arrived at my Erasmus Coordinator’s room. I finally met her – the woman who had been helping me from Germany all Summer to find accomodaton and with all of my questions – and she was just as wonderful and helpful in person. She sent emails around the department advertising me as a proof reader with great enthusiasm and let me know that she would be there for any problem to help. I felt reassured and motivated to get it together and make this work. After I bumped into a girl from Israel who I had met a few times before – I told her about my situation and she instantly offered me help and asked if I wanted company for the day. Well, actually yes I did.
Together we marched off on the quest to find the missing purse, chatting amicably and refusing to let me cross at red lights out of respect for her new German authoritarian culture. We had quite an adventure. On the way to the Fundbüro of the University we discovered the Zoology quarters had it's own small natural history museum, which we eagerly bounded into. There was a large stuffed Komodo Dragon and Marmosets and lots of insect and reptile cages – with enormous mating Giant Spiny Stick insects and Iguanas sitting nonchalantly on each other. “They really don’t care about personal space do they?” my new friend aptly commented. No they did not. Apparently courting for the Leaf insects was just to wait on the others back until they decided to “connect” and as for the reptiles, they barely acknowledged the others anima but regarded each other as one would a preferred chair or blanket.

Extatosoma tiaratum

After a double disappointment at the Fundbüro (her umbrella hadn’t been handed in) we made the trek across town to the Police Station and ended up being driven to the Train Police Station in the back of a German Police van. The Policeman was very helpful the whole time, but when he opened the back doors and asked us to step inside I still had the fleeting idea that I was being arrested as I clambered willingly into the back. Germans always leave you with the distinct impression that while they appreciate you effort you could do better next time... so you can imagine the Police! While waiting to fill in more forms my new friend remarked, “You are being impressively calm about this whole situation... you seem very cool and collected.” I think a combination of stunned disbelief and very resigned resignation may have worked to produce this effect. Which just goes to show, if you get yourself in enough tricky situations eventually you stop reacting in a normal way and while you still feel terribly anxious (so it doesn't really help) it no longer shows. 
After the long day, which was actually quite fun after we made it into a quest, I decided to give my lucky buddha as a gift with the hope that buddha's worked with the same luck model as pennies. Just trying to make the most of the system... as well as thank a new friend. After, we said goodbye at the bus stop and I went to catch my train with a big chocolate coffee. I glanced through the window while I was waiting with my other Poplar trees and the hotel name opposite the station caught my eye. Hotel Halm – like a calm ham – I’d had that thought before but when? Something began to dawn on me and so I checked my phoned and re-read the German text message from Sunday. There it was: Hotel Halm. I excitedly asked a lady in front of me what a "Geldbeutel" meant in English, pointing at the German text. “A money pot!” she said smiling, “money pot!” she dug around in her bag, while gesticulating meaningfully. “mo---ney---po-“ “It means a wallet.” Interjected her daughter loudly. I happily thanked them and ran across the road. Cat-face purse! You too have returned! A group of people had very kindly handed in the purse - money still in tact - I knew I was right not to cancel my card... Shame I didn't follow my own advice. 
After all that the train journey home was a joy, even though the train was delayed and we stopped in all the boring places. It was ok because I thought even the ochre stones on the railway tracks had a kind of German aesthetic grace. As we chugged passed the set of Poplar trees lined up along the river I couldn’t stop my mind from greeting them again, with the recognition of a friendly face in a crowd. I'll not dwell too long on the fact that my purse had been found before I'd even started looking... because that's just ridiculous. Instead enjoy this picture of a statue that sits in the Bodensee just outside my train station in Radolfzell and rest assured that motivation to learn German has significantly increased.  
Isn't it funny?

In other news, Birgit's boyfriend Martin, has also found me a very good deal on a bike – 10euros - we're picking it up on Thursday and then we are spending the afternoon in his mechanical garage fixing it up together. That’s right, Callie the Mechanic in Germany..!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Cat Returns

After considering pioneering a "Homeless Student in Konstanz" campout campaign I have moved into a real house! I now live in Radolfzell - which is more beautiful than Konstanz but it does mean a bit of a comute to University. It's in a bright loft room with my own bathroom in a family house which also homes 2 other students. They don't really speak much English - which is problematic but hopefully it will help me learn German quickly. The downside at the moment is that I currently have no internet in my room as the cable is waiting to be fixed - argh. But don't worry! I'm streaming tv programmes during the day and watching them in the evening so I'm keeping up with Downton Abbey. I arrived on Sunday (a bit hungover) and as absolutely nothing is open in Germany on a Sunday I didn't have any food. Luckily I salvaged my remaining food from Yann's fridge to bring with me, so I had a quarter of a cucumber and 2 kiwis which was a delicious house warming meal.

I owe a huge thank you to Yann who I Couchsurfed with ( ). He really helped and looked after me while I was homeless and friendless in Konstanz - even though he was going through a received some very sad news while I was staying with him. Couchsurfing is great - I couldn't have made either move (to Madrid and to Konstanz) without it. The people are usually very kind and understanding and they genuinely want to help and meet new people. There's obviously a bit of a risk meeting strangers (you might not get on) but the seems to genuinely do it's best to look after it's users. You leave references for people if you've met them and say to what degree you trust them. If there is someone dodgy in your area Couchsurfing sends everyone in the vicinity an email warning them about them. It's great to use for budget travelling and going to places you wouldn't be able to afford otherwise. 

Otherwise I'm still finding my feet in Konstanz I haven't really had much of a chance to explore yet but there are some fantastic opportunities for amazing walks. If you exit Radolfzell train station the back way it leads directly only the Rhein and there's a really lovely walk along the river with a great view of the surrounding hills and even a glimpse of some white peaks... Ski season is on it's way.
I still haven't started any lectures, which is lucky really because I still can't work out how to get from G300 to G421 without going through a portal which transports me into another building half an hour away from where I started. Who is designing these Universities?! Absolute sadists. So much time haplessly wasted looking imploringly at the mini university map already 20 minutes late. And it's not just me- before you think it!- I'm often asked by other international students if I know the way to their room. If I look like I know the way then these students must be really desperate.

"Silly human"

I also have more good news, Aggie has been returned home! She was in fact kidnapped by a small child and her family and was locked away in their home for 4 days. Apparently she did suckle the pillows. Though I am so relieved and happy to have her back I'm still very cross with the family for being so selfish. I know Aggie is beautiful but that is no excuse to steal her!

So, now that everything is settled it's time for some adventures...

Friday, 5 October 2012


So I have arrived safe but perhaps not quite sound in Germany. Today is Tag der Deutschen Einheit or "German Unity Day" a holiday which commemorates the reunification of Germany. As you can see is celebrating this with a special logo. As a result of this holiday all the shops are shut, so I've not yet been able to buy a German sim card or buy any food or anything (read: tobacco and alcohol). It's fine, I've been meaning to re-read The Easy Way anyhow

So how has the transition been? A lot of good and a lot of bad. As soon as I heard the dissonant drilling of the alarm I knew my day was just going to be a wrongun'. I couldn't find my phone charger, car keys went missing after putting my bags in the car and then after I said goodbye to my Mother at 6:00 am at Gatwick and tried to pull my suitcase to check in - nightmare. The suitcase - which I'll have to carry from couch to couch until I eventually find somewhere- is unpullable, uncarryable and was 2 kilos overweight. I'm not saying I packed too much... the design of the suitcase is just fundamentally flawed! I may as well be trying to carry all my things in my arms while pulling myself up a hill by metal cordoned wire.

Once in Konstanz it took me 15 minutes of heavy breathing and pausing to get myself from the Train Station to the Train Station bus stop. Obviously I missed my bus, but actually I needed the half an hour rest. Bustling onto the bus was another humiliation all together - red in the face, heaving and huffing and thrusting an endampened piece of paper with the word Jugendherberge (Youth Hostel) written on it into an unimpressed German bus drivers face - wasn't the best first impression to imprint onto my new hometown. I collapsed near the bus driver with the evidently mistaken idea that he might let me know where to get off - of course that didn't happen. I also happened to sit next to a "down and out" (every German town needs a token "unfortunate") whose stink of yesterday's booze only intensified with familiarity. He of course also had a guttural hacking cough - which to his credit he tried to politely direct away - but it was so appalling I couldn't help giving him sympathetic glances every now and then. Probably why I missed my stop.

Anyway, after having to heave my belongings off the bus, on the bus and then back off again I arrived at the Jugendherberge which was of course situated at the top of a large hill and handily situated next to a graveyard. Oh how hard I'll laugh about that hour one day. I arrive sodden with sweat, tears and blisters. I have to wait another 20 minutes until 2 o clock when the place opens before I can begin the arduous process of signing up for a German membership card with a significant language barrier. It is at this point that I start having surprisingly great conversation with a German guy passing through Konstanz. He ends up coming with me to my Erasmus meeting and helping to break the ice by aggressively (to my standards) introducing me to the surrounding members of my group. I felt like I was in nursery again with my mum introducing me to my potential new friends. It was quite nice actually. My new friend also has a car and he very nicely drives me to my first Couchsurfer and stays chatting for a while, helping us both see the complete unawkwardness and naturalness of the situation before departing off into sunnier skies to Oktoberfest.

The youth hostel. Thankfully I wasn't staying in the tower.

Everyone will be glad to know I have been very lucky with my Couchsurfee. He is very kind and gracious and made an amazing cream mushroom pasta for dinner. He unfortunately found out that his friend passed away and was understandably quite upset. I gave him a hug and after my offer of a cup of tea was laughingly rejected I suggested an episode of Doctor Who. A new convert! Anyway, to round off the story I went for a run to explore the local area and I saw a cat. I stroked it, it bit me so hard it broke the skin. I arrived back to the house crying and after applying iodine he ended up consoling me over my missing cat. I felt like a pretty terrible human being.

This post is called Schokolade because I bought a cup of German "hot chocolate" and it tasted like bitter disappointment, the only way unfilled chocolate anticipation can taste. I didn't want to awkwardly wedge it in my post so I'll just leave it here at the end...

Monday, 1 October 2012

Auf Wiedersehen!

I fly to Konstanz tomorrow to start my year abroad - currently homeless and catless. It's certainly not ideal but I'm hoping for the best. My cat has decided to disappear the weekend before I'm due to leave but in doing so we have uncovered her underground ring of adoring fans and feeders. She also goes by the name Tina - a reference to her "teenager" characteristics, all the boys chasing round her and leading her dedicated gang of other young cats. Bet they don't know she still suckles the pillows!
Come back soon!
Hopefully she'll come back before I leave tomorrow. Hopefully she's safe and abducted in the home of a jealous unrequited lover and she'll be able to make her escape and return home.

So, yes, I'm leaving extremely early tomorrow to make my move to Lake Konstanz in Germany - despite the fact that I haven't yet found anywhere permanent to live. So I am spending the first night in a hostel - after that I'll be humbly living off the generosity of strangers via CouchSurfing until somewhere can be found. Apparently I'm not alone however, there are still a lot of people who haven't found anywhere to live for the semester - which isn't very reassuring really.

Exploring Konstanz for the first time

On my first evening I'm going to a Stammtisch (German for "regular's table") at the Hafenhalle, which is basically an opportunity to meet and socialise with other new Erasmus students in a typical German bar. Hopefully I'll meet some nice, interesting people and maybe even someone else who is still looking for somewhere to live.

Anyway, I ought to start getting myself prepared - I'm going to be living out of a suitcase for quite a while...

Tschüs for now! (Not entirely sure you can use it like that - I'll keep you updated)

Sunset over Lake Konstanz