Sunday, 2 June 2013

31 May - Our first full day in DE

This was a particularly adventurous day!
It started with a very delicious breakfast - Petra had been to the bakery to buy some brotchen and some chocolate croissants. This was complimented by a gigantic jar of Nutella. I asked Malcolm to please, if I ever have doubts about Germany, to remind me of that moment ;)

Petra and I at the station

We then had to face the great task of using public transport for the first time to get to Koeln. We all walked to the bus stop which was quite close by. Along the way the wheel of the bag that Malcolm was pulling (the heaviest) started to break, so he did some impressive panel beating with two stones he found. We got on the bus and had a very pleasant journey getting to see more of the area. We needed to walk from the bus to the train and along the way Malcolm's wheel came off completely, leaving him effectively with a sled. Petra showed us there how to buy all the tickets we needed for the day and came with us to the next train station where she made sure we got onto the correct train to go to Koeln. She gave us a few last hints and tips, and then left us - I don't know if we would have made it there without her, especially with all our luggage!

It was a beautiful journey along the Rhine and we marveled at how beautiful the cities are. We also soon realised that Castles in Germany really are much like impala in Hluhluwe... everywhere. But still pretty :)
When we got off that train, we realised that there was a rather rowdy bunch of football supporters heading on the same train as us. We weren't too sure if it was the correct train to be on, but one of them assured us that it was the correct one. Because we had hesitated for a while to get on though, we thought we'd better get on quickly, not checking how full it was... this proved to be a bad choice when carrying 75kgs of luggage and Malcolm and I needed to schlepp it past a whole lot of people down narrow aisles to finally find a free seat with space for the bags. Along the way the football supporters kept us amused with their songs and their attempts to sell us their beer for 2 euros each :)

When we arrived at the station in Koeln, we decided to be brave and instead of taking a taxi, catch a tram to our accommodation... this turned into quite an adventure in itself. Firstly, we couldn't find where to buy U-Bahn tickets, so I went to a travel centre and asked how to get to Schlebusch because this was the direction we'd been told to go. He then sold me train tickets, and we needed to catch it in 5 minutes... so off we ran. We hopped onto the train and I was quite pleased with how clever we were. When the sign said Schlebusch I said we needed to get off and off we got. Only then did we realise my our mistake... we were supposed to be on a tram heading in the direction of Schlebush, but get off at Leuchterstrasse. We went to a pizza shop (of which there is an abundance here!) to ask for help, where they only spoke German - I was grateful for every word of German I have ever accumulated!! The best advice we got was to buy a ticket for a train going back to the station we had come from. So much for our cleverness, back to square one. So there we sat, at this seemingly deserted station. I realised then how far from home we were, how there was nobody close enough to help, that Malcolm and I could rely only on one another and on God for help in any situation that arose. Having Malcolm beside me to hug me close was suddenly a really meaningful comfort.

We eventually got the train back to Koeln-Messe-Deutz and from there, exhausted and aching from carrying around our bags (how must tortoises feel???), resorted to a taxi to take us to our host family.

We had first agreed to an apartment in a "mansion-like house", and then been told we had a room and were sharing a bathroom and kitchen, so we didn't know what to expect, except that the house had a red roof (thank you google-street-view!).

We arrived to a warm welcome from Wolfgang (an older man with a love for comic books) and his wife Ellen, and were immediately shown our apartment... we were astounded. Having expected nothing, we were delighted with our home for the next 4 months! A fully furnished kitchen, lounge, bathroom, bedroom, entrance foyer, and a little balcony :D It's even painted yellow (as I've always dreamed!). We left our bags there and then went into Wolfgang and Ellen's house for some bubbly water and got to know them a little. They speak quite good english and are very friendly! They then showed us things we need to know about the flat... how to work the washing machine, dishwasher (!!!), coffee machine,  oven, fridge... the extractor in the bathroom, the windows... we were amazed by the first world definition of "fully furnished" and so blown away at how, once again, God had blessed us so incredibly... we had made it all the way to Germany after years of dreaming, to arrive at our little home here - a really comfortable retreat.

the lounge

the lounge from the other side

our balcony - the railing will make a good ballet barre ;)

the view from our kitchen

The last adventure of the day was going out to buy some essential groceries... Ellen took us to the only grocery store that was still open, which seems like their version of Woolworths. It was overwhelming to see all the labels in German and not be able to recognise any packaging or brands... we got what we really needed and decided to put the rest off for when we had a little more energy and courage!!