Long time no read, I know. This happens when life gets in the way. You plan a hundred times to do something, like posting a new update on your blog, but then you find yourself being caught up in a million other things as the weeks are passing by. As soon as a few people start reaching out to you to check if you are still alive, you suddenly realize how much time has gone by.
This is kind of what happened recently, starting with a longer trip to Germany, the preparations before and a bit of catching up to do when I got back. But … step-by-step…
A lot sooner than anticipated, I flew back home in May to visit Germany. Yippee! An opportunity came up where my hubby (upon request, I’m changing from ‘husband’ to ‘hubby’ as this sounds a lot less formal) was scheduled to travel for two weeks throughout Europe. I spontaneously decided to come along, join him for parts of his trip and sneak myself into some of his hotel rooms. Business for him, vacation for me, is that not a nice arrangement?
I was a bit nervous about how going back home would make me feel. Would I enjoy the trip or feel out of place? Would I wish back my old working life? Would I want to even stay and regret having to fly back? Would the people and places have changed over the last couple of months? Or, would I even have changed? Whatever feeling it would trigger, I was ready to embrace it, knowing that no matter what, the two weeks would be a lovely break from my day-to-day routine. Germany, here I come.
Our trip began at Frankfurt airport at 7am on a Saturday morning after an 8-hour red-eye flight from Chicago. Exhausted as we were, we collected our luggage, picked up a rental car and drove to Cologne, the city where we used to live in Germany.
Of course, I could not help but immediately notice some of the oh so obvious differences between the American and the German culture. Here are my top three observations from the first hour after we landed:
- We ARE driving incredibly fast on our German highways. At 160kmh (100mph), I asked my hubby to slow down just a bit (I may have gotten some rolling eyes).
- Cars in Germany are so tiny and in such nice shape. No wrecks on the road.
- It is super easy to order a single shot espresso or espresso macchiato in a tiny cup with a tiny spoon to stir my sugar with, while in the US, everything comes in ‘large’.
Since our Cologne apartment is sublet for the period of our assignment, we stayed at a hotel for the weekend and found this to be a great way to explore the city through a different lens. We felt like tourists in our own hometown, which might sound strange, but gave us a completely new perspective at the city. We even took pictures of Cologne’s famous cathedral, something we rarely did when we lived in town.
One entire weekend was dedicated to the city of inner beauty (that’s how we refer to it, because Cologne is not that beautiful from the outside). We met with friends, did some shopping (surprisingly there are certain things you can only find in Germany and I’m not thinking of “Lederhosen”), enjoyed the beautiful weather, had dinner at our favorite restaurant and really relished our time.
When my hubby headed to Dortmund and later on The Netherlands for work for the week (poor him), I stayed in Cologne and launched my own little journey. I had a blast meeting friends, former colleagues and people I hold dear, while visiting familiar and discovering a few new places in the city. I even spent an entire day at my former employer, catching up with people in the office, and it seemed like I was never gone.
Unfortunately, since time in Cologne was scarce, I was not able to say hi to everyone. I hope that there are no hard feelings if you read this post and think I should have said hello. I will certainly be back soon.
We met my hubby’s family on Friday night for dinner (30 min south of Dortmund) and took the train to Berlin on Saturday. After a weekend playing tourist again, hubby went to work on Monday while I explored what Germany’s capital had to offer.
Finally, on Wednesday, we drove to the beautiful little town of Meissen, where my family resides and who we spent a few days with before jumping on the plane again to fly back to Chicago.
Our time in Germany was phenomenal and none of my concerns proved true. In fact, being back home felt like the most normal thing and almost like we never left. I have a few take-aways, though.
First, there is nothing more precious in life than the value of family and friends, who welcome you back with open arms and as if nothing has changed even after months of not seeing each other. Second, home is home, while Chicago for us is still more of an adventure. Only at home you can be your true self, not wondering about certain customs or having a language barrier to cross. Third, despite our trip being so wonderful, it is now equally nice to be back in Chicago for some more time with all the things we missed while being out of the country:
- Big roads
- The skyline
- Free water in restaurants
- Ice cubes by default
- Paying everything with credit card
- New country music
- Big Bang Theory undubbed
- Intuitive ticketing systems at public transportation
- Friendly customer service
- Starbucks at every corner
A big thank you to everyone who made our/my trip so worthwhile and for the many great conversations we were able to enjoy at each of the places we stopped by!