I would argue that the two best parts about being abroad are experiencing new places and getting to know new people, and I was fortunate enough to do both this past weekend.
On Friday, I realized that I had no plans whatsoever for Saturday, so I looked at my list of potential day trips and made plans for Saarbrucken, Germany. When I say “make plans” here, I mean that I checked on bus times in order to set my alarm appropriately and briefly looked at the city’s website, taking note of a few points of interest. I have found that less planning can often lead to a more enjoyable trip—less rushing, more discovery. My list for Saarbrucken looked something like this:
- Saarbrucken Schloss
- Castle wall
- Alte Bruecke
There are several museums in Saarbrucken, but I wasn’t feeling a museum day, so I didn’t make note of those.
I elected to take the early bus, which meant I arrived in Saarbrucken at 8.30, right alongside the rain. Hoping it would clear up before too long, I ducked inside the nearest store to browse around for a bit. When the rain (it was a light rain, nothing too bad) persisted, I bought a streusel, pulled on my mittens, and headed out anyway.
Most stores weren’t open yet, but I found the market and a church, which was quite lovely. Saarbrucken has these nice little signposts that allowed me to navigate the city without feeling like a complete tourist, which helped me, I think, to get to know the town better. I found all of my premeditated destinations in addition to discovering others! Every time I turned a corner or something new came into view, I found myself smiling; that is how quickly I came to love Saarbrucken. It was cold, yes, but at some point the rain stopped and it began to snow! They were tiny little flakes you could barely see, but it was definitely snow. With Halloween not widely celebrated and Thanksgiving not celebrated at all, we are nearing Christmas season here in Europe—and it doesn’t feel as premature as it usually does in the States!
The churches were beautiful, the town hall stunning, and the snow wonderful, but my
favorite part was probably a garden I hadn’t originally planned on visiting. One of the signposts told me about it, so I follwed a path and discovered a delightful garden/park in all of its Autumn glory. Saarbrucken is not, from what I understand, a large tourist attraction, but I think it has been one of my favorites—maybe because it’s not a tourist town.
My Saarbrucken trip was a solo one, but the getting-to-know-people part came into play on Sunday, when I went over to bake with Carole. Carole and Henri were my friend Sarah’s host parents when she participated in STEP last year, and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet them a few times this semester. Last Sunday, they invited us over for dinner with Kayla, who they had hosted temporarily at the beginning of the semester. Henri’s English is pretty good, but Carole speaks about as much English as I do Luxembourgish, so she was very excited to learn that I speak German. She also loves to cook and bake, and I’ve really been missing baking, so we made Sunday baking day.
I reported to their house at 8.00, and Carole greeted me with a hug and a mug of hot chocolate, which was just what I needed after my brisk walk to their house. After chatting a bit, we got started, our first order of business being to finish making/canning the jelly she had begun the night before. After we finished the jelly, we got started on the banana bread—I had brought a translation of my grandma’s recipe—before continuing on to a cake made with Eierliquor (egg liquor). The act of baking itself was really nice and familiar, and talking with Carole was really great, too!
I’m fairly certain that Henri and Carole would host all of the Miami students if they could—they genuinely enjoy talking to us and showing off their country—and Henri is full of knowledge about Luxembourg’s history, which he loves to share. They invited me to stay for lunch, at which point I learned that they had reserved the entire day for me! We took the dogs for a walk in a park in Hesperange, a nearby town, and then watched Wikki, a movie about a young Viking boy apparently familiar to all Luxembourgish/German children. The boy is very clever but not very strong, and his father is the opposite. I feel like it may have been the inspiration for How to Train Your Dragon, but there weren’t any dragons in this one.
There are moments when I have to take a step back and give myself a reality check—that this is my life, and that these things really are happening to me. After this weekend, I definitely had one of those moments.