After learning German last year from Dennis and Sabine, my two TAs, who are actuall German students, studying abroad in the U.S., I knew that I had to go to their school and visit them. They attend Göttingen University, which, although not the oldest in Germany, has a very long and decorated history. (Something like 42 Nobel Laureates were either alumni or professors or both.). I took a long and rather dull bus ride over to Göttingen, which is in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) in former West Germany. It was my first trip to West Germany and it was interesting to compare. The landscape is more quaint, with neat little farms and towns dotting the landscape, puncutated by Germany’s army of windmills.
I got to Göttingen about mid-afternoon on Friday and was picked up by Dennis at the busstop (unfortunately Sabine was out of town, I guess I will have to come back some day.. Oh darn :.wink wink::). There was not much time left in the day, so he showed me the campus and I met, Justin, one of the other Amherst students who is studying abroad there this year. (That is weird. I did not even know Amherst had a study abroad program at Göttingen, but there are actually a few Amherst students there this year!) We had dinner and went to a pub and just hung out for a little bit. Their school feels so much more like a really college than mine. It has a real campus with library and dorms and student center. It is very pretty. The architecture is more modern and less quaint than Amherst, but it is nevertheless a very pretty town.
The next day, we made an early start to Castle Plesse, which is an old German fortification about half an hour from the town. It was built in the 11th century on the foundations of an earlier fortification, which in turn was built on the foundations of a fort that dates back to the Bronze age (about 2000 B.C.!) The castle is mainly in ruins now with only the main outer wall, main gate, one hall, and two towers remaining. (The hall that remains has been turned into a little hotel/restaurant. How cool would that be to stay in!) It has a great view of the landscape. We spent a good amount of time, tromping around the ruins, learning from the signs about the history of the building, admiring the view, talking about castles and Age of Empires and swords and fighting and all of that good fun stuff. It was really great, quite possibly as good as the castle in Segovia!
Next, Dennis had stuff to do for his classes so Justin and I went into town and wandered around for a few hours. He showed me the medieval churches and town hall, all in a beautiful medieval german gothic style. The town is built almost entirely of half-timbered German houses that look more like something from a postcard than a real life place! It is a great city to just walk around. We also saw what is rumored to be the most loved woman in the world: a statue of a girl in the center of the main town hall. Why is she so well loved? Well, tradition is that when students from the medical school graduate, they come to her with flowers and give her a kiss! Göttingen is a pretty large and old school so that has happened many times!
That evening, we all went back to Dennis’s apartment and he cooked for us some traditional german food: mashed potatoes with creamed spinach and eggs. Sounds weird? It was amazingly good! We had a blast. Dennis is such a funny kid!
Next we went to the pool facilities at Göttingen. They have a fairly significant setup, with a number of large pools, two water slides an outdoor heated pool and several Jacuzzi’s. We swam around one pool for a while, enjoying the warm water. Then we headed up to the water slide. They have two, a slow one and a fast one. The slow one is not actually that slow and you can get down it pretty fast. It is a fun ride. The fast one, I think was designed by a physicist who specialized in rocketry, or particle accelerators. It is like being hurled out of a rocket! And it is very narrow and dark and you get thrown around all over and at several times in it get airborne! It was amazing (though still not as good as the white slide at the Patriot Slide in Dorney Park). Then we went to the outside pool, which was simply amazing. It was nightime and probably about 35 degrees Farenheit with a clear moon and sky. Justin and I thought Dennis was crazy for wanting to go to the outside pool, but the pool was downright hot and it was so refreshing to be there with the steam coming up from the water and warming our heads, which were about the only things out of the water! Then we went back inside and hung out in the Jaccuzzi until they kicked us out because the pool was closing.
One of Justin’s friends at the school was having a birthday party in one of the dorms that night so he and I went over to visit. It was great fun and I do not think that I have met such an international crowd in a long time! I met three slovenians there (who were very nice and luckily spoke very good German), a turk, a French girl, and two Finns. It was so cool to be in a place with so many people from all over Europe. It was also so nice with my German skills to actually be able to communicate with these people who otherwise would be seperated from me by a wall of language difference. It reminded me of my experience the first weekend with the girl from Poland that we met on the train and I could barely understand a word of what she was saying! Yet this time, I got along quite well. I am amazed how well my German has improved. Just being around it all the time and having to speak it all the time and hearing it all the time, it just gets into my system. It is weird because I can have conversations and talk and then afterwards I cannot remember whether we were speaking in English or German!
It was a good party, but I had to leave relatively early to get back to Dennis’s to sleep in order to catch my bus the next morning. It was really great seeing him again and also getting to know Justin, who I recognized from Amherst, but had never met before. He is a really cool kid and I am kind of sad that he and I will never be both attending Amherst again (since he is staying for the year and I am graduating).
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