As we drove to the Pittsburgh airport at three in the morning last Friday, I was equal parts nervous and excited. What if my bag got lost? What if I forgot my passport? What if I love it there and want to stay forever?
We proceeded to stand in a variety of lines for the next three hours at the airport, and I fell asleep before the plane even took off. Our next stop was a nine hour layover in Newark. After several games of terminal-wide hide-and-seek, an intense round of Scat, and playing nearly every game available on the airport’s iPads, it was finally time to board – and this time, with our passports in hand.
This was my first international flight, and it was pretty different from what I was expecting. When I first heard it was an 8 hour flight, I thought I’d be sitting there bored out of my mind most of the time. In reality, I slept nearly the entire plane ride. I had also heard absolute horror stories about the plane food, so I was pleasantly surprised to find it edible, if not exactly appetizing.
Our main agenda for the first day in Augsburg was a walking tour of the city. My first thought upon seeing the quaint storefronts was that it looked like it had popped out of a Disney movie, complete with pastel colored houses and cobble-stone streets. I loved the atmosphere of the city, especially the town plaza; you could imagine it being filled to the brim during the Christmas Market.
My favorite stop on the tour was the Augsburg Cathedral, which dates back to the 11th century. I took an Intro to World Art class last semester, and in lecture we discussed European cathedral building practices, like pointed arches and ribbed ceilings. It was really cool to see those methods in real life (in a building besides the Cathedral of Learning that is), and I knew from class that it must have taken generations to complete it. Dr. Feick also told us that the cathedral houses the five oldest stain glass windows in all of Germany, and that it was one of the only buildings not to have been destroyed in the bombings of World War II. It can be easy to feel separated from history when you’re living in American Suburbia, but in the Augsburg Cathedral, I felt absolutely surrounded by it.
After the Cathedral, we went to the third floor of the Town Hall, which was extravagantly decorated with gold fixtures and paintings on the ceiling. We also walked down the street to the Fuggerhäuser, where we began to learn more about the Fugger family and their impact on Augsburg.
Our last stop was a tour of the Fuggerei, the world’s oldest social housing still in use. We had a great tour guide, and a stray cat decided to come along for part of the tour too! It was really cool to see it still in use after all these years, and for such a good cause. Afterwards, we went to dinner as a group and got to taste authentic German cuisine. I’m definitely a big fan of schnitzel.
I would call our first day in Germany a definitive success. That said, we certainly had a few embarrassing moments. When we got on the tram for the first time, we were all pretty taken aback by how quickly it starts to move. I had to cling to the railing for dear life, and one of my friends actually fell into another woman’s lap. We all thought this was hilarious, but the woman was slightly less amused.
But did my bag get lost, or did I forget my passport? No and no, thank goodness. Do I love it here and want to stay forever?