Tag eins: Auf Wiedersehen America!

May 5th

After a long commute from Richmond to Pittsburgh (via car, train, metro, and another car), a night in Nordenburg, a bus ride to the airport, a plane to Chicago, and a long (nearly 9 hour) flight, I finally made it to Germany!

One of the first stops we made was to the bathroom, which was surprisingly cool. Instead of having disposable paper towels or an air hand dryer, this bathroom had a reusable cloth towel that hung in a loop from the dispenser like a paper towel, except you couldn’t rip it. It seems hygienic, more environmentally conscious than disposable towels, and faster than air dryers. I wish the school would install these in every bathroom that still has disposable paper towels.

The bus ride to Augsburg was nice, it seems like this part of Germany is a lot flatter that the east coast of the US, and in addition to a lot of farmland I noticed a bunch of solar panels and a few windmills in the distance, technology I wish was more common in the US.

We made it to the hotel, where we were lucky enough to get some free coffee, before Dr. Feick took some of us to a nearby bakery since we didn’t get lunch. We practiced point-and-pay since my limited German is rusty, and I got a pretzel sandwich with a meat that seemed similar to ham, and pickles. Though I was expecting the sandwich to be warm, I’ve never had a pretzel that good before, and for sure I’ll have more over the next two weeks.

I took a very nice, very needed shower before we met Sonja and Marius from the University of Augsburg, who gave us our transportation tickets to use on trams or buses, and university campus cards so we can buy coffee and snacks while we’re on campus. I was impressed and grateful with how much they’re integrating us into the city and university for just two short weeks.

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A manhole cover in Augsburg, with the city symbol of a pinecone.

Next was our personal tour guided by our own Dr. Feick, who took us through the important parts of Augsburg within walking distance. We went to the Rathausplatz, some roman ruins, the Dom (cathedral), and the Golden Hall in the town hall, among a few other places. It was snowing when the tour started!! But luckily the clouds blew away after not too long. It was really cool to finally see the places Dr. Feick talked about in lecture with my own eyes.

 

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The intricate ceiling of the Golden Hall in the town hall.

Then we met some of the German students at a tour of the Fuggerei, the first public housing that was set up by Jakob Fugger in the 15th century for people in poverty to have somewhere dignified to live.

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Down a street in the Fuggerei.

We had dinner at a restaurant called König von Flandern where I had the spinatknödel, which is like a kind of bread dumpling with spinach and cheese, and the apfelstrudel for dessert. No offense to my high school German class, but this apfelstrudel was way better than the version one of my classmates made.

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The spinatknödel I had for dinner.

At dinner I talked to some of the German students, Sofia and Luisa, and learned about university in Germany, like how most class grades are typically just the final exam, which seems way more stressful than how our classes are structured. Also, since university in Germany is basically free, especially compared to the cost of attending college in the US, their class sizes are much larger, at least in undergrad, making 500-person lectures relatively common. I enjoyed talking about our experiences through different education systems, and finding out what we might or might not have in common that we wouldn’t expect. After a very long first day in Germany, I was very glad to learn that the hotel beds are comfortable and I quickly fell asleep, resting up for the next big day.

 

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