After our meeting she took me to Adam von Walt's office so that he could help me choose my courses. Adam is an American who teaches English literature in Essen. He was very nice and had great insights as to which courses I should take. He also recommended that I sign up for the English drama group, which puts on a production of each semester. I had already been hoping to do something like that, so I was game for it.
At about 4 pm we went to get an early dinner for him, and a late lunch for me. Instead of taking the public transportation we walked and he basically gave me a tour of the town. He told me that the last American he met with had told him that he walked really fast, but I kept up with him. We walked from the university to an area of town called Rüttensheid, which is old and upscale. He explained to me that the majority of the building in Essen are new because the city was so heavily bombed during WWII. During that time Essen was an industrial/coal mining city, so they were a strategic target for the Allies.
We found a restaurant that he recommended and went in. In Germany restaurants almost always have their doors/windows open and outside dining areas. There are no screens in the windows, but bugs aren't much of a problem there. We ordered salads that came with hearty slices of bread. The lettuce in German salads is left whole, so you have to use a fork and knife to eat them. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but it was a great salad. Someone brought a golden retriever into the restaurant with them, which is quite normal. Dogs are allowed almost everywhere in the city. People take them on the trains, in the restaurants--everywhere.
We continued walking in Rüttensheid and found an "Eis Parlor", or an ice cream parlor, which was supposed to be the best in town. I ordered chocolate Eis that had black cherry and a bit of liquor in it. Adam told me what to say to the man working behind the counter, and I stumbled through the unfamiliar words. German ice cream is different than the American kind, it's more like gelato. It hasn't been flash-frozen like American ice cream, so it has a slightly goopy texture. It was good though.
We walked until we came to the forest. They have a real forest! We took a path and headed toward the Baldeneysee. "See" means lake in German, but it wasn't actually a lake; it was just an area of the Ruhr that had been widened. As we walked through the forest a thought struck me.
"Does your name mean Adam of the Forest?" I asked him.
He said it did and that it was the perfect name to have in Germany because having "von" in your name meant that at one time your family had been noble or high ranking. His Grandfather was from Switzerland, so apparently his family had once been powerful there.
The paths were busy with walkers, joggers, bikers, and people with their dogs on the paths.
"Hey, didn't we already pass that person?" I asked him. We then noticed several more people running/walking/biking toward us whom we had already seen.
Apparently we had taken a wrong turn, a detour if you will, but we got back on track and finally saw the See. (See was supposed to be capitalized because it is a German noun, which they always capitalize.)
Across the river are old houses that were built before Essen existed. The city grew and eventually took them in, even though the people living there didn't necessarily want that. Owning those old homes is extremely expensive; you have to be a millionaire to maintain them. You never actually own them, the state does--you're essentially just a care-taker. There are strict rules for people who live in those homes. They are not allowed to change the outsides of the buildings because the state wants to keep them historic. That means hiring special contractors who know how to fix the houses with wooden frames on the outside. In some cities you can buy (not really buy--but you know what I mean) old houses for €1, because it is so expensive and labor intensive to maintain them that no one wants to deal with them.
I can definitely see why people would want the houses in the valley though. The river is quiet and peaceful, filled ducks gliding across the surface. There are few mosquitos in Essen because the See is actually part of a river, so it is moving water. In addition, the area is very hilly, so there is no standing water. Adam said that in the eight year he has lived here he has only had one mosquito bite.
There is a train station near the See, so getting back to the main station was far easier than getting there. We ended up walking for nearly three hours. Let me show you a map of how far we walked (not that I minded).