I talked to Brian (an American friend who used to be in Only Connect) last night and he recommended using my free travel ticket for the state to really explore the area in depth. "You've already got the travel bug," he said "you're going to go to all those major European places throughout your life. This is a great opportunity to see all the little towns." Well, today I am doing that. I had no plans of traveling when I woke up, but I am going to go for a quick run after torturing myself with push-ups and then hop a train to the end of the line. I don't know where I'll end up, but I'm excited to find out.
I have to work on a paper, so I will do that on the train ride and maybe even find someplace there to work on it for an hour or two. I still feel the desire to soak everything German up, and this is Carnival, which is a special time here. Let's see if they are having any celebrations wherever I end up.
I just got done running. (I am actually stretching as I write this.) I decided to go a different direction than normal; I guess I really am feeling adventurous today. Instead on running toward the park, I went accross the street into the neighborhood. At first it was just what I imagined it would be: a nice residential area. Then, I decided to take a path into the woods, and that, my friends, has made all the difference.
I came across a Fachwerkhaus that I assume is a restaurant. I'll have to check it out sometime. (I have a picture of a Fachwerkhaus later.) Then, I went across a cute little stone bridge built over a rambling brook. (There was a brook! We don't have brooks in Kansas; we have "creeks" or "cricks" as many people call them. And they don't ramble, they usually just stand still.) I ran up a hill, and started seeing little stone markers among the trees and bushes. When I puffed up the hill a bit farther I realized I had stumbled--that's not very graceful--I realized I had vaulted like a gazelle upon a small cemetery.
(switching to pigeon pose now)
I was surprised by how small the graves were. Perhaps it was a a children's graveyard. However, upon closer inspection I realized that many of the people had lived to be 80 or 90. The more I ran the more headstones I found nestled into the hillside in terraces. Then, I came to a circle in the side of a hill paved with stones. In the middle was a giant stone raised slightly that translated to "Finally you are at peace". A short retaining wall circled the paved area, and each stone had someone's name, birthdate, and deathdate. Moss grew thick over the names of people who were still alive during my lifetime. Time seemed to stand still, and it was almost reverent. Here, green quickly overtakes everything, as if the earth is wanting to fold it all up inside of her again. Unfortunately, when I went back I couldn't find this place.
Later, I came across what looked more like a "normal cemetery" to me. But even those rows of matching crosses looked more intimate than the rows of shiny American headstones. Perhaps it is because it was more enclosed. It was like a garden with different areas with foliage and walls around them.
Apple pie. Yum. (I made some at Burcin's house for a party the other night.)
On the train headed toward Hamm. This weekend is Carnival, which is kind of like Halloween. So, I made sure not to get on a train toward Cologne, because that is one of the major party areas for Carnival, so the train would be packed.
The towns are getting more German and cuter the further I get from Ruhrgebiet, which is a term for the area around Essen. Basically, it is all one giant town that was heavily bombed during WWII. I thought about getting off at Kamen. There were lots of Fachwerk buildings, giant brick barns, and old yellow and blue buildings. But, I am going to the end of the line-all the way to Hamm. Perhaps next time I will stop at Kamen.
I thought about practicing German with a guy sitting near me, but he got off before I could approach him like a crazy-person. I tried reading some material for my paper, but the train was too bumpy. I will have to find a place to hang out and work on my paper.
I am now camped out in a restaurant/bar. They are playing a football (soccer) game on a screen, and a bunch of guys are sitting in front of it with drinks (it's almost 5, right?). When the train pulled into Hamm I thought "I really hope this isn't it." It looked rough and down-right sketchy on the outskirts. However, the the area I'm in is much better.
Right next to the hauptbahnhof it is clean but very plain; you can tell it doesn't have much money. There are also quite a few Turkish immigrants (not that I have anything against that, but most areas with lots of immigrants tend not to be overly wealthy--no matter where you are). It is nice in this area, but I think there are lots of really run-down neighborhoods in Hamm. I went into a general store and it was very plain, a place where the presentation wasn't the focus, but rather the items they were selling. I feel like the town is very much a real German town.
I know it is only 4:30, but I am eating now because I am really hungry and I need protein. I had originally planned to pack my dinner, but I didn't have anything protein at home other than frozen fish and dried beans. Neither of those would have worked for obvious reasons.
I'm going to work on my paper and maybe watch the game a bit too.
After eating I walked around toward the large churches with steeples so tall they looked as if they would stab the low-hanging clouds. The area was actually very pretty, with old buildings painted in bright colors.
I was cold and so decided to go into a sportsbar and watch the game there. What's more German than that? Well other than the fact that it was called The Manhattan Sportsbar...There were lots of people (mostly guys of course) of all ages--some of them brought their kids with them too. It was Bayern vs. Schalka and Bayern slaughtered them for the first hour. About thirty minutes into the game I started rooting for Schalka because I felt sorry for them. Forty minutes in Mozart's Symphony 40 started playing in my head, because it was much more interesting. The last thirty minutes of the game was quite fun though, because they finally started putting up a fight and scored.
I'm home now. I had hoped to practice German on the train when three guys sat next to me. Then I realized they were speaking English (although for a moment it didn't sound like it).
I said "Dang it! I was hoping to practice my German on you."
"Oh, you aren't German?"
Nope. Definitely not. They were from Wales and were just in town for the Dortmund game. I found out that even for them Germans seem very open and chill about drinking alcohol. You will see guys on the train drinking cans of beer in the afternoon, or walking down the street. They said that wasn't allowed in the UK, although Germans seemed alot smarter about everything.
I also learned that a red-eye is something completely different in the UK. In America it is an overnight flight, while in the UK it refers to when somebody farts on your face or pillow and your eye becomes red--or something weird like that. They couldn't keep a straight face for very long during my story...
Well, with that I bid you all good night.
P.S. I really enjoy that fact that when the link to this post shows up on your news feed it is going to say "End of the Line" with a picture of a graveyard right next to it...