Friday: One thing I have learned from staying with our friends is that I definitely want to live for a while in another country. Today we went to town to run some errands, just as if we actually lived here. I learned so much from just going to the stores and picking up needed items. The children are out of school today (teacher work day) so we bicycled the 6 miles to downtown Cologne to go the the market and the pharmacy and the phone store (because my phone card was not working properly). I learned so many things about Germany just from running these errands. It appears that almost EVERYONE here owns a bicycle and uses it to go to the market and other small errands. While my friends own cars, we instead used the bicycles (I love this) to get to the market. The city has biking lanes and even the traffic lights have bicycle specific instructions. Almost every bicycle I saw had a basket on it for carrying purchases. There are also specific rules for how to conduct oneself when biking around pedestrians. We went to the phone store first which took us much longer than anticipated, then we went to the 'drug store' which is comparable to going to CVS except that they do NOT carry prescription medication. Places that sell prescription medicines are found in what's called "pharmacies". I needed to get something to put on the blisters on my feet. I found a very interesting product which we do not have in NC. Then we went to the market where you can purchase meats, vegetables, etc, AND not only wine and beer, but hard alcohol ! It's not even behind a counter or anything! They also have cigarette machines which the U.S. outlawed more than 20 years ago. I also noticed that smoking is still in fashion here unlike in the U.S., at least in Greensboro, NC. Cologne also has an intricate public transportation system. We have not used it yet, but soon will be!
Michel and Natascha live in what we would call a townhouse or row houses with 2-3 levels. This seems to be the norm in this part of the city. The Germans are very conscious of the environment and they not only recycle, but compost as well. There is bins for paper and another bin for food stuffs and other compost type materials. Plastic bottles and glass bottles are recycled in containers that residents return to the stores. I have had a lot of wine in the past few days, more that I would usually drink because it is so much a part of the culture. I'm going to have to slow down on it, and all the awesome food because I feel heavier and I don't like it. It is much warmer than I thought it would be. As air condition is almost unheard of in homes, I am having flashbacks of my summer in Italy when I felt like I was always "melting". The days here are also much longer than in NC, even in the summer. Before I left home it was getting light around 7am and getting dark around 8:30pm. Here the sun is up at about 5:30 and it's not dark until around 10pm at night !
Natascha and Michel have wonderful friends who have welcomed us here as well. From inviting us to dinner to helping us plan parts of our trip, to lending us their car --- I cannot even begin to express how grateful we are. 😁 We have had some very interesting conversations about politics, healthcare, and life in general.
Saturday: On Saturday, Rachael and I set our on our own on the bicycles to downtown Cologne. We visited the Romisch-Germansches Museum which had a lot of historical artifacts.
After the museum we stopped in a little cafe to eat something as we had lost track of time. After a hurried snack, we pedaled as quickly as possible back to the house and then to Michel and Natascha's friends' home for a barbecue. I was so tired but the food and company were so good. It was a wonderful day !
Sunday: On Sunday everyone Natascha was not working so we went together to the National-Socialism Documentation Center which is a museum about events that transpired during the Nazi era in Cologne. This was extremely interesting and I learned a lot about WWII that I did not know. This building was used by the Nazis as an interrogation location. The walls have hundreds of messages scribbled by the prisoners. It made my heart hurt. After the museum, we went to a Turkish Restaurant for dinner.
Today, Monday, I spent working on our plans for the next few days, relaxing, checking on my online students, and writing this blog !😊