Heidelberg and Sachsenhausen: A tale of two towns

Since I arrived in Frankfurt, my girlfriends from the UK have been planning a trip over to see me. Luckily, Ryanair does flights between the cities for around 40 euros return if you book early enough, so with a few whatsapps and phone calls we worked out the weekend before my birthday was the perfect opportunity for them to drop by and see my Frankfurt life.

Showing off the life you’ve made for yourself to others who were a big part of your old one is always really exciting; I always feel the need to explain how different everything is where I am now, and all the good bits about my life and surroundings. The trouble with Frankfurt is that it’s very much the kind of place you need to spend a bit of time in to get to know; the festivals and the weekly pop up events, as well as spending time with friends and doing things the outskirts of the city are what make it great. Otherwise it’s just like any other city really, with a lot of skyscrapers, a river and a church, and shops that are shut for half the weekend (which still drives me crazy by the way!).

So myself and the boy devised a plan to take the girls to Heidelberg for the day. Heidelberg is about 90km outside of Frankfurt, and apparently is literally the geographical heart of Europe. With a castle and beautiful surrounding parks, it’s the quintessential German town that everyone pictures is hidden in between the more modern cities around the country.

We arrived at about 12pm, with a rather elaborate picnic in tow that included fruit, sandwiches, treats and Frankfurt-made Apfelwein. We found a spot with a beautiful view of the castle, and the boy had ever so cleverly brought along shuttlecocks, one of those rocket things you throw that makes a funny noise and a frisbee.

 

The day was so relaxing, and the girls couldn’t be happier to get some sun; I’ve been taking it for granted a bit here, and I didn’t realise the weather was still so poor in London. One thing i can feel glad about having left is that god-awful weather, where the label ‘summer’ was surely a joke term for the middle months of the year.

So after the picnic we went for a walk through the town, which was absolutely beautiful and packed with like-minded tourists for the day. Ice cream could be purchased for 1 euro – i don’t think i’ve ever seen ice cream that cheap in my life – and after a quick look at the bridge, and a few of the locks, we started the trek home.

 

 

 

Before I moved to Frankfurt, I was told by quite a few people that it’s a rather boring city. After having lived here a few months now, I don’t really understand how any city in Germany can be boring if this is considered to be the slowest of them all. And i’m entirely certain that the countless hens and stag parties that parade through Frankfurt would disagree with such critics. On a Saturday night everyone seems to congregate to Sachsenhausen, where the Apfelwein pours freely, cocktails are 5 euros and tequila or jager shots well set you back just 1 a piece.

With bars everywhere, you know it’s going to get rowdy from around 9pm on every occasion. The hen and stag parties are brilliant here; they must sell alcohol and sex toys to fund their night out, which leads to even more drunkenness without the cheap drinks on offer.

Meeting up with some friends from the girls nights, one of my new found frankfurt friends was well aware of a karaoke bar up the road that we knew after one too many long island iced teas we had to try. The audience was encouraging, and we spent the rest of the night belting out Bon Jovi and Backstreet Boys songs.

I believe this was us singing Livin’ on a Prayer

Considering I have only been here three months, it was a pretty nice way to celebrate a pretend birthday before jetting off to Glastonbury for the real thing, and in stark contrast to my first birthday in London where I didn’t feel I had enough friends to have a proper party. It really was the perfect way to spend my birthday in Frankfurt, and a reminder of why I love this city so much.

A Happy Ending To My Visa Nightmare

I’m a born and bred Australian citizen, and though I have a German surname, we’re really not sure where that comes from, as my grandparents are all born in Australia and my father doesn’t know very much about his family. As a result of this, I have an Australian passport. And as a result of this, the last six months have been spent in complete limbo, resulting in a complete change of life-plans and being rather broke, even though I’m technically not broke at all, while I’ve been trying to set up this life. It’s been a tough and long six months trying to get a visa that will allow me to work in Europe, and on Monday, when it finally came my way, I wanted to cry, and scream, and ended up eating an entire wheel of camembert and a packet of Trollis to celebrate.

It all started with attempting to get my English visa – I employed an agency to help me as I didn’t want to get anything wrong or file incorrect documents. I’d heard the horror stories, and didn’t want to be one of them, so I thought I had done everything right. Unfortunately, the agency I picked didn’t ask me the right questions, and as a result, the British consulate are currently accusing me of deception and not handing in the right forms because I was apparently trying to hide certain information. With the British immigration system, there’s no room to explain yourself, no room for an ‘honest mistake’ the first time around at least. And in in this one rejection, which they probably thought about for a total of 30 seconds, my life completely fell apart.

For a week I held myself together, and was proud that I cried only once. I was stuck in Australia at the time, with all my stuff back in the UK, unsure if I would even be able to get back in the country to get it out. My ticket home to London passed me by, and as I couldn’t get a refund so did about 500 pounds, and as my performance in my job suffered and my boyfriend waited patiently in Germany for news, hope that I would get my life back was dwindling.

But then some came, in the form of a lawyer who (no shit) thinks I have a pretty strong case to appeal what Britain is currently accusing me of. And he told me that I could work in any other country I could get a visa in. A quick call to the German embassy, and suddenly I was moving there for good.

I was faced with two choices: to wait in Australia and apply there or get to Germany straight away and go through the local authorities. Apparently Frankfurt is easy to deal with as it’s a big city. For the record, this information is about as correct as saying a Bavarian doesn’t drink beer.

Arriving in Germany, I immediately took my application form to the ‘Alien Authorities’. It was the wrong one, and I had to go back with the right one in a week. I did this, and was then asked for my ‘registration’ in broken English. This is one big lesson I have learnt coming here – NEVER assume people in immigration, in a widely English speaking country, speak English. Anyway, turns out when you move to any town in Germany you need to register as a citizen of sorts, and they give you a present to welcome you. With this done, I returned to the Alien place for the third time, to be told I would receive a letter with an appointment.

Three weeks later, my German flatmates took me to the Alien place for a fourth time to find out why I hadn’t received a letter. Turned out they could book an appointment for me on the spot, there was no such said letter. The appointment was booked for over a month away. In all this time I’ve been unable to work, which has driven me crazy on multiple levels. So when the day finally came, on June 10th, I think it was pretty understandable that I didn’t sleep a wink before it thinking, and hoping, and getting anxious, and praying to a God I don’t really believe in on occasion.

My appointment lasted about 10 minutes. I’ve been handed a visa for the time my health insurance lasts, allowing me to work for at least 10 months before I can possibly swap to an ongoing work visa, dependent on my health insurance. All of this could have been avoided if I’d waited in Australia for an extra month, but then I would have missed out on the following things: Travelling to Spain to see the football team I own shares in; finally getting to go to Queens Day in Amsterdam with most of my friends in tow; finding this amazing house near the city; seeing Borussia Dortmund play for the first time; and spending that extra month with my boyfriend.

So there’s positives to be taken out of every situation right? I wonder if sometimes we use this as an excuse to feel better about situations that have just been rather shitty. Sometimes there’s no reason for them, and when I go back to London for Glasto in a couple of weeks, and have to stand in front of immigration while they are rude to me and judge me again and I have to take it, I’ll probably feel like this is another pretty needless shitty situation. But if it weren’t for all of those problems, I wouldn’t be in Germany now, and overall, whether this is some kind of human need to justify the situation or not, I’m pretty bloody happy right now that it worked out like this.

A tip to Aussies wanting to come here in the future? Apply from home, not here. Save your sanity.

xx

One Night In Cologne

I absolutely love Cologne – in fact, I think it might be my favourite city to visit in Germany. It has everything you could want from a weekend away; the romance of the bridge where you can lock your love, a beautiful church that’s up there with the best I’ve ever seen, amazing German food, good bars and nightlife, and a river running through the middle of the city to make it even more picturesque. And then there’s the shopping. The first time I went to Cologne, it was for New Years Eve in 2011-12. Some girlfriends had gotten a last minute flight there, because it was the cheapest place to head from London. Having met my now-boyfriend only once, I wrote to him asking if by chance he might be there (he is German, so there was a slight chance). It turned out he and his friends had planned a few days there, which was a really crazy coincidence. But it ended up being the best New Years Eve I ever had, despite the fact that we were all insanely broke and cold, and we spent the night in a club where they only spoke Russian.

So this time around, I wanted to see it all again, just to make sure it really had been that amazing and it wasn’t just the romance happening on the side that made me love the city so much. And thankfully, it was still as great as I remembered. Walking out of the station, you are immediately faced with this amazing monstrosity -

this is literally outside the main station

I’ve seen a lot of churches in Europe, from Sagrada La Familia to Notre Dame and Lake Bled’s Church of the Assumption. But this one is equal with the church in Rennes, France (which still had bullet holes in the walls in the shape of bodies from the war) as the most beautiful, interesting and picturesque one I’ve come across. I’m far from religious (I believe there’s as much chance that we came from the Cookie Monster as Jesus’s dad) but I still find churches to be a very spiritual and calming place.

 

 

The other attraction I love so much about Cologne is the bridge where you can lock your love. This is by no means specifically a German tradition, with bridges across Europe and the world doing the same. But Cologne is absolutely heaving with locks – I read that the railway operator who uses the bridge was threatening to throw them away at one point, but the residents protested and got the move cancelled – and looking at them can keep you amused for hours as you search for your name, look at how long each of these couples have been together and wonder what might have happened to them since.

 

Some opposing views on love here

Having spent a vast majority of the day looking around, and taking in a spot of shopping, there was only one thing to do – get a schnitzel and a cocktail for lunch by the river.

The Saturday night was our initial reason for coming to Cologne; my German friend from Magdeburg had found out about a paint throwing party and was just as keen as me to go to a nightclub simply for the reason of throwing different coloured paint everywhere. And the night provided exactly that – at 1:40am we were allowed to pick up the bottles of paint we had purchased and proceed to do literally whatever we wanted with them. At one stage, as a girl came up behind us and essentially assaulted our entire faces with blue paint, I wondered if in any other situation this would be acceptable behaviour.

Just before the blue paint assault on our faces took place

It was a great night, made even better by the currywurst van out the front which we took full advantage of when we were ready to go home. I really can’t recommend Cologne enough – everything about it is just so relaxing, and lovely, and quintessentially German. Before I left on my train back to Frankfurt the sun came out, and I got one last look at this as I got ready for the trip home…

Meanwhile, the boy spent the weekend in Paris, after getting a free trip from a friend who pulled out. It was an all-inclusive weekend where the bus takes you friday night, you arrive Saturday morning for two days then the bus gets you back to Frankfurt for work on Monday morning. With the hotel, it normally costs €70 in total, and includes a tour. Did I mention that the travel options from Frankfurt make me absolutely love living here!?!?!

Till next time xx