Wednesday, 3 August 2011

We've arrived!!

We arrived in Germany on Saturday 30 July.  This is it, our new adventure!!  We spent the weekend with Arne’s friends, Dirk and Georgina, in Zwingenburg (about 50km south of Frankfurt), as our apartment was only ready on Sunday night.  Georgina was really helpful, showing us the ropes and answering all my questions. She came grocery shopping with us, which was just as well because things are a little different from what we are used to; like getting a token for your shopping trolley from the cashier, then keeping that token for future sopping trips. WOW – there is a wealth of beautiful organic produce at really reasonable prices here.  More about grocery shopping later - that’s another topic on its own!
We went for a long, steep walk on Sunday in Zwingenburg.  It was a rude awakening as to how unfit I am! The scenery was amazing; we saw fruit trees, goats, and walked through what seemed like a forest.   When we said goodbye on Sunday evening to go to our apartment, their youngest son Finn was sad to see us leave. He had become quite attached to Arne who he’d roped into playing football and cards with all day; it was so sweet.  
Arne, Georgina and Finn

Sunday night – arrival at our apartment in Bad Soden am Taunus. 
Our house, #42 Handelstrasse - we live on the top floor - there are 2 apartments beneath us which are currently empty.
This is our temporary home for 2 months while we wait for our container to arrive from South Africa.  The flat has all we need and is quite spacious. 2 bedrooms, bathroom with separate toilet, large living room with dining table, TV and sofas, small kitchen with washing machine etc., with a balcony which overlooks a stunning garden. 
Living room


Little kitchen

Spare bedroom, now our laundry room

Dining area in the living room

Our bedroom
And… we have some little friends in our garden…squirrels. I saw them last night in the trees, scurrying around for nuts.

Squirrel in our garden
Things I will definitely appreciate when our container arrives and we move into our new home: dishwasher, our bed (this mattress is NOT great).  

The main train station in Bad Soden is only about a 10 minute walk from our flat which is really convenient. I took my first solo train ride into Frankfurt on Monday to find out about language lessons.  The trip was great; only 26 minutes.  I found my way around the busy Hauptbahnhof and walked about 10 minutes to the Language School.  Unfortunately they didn’t have enough enrolments this month due to the summer holidays; I should go back in September.  I suppose I will have to continue to teach myself German and bumble along as I have been until courses start officially.   At least I got to venture out on my own, while Arne when to start his first day at work. When he dropped me off at the train station on his way, I felt like it was my first day at school being dropped off about to discover new things.   
In the evening I got Arne to drive us to the mall to look for some duvets. The duvets in our flat are feather /down duvets, which we are both allergic to.  Besides that fact that I think filling bedding with tiny ducks' feathers is quite disgusting.  I was really shocked by the price of duvets! We had to look for 2 single duvets, not one double, as this is what they have in the flat, so we’d use the covers. It seems to be a German thing to have 2 singles duvets on a double bed – that way you are sure not steal your spouse’s covers! Anyway, the cheapest we could find was 49 Euros – that’s equivalent to about R490! That was bottom of the range. The price for single duvets went up to R1300!! And these weren’t even down/feather.  We managed to find one on sale for 20 Euros, and bought the other for 49.  It was well worth it, because we both slept very well that night - no more sneezes.

I’ve joined the local English-speaking women’s clubs, and have my first “coffee & cake” next Tuesday to meet some new friends in the area.   One of the ladies kindly offered to give me a lift.
This is our road where we live now, Handelstrasse
Yesterday I took a walk to the local pool. I hope all this walking is going to shed some of the winter weight I’ve gained. That’s the only problem with coming straight out of winter in SA into Europe Summer. Lovely weather, but I have a ‘spare tyre’ of note!! 
Anyway, the walk was pleasant, about 25 minutes to the pool. When I arrived I went through a turnstile at the bottom gate. 
Arrival at the bottom part of the pool grounds
It was really quiet there and didn’t seem right, but it turned and I went in.  Then I realised I’d gone in the wrong way, and walked across the entire grounds to the proper entrance to present myself, in case they thought I was trying to sneak in for free; I had that feeling you get when it feels like everyone is watching you, knowing you’ve done the wrong thing. I tried my German skills, but didn’t have the vocab, so in English I kindly explained to the lady at the cashier desk that I thought the bottom gate was the entrance, and asked if there is a fee to get in. She smiled and said “It’s ok”, and so I didn’t have to pay.  Who said German people aren’t friendly!?   What a beautiful public pool. The facilities are well-equipped with lockers for valuables (which nobody used), change rooms with hangers, toilets etc.  It was really busy, and since it’s school holidays still, there were families from young to old.  I discovered before I left the house that we didn’t have any swimming towels (add that to the shopping list), so I took 2 x hand-towels with me – real “Van Der Merwe” style. At lease nobody noticed!  I had a swim; the water was amazing, and relaxed in the sun. I fell asleep and got a little bit of a burn on my lily white skin.  
I took the scenic route home (map in hand) and walked past 3 beautiful parks.  If anyone not living in SA is reading this blog, it must be said: people in SA don’t really visit parks much anymore; they have become unsafe and run-down (from my experience).  So to see such lovely parks here in Germany is great. I particularly enjoyed seeing a mom with her toddler in a park on their own; and a lady under a tree reading a book in another park - not done in SA. 

This reinforces one of the reasons we moved here; safe environment, where your taxes go towards the community so you can enjoy public places like parks and pools. Horray!!
I walked around the entire town of Bad Soden on my way home from the pool, looking for a shop to buy swimming towels for my next pool outing. I also looked for coffee mugs; the ones in our flat are tiny, and I love my morning coffee.   Nothing!! I’ll have to go to the mall for this I guess…any excuse to shop.
Arne is settling in well at work. It’s not very busy at the moment because he only meets his customer (General Motors) next week.  He has a loan car from work which is huge! It’s so long and a real battleship to try park. 

I had hopes of practicing my driving on the weekends, but now I’m not so sure.  We drive on the other side of the road from what I’m used to, so I will have to get some practice.  We will go on a Sunday evening when the roads are dead quiet so I can drive the battleship!
Arne’s colleague Christoph has invited us to his birthday get-together this Saturday evening, so we will have our first German social engagement and meet some new people.  If the weather is good we will walk there because it’s only about 1.6km from our place.   Arne is taking over from Christoph's role at work, and he’s been really helpful showing Arne the ropes. 
I decided that since language school only starts in September, and I’m not even 100% certain I will enrol, that I will start looking for a job.  I am a kindergarten teacher, and I’m sure my English will come in handy. I’ve sent my CV to a few Montessori schools, and today I set up an interview at a multi-lingual pre-school for next week Wednesday.  I think I’m more concerned about how I’m going to get there, than of the actual interview. I’m not accustomed to public transport yet.  I had my own car in SA, so this is going to take some getting used to. The lady from the school said she would email me the various trains (plural!) that I’d need to take. I’m sure it will be fine. At least the trains are clean, safe and on time.   Today I took a bus ride, not far (about 5 minutes) to the mall. I was quite proud of myself that I took the right bus, and managed to buy my ticket speaking German to the bus driver. 
All in all, things are going well with the settling in.

Tomorrow is another day of adventures and discoveries in Germany.    My next find will have to be a hairdresser…watch this space. As I sign off "Indigo Girl" from Watershed is playing on the TV radio - brings back many fond memories of good times with my friends in SA :-)

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