Monday, 22 January 2007

A weekend in Cologne

This weekend I went to Cologne to visit my friend Hale, who is there doing a program with the state department and was having a birthday party Friday night. It was really fun. I went Mark and Vanessa, a Dutch couple who recently moved to London who know Hale from San Diego. We stayed at a hostel right in the city center (next to the Dom) so what was pretty cool.

Hale had the party Friday night at the bar he’s working at, and there was a pretty good turnout. I met a lot of interesting people, including one girl who’s being living and working in Germany for five years. We were swapping stories of the difficulties Americans face getting work visas in Europe, and she told me that next time I enter the US I should be prepared for a thorough grilling. She said every time she comes home they ask her a million questions.

“Why were you in Germany?”
“Studying””Why can’t you study in the US?”
“I preferred to study there”
“Why have you chosen to work there?”
“Because I wanted to”

It’s kind of ridiculous. And this is just to get back in to your own country, which, by the way, is still taxing you even while you work abroad (the only country in the world to do so as far as I'm aware).

Hale certainly did not disappoint, as these pictures will attest. Lots of shenanigans. Cologne is one hell of a nightlife town! Especially coming from London. Clubs stay open till like 6 am, and I was amazed to see that there were still tons of people out on the streets at 3am. What a contrast from London!

Saturday we met up with Hale’s sister and brother-in-law, who are in the middle of traveling the world. I didn’t really quite understand what they’re doing but I guess they started doing it in Fiji in June, coming to Cologne via New Zealand, Thailand, Dubai, Turkey, Romania and Hungary. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! They were off to Paris yesterday. We climbed to the top of the Dom, which was beautiful, and went to the Roman-German museum, which has artifacts from Roman Cologne. Unfortunately the hurricane they had Thursday had blown out a window in the museum, destroying a floor mosaic and closing off the bottom floor of the museum. Saturday night was spent with some excessive drinking from 4pm to 7am, starting at a beer hall and moving progressively through the city. As you can imagine, this made for a rather unpleasant Sunday! But my friend Joel from Chicago happened to be arriving that day, since he works in the Chicago “office” (his apartment) of a Cologne-based company. So I got to see him, which was great because I hadn’t seen him in awhile (see photo on right).

All in all I’d say I really liked Cologne. It was much bigger than I thought it was, and it was a lot of fun. It also renewed my enthusiasm for learning German. I had stopped doing those lessons after I got back from Zurich, lost energy I suppose. I want to take some language here, but have to choose between French or German. I already speak French, so if I went with that I’d be able to bring my level up for conversational fluency and be able to read it, in not much time. However I think German would be more useful for my job (French would as well, but possibly less so), and I can also use it when visiting my family in Zurich. Also, I don’t really have any strong desire to live in France, whereas I’d love to live in Germany, especially Berlin. So we’ll see, maybe this will give me some motivation to do it. I’m still working on getting the basics like a bank account and a national insurance number though.

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