Arrival in Heidelberg/First Few Weeks

Well, for as worried as I was in my last post, things have been really, extraordinarily good.

I arrived in Germany on the morning of the 21st, and was picked up from the airport by my landlord, Gerhard; as soon as I met him, I asked if we should speak in German or English – turns out, he wanted to practice his English, while I wanted to practice my German, so he joked that we would switch off every ten minutes. It was a really pleasant car ride actually, despite me being incredibly tired (3am or so PST), sweaty, and stressed.

I got into the apartment, and turns out it was WAY bigger than I’d thought from the photos/videos I’d seen. It’s got everything I need too, plus Gerhard gave me his bicycle, which was really nice – he made sure that I took a “quiz” on how to ride, because in the US everyone drives cars and not bikes everywhere, so he wanted to make sure I could actually ride without crashing. Spoiler – it went well. I briefly met one of my flatmates, Marine, who’s from Switzerland (kinda – she’s only lived there for about a decade, but I’ll get back to that later), and then I went to unpack, shower, etc.. As I was unpacking, Marine brought me some plum cake that’s a specialty in Germany and is only made this time of year, and she just said “I hope you like this;” it ended up being delicious. Gerhard was super enthused to show me the apartment – the chandelier in my picture was a gift for his parents that he put into my room, there’s a photo of San Francisco, and the whole bathroom is decorated in a Mediterranean style that he did himself! Really impressive, and a really nice guy. Funny, too! I gave him a gift of a calendar, a “California knows how to party!” hand towel, some cookie butter from the US, and some chocolate from Hawai’i. He sent a photo of him and his son holding them up later, which was really sweet.

The apartment room! I have a balcony – WHAT?!

Anyways, I unpacked, checked out my room a bit – I’ve got a balcony! – and slept for most of the afternoon. I think I either slept through my alarms and Marine came in and turned them off, or I subconsciously turned them off and don’t remember it, but I don’t wanna ask her because that’s a bit embarrassing. Anyways.

After sleeping for awhile, I went into town to check some things out, and then headed back to the WG (from hereon out, if I use WG, it just means apartment), where Marine was cooking a pumpkin-sauce pasta with potatoes and salads as a welcoming gift! I was really nervous to speak in German with her (see my last post), but it ended up going alright, and she kept going back and forth in the kitchen because the food “didn’t taste right” and she needed to add more stuff, but as soon as I tasted it I was floored! It was so good. Turns out, she’s a medicine student and loves cooking meals, so I definitely lucked out on that – I’ll get to that later, too. Delicious meal, good company, and a very humble chef – it was a good night, and I went to work on the dishes and getting cleanup done.

Remember on the last post, how I mentioned I didn’t know what the word for dish soap was? Yeah, I predicted that would be an issue. I kept trying to motion for various things in the kitchen, like a sponge (der Schwamm), or dishsoap, etc. I laughed it off and explained to Marine exactly what I wrote in the last blog post – I didn’t learn the vocabulary in classes, so I was a bit unprepared for that. But thankfully, she took it in good spirits. Turns out, she’d only moved in about two weeks prior to me, but hadn’t spent any time alone in the house minus a day, since she was traveling back to Switzerland, her family was visiting, etc.; needless to say, it was good to be living with someone else because it meant that I wasn’t completely alone during my first few days.

After dinner, she invited me to go up on the Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Path) – it’s a path that goes across the Neuenheim district, up into the hills. A bunch of the Romantic German authors, poets, and philosophers supposedly used that route as inspiration – Goethe, Eichendorff, Hoelderlin, etc. It was a really pleasant walk, and I stopped for photos on a few occasions, but because it was already night, it was a bit hard to get any good photos. Though Marine has some pretty funny ones of me laying on the ground, flat out like a starfish, trying to get a good shot. She hasn’t sent them to me though, lol.

A blurry photo but a really beautiful walk!

Anyways, the little walk on the Philosophenweg was really wonderful. Got to learn more about Marine and life in Switzerland, and she got to learn about life in the US. Plus, not to mention – all of this was in German! Wie geil, ne? She’s a 20-year old Master’s student (WHAT????), with her parents being French and German, respectively. Which is pretty damn cool to me, since she speaks both fluently. Plus she studied in England, in Kent, so her English is also incredible, but I didn’t find that out until later because we were just speaking German. She studies medicine to become a pediatrician, but she’s only going to be in Heidelberg for a year (she’s part of Erasmus, which is a Europe-wide exchange program for students) and recently worked as a Waldpädagogin (forest guide thing), and she’s from the French part of Switzerland. She’s one of four siblings and has a cat named Leo, who’s apparently really cute lol.

Anyways, went from the Philosophenweg to the Altstadt (old town), across the Alte Brücke (old bridge), where she insisted on taking my photo with a monkey statue that apparently brings good luck. I tried taking her photo, but she refused. Oh well.

From there, we headed back home and talked for awhile longer. Just about whatever came up – traditions in our home countries, celebrations, birthday stuff (her birthday is 3 days after mine), etc. Really good walk, really good company, a really good way to start off in a new country. As both of us were getting ready for sleep, she told me she was calling her parents, no biggie, and then I got a text about thirty minutes later saying “Tomorrow morning, you’ve gotta tell me how to pronounce your name.” And then it occurred to me! We’d never actually officially introduced ourselves, just the landlord introducing us, so neither of us knew how to pronounce each other’s names! When she called her parents and went to talk with them about our adventures and when they asked for my name, she said she just kinda “Uhhh”ed her way through it. I saw the text and caught her in the kitchen before we were going to bed, and we “exchanged pronunciations” and both apologized for not asking earlier (though to be fair, it just never came up! It was only us two, so no like referring to each other in a group or whatever). It made for a really good laugh though.

The next morning, she invited me up to the Heidelberger Schloss – I’d been when I was in Heidelberg after my Salzburg year, but not inside, so I gladly agreed. But first, I had to get my EU vaccination QR code, which was way easier than I thought, though the workers were clearly a bit confused as to why I had a CDC card and not something else, so I explained that I wasn’t from there. From that, I went to the post office to drop off enrollment (or enrolment, as they call it – Immatrikulation) documents, which went also very smoothly. Afterward, I went back to the WG, met up with Marine, and we went back through the Altstadt, got a little lost on the way, but ended up finding our way up a hill – quite steep, but a good workout I guess, where we went inside.

Here’s what’s cool, though: Germany has some really strict COVID requirements, which is great for me since i’m vaccinated. Because I had the QR code, I just had to scan their (the Castle’s) code, they scanned mine, and I checked in – for contact tracing, too, it’s really good; they got my email and phone number in case someone tests positive around me. We bought our tickets and headed inside, when I realized that I’d totally forgotten a mask at home! Marine made the point that no one was checking masks because everyone had to be vaccinated anyways, but I was still hesitant; thankfully, some random tourist had a bunch of medical masks and gave me one. I offered to pay him profusely but he declined. It was a really nice gesture though.

Anyways, we went into the castle and found one of (if not the) the largest wine kegs in the world. In fact, it’s so large that there’s literally a dancefloor on top of it that the nobles used to use. Like, it’s MASSIVE. I couldn’t get any photos because it was somewhat dark, but just take my word – it’s HUGE. We hung out on the dancefloor for a little bit and walked out to the other areas of the castle – which had some really cool outlook spots, where you could see the whole city. (The same spots that I took photos from on my last trip.) Still waiting on the photos though, because I got them on the F3, but I’ll add them once they’re developed. Just trying to keep up with the blog stuff for now.

I ended up meeting some other Americans from Illinois, a couple, and the guy was stationed about an hour away from Heidelberg; as he called it, “wherever the hell the American base is.” We talked for a little bit and Marine and I wandered more up the hill, where we found some mysterious looking buildings that may have been apartments (we had no idea). We decided to go up to the Königsstuhl (King’s Seat), which is an even BETTER outlook on the whole city AND the castle. Supposedly. Let me explain.

I hadn’t eaten anything other than a yoghurt and granola bar that day. I also hadn’t brought ANY water with me, and didn’t drink much before leaving. Not to mention, I didn’t have ANY sleep the night before, was on new medication, and was just generally out of it. Like, super DUPER tired.

I was already pretty sweaty from the walk up to the Schloss, but the Königsstuhl was SUPPOSEDLY only a couple of kilometers away with a 9 degree incline. Didn’t seem too bad, but once we started getting further out, I could feel my energy kinda dying away. I stopped to take some photos in the forest, and we got up to a landing (again, I’ll post photos once the roll is developed), walked a little bit further, and then I asked if we could pause because I felt like I was going to pass out. Not helping was the fact that I was carrying a backpack with three cameras and gear, but that’s beside the point. She was more than glad to stop, but she started to get worried because I couldn’t close my hands (which tends to happen). It was the perfect time to have a medical student with me! We paused for a couple of minutes, then she said that it’s probably better if we call off the rest of the hike and do it on a different day, after I’d had food, sleep, and some water. I felt SO bad for making her stop, but she insisted. She said that we’re going on that hike at least once for every season though, so hopefully next time is better lol. She gave me her water, which neither of us really wanted to do because of COVID, but then we both realized that we live together now, so if one of us gets COVID, the other will too anyways. We headed back down the hill, down the castle, and to the old town, where I got some food just to get something in my system – I ended up with a cheese and herb crépe that was actually SUPER delicious. She was still really worried about me, but we ended up heading back home, where I pretty much just passed out asleep for the next couple hours. She said she’s gonna ride me on eating three meals a day and getting enough water, so mom and dad, don’t worry lol. That evening, I went out to town to grab dinner & eat the plum cake that she’d bought me, which was delicious. Called my parents, talked a bit, and then went back home and to sleep.

The next day (yesterday) was pretty similar. Hung out in the Altstadt for awhile in the morning & grabbed breakfast for Marine and me (turns out she doesn’t eat cheese, so I need to get her something else lol), and then got back to the WG and she invited me to meet some of her friends & acquaintances that evening. We mostly hung out in the WG all day, she was writing her Master’s thesis and I was just hanging around. Once the evening came up, there was a bit of understanding, which was really a hell of a way to make an entrance – we had a group reserved for dinner at a Thai Restaurant, Bay Jok, for 7:30pm. As Marine was leaving, she said “I’m going shortly, I’ll meet you in front of the door.” but I MISUNDERSTOOD it as “I’m going shortly, I’ll be back and we’ll meet in front of the door,” which I assumed to mean we’d just walk to the restaurant together. It got to 7:20, and I realized maybe something was wrong, then realized that I’d totally misunderstood, so at 7:25 ish, I had to sprint a mile (in jacket, sweater, long-sleeves, and with a camerabag), which probably looked pretty weird to all the other people that were out. Oh well. I walked into the restaurant about 9 minutes late, sweaty and panting, and the others looked at me really confused, but Marine explained that I was her flatmate. I got my QR code checked, signed in (see? EVERYWHERE requires the codes, which means that everyone in the restaurant was vaccinated).

The group was really cool – there’s Mateusz, from Poland, who also studies medicine; he’s from Warsaw, and has a lot of the same travel goals as I do. We were talking about going to Georgia and Azerbaijan sometime this year, which would be sick. Then there’s Jakob, from Slovenia (also studies medicine), who was really interested in the American healthcare system and social stuff. Then there’s Enrico, from Switzerland – I didn’t get to talk to him much, because he was across the table from me. Then Amine, from Switzerland, who knew Marine because they went to school together at the same university out there. He was also really nice and was really interested in social life in the US – like fraternities and college, medical stuff, expenses, California in general, etc.. He’s trying to work for a medical service serving people out in Francophone countries in Africa, like Cameroon, etc.; I think it’s Doctors Without Borders, but I’m not too sure. We had a really good convo. Then there’s Marine, and then her French friend, Anthéa, who I also didn’t get to talk to much because she was across the table from me. Anyways, Jakob, Amine, Mateusz and I had a really fascinating conversation about everyone’s own home countries and cultures, university, travels, language, etc.; really, really good company. And I was so nervous about it beforehand! I literally couldn’t even finish my food because we spent so much time talking. Though we’d ordered 4 bottles of water, which were SUPER expensive – normally, they’re like 2/3 euros a bottle, but these ones were 6-something euros a bottle, and we kinda needed water, so we ended up paying around 25 Euros just for water. Everyone paid each other back, except for me, because I didn’t have smaller coins, but the group decided they wanted to go to a bar, so I offered to pay Jakob’s beer because it was about the same price that I would have owed him for my share of the water.

We took Enrico home, since he had an exam at 8am the next morning, then went to the Altstadt to find a bar, where we just hung out inside. It was funny though, as I went in and got my QR code checked, the guy goes, “Schon dreimal geimpft?” (“Already thrice vaccinated?”), so I had to explain that I wasn’t from Germany and we just had extra doses. He was pretty blown away that we just had so many doses, but essentially said “That was a good choice, though, otherwise they’re getting thrown out” and we all got seated. Everyone got some beers and we had a little “French quiz” from Amine and Anthéa, where we were supposed to guess how to pronounce words like “Grenouille” or to write out a text that Amine read to us. Since I’d already taken French for three years, the pronunciation part was pretty easy, but the others weren’t, and we all failed the “scribing” part. We talked about whatever – studies, Poland, traditions from our home countries, how Mateusz and Jakob felt like grandpas because they’re 23 and Anthéa (the youngest) is 19, some money exchange app, life in France for Anthéa, you name it. Really random conversation, but full of laughter. We hung out at the bar for a little while longer, then took Mateusz and Anthéa back to their bus stop, since they both live in the same district/town, so they just ride together to classes and whatnot. We had a funny conversation in the bus stop, where it turns out all Swiss houses built before the year 2000 or something were required to have bunkers and they’re required to be stocked and ready in case of an emergency. Turns out, they’ve also got lots of aircraft hangars/airports in the mountains, which was also pretty sick. Anyways, Anthéa, Amine, and Mateusz all went their separate ways, and Marine, Jakob, and I walked back to our separate places (Jakob was on the way back to ours anyways). Said goodnight, thanked Marine for inviting me, and we went to sleep.

Today, it’s been pretty chill. Marine and I woke up at 8-ish, then she invited me on a bike ride around the city. The bike ride was really pleasant – we went out by the river, near the university, and we ended up stopping at this little corner restaurant that was really cool: it had a perfect view of the river & bridge, and it was on this tiny little cobblestone side-street! It was covered in vines and flowers – really, really a beautiful place; hopefully I’ll get some photos at some point, but I hadn’t brought my camera with us. – We got smoothie bowls, mine was with mango, strawberries, chia seeds, blueberries, raspberries, and mango yoghurt; Marine’s was more sour, but I’m not sure specifically what was in it. Granola and maybe dragonfruit? I’m not sure. Tasted good though! We talked for a long time, learned more about her travels and Switzerland/her family and whatnot, and then we both got a little cold (you know, smoothies outside when it’s already a little chilly), so we decided to hop back on the bikes, ride some more through the old town, and she went to go grocery shopping while I went to go back home.

And that’s where hung out all day! I moved a chair out onto the balcony and just spent hours relaxing outside, but there was a big climate rally with a bunch of other groups (rent justice, communist party, etc.) that went by literally for hours. Really cool though, I actually thought about joining in. Counter protesters were in their cars (I think, or maybe they’re supporters), but the main protest was HUUUUUGE. Like it’s big. I think they were doing it because Germany is electing their next chancellor on Sunday, and there’s also elections for the Bundestag/parliament, so it’s all pretty tense and very politically charged around these parts. Plus, it was a Fridays for Future demo, so of course it was big anyways. Lots of “FCK AFD” stickers, which I totally agree (they’re like neo-Nazis).

That evening (Friday), Marine and I went to meet up with some international students out on the river. It was a little awkward at first, because we couldn’t find anyone we knew and this guy that was definitely a little awkward kept trying to tell us different names to call him because he said he doesn’t want us to know his name, but we ended up finding Anthéa and hung out with her a little bit, then she introduced me to some other Americans while Marine went to talk with some Francophones. The Americans were really nice – there’s apparently a big exchange program with UConn, and there was also a master’s student in German from U. Kentucky and a student from New Mexico. We talked for a long time, exchanged stories & recommendations, then they headed out for dinner and I didn’t wanna leave Marine behind, so we just stayed at the event. We hung around for awhile, everyone played some Flunkyball (I’d never heard of it though), I hung out with a UO guy (the first thing he asked when I told him I went to UP was “Oh, so you’re a Christian boy” lol). Marine and I both didn’t wanna play Flunkyball, so when a second game was offered up, we just headed back home because it was already getting cold and we didn’t wanna stick around. I dropped Marine off at home and I started to go out to do some night photography (there’s a donut shop I’ve been meaning to photograph at night because it has really cool neon lights), but quickly turned back because it was WAY too cold, so I just went to bed.

The next morning was really nice! I went down to the Altstadt because it was super foggy, then took some photos in front of a flower stand (I’ll attach them later on). As I was taking photos, this elderly lady carrying leeks walked up to me and says, “Waren Sie schon am Neckar?” (“Were you already on the Neckar?”) I told her no, and she told me that I’ve absolutely GOTTA take photos out there because, as she put it, “The fog makes it look like the most beautiful painting you’ve ever seen.” We talked for a little bit, she was super friendly and reminded me of a grandma, and I headed out to the Neckar to take some photos of the Alte Brücke and the Schloss. I hung around for a little bit, took some photos, and then got roped into taking a bajilliion photos for some tourists. Like, no joke, I was out there taking their photos in different poses, spots, angles, etc. for probably 10-15 minutes. They were really grateful, but it was definitely a little… annoying lol. Oh well.

After that, I went down to the bakery to grab a warm cheese pretzel (mmmm). That’s one of my favorite things about Germany – Germany is really big on food and drink culture, so literally every street has bakeries or other sorts of food stands – I would say you probably can’t go more than 50 feet without passing a bakery. But it makes for some really, really delicious smells and tastes; I could walk through the old town JUST because of how good it smells. All around, you’ve got just the most beautiful and warm bread, cheese, crepes, fruit, etc. smells just wafting out of every other building. It’s really, really unique, and really makes early morning walks through the Altstadt beautiful. Honestly, I could go on about the bakeries alone for probably 30 minutes – maybe I’m assimilating. After eating my pretzel and hanging around, wafting in the aromas, I headed out to a little farmer’s market around the corner from the WG. I was gonna grab Marine something to eat, but it turns out she’d gone to the farmer’s market right before I had and had already grabbed herself food. Next time!

After the market, I headed back home and Marine and I did some really good cleaning work. I mopped, vacuumed, and cleaned the kitchen while she worked around tidying up and cleaning the bathroom. It was super productive! Then I went out to the balcony, wrote an email to my old German professor, tried to figure out some more bureaucratic stuff, etc., but it was a really relaxing afternoon, even WITH the cleaning.

In the evening/afternoon, we planned on meeting up for pizza and drinks on the castle/Schloss with the international students from the Thai restaurant, so Marine and I left super early to take a nice long walk around the Weststadt. It was actually quite beautiful – I’ll post more photos when I get the roll developed and the photos off the camera, because right now I haven’t scanned the card yet. We walked for a long time, just kinda talking about homesickness, friends & family, music, concerts, etc.; then I found out that there’s a concert for one of my favorite singers in April, so I invited her to the concert. She showed me some of her music tastes and turns out we’ve got some pretty similar tastes, which is nice because I won’t feel embarrassed if I listen to music in the WG lol. We wandered around the Weststadt for probably an hour and a half, got pretty lost and had to turn back at some points, and turns out she’s a great decision-maker when it comes to following random streets, which I’m not; I just like to get lost and wander until I find my destination. I picked up a random free book on our walk, which seems like it’ll be really hard, but I’ve been meaning to get a challenging German book to practice with. Then we saw Amine and his friend Alek riding their bikes (they were also meeting up with us for dinner later that evening), talked for a little bit, and we all headed our separate ways. Marine and I met up at the pizza place with Mateusz and his girlfriend, Barbara (Basha), who was in town for a few days to visit Mateusz. We hung out and waited for our pizzas, then this nice German dad started talking to us and offering us tips of where to go, eat, etc., as well as just general tips. Really nice guy, and we had a very pleasant conversation. Jakob showed up (the guy from Slovenia) but wanted to go grab a beer to go with his pizza and didn’t know where the supermarket was, so I went with him; we ended up meeting another really nice guy from Frankfurt who apparently rode his bike all through the Balkans a few years back and was in HD with his wife for the day. Really a pleasant guy!

After the supermarket, since Jakob and I were running a little far behind the other group, we rushed through the Altstadt which was abnormally packed, then rushed up the castle. I was tired and sweaty because it was quite a rush on a hill, but we made it nonetheless. We met up with the other group and stuck our pizzas on the railing and watched the sunset and talked; it was absolutely wonderful. Jakob and I talked for a long time – earlier in this post, I’d mentioned that he was interested in America, but turns out it’s because he has American citizenship; he was born in NYC while his dad was a Slovenian news correspondent. Two other students showed up, Alberto from Colombia (engineering, if I remember correctly) and Regan from Wisconsin (U. Alabama student of translation). They knew some of our group from their German classes together, so we hung out with them too. Pizza was good but cold by the time I’d eaten it – a little underwhelming since I thought there was gonna be basil on a Margherita pizza (which I only ordered because it was the cheapest), but oh well. Still good food, good company. We ended up talking for hours and went to sit on the grass, where we chilled for some more time, well into the night, and then a castle worker came up and warned us that there are millipedes that come out when it’s cold, and that they bite and are supposedly poisonous. As he said, “he doesn’t think they’ll be out tonight, but just keep an eye out.” We all were a bit confused by it and a lot of people thought he’d said “salamanders” (I thought he said spiders because the literal translation of millipede has the word spider in it), but we looked up pictures of what he was talking about and decided to get out of there on the spot. We headed to the Altstadt and then to the Alte Brücke, where we hung out for awhile but it was suuuuper packed. Lots of students and tourists. Jakob, Marine and I had a really lovely conversation, and then the whole other group did too – I kinda just switched between conversations because I was in the middle of the two groups. There were some weird guys out, though – some guy came up to Regan (the American) because he said “you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and if you guys” (as in us) “would let me get to know her, I would be very grateful.” Regan was obviously uncomfortable, so the guys in the group kinda just stepped in and told him no – Mateusz handled it really well and in a non-confrontational way by saying, “Oh man, I thought you were talking to me! I thought these compliments were for me, you don’t wanna get to know ME?” so the guy left. Another Polish guy came up and hung out for awhile, then had some other international students with him, but it was a bit of a big group and we were all wary of new people, so we kinda just left. Mateusz and Barbara headed home, while the rest of us (Amine, Alberto, Jakob, Regan, Marine, and myself) went to some Irish pub as per Amine’s suggestion. We hung out there for awhile and had some FANTASTIC conversation about studies, cultures, life in general, culture shocks, etc.. Really, some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been with this group of international students. Really thoughtful people, really well-rounded and smart, and some really, genuinely good company. One of the things that was mentioned by Amine was that he was afraid of blood before being a medical student – like to the point that he almost passed out in a surgery class – but he totally got over his fear of blood because he would watch videos on Youtube of doctors working with blood, and he said that he learned to view it as a combination of individuals, rather than just “blood” – think, salt, water, proteins, plasma, white/red blood cells, etc., and that once he did that, he got over his fear of blood. I’m not sure if there’s some philosophical undertone or a life lesson hidden under there, but maybe – I guess, just to throw yourself into situations that make you uncomfortable? I dunno, but I was SUPER impressed by that. We hung out for probably an hour or two at the pub, just talking and learning more about each other – it was really a beautiful night. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it; the group is beyond fantastic (including the group from the Thai restaurant, some of whom were missing, such as Anthéa and Enrico). After awhile, Amine wanted to head out to go clubbing with some Italians, and so did Alberto and Jakob, but Marine, Regan and I were all pretty much set on going home. It was late, it started to rain, you know the deal. Regan and Alberto seemed to know each other really well, I’m not sure if they’re dating or what, but they were gonna head back home after Regan won rock-paper-scissors, but Alberto decided to stay out because he wanted to go salsa dancing lol. So Regan, Marine, and I went back home, since it turns out Regan lives pretty close. Marine and I got back home, got ready for bed, took in some stuff from outside, and then went to sleep.

And that’s where we’re at now! I don’t have too much going on today, other than maybe going out to the donut shop I’ve been meaning to photograph in the evening because I keep getting sidetracked. Sundays are rest days (“Ruhetage”) in Germany, which means you can’t do anything that makes noise (vacuuming, cleaning, throwing out recycling, etc.) or else you can get fined, and it also means that most stores (minus some restaurants, maybe one supermarket, etc.) are all closed. So it’s gonna be a chill day, as far as I can tell.

After Sunday, it’s been a pretty relaxing week. On Monday, I wandered around the city for awhile and ended up bumping into Mateusz and Basha (his girlfriend), who invited me to hang out with them and Amine. I was headed home at the time to drop some stuff off, and I ended up going back out and on the way to meet up with them, I ran into Alberto and Regan as well! I invited them to come hang out, but Alberto had an evening class because he’s still taking classes in Colombia and couldn’t hang out. I ended up meeting up with Amine, Mateusz, and Barbara at the Marstall Mensa, which is essentially a cafeteria for students. We talked for a long time – for probably two or three hours, and at some point, Anthéa, Enrico, Jakob, and Marine all joined along (we’d invited them in our group chat). We hung out, kicked it at the Mensa, and had a really good night! As everyone trickled off to go study or go home, Jakkob, Marine, and I all headed towards Neuenheim, since we live in the same direction. We made some very vague (but also pretty solid) plans for going boating and/or kanoeing in October, so hopefully that ends up happening – Jakob said he’ll take care of the preparation & reservations. We had a really lovely talk, though, the three of us: about school traditions from when we were younger, to urban legends from our home countries, etc.; I learned that Switzerland has some tradition where they tell 5th graders the story of some doll that was hit by a car and thus disfigured and killed because the doll wasn’t riding a bicycle safely (as part of children’s bike safety lessons). Really interesting to hear about childhood traditions in France/Germany/Switzerland and Slovenia.

On Tuesday, it was another chill day – I hung out around the WG, did some cleaning, and read a lot. I brought home some books to kill some time, and Marine brought me some books too, so I did the same for her – pastries and some books. In the afternoon, as I was reading, Marine popped by my door to invite me to a museum. We got ready, had a nice little white cat wander into our room (I’ll include the photos once Marine sends them to me), and then we headed to the Sammlung Prinzhorn (the Prinzhorn Collection), which is an art collection from psychiatric patients between 1880-1990, and the collection is done in cooperation with another former art exposition in France: right now, the focus is “Follement Drôle,” or “Insanely Funny,” which is about how psychiatric patients dealt with humor in their time in psychiatric wards. The general exhibition is called “Von Irrenkunst zur Outsider Art,” or “From Art of the Insane to Outsider Art.” It was an absolutely fascinating but incredibly tragic art collection; the patients were often not allowed to make art, so many of their paintings or drawings were on letters, small pieces of paper, or even on toilet paper, but others were much more obvious, if the patients were allowed to make art. Lots of the exposition had to do with the brutal “healing” techniques used in psychiatric facilities – ice baths, electroshock therapy, forced restraint, etc., and lots of the art contained critiques of the outside world and/or their psychiatrists, since they could still receive news on a limited basis.

This one was made in 1989 – it goes to show just how recently methods of treatment in psychiatric facilities have changed. The artist drew the dog with blood in his mouth as a symbol of trust being betrayed, and gave the dog an aristocratic hairstyle with a guillotine in the background because a doctor had created the guillotine as what he thought was a good thing (relieving pain and suffering), but caused many others to suffer; in the same way, the artist viewed the psychiatrists as thinking they’re doing something beneficial, but causing suffering for their patients.

This one is called “The Knackery.” A knacker, or an Abdecker, is a person who removes dying animals or animal carcasses from the public eye (e.g., streets), and destroys them to make byproducts (fats, etc.). The Knacker/the psychiatrist is represented as an ape (a recurring theme in the patients’ art), separating the “healthy” from the “unhealthy,” going to Heaven and Hell (at the bottom). In other words, the knacker (the psychiatrist) is taking psychiatric patients out of the public eye and destroying them.

I didn’t catch the name of this one, but it was of a goat-like head with piercing eyes, supposed to represent the psychiatrists just eternally observing patients with no recognition of their humanity, if I remember correctly.

This one is almost a comic – it goes through the sequence of events in the artist’s life. He was arrested because of mental health issues and depicts the torture that he endured (ice baths, forced restraint, etc.), and his pleas to be let out. He ends the cartoon with him hoping that he could get out soon (walking on a sunny pathway, with a note about how he will be released); unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and he ended up killing himself by throwing himself out of the window of his room years after this was drawn.
This one was a big spiral drawn simply to annoy the psychiatrists, if I remember (and understood) correctly. Apparently he made lots of these.

This one says “The German Medicinal World-Record” and is a critique of the German medical/psychiatric system. It says “The wooden head prosthesis of the madhouse doctor, Dr. X. The woodworms had eaten it hollow for 50 years without being noticed.”
This one is untitled, but also represents the psychiatrist as an ape (again, a recurring theme), this time smoking a cigar. On one hand, it looks like the ape is the one imprisoned behind bars, but then you realize that it is not the ape, but instead you (the patient) who are trapped behind bars.
This one is called “Letter to Husband,” and is (as far as I can tell), meaningless scribbles, or she’s writing something that I cannot read.
This one is called “Loneliness, Anxiety, Depression, the Madness of Depression, the Fall into Darkness.” It was painted in 1985.

The exposition was incredibly fascinating, but deeply heartbreaking. Many of the artists died in 1940, 1941, and 1942, because Aktion T-4 was the Nazi plan to eradicate “unfit” individuals, which were psychiatric patients. What was also sad is that many of the artists/patients were making art as late as the 1990s; these methods of “treatment” continued for decades, despite reforms within the medical/psychiatric systems.

If you’re ever in Heidelberg, they change out the presented artworks/exhibitions every couple of months, so they rotate through works with the Paris branch; you can check it out here.

After the museum, Marine and I headed home, I got to meet my neighbor, Jo (Joe? Pronounced “Yo”), who offered to let me come jam at his house if I ever wanted to play music, since he’s got a lot of instruments and loves to jam out. He seems like a great neighbor – he offered us a place to play music, he said if we were ever missing groceries or a “parent-cooked meal” that we can just tell him and he’ll sort it out; apparently he’s a teacher, too! Really nice guy, and it turns out the cat I went out for some photos. I called my parents and some friends, then a group of German girls came up and started talking to me and asking who I was calling (obviously very drunk students), so I tried to keep the conversation short and left to get some food further into town, but they just kinda followed me and were talking with me. It was a funny group, though; they were part of a larger group of probably 30 students who had apparently ALL finished their Bachelors’ degrees that day (all of them studied Immobilienwissenschaft, or Real Estate Management), so they were all going out to parties. They called me “Der Mensch Cal” and were actually super funny and nice, but one of them was really, dangerously drunk so I kept making sure that all of her friends were keeping an eye on her and keeping her safe; I made sure we met up with their larger group, so I felt better about them keeping an eye on their friend. I made sure they all ate some bread and stuff, and they kept telling me, “Der Mensch Cal, verschwinde nicht! Komm mit!” (“The Man Cal, don’t disappear! Join us!”). I ended up getting way too hungry so told them I was leaving, but then they tried to convince me to get food with all of them at a different place, so I hung out with them for a little while longer and, since we were with the larger group and since THEY were in a group, I felt like they were much more safe than would have been otherwise (though Heidelberg is a very safe city anyways), so I said my goodbyes and left after that. On the way back home, I ended up finding a cool little bank to photograph, which I stayed at for probably 30 minutes while taking photos; I’ll include them when I get the roll developed. I’m really excited to see how that comes out.

Edit as of 15 October: A lot has happened since I started writing this entry! I’ve expanded the group into a bunch of different “sub-groups” – there are the medicine students with Erasmus (and some more Swiss and French students who don’t all study Medicine, but most do), there is a group of Spanish students that I hang out with pretty regularly, etc. Lea, our new flatmate, and Michael both moved in – it’s a really good group in the WG. Aside from Marine, Lea studies Psychology (Master’s student) and is from Saarlouis, and Michael studies History (he got his BA in Political Science and History) and is from Berlin. They’re all super, super nice – Marine and I introduced Lea to our friend group, and Michael just moved in this week so we haven’t done much together, but we did all order pizza and have a little pizza-and-wine night! Lea, Marine, and I went stargazing a few nights ago in this completely empty field, but it was beautiful because the stars were so bright! We had Glühwein (mulled wine with cinnamon and spices) and had a little “star tour” given by a physics student, Max (also a friend of mine). We also did a city tour with Erasmus, and I met a student from Jordan, who is starting a “Socrates Team” where we just discuss philosophy and politics and everything in-between. It’s a really good group, and the WG/flatmates are all absolutely fantastic (Photo from the aforementioned wine-and-pizza night below):

From L-R: Lea, me, Michael, and Marine

We’ve done so much with all of these different groups – from pub nights to city rallies, bowling, “speed-friending,” a trip to Speyer (which I will include once the roll is developed, probably in a different entry), a photoshooting adventure with my University Buddy, Julian (as in we both went photoshooting, since he does photography), etc. I also met some of my Kommilitonen/classmates, who are all ridiculously nice! We had a little city rally/tour with the MAS students, I got to meet a bunch of the Bachelor’s students over a pizza night, after which we went to a club, and then we did another pub night with the American Studies program, which was a ton of fun. Then I celebrated Eléonore’s birthday, which was held in the cellar of her workplace; it was a ton of fun, and all of the people – ALL of them – I’ve met have been so genuinely good. It’s actually astounding – haven’t met a person I didn’t like here. Tonight, we have the Commencement/our first Colloquium, then I’m heading to Frankfurt am Main in the evening for a night of clubbing with other international students. I’m hoping it’ll be fun – I’ll be late because of the Colloquium, but as long as I can find everyone, it’ll be fine. Hopefully.

Anyways, here are some photos from the last few weeks. I’ll have more once I get my second roll developed, but here’s the first one:

Anyways, hopefully there’ll be more updates soon!

Mit freundlichen Grüßen aus Heidelberg,


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