Thursday, October 2, 2008

Schones Marburg

The following post was written on the afternoon of September 30th, the day of my departure from Marburg:

Click here for a photo album illustrating my farewell to Marburg and the rest of the Fulbrighters.

Also, click here for a second album illustrating my second scenic trip to Kassel.

It was a blast and now I finally say goodbye to Marburg and central Hessen. It was a weird goodbye that lasted an entire week. It started with a final class on German and a lecture on the history of the town. Then there was a concert in which many of the Fulbright performing artists got to strut their stuff.

This was an incredibly talented group. That probably sounds a bit condescending, but there really isn’t a way to summarize the whole performance. There were sea-shanties and Mozart, Gospel and Tango, Bartok and Reels. What was interesting to notice was how much the audience seemed to perk-up during the folk pieces. That’s not to say we weren’t appreciative of the Classical and Romantic selections, but the audience knew how to respond when Catherine began to play a jig on the fiddle or Joanna sang Gospel praise.

It’s not like I regularly went to Kaelis as a child any more than I went to the symphony. There’s just something about folk music that draws me out of my seat, tempting me to move my feet and make a fool out of myself.

The final dinner as a group was at Dromader, an African (read Ethiopian) restaurant in Marburg that I had walked by with curiosity, but never entered. The place had low wooden stools of chairs and lower tables. Perfect for moving around the room and saying our goodbyes to the people heading out the next day. I personally got pretty excited when I saw this:

The one with the white and yellow label is Tusker, a Kenyan beer whose slogan is “My country, My beer.” I first had it two summers ago in East Africa and loved the stuff. It’s hard to find in the states, so anywhere I can try it is okay by me.

The celebration moved on to another bar near where darts were thrown and addresses, e-mails and final stories exchanged. We left the bartender sufficiently ticked at us, promising (truthfully) never to come back again.

Friday began with a trip to the Wilhelm’s Turm, a tower perched high in Marburg offering a view of the entire Lahnthal. I guess Erin, Katie and I were just not challenged enough by the daily climbs up to the Stendentendorf. The view was worth it:

We stood at this pinnacle contemplating the extent of our Marburg universe. There were the dorms, there was where we took classes, there was where we bought groceries, there was where I humiliated myself by asking for a phone in a bakery or tried to escape from the library with my own books. It was a nice kind of closure. Then we went into town for our last bowl of Auflauf, a very cheesy Hessen casserole and shared more nostalgic stories. I felt like I had know all of the people gathered around the table for years, while also sensing our friendships were kind of cut off prematurely.

Our final act together in Marburg was to descend for the final time into the Dungeon Bar (Hinkelstein is it’s real name in case you want to check it out) and officially said goodbye by snapping this picture:

The next day more Fulbrighters left. It started to feel like I was a kind of survivor wandering Marburg, working on my poster for a conference that is bearing down on me. A group of other survivors called me with plans to go somewhere on Saturday. After examining the pictures of Kassel, everyone wanted to check it out and I said I would be the happy tour-guide. Normally I wouldn’t be that excited to see a town a second time when there are literally hundreds I have yet to experience once, but Kassel is worth it, and spending time with the other Fulbrighters made it an easy decision to join. The next morning Ashlan, Rachel, Chris, Shane and I lined up on the platform. The train didn’t break down this time which was a plus, but there weren’t any Animè kids, so that was a kind of minus.

The morning was heavy with fog and more Autumnal then my last trip to the northern edge of Hessen. When we arrived, finally (we took a while to get oriented after hopping off at the wrong platform) we started our journey to the gardens. As the fog burned off it left a hazy golden glow around the trees and statues making the place seem more like some perfect dream or Romantic painting rather than an actual place to take your dog for a walk. As with any place you visit a second time, there are new discoveries to be made, such as the farmer’s market and a massive Iguanodon standing outside the Natural History Museum. We became fast buds:

Sunday was a perfect day of running, reading, working and wandering. I went to Elisabethkirche for service (even if it was Lutheran). As I walked back up the hill to the dorm, the choir still echoing in my memory I noticed a family wandering the street ahead of me. They looked a bit lost, looking about, not trying to draw attention to themselves, but also not sure where to put their feet. Then the map appeared. I wasn’t sure how much I could help, but I walked close to their corner to see if I could pick out any words. What I picked up was English.

“No, I think the dormitories are up this hill.” Said the father with confidence, brandishing the map, a pointed finger and a Birminham accent.

“Well, I want to be sure. I don’t want to go up that hill for naught.” Replied his overheated wife.

“If you’re looking for the dorms, they are up this way.” I finally interjected.

“Oh, you speak the lingo.” Said dad with relief.

I walked with them. When asked where I was from, I simply said, “The States.” In hindsight, I think that was pretty clear from my accent, but they didn’t ask for any more information. I chatted with their daughter who will be studying on an Erasmus scholarship (a EU exchange program) for the next semester.

As I left them, having pointed out the student bar where she would be meeting her fellow Erasmians. I weirdly felt like I passed the place off to someone else to explore. Have a blast. Peace out.

Another dinner. More goodbyes. My turn was coming.

Now I sit on a train, my bags overstuffed, loaded with everything I may or may not need for the next year. I sent some postcards and wistfully watched as Marburg disappeared over the grey German Horizon. If home in Cincinnati is my nest, then Marburg was flight school. Now I’m taking off on my own and can’t wait to see what the next step will be. The leaves are turning, the hills are rolling and the Rhine is flowing.

I hope any goodbyes you say this week are sweet and new people and new places continue to come your way.


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