Visit to Germany a memorable one

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

I can hardly believe it. 65 days until my adventure comes to an end. Wow. I've been here for over 7 1/2 months and it does not even feel like it. However, at the same time, when I think back to my first few days in Spain, it feels like a year!

I remember crystal-clear my first conversation after I got off the plane. Well, more of a one-sided conversation that is! One thing they don't teach you in Spanish class is what it really feels like to try and have a conversation in Spanish. It is not too much fun feeling that kind of helplessness. Spaniards talk so incredibly fast and with so much energy that it's pretty scary at times!

Here in Spain, we don't have "spring break"; we have "Semana Santa," which is a 10-day (more or less) vacation for Easter. It's the 15th to the 25th of April. My host family went to the United States to visit their daughter for two weeks and to travel. Since Semana Santa is only 10 days, I stayed in Pozuelo again with the same family I was with for a bit in January. My initial plan for the break was to go to Salou, a beach in Barcelona, with a few friends and their soccer team. However, things didn't work out like we had planned.

Fortunately, a new opportunity arose a few days later. My dad informed me about a relative from his side of the family who lives in Germany (she is also a cousin to one of the teachers at Westover High School, Anne Pate). I got in touch with her soon after, and we planned for me to come up for eight days! Lucy is my second cousin once removed.

I arrived in Frankfurt on the night of the 16th. Lucy and her husband, Robert, met me at the airport to take me back home. The first stop we made on the way home was actually at McDonald's! They live in Ladenberg, which is close to Heidelberg and Mannheim. On Sunday night, Anna Belle and Michael (my third cousins and Lucy's children) and I went to see Lucy perform in an opera, "Orpheus in the Underworld," with a lot of other people. She was absolutely magnificent! She was also awarded with the title of Frau Kammersangerin, which is a big deal because only two people in the last 50 years have been awarded it, Lucy being the second.

The next day I went to Heidelberg. Our first stop was the highest point in the area, on a mountain. The view was simply breathtaking! After that, we drove down to the Heidelberg Castle ruins. Even though we didn't get to go inside, they were still really cool.

When we were done looking around, we took the trolley to town and walked around. I got to sample the great German cuisine, which was wonderful. On Tuesday, my cousin and I went to Mannheim to visit Lucy, who had had surgery in the hospital the day before, on Monday.

On the way, I spotted a Subway sign and just about had a heart attack! That was probably the best Subway sandwich I have ever had, but that also probably has something to do with the fact I haven't had one in eight months! And mmmm, those macadamia nut cookies ... eight, please!

After eating one and visiting Lucy, I spent a few hours walking around and just getting to know the part of town I was in, which was one of the main commercial streets. I was invited to a barbecue that night with Lucy's neighbor's son, a high school student, and some of his friends. What they call a "barbecue" is what we Americans call a "cookout." It's the same with Spain, too. I was a tad bit disappointed about the absence of actual barbecue meat. I wish we had a Wagner's here!

After we all ate, we went inside and hung out, listened to music, and danced a bit. I had a lot of fun and it was great to meet new people and make new friends!

On Thursday, I went to Heidelberg again, but this time by myself. I was on a mission to find souvenirs! That night, my friends and I went back to Mannheim. The schools in Germany had just gotten out for Easter break on Wednesday and one of the clubs was supposedly having a students' night! Unfortunately, the club had already been rented out. Besides those on the guest list, only a small chunk of the people waiting were let in. The line had at least 100 people in it.

We ended up club-hopping for a bit, then went home. Since the next day was Good Friday, most places had closed down earlier than normal. Good Friday in Germany is different from Spain and the United States. It's more like a religious holiday where most people don't work. I ended up staying at Lucy's house that day and hanging out. However, that night we all went to Heidelberg. We went to an area with restaurants where the college students go. Surprisingly, most were full, and we ended up going to Hard Rock Cafe.

I had always imagined Hard Rock Cafes to be cool and crowded, but I was disappointed to find that it wasn't either of those. The music was extremely loud and the prices were ridiculous! But it was still fun being with friends. After Hard Rock, we went to this place called Mandy's, which is an American style fast-food joint. Seeing Dr Pepper as a drink choice was the cherry on top of my night!

I was invited to go to go to Mannheim again with two of my girl friends on Saturday. They wanted to show me around and do a little shopping. We went to the areas where I had never been before, we even came across T.K Maxx (T.J Maxx)! It was really nice to have a girls' day. Once we were back and I said good-bye to my friends, Lucy, Anna Belle, some of her friends and I had a barbecue. It was a great last night in Germany, completed by some homemade sweet tea ... mmmm!

All in all, my trip was great. I met a lot of new people and got to know family! Germany is absolutely beautiful and I would love to return one day.

Darby Calhoun, 17, is the daughter of Bill and Laura Calhoun of Albany. During her year of study in Spain, she is contributing a periodic column to The Albany Herald on her experiences. You can also keep up with Darby's columns at www.albanyherald.com.