Sunday, October 9, 2016

the best and worst of cologne

The first time I arrived in Cologne, I felt incredibly alone. I was surrounded by unfamiliar people and places. It was a harsh reminder of everything I left behind which included my husband for a period of time.

A month in, I was able to start appreciating the culture and beauty of the city, even if I couldn't speak a lick of German. When Ryan finally did arrive to share in my adventure, I was excited to show him everything I'd grown to love. Together, we created a cozy little bubble in this foreign land we called home. By the time we went back to the US we had a bank full of fond memories. So when we were given the opportunity to come back for another few months, we jumped at the chance.

But this time, it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies.

There were definite highs and lows this time around. And as my days here are rapidly coming to an end, I thought I'd reflect on the best and worst parts of my time here.

I'll start with what I won't miss then move onto the good stuff.


To say it's been temperamental this year would be a complete understatement. It rained 85% of the summer. And then, when it finally decided to make an appearance, it was in September and hot as balls. Now, the fall weather, which started in August, has nearly dipped into winter weather. I just wish it would make up it's mind.


One of the first things I noticed in Cologne, and Europe in general, was that the floor levels seemed to So imagine my delight when we picked a third floor flat and I've had to walk up three flights of stairs to get to my apartment door. Then, since we thought a two floor flat sounded charming, there's another flight of stairs that go to the bedroom and balcony.

If you're an American, let me translate. I have a FOURTH floor walk up with a FIFTH floor bedroom.

After nearly four months of making the trip multiple times per day, I still am out of breath by the time I get to my front door. And my ass doesn't look any better.


This one is mostly my fault and may seem really obvious, but not knowing German is really tough when you live in a German city. Sure, I can read a menu and muddle through a basic intro. But put me in a scenario where I'm not ready to speak German and I am COMPLETELY thrown. No chance of redemption. I can't even formulate a polite, "I can't speak German" reply.


Anyone who knows me, understands how much I hate traffic. When I changed jobs a few years ago my commute went from about forty-five minutes to seven. Yes, seven. I could not have been happier.

Much to my dismay, traffic jams are everywhere here. The most frustrating part is that they seemingly happen for no reason. Even though the traffic jams from construction or accidents are understandable, they're still irritating. So the ones without reason are especially irritating. I am very happy to return to my seven minute commute.


If you ever thought the police or ambulance sirens were annoying in the US, the sirens in Germany are one thousand times more grating. I'm not sure if I hear it more often because the flat is closer to the city or if I'm just paying attention more but the frequency that they go off is ridiculous. They've become a inside joke between Ryan and I, about how much we'll miss them.

Yeah, right. Now let's go to the good stuff.


I've really grown to love that things are closed on Sundays. It resets you and makes you take a sometimes much needed break. There's no stores to check out - no last minute grocery shopping. Just time to reflect. Time to run, perhaps. Time to relax. I almost wish the US would adopt it.


Cologne houses over one million people in a little under 160 square miles. Scattered in there are beautiful parks and green spaces. On nice days (when they happen) you find families and friends picnicking or playing pick up soccer games. Some parks even have playground equipment for kids. Most are lined with snaking bike and running paths which have been especially nice for me. My favorite is the path along the river where you find a few miles of uninterrupted paths away from traffic. It's definitely better than the boring hum drum of concrete and buildings.


The transit system here is such a joy. Honestly. The Capital Region in New York has bus lines, end of story. Here? There's bus lines, the metro, commuter trains, and regional trains. You could get anywhere without having a car. It's amazing. If the transit system in Troy was as good as the one here, I would sell my car tomorrow. Seriously. I will never take for granted the reliability or the reach of this system. Another one I wish would be adopted in the US.


Candy. Outlets. Two words we're very familiar with but unfamiliar with their combination. But they exist. OH DO THEY EXIST. With discounted prices and all your favorites (plus more!) these stores are like heaven on earth. Especially, Milka. I could write an ode to Milka.

This past weekend I stocked up on some of our favorites and some to give to family and friends. It wasn't until I put everything together to take a picture and the missing fifty euros that I realized I may have gone overboard. Just slightly, though.

Okay, maybe way overboard.


And finally, this city is just downright pretty. Despite the countless time I've watched the sun rise and set here, it still takes my breath away. I will wake up at the ass crack of dawn or push out a run to see the sun peak out or retreat for the day. And even though I don't always have a camera ready to capture the moments, it's those that I want to hold on to for the rest of my life.

Because who doesn't want to remember something like this?

Until the next relocation. Peace out, cub scouts.

- A. Rae

Sunday, October 2, 2016

adventures in munich

Munich. The city near the monks developed by salt, destroyed by fervor, and rebuilt to former glory. Home of failed revolts, dynastic families, and a teeny, tiny beer fest. Our adventure for the week.

Until the next adventure. Peace out, cub scouts.

- A. Rae