If I can quote one thing that I repeated multiple times from this weekend it is that “I think I was made to live in the German countryside, wear a dirndl, and attend Octoberfest”. Now, I definitely know that I was created to do more than wear traditional German garb and attend beer festivals, however I felt so completely happy throughout this whole weekend that I truly felt as if I belonged. I got the chance to visit my high school friend Nadia Helmig, who studied abroad in America my junior year, and it was such a treat to see her home, town and friends. My weekend in Uedem was different than all my other trips, because it did not consist of public transportation, hostels, museums, and floundering around an unknown city. Rather, I got an authentic experience of German life from a pro, and really appreciated the country atmosphere in comparison to the city life of Prague.
The Experience: When I first arrived in Dusseldorf on Friday at around 9 am, I wasn’t sure how I was going to find Nadia. But sure enough, she was right there waiting for me with a huge smile on her face. The last time I had seen Nadia was for about 30 minutes at the beach last summer, when her family had visited California and I had gotten away from camp for a bit in order to say hi and catch up. Needless to say, it had been a while, but I could not imagine a sweeter reunion. How nice it was to ride in the front seat of a car and catch up. I was also equally excited about the fact that we were on the AutoBan, and that this highway had no speed limit; she then informed me that none of their highways have speed limits. Anyway from Dusseldorf, it was about an hour drive to her hometown of Uedem, but it went by very quickly. Once there, she gave me a quick driving tour and then took me to a bakery where we grabbed some breakfast and coffee. After eating, we went to her house, and I cannot put into words how calming and peaceful it was to be back in a home. I feel similar to this even at college, when you forget all the warm feelings that accompany a space well lived in. All of the homes in her town were red brick, and hers was no exception. She showed me the apple trees outside (my favorite part), her uncle’s farm in the distance, and my bed for the weekend in my own room. Needless to say, I was in small town heaven. I was exhausted around lunch time, so I took a quick nap before we went on a bike ride to see town and surrounding area. It was my favorite kind of day; dark, windy, with Autumn just beginning to settle in. Driving around the quaint town, and expansive farmlands I was in heaven, especially because her Mom had bundled me up in their extra jackets. After riding for about two hours, we headed back in order to get ready for the Octoberfest, which was held in a neighboring town Xanten. Luckily, Nadia had picked up a few Dirndls from relatives and friends in order for me to choose one that fits well, and I absolutely loved it. Soon her friends arrived and we chatted and snacked, and I cannot emphasize how kind they were and how welcome they made me feel. Eventually we were driven in a few cars by parents to Oktoberfest and entered the large, beautiful tent line with hundreds of tables. People, both old and young were dressed traditionally and ready for a great night. I guess that tickets were sold about a year previously, and it was just luck that Nadia could get an extra one for me at their table. Included in the ticket was one beer, and one meal. I got the chicken breast and it was surprisingly amazing for being so mass produced. As the night progressed the music got louder and the crowd got more energetic. Some of Nadia’s friends near me were kind enough to translate much of the german conversations, and even explain what the songs were saying. By mid-evening I was singing (in german- okay mumbling along some) songs with the rest of them, and having a grand old time. Overall, I wouldn’t trade this Oktoberfest experience for anything, even after hearing all the fantastic things about the way larger Munich celebration.
The next day, Nadia and I both slept in, and then headed out to visit a castle. The Moyland castle was absolutely beautiful and reminded me immensely of the castle at Disneyland because of the moat and surrounding garden areas. Inside was an art gallery, which was interesting and a good activity for a sleepy morning. Then Nadia and I drove around and stopped at a village with a beautiful windmill to got some ice cream. After ice cream, we went to a little walking trail that leads to some wild pigs and deer in the forest. When we returned, her mom had an apple pie waiting and I ate it in front of their wood fireplace. That night, after a pretty traditional german homemade dinner, we got ready to go meet her friends and head to a party. Her friends had described it to me as a ‘farmers party’ that only happens a few times a year, and it reminded me strongly like high school party in a large tent with alcohol. It was honestly really really fun, especially because it was with alot of her same friends from the night before. Put on by one of the German clubs, it cost 5 dollars to get in, but they had an awesome live band who I really really enjoyed and everyone danced the night away.
Sunday morning, Nadia and I woke up and relaxed a bit more. Then us and a few of her friends went to a town over for a farm festival! It reminded me alot of the country fair acutally, and even a group similar to 4H was running it. We left for the airport pretty early, which was good because we hit awful traffic. Nadia was moving to college that night (!!) so it was nice of her to drive me all the way there without complaint about the 2nd long drive she had in front of herself. The weekend ended all too fast, and I could not have asked for a sweeter time with my friend or a more enjoyable introduction to Germany.