Just a quick update to let everybody know that we made it. We are now in Bonn, Germany, this will be our home for the next three months, and it is absolutely freezing! A bit of background information:
Bonn is one of the oldest cities in Germany. Founded on the Rhine in the first century BC as a Roman settlement and with a current population of around 311,000, Bonn is best known as a university city and was the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven (b. 1770).
It’s really beautiful here and I think we’re going to enjoy our stay, but it is a little surreal when we walk around and think that this is now home. Also, I forgot what strong wind was like. It’s going to take a while to adapt to the climate here, I’ve lived in the tropics for the last seven years so trading in my shorts, t-shirt, and cap for thermals, puffer jacket, and insulated beanie are a new routine I’m going to have to adjust to.
Monday, March 30, 2015
After dinner in Singapore with two of Anna’s best friends, Pat Lee and Roshini Prakash, we were driven to Changi Airport by Rosh and departed for Munich around 11:30pm, Singapore Standard Time (UTC+8), flying Singapore Airlines. The flight was scheduled to take approximately 12½ hours and was pretty much on time. Despite one child who screamed like he was on fire and the Frenchman in the seat next to me constantly nudging me and pointing, grinning and winking each time one of the flight attendants bent over, I was actually able to get a reasonable amount of sleep. This was mainly due to having the emergency exit row. Last time I flew back from Germany, I couldn’t fit in my seat, had to sit side-saddle, and couldn’t really walk properly for two days afterward.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
We landed in Munich at about 8:30am Central European Summer Time (UTC+2, daylight savings began here on Sunday) and had more than a two-hour stopover, during which I managed to grab another hour of sleep while a large group of Italian men argued loudly behind us before catching our connecting flight at 10:45am. This flight was awful. We had to catch a bus and board the plane by walking up some stairs from the tarmac, but the wind was absolutely insane, I had to hold my hat in my hand as we were boarding, and my suitcase was blowing in the air! The takeoff was rough, but it was only a one hour flight, a bit of turbulence here and there. Wind at a speed of 63+kph (39.15+mph) is considered ‘gale force’, the wind when we were landing was recorded at 65kph (40.4mph). Now, I’m too big to fit on roller coasters so I’ve never really been on one since I was young and I discovered during yesterday’s landing that I probably wouldn’t enjoy it now if I had. On this flight I had trouble keeping my free Corny Milch bar down during the sudden tilts and random descents, and you can add to this the fact that we were flying Lufthansa, who were in the news last week for the wrong reasons.
We landed with a bit of thud in Cologne (or “Köln” to the Germans), collected our luggage, and made the 20-minute taxi ride to Bonn, arriving at our apartment at 12.30pm. Our place is really quite nice, we have our own kitchen and TV, two little luxuries we didn’t have during our time in India. Inside our new home:
We unpacked and decided to go for a bit of a walk, mainly to get lunch and to see what was around. It was freezing, the strong wind was still present, and if the weather in general were a person it would have been bipolar; it went from sunny one moment to gale force winds with hail and then back to sunny again several times, often within a space of five or 10 minutes. The people who are renting the apartment to us said that this weather was freakish, nothing like this ever happens. Seems like a perfect example of the ‘T’ Factor to me…
We finally stopped off for the most stereotypical lunch we could have — Strudel, and it was incredible. The food we’ve had and seen all looks great, but the servings are enormous compared to what we are used to. We decided that we had to walk this off and Anna needed better winter clothes, as she wasn’t expecting it to be so cold. It was 6°C (42.8°F) when we arrived and Bonn is supposed to be one of the warmer areas of Germany. It’s spring now so for the month of April we can expect an average of a whopping 9.7°C (49.5°F), but there still is the possibility of snowfall.
The pedometer on my phone tells me that we walked 16.5kms (10.25 miles) yesterday, but probably half of that was due to being hopelessly lost. However, if we hadn’t got lost, we wouldn’t have found possibly the greatest supermarket ever, Netto, a discount supermarket chain from Denmark. I guess the closest comparison I can make is Aldi, but to put the prices in perspective a Euro is almost the same as one US dollar. To be precise, at the moment €1.00 = US$1.07. At Netto you can buy a 6-pack of 500ml Schloss Premium Pils for €1.50! Admittedly, the bottles are plastic, but that’s a small sacrifice and although it is by no means a boutique beer, Schloss Pilsner was a lot better than I expected. We also bought 1kg (2.2lb) of chicken wings, a heap of cheese, salami, cold cuts platters, in fact we had two gigantic shopping bags of stuff and it came to €25! Unlike Aldi, however, the food at Netto is simply amazing.
We spent the rest of the day walking around and here are some of the sites:
Now, on to the reason why we are here, Anna is working at the Universitäts-Augenklinik Bonn. Today was her first day and she walked to work, but said she would take the bus from now on. Anna’s half-hour trek took her through a forest, most of which was an uphill, gravel path. When we were in India the worst she had to deal with were docile stray dogs and mosquitoes, but Anna told me that everyone in the hospital was impressed when she arrived, because the forest she went through is populated by wild boar! Apparently, another visiting doctor used to walk there daily until he saw one, then never again!
Anyway, that seems to be about everything so far. It might be a little while before I post again as Easter is this weekend so we are taking a three-hour train ride to Paris on Friday and returning on Monday. I want to see if Paris Syndrome is legit. Also, I’ve set myself a goal: To try 200 different beers in the three months we are here. Only 198 to go.