Do you ever have that feeling like “oh… in two days I will be in America, and then I will probably never see any of these new friends again”?
It’s not a great feeling.
Don’t get me wrong, I am pumped to go back home, even if I can’t quite remember where that is. Today at lunch, while I was eating my last Maultaschen and Kartoffelsalat, some people from the lab tried to convince me I was from Wyoming, and then Tennessee, and then Nebraska, and then Vermont. Then they made fun of American politics and explained how Queen Elizabeth should become president of the US and “reunite the Commonwealth.” It was a strange lunch.
But anyway, I am going to miss all this, especially the barbecues. There is some great barbecue meat here. Barbecues at the lab also often feature drones, Americans dancing to Beyoncé, Germans laughing quietly at Americans dancing to Beyoncé, lots of nerdy conversations about computer science, and an inexplicable number of jello shots. We also usually bring all the sofas outside, and often have barbecues two days in a row because there’s meat left over. We are actually supposed to be having another barbecue tonight, after our goodbye barbecue yesterday. Awkward.
Other favorite food-centered events of mine include the Hamburger Fishmarkt, where I drank strawberry soda and ate a herring sandwich fried dough puff full of chocolate. Confusingly, this fish market did not feature hamburgers, nor was it in Hamburg. It was in Stuttgart, and there was mainly just fish. The best part for me was a two-story fish stall where two guys were frying fish on the open second floor, and every so often a bell would ring and they would send a bunch of fresh-fried fish down a big copper chute to the lower part of the stall, where people would purchase and eat it.
While I’m thinking about food, I have also enjoyed cooking new things here, like arugula risotto and peanut chicken and Bavarian bread dumplings (not pictured) and summer pudding, which is apparently a British thing. I think this story merits telling. After the 4th of July barbecue, there were some baguette-like things and some round bread rolls left over. I suggested we play baseball with them, because America, and the two German colleagues I was speaking to just looked at me, horrified. “You can’t do that! That’s so disrespectful!” one of them said. “Think about all the energy and time that went into that bread!” His colleague agreed. The effort of the baker is something not to be disrespected by novel uses for bread like baseball. I definitely support not wasting food, but I was taken aback a bit by the intensity of this sentiment! It was mentioned that you can make all kinds of delicious things out of bread, which is another reason not to play baseball with it. Then my colleague promptly threw away a whole bowl of lettuce because “it just came out of the ground.”
So, five days later when one of the baguettes was still sitting around in the lab kitchen, I thought I would respect the baker’s effort and make something out of it. I made french toast for breakfast the next day, french toast sandwiches for lunch, and Bavarian bread dumpling soup a few days later (this was Bavarian bread dumplings in vegetable broth, except I couldn’t remember whether the recipe said to put eggs in the dumplings so I didn’t put any in and they disintegrated significantly into bread soup). One day I got kind of desperate to eat this whole baguette and had bread cubes in milk with sugar on top for breakfast. Then I finally used the rest of it with my flatmate’s unwanted red- and blackcurrants to make a summer pudding. I did this technically all wrong, so any real British summer pudding eater would probably say I still disrespected the bread. I thought it was nice though.
Other things I have enjoyed:
The huge and gorgeous Stadtsbibliothek, Stuttgart’s municipal library
Drinking iced tea out of a jar on my roof while reading James Joyce like an insufferable hipster
The Mercedes-Benz Museum, where you can see a replica of the car in Jurassic Park and also sit on a bus that the German soccer team used to drive around (below is not the bus)
The nice old buildings downtown where I do my shopping
And… indoor bouldering. Doing that again tonight too with lab friends, so maybe more photos later.
So, in summary: I like Germany. I also like America. I have enjoyed spending time with people here, and frankly I am sadder to leave them than to leave this place. But I will also miss the bratwurst and chocolate croissants. I have one more day in Stuttgart before flying home, and I intend to fully appreciate it. Maybe I will have more serious thoughts later.