Going to Germany


More hitchhiking

Morning had already past when I left the community , because the manager of the restaurant and a Spanish friend of mine were both heading out to run a few errands and one of their stops was at Liége. They were kind of enough to let me join them, with the plan of dropping me off at a suitable spot in Liége. I didn’t really mind leaving a little late as it gave me plenty of time to pack my stuff, say my goodbyes and it meant a guaranteed ride almost halfway through my journey. Now that I had quite some time on my hands before we would leave, and since my bag was already packed, I decided to go upstairs the castle to go to the room of Prabhupada to get some pictures of the room. Once I reached the top of the stairs however, I noticed that the room across of it was open. At first I thought I wasn’t allowed in that room as it had been closed, but I saw on both side bookshelves, so I went in this room instead. When entering there is a big space, with this big vitrine in the middle. The vitrine that only showed my face, although I could see something at the back when I stared into it. At that moment one of the Devotees, the same man that helped me on my first day, walked in and explained me what it was for. Apparently this vitrine is used during tours; it’s supposed to make you think you see yourself, because you see your own reflection. The guide would then turn on the light and 6 mannequins will be shown, starting with a baby, the next ones being older than the ones before and the last one being a skeleton. This is their way of saying that you’re not your body, but the soul. You change from body every 7 years and when you die, they believe it’s just you changing from body again so when you saw your reflection, you didn’t see yourself as it was just your body. This is one of the beliefs that come with Hare Krishna.

Chapter 2, Verse 12

Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. – Bhagavad Gita

I found this quite interesting and I am happy I now know at least a little bit about the beliefs of Hare Krishna. After this short explanation of a so much bigger story, he gave me a book as a goodbye gift. This book will help me expand my knowledge on this subject, as 10 days in this community is far from enough to get to know it all. Not much later I had given the place a last glance through the rearview mirror and I was on my way again.

It was a long journey before we reached Liége, with a few stops in between, and upon arriving we drove around for a bit to find the perfect road to Aachen, in Germany. They gave me a bag of crisps for the rest of my journey and gave me a cell number, in case it would take too long for someone to stop. Only a few moments later, a guy pulled over and rolled down the window whilst waving his hand in a manner that signified I could hop in. I went over there, secretly hoping he would go all the way to Köln, came to find out it was quite the opposite. He told me he could only drive me 2 kilometres further, which merely helped me, yet without his help I might not have gotten the ride that would take me to the right highway and therefore not the final one either. So, I went in his car, as every small distance is some help and another face you meet. I had to walk from there on, to a roundabout where I put my smile on and my cardboard up. I stood there for awhile, watching the faces of people reading my cardboard, reacting enthusiastic or with a face made of guilt or pity, because they couldn’t give my the lift I wanted, and some people were trying to completely ignore me. While I was still focused on giving everyone the puppy-eyes, I heard a honk behind me. Someone had pulled over! It was a middle-aged couple, both not very good in either Dutch or English, yet with a small basic on both they asked questions and listened with patience. He was apologizing already for not being able to bring me far, yet it would be on the highway heading straight to my destination. I tried to stop him from apologizing and convince him it was actually a big help for me, although it did not work since he said it again once we arrived. I tried to explain in my best French that I was travelling to Köln, because I have a friend there: “Je voyage Cologne, J’ai une amie”. Yes, I know, it’s flawless…

I was not far away anymore and the sun was about to set. I was standing at the place that would meet most passing cars, where I, fortunately, had to wait long enough to witness the sunset, which was a lovely sight. Almost right after, a car stopped, two lads going to Köln and they were willing to drive me to the Hauptbahnhof where I had agreed to meet my host for the coming days. Perfect! They were very nice and chilled guys and despite the huge language barrier we had a great time. A little mix-up on the way, when I said I spoke Dutch and then got handed a phone with one of the wives on the other line speaking ‘Deutsch’ (German). It was a comfortable ride, but when they had dropped me off, I got a message from my host to meet her at the university instead. Since I was trying to not spend any money whatsoever on transport, I decided to take the “40 minutes” walk to there instead. I am guessing it would be 40 minutes when you know the city like your backyard or have at least some sense of direction. Even with all the people I asked for the direction, I went the wrong way when I thought I was still following the road to the University, but I had to cross the road somewhere… Nonetheless I eventually made it! It was around 9 PM when I got to the University of Cologne. She walked me inside, to the room where Iranian and Kurdish music was played. Even though I was tired and every now and then drifting off, I enjoyed the music. During the last song “Oy Naze”, the audience had to sing along every time “Oy Naze” was sung. I later on heard that song again, but I have to admit that the lady that sang it that night was way better at it, with her fantastic violin play. After all the songs were played and everyone was thanked, we went back to her apartment.

My time in Köln, Germany

Dominique, the lady I was staying with, is residing in a cozy apartment in a flat near the University, sharing it with a flatmate. The flatmate, a student as well, was not present for the first half of my stay. The kitchen and bathroom were shared, the right side of the condo being Domi’s part and where I would be sleeping. I liked the room; it was very decorative, with a kettle almost always filled with water, comfortable furniture, nice scents lit up and the room often full with the sounds of classical music. I also noticed a big ‘Scratch Map’ on the wall above her bed, which is a poster I have too. She loves to make food and therefore didn’t mind cooking for a guest. I was very grateful for that, especially since her cooking was terrific! When Domi wasn’t playing volleyball, she showed me around town. The town was larger than I had expected, whereas the shopping lane is the most busy, often with music being made in the background. There were many shops, often with lots of people in them. After that, she showed me the beauty of the town, the Dome of Köln, Cologne Cathedral. It was massive, a building so colossal and magnificent that it’s always under construction. Sadly, we could not enter, instead we returned home, walking along the Rhine, with a cool breeze upon us. She told me the people on the right side of the river despise the left side. Why this is, I cannot tell you, as there was no reason told that sounded logical to me. From there we walked to a totally different area, which existed mostly out of bars, all with a more medieval style. The roads too, they were old with cracks. There were not many people here, and although this kind of style does not pull the preference of most, it always does for me. Maybe because it doesn’t pull the preference of most and is more quiet, at least because I like this architecture.

That night, we into town to get a drink and for me to see a bit of the nightlife of Cologne. She had invited her friend to come along, a guy halfway in his twenties and kind enough to use as much English as possible in my presence. We played a few games of pool, drank a few drinks and exchanged stories. When the time came to head back, Dominique and I decided to get some food from one of the local cafeterias. I went for the gyros sandwich and she for the vegetarian one, only to find out later that our sandwiches existed for 50% out of onions. Oh Damn… Nonetheless we enjoyed it, the alcohol and hunger combined was probably the cause of that. By the time we finished our food, we were back at the apartment. After the weekend, her volleyball tournaments started again, which meant she’d be out every now and then. We had agreed upon meeting each other at Uni, where I met a few other friends of her, before heading to the park. I was told that I had to visit this park, as there are fun and cute animals there. It was quite a stroll to get there, yet totally worth it. There were tiny, adorable goats and sheep, getting the attention of dozens of children, their hands filled with food, donkeys walking around on the wrong side of the fence seeking for things to eat and a fluffy Scottish highlander, loving all the attention he got. – Please correct me if I am wrong with these names. – A bit further, close to the end, we found the fallow deer behind the easiest trespassed fence, yet the majestic animal stood behind it gallantly, unless when food was spotted, whereas he would get the food when not reachable behind the fence to then get back and proceed posing for the people. When we continued the walk through the park, we noticed that this deer was the exception to that, as the rest of them were all over the place. Most days had been rainy and cold, so I was very pleased that we were blessed with lovely weather the day we decided to go to this park. Besides that, we had not done much more, a few card games and a movie. I had enjoyed my time very much thanks to Dominique, but it was time to return to my home once again. I got a new cardboard at the local ‘reve’ and wrote down my new destination.