Getting used to the ticket validation and transport system in Nordrhein-Westfalen has been a slow process. According to my landlady, my German friends, and my own experiences, the bus-drivers here have a tendency to be a bit grumpy. I have been snapped at for not knowing the system – “Quatsch/rubbish! It’s an old system, not a new one“, they say. Fortunately, though, it isn’t always like that: it was reassuring that a bus driver actually smiled at me the other day, as I showed him my ticket (validating it correctly this time!)
Last week I was invited to go on a Lehrerausflüg to Münster. What’s that, you ask? A school trip but for teachers only! They told me that it’s passed off as a “professional training day”, though really it’s an opportunity once a year in September for teaching staff to bond, particularly for the new teachers (like me) who don’t know anyone. It meant a lot to be invited and included.
About eighty teachers met at the school in the morning, and we set off for Münster in coaches (these bus drivers were friendly!), where I got talking to some new teachers. Most of the day’s conversation lent itself to “difficult” pupils and the many challenges of being a teacher in a comprehensive school. It was an eye-opener for me as an outsider.
In Münster we split into two groups. One group did a Krimi-Trail (a tour with the theme of Tatort, a popular crime series). My group took a tour of the Altstadt (old city). Our tourguide was interrupted by noisy roadworks, so it was hard for me to follow everything. But I understood the gist of her explanations: the city had been bombed during the war, so many buildings have been restored since. The mix of traditional and modern architecture makes Münster unique and definitely worth a visit. At the end of the tour, our guide offered us all Pumpernickel (rye bread) and a strong glass of Schnäpse!
I then travelled straight from Münster to Düsseldorf by train in order to meet a special visitor at the airport, also known as my boyfriend, who was visiting me for the weekend. I was impressed to have made it onto the right train with one minute to spare. The stress of getting on the train, however, was of course not the end of it. I had the new and frightening experience of taking a flying train (called a SkyTrain) from the Airport station to the Airport terminal station (and a lot of platform-changing in between, with not much time to spare). I didn’t have a clue which terminal I was looking for (A, B, or C? It definitely wasn’t the car park stop… Or was it!?)
I took a deep breath and hopped onto the flying train. It was zooming accross the aiport, completely suspended in mid-air, and full of people. Anyone who knows me well will know my fear of lifts – and this was comparable to that. I made it to Arrivals eventually, and even found the exact gate. Though, surprise surprise, it still took an exasperating half an hour before we found eachother. My boyfriend had taken a different exit and was at another gate. For two dyspraxics I guess it wasn’t surprising! On the way out of the airport, the flying train had broken down. (I couldn’t help but imagine what would have happened if the flying train broke down mid-air, with me in it). Because of this we had to follow more signs, and change onto a bus, which (finally) took us out of the airport. We made it in the end!
We spent a day in Köln/Cologne – going to museums, art galleries, and the chocolate museum, which was all great fun. We also went to Aachen, where we found ourselves in yet more art galleries. Aachen Cathedral was unlike any cathedral I have ever visited, and the mosaics were stunning (see below). To end on a stress-free note, here are a few of my favourite photos from a wonderful weekend:
I’m not put off public transport yet, though: often, you have the best conversations and meet the most interesting people on buses, trains, and planes. More to share soon!