Article contributed by Sara Djumic
If someone told me last summer that soon I would be going to Germany, completely broke as well, I would have never, ever believed them. I would have humored the idea though. It feels almost as if it was all just a dream. There was he, my friend Gabriel, somewhere far away, telling me that he likes me and that he wants to meet me. There was I, Sara, who liked him for almost two years now, and who also had a classic student budget – no budget. But I decided to not let money ruin my dream. And with 50 euros in my pocket that my mom gave me because she felt sorry for me, I set out on my journey from Nis, Serbia to Bonn, Germany in December 2016!
A few hours later…
Where was I? Weeze International Airport!
Yes, I somehow ended up here. The cheapest airport in all of North-Rhine Westphalia! I had to read that a few times before I could pronounce it. The ticket was 4.99, how they advertise it, or 5.11 euros, how much you actually pay after taxes that only we, people with no money, actually notice.
Good enough for me, two and a half hours of a nice view if you are lucky enough to get a window seat, or an eternity of suffering if you end up in the middle of two strangers who, just like you, are here because their budget is really tight. Luck was on my side, so I came out of the passport check happy and ready!
Ready might have been an overstatement. I went out and faced the chilly, night air of Germany for the first time, before I started looking for my bus. There was the only bus that operates between this God-forsaken airport, and any city in which you can find a hostel in. It was pretty cozy for something that I booked online for only 5 euros, this time really just 5. The driver even spoke English, something that I was told I won’t find very often. But anyway, exactly in time, the bus left the airport grounds, which was a surprise for me. In Serbia, you should be happy if your bus even leaves, because they get damn broken way too much!
But I had to leave my salty thoughts behind me, wishing that a German company operated in Serbia, and face a new surprise that waited for me. I was dropped on the other side of Rhine than the one I was supposed to be in! Knowing barely any German, I could somehow understand that the driver was pointing towards a bike rental shop. It seems like Germans love their bikes just as much as their environment.
I entered the shop confused, and left it with a bike that seemed like it was made from scrap metal of the industrial revolution. But well, they said they had nothing else for 5 euros. So I accepted my destiny and hoped that the street signs would be kind enough to let me know where I was supposed to go. I faced an extraordinary surprise! Germany has special roads only for bikes – everywhere! My adventurous spirit carried me towards the lights on the Cologne main station, where the guy of my dreams was waiting for me!
Prior to my arrival, he had already planned out everything. We spent the night wandering around the streets of this beautiful city. Surprisingly, it was very calm, and I felt safe. Maybe because of the glory of Cologne, maybe because I was finally holding the hand of the one I love. Sitting in the first morning train at 4:30 AM, made me realize that Germany wakes up very early! I watched my first sunrise in Germany, thinking about how I managed to cross half of Europe for 5 euros, but a train ticket for a 20-minute ride is 7.80. Oh, Germany.
When the morning finally came, we were in Bonn. The magnificent city of Beethoven, built on the river Rhine. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of its longest bridge immediately. I wanted to stay there and stare into the clear, flowing water, but my dear Gabriel had other plans. The annual Christmas Market had just opened, and how to better experience Germany than by being surrounded by the smell of curry sausages and – what is this? The best German street sweet I’ve ever tried. Unfortunately, I do not remember its name, and I couldn’t find it online… But if the road ever takes you to Germany, I promise that you wouldn’t regret trying it! Well, maybe with a little less cinnamon… *cough*
It was late December, so it was very cold. But the weather is the only cold thing that you could get in Bonn, other than maybe some frozen yogurt. The variety of people living in this city made its soul very warm. Influence can be found from all over the world – even my Gabriel came here from the faraway deserts of U.A.E., and just like him, many people carried over their lives and experiences.
I had the honor to try some of the most amazing dishes of different cultures. My Gabriel took me to Bonn’s best Arabic restaurant – and it was such an amazing experience! Not only that I never tried Arabic food, I never even thought that I would like it. But it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever eaten, and I kept coming back to it every time I visited Germany again. Pretty pricey though, as we paid 14,80 for two tasty dishes.
I also never knew that there are so many churches in Germany! But what is interesting is that there also many mosques and that every religion is equally respected. This is a picture I took of one of the biggest churches in Bonn. I already miss all of the nice views that I got in this lovely city. Every step took me to another surprise – the one into a Chinese restaurant too.
Noodles of all kinds, meat that is halal, soups and offers, even duck! And this was just the beginning! I chose noodles with shrimp – my Gab convinced me that it was something I must not miss. For 7 euros, you could get a dish, a drink of choice that’s usually either traditional Chinese tea, or a more traditional Chinese tea that you can’t pronounce, and wooden chopsticks to bring home. A worthy trade, as the noodles disappeared quicker than I could say “Nihao” to the owners.
These visits to different restaurants made me aware of the community I was in. I understood that the country is made by its’ people, and that is where all the stereotypes about Germans disappear. I couldn’t avoid taking at least one stereotypical photo of me standing in front of a landmark, in this case, the old parliament building.
All of these fun experiences had to end soon, and I definitely didn’t get enough. Despite Gab asking me to stay longer, I couldn’t because my student duties were waiting for me. I booked my return ticket for another 5 euros before the trip and made sure not to have to ride a broken bike to the station. This time, I tried the German public buses that were surprisingly very comfortable. Gab accompanied me, asking me a million times if I am hungry and if I REALLY can’t stay at least a day longer. How lovely, I thought at the time.
This trip was a great success. I arrived in one piece, fell in love completely, and experienced great new food that I didn’t expect to even find here. Now it was time to leave, but I promised that I would be back again. I took one last chance to take some pictures of the big Cologne church that I was amazed by when I was coming over. It was so bright that it looked almost like a castle! And I also took a selfie, this is the crazy girl that took this journey first, so you can have an easier time.
After a kiss goodbye and a scheduled next meeting, I caught the bus that was again on time, boarded the plane and waved away to this beautiful experience. But don’t worry. I’ll be back, Germany!