Until we meet again Tübingen.
During my freshman year of college I decided, what the hell, I might as well jump ship early and move to Germany in order to learn the language and gain some cultural insight. But seriously, anything to get me out of the shoe-box sized dorm-room I was trapped in for two terms. Anyways, I have always had a passion for Germany, its food, culture, sights, sounds, smells. I have been obsessed with the lifestyle since I was first exposed to it as a young boy. My step-father really introduced me to the culture the first time he took the family back to Germany when I was about 12. I want to save another post for that, so I won’t get into the details but that first trip opened my eyes to a new culture, a new way of life that I wanted to fully understand. Luckily, I found my perfect study abroad program placing me in Tübingen, a medium sized, gorgeous city, coincidentally only about an hour drive away from “Uncle Willi’s” house, the place where my love for Germany started.
Tübingen is tucked away comfortably in Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany’s south-western most state and arguably the most beautiful, boasting wonderful location such as Heidelberg, Freiburg and Konstanz. The city, of about 80,000 inhabitants sits along the Neckar river, cutting through the Altstadt and running south to the sunny Bodensee.
Before I arrived, I was having an uneasy feeling of what Tübingen would be like. I imagined a sort of authoritarian, communist style society, with monochrome, cubic buildings filled with angry German Lehrerinen adorned with durndels and rulers for abusing students for messing up the article of a word. It was a paradox to me, because I had already been to Germany twice before and in that general area too. To my relief upon my arrival, the city proved to be nothing like that.
Tübingen itself, is drop dead gorgeous. The altstadt or “old city” is lined with 15th century buildings and has the ‘works’ when it comes to traditional fortified cities. Cobblestone, a castle, a 12th century church and old city walls still stand today, overlooking a very different city than when it was built all those centuries ago. The city is practical with a highly developed, modern new city in a ring around the old. It is all held together with an efficient and fast public transportation network of buses that run around the clock. Almost everything is walking distance with the highest point to Tübingen, where I lived, being only about a 3 mile walk from the central train station.
I lived high on a hill overlooking the entire city, which sat below in a valley. I was housed in a massive five fifteen-floor building complex called WHO (Waldhäuser Ost), which was sustain-ably built by some of Germany’s best architects. The idea was you could function without ever having to leave the area. The was a few markets, places to eat, a bakery,an easily found bus stop. For the actual residents of WHO and not just the students there were other services such as doctors, lawyers, a school. Seriously EVERYTHING you could need, an within a five minute walk.
Each building had about 15 floors and on each floor 16 people with 2 kitchens and all single rooms. The kitchen was roomy, and had a balcony which overlooked the valley. The best part about the WHO was the community of people who lived there. Germans seem to be much more grown up than Americans in many ways, in that they do not need the constant attention and coddling that American universities give their students. There were always people out and about, grilling, drinking, relaxing. You get accustom to the people you are living with quickly and make great friends in the process.
The go to place to hang out at night was the student run bar in the basement of the 5th building called Kuckuck. They had dirt cheap drinks, great parties and it was always a welcome place to drink with a serious assortment of people. I met Spaniards, Brazilians, Serbians, Pakistanis all within the confines of this small smoke filled watering hole. It was the spot for getting to talk to people from all over the place, sharing stories with random strangers and drinking until the sun came up, until your body is tired and you just can’t take it anymore. I miss those good old days.
Chapter 2 coming soon.