I am continually amazed at how wonderful this culture is. Germans really are just as practical and reasonable as everyone makes them out to be.
As we made our way through the woods of the Schwarzwald (the Black Forest), we would occasionally come to a little village of houses. These houses, however, aren't like the houses we inhabit back home. They are quite like city apartments, where each person who lives there has their own living space, but there are multiple people living in the same house. Sometimes there is a cafe or a shop under the rooms, and if there isn't, a garage takes up the first floor. I just find it very cool that they use up all the space they have. Instead of buying a humongous house for one couple to show how rich they are, they buy a small part of a medium-sized house to be able to save energy and water and space in general. It really is quite a reasonable concept. Another thing i have learned is that if you are sitting at a table with empty chairs and there are no empty tables left, Germans will just sit in the empty seats and "politely ignore" whoever they don't know. Sometimes a conversation starts, but most of the time they just are trying to create less clutter by just taking any open seats. it's pretty awesome.
I'm also finding they are extremely friendly in this particular city of Freiburg. They tend to look at us and know we are Americans (though being in a massive group of bright-color-clad people all speaking English with cameras out doesn't help) but they are very helpful when it comes to learning their language. Since it's a city with a heavy population of students, they know they will have many Ausländer (foreigners) studying their language, so they won't automatically switch to English when you start speaking to them in German, they will just repeat themselves if you are confused. And not all of them speak English, which I find interesting, and cool. German is the #1 primary spoken foreign language in Europe, meaning that Germans will speak primarily their own language more than English. I find that awesome. Who ever said that German was a dying language? Obviously they haven't been here. :)
Anyway, the forest! It was quite beautiful, and it's interesting trekking through the woods and not getting bothered by any bugs but the occasional (and might i add... very ambitious and fearless) bee. You swat at them and they just stay there. I almost feel bad doing it because i haven't seen any Germans swatting at bugs... hmm...but in the sun it's much hotter than in the shade. A nice breeze comes when you're in the shade, and it's pretty awesome becuase it's a 20 degree difference or so.
And yes, we DID come across many garden gnomes... but i feel like they were all in little gardens that were meant for tourists to see... ha. as if they needed to make it more German or something.
I just can't wait to be done with the huge groups of Americans... they are starting to get very cliquey and they NEVER speak German. Plus, it's freshman year all over again. I find myself answering very generic questions, since there are near 50 of us... "where are you from?" "what is your major?" "have you been to Germany before?" "DePaul? Oh! I almost went there!" Nevertheless, I am thinking i'll find myself traveling alone more than i thought, until my roommates arrive. They are all on Semesterferien right now (Semester break) which is about a month period where they get to travel or whatever. So most of them take it and run with it.
Feel free to respond and ask questions or just make a comment-- i love hearing from you!
Oh, and did you know a small cup of ice cream (really, Gelato) here is 1 euro? SO good. ;) And instead of massive amounts of Mexican food and fast food restaurants, they have cafes and Turkish food, as well as Italian and Arabic. And the alcohol is SUPER strong. be aware of that. And their coffee TOTALLY doesn't need even a hint of flavor. It's so clean and there is no after-taste. And the foam? ohhhh the foam. So fluffy and wonderful!