Altenberg, you were amazing.

Oh, Altenberg. If I could sum you up in one word, it’d be: I-can’t-sum-you-up-in-one-word. Assuming that counts as one word with the hyphens.

Lucianna, Phoebe, Rae and I reunited on the steps leading up to the Kölner Dom.

Never have I met so many wonderful people. It was like fresher’s week, but we all shared the same interest (‘all’ referring to over 100 people usually aged around 20-21, but some a little older), and it made talking to new people even more easier. It was lovely to see Phoebe, Rae and Lucianna from my university (Exeter), as well as seeing random faces amongst the crowd and knowing their name purely through Facebook. It was like stalking that was acceptable, to put it short. The bar every evening sold beers and wine for just 1,50€ each, which, despite me being able to drink only two beers on the first two nights until I was full, was fantastic.

Having to hold our own classes, I went for the beginners’ level after seeing Rosie, who’s also going to be living in Hannover, went for it, too – meaning a perfect way to get to know her. I also thought beginners’ level wouldn’t be too bad at all. But, I was wrong. Never have I felt so embarrassed telling a bunch of 20/21 year olds who had to pretend to be 6 or 7 years old to stand up if they were 6 years old, sit down if they were 6 years old, stand up if they were 7 years old, sit down if they were 7 years old…

You get the drift.

It was a load of fun though. And I miss every single person I met on the course. Naturally, some more than others (tamping about Lennon), but it’s nice to know we have a few plans already, such as going to the Zoo with people from around Hannover on Saturday, as well as a good chance I may get a trip to Cologne this month to see Shane/him coming to Hannover, and no doubt some meet up with Phoebe in the very near future. And a big thing we have planned is none other than Oktoberfest! I am extremely excited for this!

On our last night, I somehow persuaded a few people to do all-nighters, including one of the assistants who were about to do their second year and were here to help us not feel so worried about it all. I didn’t do it in a forceful way, more of a ‘this is our last night – why not?’ kind of way, which seemed to work. In the end, myself and Shane pulled through, as well as my roommate, Matthew, who I didn’t see much of after breakfast. Basically, today has therefore been hell. From about 5am onwards, we both moaned about how awful we felt. Despite being able to eat plenty of food, the bus journey back to Köln was no fun (bar the bit we got some sleep), and then the worry and stress of being at the train station didn’t help either.

Then, for me, that’s when it started going a little down hill. I was quite excited to go back to Hannover, of course. I had decided I was going to wait a few hours in Köln with Phoebe and Rae rather than shooting off back to Hannover to then probably do nothing productive throughout the day. But I definitely think the all-nighter was the spanner in the works (or whatever the phrase is). When I walked up to Phoebe to tell her I was going to wait with her in Köln, she turned to me and said “Awh, really?” in her lovely, innocent voice as she does – and I nearly cried. Yes, you read that correctly. I do not know why, it just seem to hit something inside. I kept it in quite easily though. It was fine.

Out of nowhere, Shane’s mentor called him – he had to go promptly, despite us not having had Starbucks nor completing our game of Monopoly on Louis the iPad, so the goodbye was rushed, and I didn’t really have chance to feel sad about him going, which I guess is a good thing. I went to go buy my train tickets, which took forever, so when I walked towards Starbucks where I was meeting everyone, the four girls going to Hannover were leaving to catch their train – yet more rushed goodbyes, even though I know I’ll be hopefully be seeing them all on Saturday. As I found Rae, Phoebe and Rachael, it turned out Matthew had also gone and I hadn’t even seen him at all.

I decided I wanted to go for a walk. I couldn’t stand being sat there with Rae and Phoebe knowing it was just a countdown to saying ‘bye’ which I wasn’t looking forward to, so I went to have a look at the place where the Christmas Markets usually are outside the Kölner Dom. It was still amazing. Just a plain plaza. It looked so odd seeing it without it being covered in stalls and smells of Christmas, but it was still an absolutely spectacular sight with the Dom in the background.

And that got me thinking. As a lot of things seem to do when you’re on your year abroad. Or at least, it has to me anyway.

I’ve seen it about 4 times before, and I was still in awe.

Why didn’t I pick Nordrhein-Westfalen as my first choice? Cologne is amazing. I’ve been four times before. There were loads of people going to Cologne from the induction course, and I think I felt a lot of envy. I know that picking Nordrhein-Westfalen wouldn’t have necessarily meant I’d have got Cologne, but still – it’d have given me a bigger chance. So I walked around the plaza and the Dom thinking this and feeling like absolute Scheiße. It was a weird thought to think that I hadn’t been asleep since I’d taught my lesson of teaching English to 6/7 year olds, which actually happened yesterday.

I went back to Starbucks to meet Rae, Phoebe and Rachael, and we played some card games. Rachael left, then it was just three Exeter musketeers. We had a good laugh playing games, though I think we all knew deep down we were so nervous with what was about to happen. I, however, had another reason. I’ve been in Hannover before, so that’s not what I was nervous about, but I think because there seemed to be such a large amount of people going to Cologne, it felt like I was going away from all the action. I wasn’t travelling with anyone because I wanted to make sure Rae and Phoebe were alright, so I had a 4 hour train journey by myself. And I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. I wanted to stay in Cologne where, what felt like, everyone was (even though most people had already left), and I wanted to see everyone again before I went, but pretty much everyone had gone.

It generally all felt really rushed, and even though I know I’m going to see certain people again, I don’t feel like I said ‘bye’ to some people properly. Sat now in my room, it kind of feels like Altenberg was a dream. Again, this may be due to the stupid all-nighter which, yes, I do keep mentioning because, yes, it’s still affecting me now.

Frikadelle, the potato duck.

But nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience. Despite it being just 3 days long, I am never going to forget any bit of the course. From Shane being a savage pikey with a roommate who’s even worse (yes, that’s possible), to Rae not being a morning person (like, seriously), to Phoebe announcing it’s hard to eat rice when you’re hyperventilating, to me doing Yorkshire proud and belting out ‘Yorkshire’ as loud as I can during the Talent Show when a guy asked for suggestions of an accent he should put on (he talked about Les and Janice from Corrie…) and even to making Frikadelle, the duck made of potato (I’m seriously feeling depressed sat here knowing this is all over – it doesn’t feel like it should have been over so soon!)

Altenberg, you were very short. But Altenberg, you were amazing.