One of the best things about being in Germany for my internship is having the ability to travel all over Europe relatively inexpensively. I was finally able to go a lot of my dream destinations — Berlin, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Cologne, and other little towns all over Hessen and Rhineland. The cultures of different cities and different people is so pronounced and exciting to explore, especially when you’re with friends and people who are as adventurous as you are.
But to be honest, what I learned is that being a tourist every weekend is exhausting. There are always too many things you want to do and not enough time to do them. The past few weeks I decided to stay home and explore the city that I’m living in — Gießen.
Whenever I tell a German person that I’m working in Gießen, there first reactions are almost always some variation of But it’s so ugly. But Germans are really spoiled if they think Gießen is ugly. It may not have any castles or lots of old Gothic architecture, but it has character. This is a real city to me, a city that is unaffected by tourists and city officials that spend millions in trying to impress said tourists. It’s just a place where people live, work, learn, and play everyday.
My favorite places in Gießen are the university’s botanical garden, a small biergarten down the street from where I work, and the roof of my house. These are some of the most relaxing places I’ve been in my life, where everything is calm and peaceful and I have time to write in my journal and think about all of the things I need to do at work the next day or the rest of the week.
I would like to think that I will come back to Gießen someday, but I think it’s unlikely. So much of what I loved about the city was the people and the conversations and the feeling of belonging in a foreign country while I was living here. In a few years, my roommates will have gotten jobs somewhere else, my coworkers will get their PhDs and go off to do great things, and I simply won’t the same sense of peace and relaxation in visiting a place that used to be my home.
But I think that’s okay–because I really loved living in Gießen and learning more about everyday German life in a small, friendly city. Maybe I’ll come back to Gießen someday for some reason, but if not? I’ve still got all those selfies 🙂