After two planes, one S-Bahn, and one regional train, I finally arrived in Fulda on Tuesday afternoon, exhausted but very happy to finally be here.
My flights to Amsterdam and Frankfurt both went extremely smoothly, which was nice. Connecting in Amsterdam was a bit obnoxious, because in addition to passport control, I had to go through another round of security, which I wasn't expecting -- if I had known that, I would have made sure items like my computer were more easily accessible. Plus they wanted you to take out ALL of your chargers as well, which I wasn't prepared for since we don't do that at security checkpoints in the states. I had plenty of time so it wasn't too bad, but if I had been crunched for time to make my next flight it would have been VERY stressful.
I will say having now flown Lufthansa, SAS and Delta trans-atlantic (with Delta being my most recent trip), I would probably rank the three airlines in that order. Which isn't to say flying Delta was a bad experience, I just like Lufthansa's service and ambiance better (they give you actual metal cutlery! fancy!). I actually could have flown Lufthansa this go-round and it would have been both cheaper and a direct flight, but I opted to fly Delta, mostly because I'm now a miles whore. I flew Delta most of the time in my previous job, so I have nearly all of my frequent flier miles with them, and also have silver medallion status with Delta. That doesn't amount to too much when flying internationally, but it at least allowed me to board earlier and get seats closer to the front of the plane (so I could deplane more speedily once we arrived), which was nice.
In hindsight, it was probably worth it to do it for the miles/slight status perks, but I was more exhausted on Tuesday than I think I have ever been from this kind of travel. I don't know if I am getting old or what, but I arrived in Frankfurt absolutely spent, with a pounding headache and nausea to boot. Which was rough because there was still a journey ahead of me -- I had to get from the airport to the main train station via the local rail, S-Bahn, and then catch a 1 hour, 20 min train ride to Fulda. My new roommate, Rebecca, met me at the airport and went with me to Fulda, which was a tremendous help, and gave me something to focus on other than feeling like a pile of poop the whole time. Another nice thing about the train rides was that every time I got on or off a train (S-Bahn and RE) someone offered to help me with my bags, completely unsolicited. Granted, this was probably because they decided it was also in their best interest to help me because I was in their way, but still. It was nice.
My new apartment was thankfully a very short walk from the train station, but, in true European fashion (and thus not unexpectedly), the building does not have an elevator and we are of course on the very top floor (4th floor to Germans, 5th floor to Americans). So lugging my approximately 76 pounds of luggage up those stairs was less than fun, but I survived.
After recuperating at the apartment and making some vague attempts to unpack, my roommate went shopping with me so I could get some basic essentials like towels, bedding and a little bit of food. I managed to stay awake until 7 p.m., reaching 27 hours without sleep, before I finally gave in. Took a shower, made my bed, and fell asleep.
On Wednesday, my boyfriend Sven arrived, which was a welcome sight both because we hadn't seen each other since April and because he would be a great help in continuing my miscellaneous errands. Once he arrived we went for a walk through the town, which was my first real opportunity to see Fulda. Overall, I really, really like it. It's strange because technically it's smaller than Marburg, where I studied abroad, but it feels bigger -- it just feels like there are more stores and restaurants to explore, more open spaces for people to gather in and relax. I think Marburg is still more charming since it has an extremely well preserved Altstadt, but I really like Fulda as well, and I'm excited to keep exploring it.
I purchased a new SIM card on Wednesday, but have not yet been able to add money to the account so I can actually use my phone. I was waiting until I could open a bank account, which is the easiest way to load money onto the phone, but when I tried to that on Thursday, I was foiled in my efforts.
You see, there are two main Bureaucratic processes I need to complete to become properly settled in Fulda in the eyes of the German government. The first thing I needed to do was register (anmelden) with the city -- basically say, I am here, living at this address; here is my lease. You're supposed to do this in the first couple weeks of your stay, but luckily it's pretty quick and easy to do. The second think I need to do is apply for my residence permit, or Aufenthaltstitel. This is more complicated than registering since it involves filling out bureaucratic German forms and providing proof of employment, proof of sufficient funds, etc. When I lived in Marburg two years ago, in order to open a bank account, the only prerequisite was having already registered in the city. Thus, I thought I would have no problem opening a bank account this weekend -- alas, not so. I visited two banks, and both said they could not let me open an account until I have at least applied for my residence permit.
This is particularly frustrating because I won't be able to apply for the next couple weeks. The Ausländerbehörde (the office where I need to go) is only open three days a week (of course!), and I will be out of town next week while it is open. The following week, I have my orientation, so that week is also out. So that means no bank account for the next 2 1/2 weeks (at the least). sigh. It probably is better to wait until my orientation regardless, just to reap the benefits of whatever assistance I am given with regards to applying for the permit, but I am frustrated that this has become more complicated than I was planning (story of living abroad, eh?).
I have one notable success I'd like to talk about, which is my first visit to my school (which I did yesterday), but this is already quite long. I will save that for a separate blog post, and leave you with some of my first (photographic) impressions of Fulda. I'm also leaving for Spain this evening, so look forward to updates from that trip!