Cologne, 22nd August – 5th September 2019
Cologne is officially our first step to the unique undertaking awaiting us in the following months. But before you start pining for our unbelievable adventures on German soil, I will quickly warn you that we didn’t do much tourism in those two weeks. The most adventurous part was lived out in Holland for this timeframe (link to post).
We have visited Cologne before (back in 2016 for New Year) and that’s when we covered the touristic agenda - the Cathedral, the river, the zoo, museums, churches and shopping in the centre. You may be wondering what we’ll be doing here for two whole weeks? This time we are here for a different occasion and our stay will be more relaxed. We’ll pretend to be locals. Dedicated to speaking German, cycling and baby Amias.
So… We arrive in Cologne on schedule despite the attempts by AirBnB prices or airline strikes. Even with the uncertainties of flying on the set date, our luggage was packed and organised the night before, ready for an early morning start. Tears were shed by some family members; pictures were taken of pregnant camels Nic and Vassya; there was excited skipping down airport halls. It is crazy, but we had officially set off! No going back now.
Cologne has prepared a friendly welcome for us; bright sunshine straight off the plane. Well, it could have assisted the carrying of 20+kg on our backs by being a few degrees lower. But who am I to complain about sunshine. A few unsuccessful attempts to check-in to our accommodation or finding lunch later we find ourselves with Amias. Completely embarrassing ourselves in front of the new kid with our first meeting - over-loaded and sweaty.
And now pause… Our unusual stay in Cologne doesn’t allow me to follow the standard chronological order I would usually prefer for our travels throughout the world. Therefore, I hope you can allow me to present our feats in categories:
LIKE THE LOCALS
It is clear that if we’re staying two weeks we need to set up a home on local soil. After a long search, we finally pull our connections and move into an empty flat thanks to a friend of Nana’s, Englishman. It is nothing special but it is in the centre, has a kitchen and it’s just the two of us in the apartment. A place to sleep and fill our days with work. (Well… I think we need to discuss the term “work” in our context. Nic is actually working - programming some Apps. I am focused on writing a diary, editing and organising photos and uploading blog and Instagram posts. You may not call this work but currently I have no means of calling it otherwise, so just accept it. There are worse things in life...)
However, with the territory of the locals also comes the language. And I have forgotten everything! Once I read it I remember it right away but if you’re asking me what pickle is in German I would definitely find myself in… well, a pickle (haha!). I managed to exchange notes in the local bank completely in German. The woman saw I was struggling quite a bit so she moved to yes/no questions to ease the pain for us both, but I managed nevertheless! It is sad to read a story like this from a person who devoted 5 years of their life to this language, but, at the same time, I promise you I’ll pick it up again if you were to drop me in a German environment for about a month! I promise!... Some day.
Living like the locals brought up the main leitmotif of our stay here - cycling. The tram is 3€ per person one way. I know! They’re not too welcoming to their tourists here. Even the multi-ride tickets aren’t better priced. But with the blessing of the weather, Nana suggests we join a bike share program. In a gist - you pay 8-12€ a month and can rent for free the bikes scattered around the town. They aren’t attached to parking stations but are just left on the streets, therefore you can find them everywhere, the apps tells you exactly where.
For the two of us it was an amazing solution! I tested the thesis you never forget how to ride a bike - turns our people were right. I managed immediately, even after years of no experience (unlike speaking German). Yes, you sometimes miss the photo opps of small streets but when the alternatives are an expensive tram or endless walking, I don’t see much basis for competition. And this way we’re ticking items off the bucket list - town cycling together. Our butts might be a bit sore but the feeling is incredible. At the end of our stay we were going around town (on established routes) without a map. (I’m telling you we’re becoming locals!)
Well, like everything else, even this was at times problematic, primarily when for over an hour we couldn’t find two usable bikes. Or when we paid surprising overtime fees because we got lost in the evening Cologne streets. But even those struggles are easily overcome when you’re floating through the German streets and parks like the locals - on a bike!
With this section I mean our visit at Gamescom - “the Heart of Gaming”. One of the biggest video game conventions worldwide, with a huge range over all branches of the industry, annually hosted at Köln Messe - one of the city’s sites.
Naturally, this is far from one of my topics of interest but I thought I should be a good wife and keep Nic company (if you didn’t know his degree is in Computer Software for Games). I believe for him it was a good use of time. Or at least he would have been disappointed if we hadn’t gone.
For the second time this year I find myself at an event I don’t quite belong at (first one was Neighbourhood Weekender). And, it turns out in situations like that I transitioned my focus to be professionally based - event management. We all have our own professional distortions, mine will apparently include analysis and noting of ideas of event organising and the implementation of sustainable practises (the second of which not present at either event). I can’t, however, skip the fact that for the size of the event it was organised and coordinated perfectly: immaculately set up in 10 huge halls; without huge crowd build-ups or queues despite the number of visitors; with sunlight, a suitable extra for dedicated gamers. Maybe I should forward them my CV so we can organise it sustainably next year ;).
AMIAS AND NANA
And, of course, the cherry on top, the whole reason we are here - mama and baby!
When your best friend, your soulmate, the love of your life (one of) is having a baby and you can’t be there for the birth because you are getting married, you go to her in the first suitable moment. And yes, you start your honeymoon there, because there is nowhere more important you need to be!
Amias Alexander Cetinbas (translation from Latin and Turkish according to my discretion: The Loved Stubborn Protector) - a beautiful, small, sweet, calm baby who has and will be changing lives. A little person who gathered so many people in one place whether they planned it or not.
With the smiles and hugs as we entered, I am in love. In the two weeks we visited the “sultan” as often as we could and I never wanted to leave. We tried to help mama Nana as much as we could, but let's face it, I was only there to fill my soul. I hid my true passions behind making lunch or dinner, shopping for bits and pushing an empty pram. But we all know that my end goal was to get the little one to sleep in my arms while I sing to him my favourite lullaby sung to me so many years back.
And Amias isn’t finding it difficult to provide us all with baby delight. There we are, gathered together from near and far - it takes a village, as they say. Allbe it an ultra-international village. You should have seen us all pampering him in five different languages, to each their own - Russian for mum and grandma, Turkish for dad, German for mum and dad, Bulgarian for mum, grandma and godmother (that’s me!) and English for every one of us, because no one covers all four other languages.
And that’s it for Cologne. I need to stop here so I don’t overdo it with the baby stories.
A true trip to a new beginning - be it in the face of baby Amias or our step towards half a year on the worldly roads (specifically Southern continents and Southeastern Asias). From here onwards we can only dive into our wild adventures and expect our future meetings with Amias who will then be a running and talking child.
And for those who have heard our potential plans of settling down in Germany - this was a good testing period. We have yet not made any decisions, though at the time I am writing this (two months later), we might be closer to the answer. You will have to keep following us to find out.
Vassya (and Nic)