Germany: Gottingen

I arrived in Gottingen, Germany by IC train (from Paris) 2 weeks ago.  On the first leg of the route I was served a full meal and given free drinks which was great.  The second leg of the trip I was served a tiny (or rather miniscule) bag of sweets and the tea/coffee was not complimentary.  Quite a contrast between the two legs.  The trains were on time and the connections on route were easy to follow.  I found that the staff on both trains spoke English and were very helpful.  

Some things I have observed about Germany so far: 

1) The Germans are very friendly, though not many smile at you when you smile at them…my son explained that it was a cultural thing.  

2) The Germans LOVE cakes etc and they are very cheap to buy, in fact food is a lot cheaper here than in France.  

3) They use bikes here like the Dutch, sooooo many bikes around. Saying that, while walking you need to make sure you are walking on the correct side of the path (one side is for bikes, the other for pedestrians), otherwise you will get ran over. 

4) Using buses is easy, and they run very frequently and on time.

5) You can’t buy large packets of ANYTHING 😳. Everything is sold in small packets, makes buying ingredients for baking frustrating, but hilarious to try to work out what is what ingredient in the shops ie baking powder lol.  I must look very strange to the Germans, I walk around with my phone held up to items to use Google Translate to read what the labels say lol.

6) During the war, Germany and the UK agreed not to bomb university cities, that has meant that Gottingen still has lots of buildings from the 1500’s etc.  

7) The Germans love to practice their English.  Often I ask if they speak English and they say ‘ohhh only a little’, and then promptly hold a conversation with me in perfect English…wow I wish I knew German ‘only a little’.

All in all Germany has been a big surprise for me. It is a beautiful place with very warm and welcoming people in it.

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My Final Days in Paris

In two days I head to Germany, so today I spent another 4 hours walking around Paris.  I went to the Parisian Statue of Liberty, which was well worth seeing. It sits on an island in the middle of the Seine, but I would recommend taking a map or using the Google app to find it.



I then walked back upto the Eiffel Tower, it was a cloudy day and there were no queues for tickets – wow! Still military and police around guarding it though.  I then walked back to Montmartre from there. Now, the funny thing is, I popped into a shop called Marks and Spencers (M&S)…those of you who are British will be very aquainted with this shop 🙂 After buying some things I headed back to the studio following the directions of Google Maps (you’ve got to love this app for getting you around).  The app took me down a road that had lots of business men and luxury cars. Eventually I started paying attention to the shops and people…all well dressed carrying Ives San Lauren or another top brand shopping bag and there I was carrying my M&S bag, kinda felt out of place lol.  Eventually I got to the end of the road and saw that I was walking on a side road of the Champs Elysees :). By the way it was a very nice area to walk around, lots of top brands so if you like buying these brands, this is the place to go.

Also wanted to share the following warm and fuzzy story.  On Saturday I went to the local supermarket and after paying for my shopping, the girl on the checkout turned and gave me a single stem yellow rose, what a lovely gesture and one that made my day. Just another example of the friendliness of the French.

My reflections on Paris: a place with beautiful architecture, a lovely setting, kind and helpful people, easy to walk around or use the trains and lots to see. In my time here I have fallen in love with Paris and the French, definitely a place I would come back to and also recommend to bring your loved one to (Paris is known to be the city of love and it holds up to that name very well, a truly romantic place to visit). 



Safety while travelling alone: being followed

Today I was followed by a man, when I walked from the city centre to Montmartre, in broad daylight. Though this was disconcerting, I automatically slipped into ‘alert’ mode.  For those that I have taught self defence to, what I am about to say will just be a reminder.  When out walking, don’t walk with your ear buds in (it means you can’t hear what or who is approaching you), keep to busy areas, be aware of your surroundings, if followed either slow down and look in a shop window (to let them pass), or try to outwalk the person or run. Head to a shop or busy restaurant/coffee shop and above all try to keep calm.  I did all these things; I tried to outwalk him, then slowed down to let him overtake me (but after overtaking he would slow down until I had passed him), I crossed the road and he followed (did this numerous times) I also kept a ‘proximity awareness’ of where he was at all times (eventually he was walking so close to me I could hear his breathing). At this stage I headed to a supermarket where they have security guards (here in Paris). My plan was to approach the security guards, if he followed me into the shop, and tell them about him. Fortunately for him (after following me for 25mins) he wasnt game to enter the shop and literally disappeared.  Before leaving the shop I looked around and checked he couldnt be seen before heading back to the studio. 

Some additional advice: if he produces a weapon, scream and run towards people, and don’t stop screaming. If he threatens to shoot you, still run, it’s harder to hit a moving object and if you don’t know him then he is less likely to start shooting at you but instead will head off for an easier target. If he grabs you then fight, scratch, kick and continue to scream. Try to get away to a busy area, shop/home etc and seek help.  And ultimately my advice is: learn self defence…it empowers you, helps to protect yourself and may one day save your life.