HighLights from High Places

I spent a lot of time this week far off the ground.

Rheinturm

On Monday I visited the Rheinturm, the tallest building in Düsseldorf at around 170 meters. At the top was a 360 degree observation deck, from which I enjoyed the beautiful view of Düsseldorf from above at sunset.

Düsseldorf Kirmes

On Friday I experienced a jam-packed train for the first time on the way to the Düsseldorf carnival on the Rhein. A classmate and I treated ourselves to some fleeting aerial views of the city from the high spinning carousel and one of the pendulum rides. Our other two companions enjoyed some more leisurely views from the Ferris wheel. Not long after dark we sat down together to watch the big firework show marking the end of the carnival’s run.

The Unforgettable Kölner Lichter

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Saturday’s adventure was perhaps my most memorable in Germany so far.

I went on an IIK-excursion to Köln, Düsseldorf’s rival city to the south. After taking in the city from above from the Köln Triangle Panorama, we split into groups of four to play a sort of tourist scavenger hunt around the city. The hints, of course, were all in German. For the most part, we relied on our reading and inference abilities, but when we got stuck we asked passerby for guidance. After the game, we relaxed in one of Köln’s many bars as some students tried Kölsch, the city’s famous beer. Then we had some free time to explore the city.

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“Linner”. This is about the size of a whole pizza at the UAH cafeteria.

My teammates consisted of a friendly curly-haired teacher from Spain, a young cardiologist from Turkey, and an enthusiastic gentleman from Finland with a deep booming voice. After touring the famous city cathedral, we conversed over pizza in a sidewalk cafe. It was quite interesting hearing the differences in communication style between German learners with very different mother tongues. For example, the lady from Turkey sometimes sprinkled in English verbs, conjugated as if they were German. Our Spanish teammate had a relatively strong accent and made frequent grammatical errors, but she got her point across every single time and understood everything that other people said to her. In contrast, Carry, our Finlander, spoke quickly but frequently backtracked in the middle of his sentences to correct small errors. And me? Like Carry, I tend to be a little bit perfectionistic with my grammar. Unlike Carry, however, I tend to wait until a sentence – or at least a full phrase – is fully articulated in my brain before I speak, resulting in the occasional long pause.  Since these pauses aren’t as conducive to a flowing conversation, I’ve been striving to be a little bit more like Carry and let the words flow knowing I can correct them if needed.

At about 8:00 we claimed seats on the grass near the river before it grew too packed. People from all over Germany had come to see the famous Kölner Lichter.

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Then we waited for over three hours, since the show wasn’t until 11:30. I finished crocheting the cowl that I’d started on the train. By this time, I was tired from rushing around and being on my feet all day, and it wasn’t very comfortable sitting in the grass. Was this firework show going to be worth it? I’d seen fireworks yesterday.

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Usually I’m not even a huge fan of fireworks. A bunch of noisy red and blue splatters that leave behind giant trails of smoke like scars in the sky. But once the show finally started, I’d forgotten all my tiredness and aching and was happy I’d come.

There were five rounds of fireworks, each representing a different era and style of painting. There was a narrated introduction for each.

As the narrator said over the booming speakers, the fireworks were like paintings in the sky. Dynamic, transient paintings, with vivid brushstrokes sweeping across the sky, bursting, swirling, falling, and finally fading.

This show wasn’t some extravagant splashing of colors across the sky; there was intention behind every detail. Each color earned its place, and each little spark of fire rose, bloomed, and faded in a different way. The music was not simply an amplification of the rhythm of explosive sound but a beautiful auditory accompaniment that complemented and supported the imagery of the fireworks.

I didn’t get any good pictures of the fireworks. The packed sea of people and my dying phone battery made taking photos rather infeasible. But even if I had, I don’t think photos or even videos could do the lights justice.

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