My days of being a Nord-Rhine Westphalian are coming to an end. This limbo I am in, hovering between saying goodbye to one story and hello to another, is shortening with every lengthening day. As restless as I am, anxious to pack everything into boxes and install it within the four walls of the new place, I can’t help but feel this almost overwhelming sense of sentimentalism. Münster has been … well, enormous. It has known great love and rage and worry. It has known mistakes and little triumphs, hangovers, thick, white snow and unseasonably sticky Spring days. It has patiently given me all that it needed to, to fill the pages and colour everything in. Friendships with like minds, acceptance of what I have grown into and what I cannot and should not change. Work and thus colleagues and students who have educated me as richly as anyone or anything else could. Love. It has flung me in a direction I never really thought I would go in.
And so, with our days together slowly coming to an end, I have found myself trying to suck as much of Münster into my lungs as possible. The cold snap has brought with it high, blue skies and cool, pale sunshine, the perfect framework for enjoying the city’s old, blackened church spires and pointed red roofs. The canal and the Aasee have frozen over, and I see kids slipping and sliding or poking at the ice, when I look out the bus window on the way home from work. The walk to work passes by a tiny little stream that is completely white now and, some mornings, rabbits use it as an icy bridge, hopping from one grassy hill to another.
As often as possible, I visit Silke and Hanne and Ella and we eat biscuits and cake and play games, or drink tea on the couch. Hanne, with the customary authority of a six year old, reminds me of noun endings and articles and Ella enjoys every single baked good I bring. It is always warm and comfortable on Silke’s couch and few things remind me more of the importance and loveliness of good, true connections.
On Friday afternoon, I got off the bus a few stops early and went to the bookshop before meeting a colleague and friend at the Krimphove, and old, creaky, cosy cafe of three levels. We drank cafe au lait and shot the breeze, two girls of the same age doing a very similar thing in the same German city. A comforting bond.
Having Dee here, gave me reason to do things. We had tea overlooking the main shopping street, dinner at the Portugese restaurant opposite my place, went to a wine bar in Kuhviertl, ate giant schnitzels at Das Blau Haus and gorged on tapas at La Corrida. We revelled in it being -2 degrees and therefore officially ‘Dee’s Coldest Day Ever’. Three days later we shivered in Nürnberg at -20, a day that officially became the coldest day yet for both of us.
Wine Time, always celebrated in our apartment, has taken on a nostalgic tinge now. This weekend, my flatmate and I extended Wine Time – usually a couple of hours in the kitchen talking, per week, her with a bottle of white, me with red – over Friday and Saturday night. Saturday night careered from conversation to story telling to makeshift chicken enchiladas and somehow evolved into a personal jam session which itself ended with a two hour dance off. It was hugely necessary. How often does one get to crump in one’s kitchen, wearing flannel pyjamas, with a kindred spirit? Not often enough.
I live, and have been in living, in a truly beautiful part of the world, one different in so many ways to what I grew up with and what I am used to. And I will leave it soon, for another town, different again in many ways. With 19 days to go, I suppose what I am really doing is walking a little more slowly. Taking as much of it in before it stops being my daily surroundings and starts being fodder for ‘I used to live in this city …’ conversations. Really looking out the bus window and noticing things I haven’t before. Like, for example, the recent reconstruction work on Münster’s glorious cathedral, St Paulus Dom, has finished. Looking at the thousands of little flags that have been strung up over Prinzipalmarkt for Rosenmontag. I want to visit the big food markets that cover the Domplatz every Wednesday and Saturday, one more time. I want to have one more freezing walk around the Aasee.
And of course, with 19 days to go, I want just one more night at the local, a pub that really has, over the past 15 months, seen it all. And will, most likely, see the last big night of them all.