On Saturday we had the fourth and final leaving party and tonight we're having a last drink and dinner in town with some of Johnny's old colleagues. Tomorrow our neighbours have invited us for supper and on Thursday the packers come to start packing us up. We have to go to the Rathaus tomorrow and abmeld, deregister. We're in a hotel here in town for Thursday and Friday night and then on Saturday we travel to Frankfurt and on Sunday we fly to Athens.
Last Sunday we hauled our tired and hungover selves up through the new botanical gardens of the university and stood at the top, looking across the valley towards Herberhausen, Roringen, Waake and Seeburg. In the time that I've spent here I've walked along this valley so often or up over Nikolausberg and beyond to Norten Hardenburg. It is a landscape that reminds me a little of Scotland but on a larger scale. The fields are wider and the views over the flatlands of Niedersachsen go further. Now that it's winter and many of the trees have lost their leaves we could stand at the top of Bärenberg and see over the roofs of the hospital's ugly buildings to the churches in the centre of town. But in a week I'll have a different view and will learn a new landscape. I've been looking at Google Earth and trying to work out a walking route. It seems that we're only a couple of kilometres from some of the trails by Mount Penteli. Of course, I can always take the metro downtown and walk up Phillopappou Hill. At the moment none of it seems very real.
On Saturday we had the party for our German friends; we had a great time. We had invited 18 people and 10 of them arrived together with a suitcase which had been decorated with handwritten messages on sticky labels and we were presented with this as our farewell gift. We thought it was a kind thought to have bought us a suitcase and I wondered how we'd ever get the stickers off. But the suitcase was only the container for our gifts – but before we could unpack the suitcase the second division arrived with a large box. We started on the champagne and proceeded to open our gifts – the suitcase contained the German part of our gifts. There were books about Germany, a book of German recipes, various novels by German authors, a framed print of Göttingen and many many souvenirs from the town: a collection of postcards; chocolates and cookies from Cron und Lanz; salt from the local salt mine; shells from the Ostsee and stone from the Brocken mountain. The box contained the Greek part of our gifts and included a beach towel, sun lotion, some herbs and spices and a 'starter set' for the new apartment with things like matches, candles, tea bags and tissues. Someone had found a recipe for some Greek xmas cookies and printed it out and then made some of the cookies for us. There was so much thought behind all these gifts and we were, and still are, completely overwhelmed by it all.
Germany has been good for me and I leave here a stronger and happier person than I was when I arrived here nearly three years ago.