The term ‘fall’ is an old British word for the season originating sometime in the 16th century, and ever since then it has been used as a shorthand for ‘fall of the year’ or ‘fall of the leaf’. In India however, ‘fall’ is synonymous only with falling off your chair. Due to their geography, most tropical regions don’t experience the brilliant transformation that fall affords, and are in fact braving storms and rains in these months. Spending my first fall away from my tropical homeland, I was thus eager to witness for myself Göttingen’s colorful transition into winter. To make sure I take it all in and remember it, I wrote out all of my autumnal thoughts. So here’s a first-timer’s account of what fall feels like, what it stands for, and what it reminds me of –
I woke up to the smell of changing seasons. It was the slight chill in the air that made me turn around in bed and wake up slowly. I looked out the window — dawn. I’d left the window open at night, which explained the chill in the room. “Great”, I thought to myself, “could’ve slept for another 30 minutes”. I pulled off the blanket and got out of bed, and it was only then that I noticed it – the smell of acorns, dry leaves, and all other harbingers of seasonal change. It was Autumn! I put my head out the window, and sure enough it was the fall emblem colors of red, gold, and yellow that greeted me in the nascent sunshine. I took in a deep breath of the crisp chilly air and set about making plans for the perfect autumn in Göttingen.
The first thing I wanted to tick off my list of fall cliches was something straight out of the movies – walking around the town sipping coffee in an oversized fleece sweater – and that’s exactly what I did! I grabbed my journal and my sweater and drove into the Innenstadt. The slight nip in the air woke me up enough to take in the blazing gold and yellow of fall foliage. The one-sided tree-lined avenue down Goßlerstraße is a pretty good place to take in the fall embers, and I made a mental note to myself to drive by this route more often.
In the city with my coffee, I just set about walking without a purpose. The season of fall is such that it effortlessly transforms the entire town into the most beautiful of canvases, and I realized this only nonchalantly, as I suddenly found myself in front of the Ganseliesel, admiring a sight I so often fail to notice. At that moment I felt the whole city infused with a familiar yet forgotten feeling, one that I couldn’t quite place.
Went for a jog into the Nordcampus woods today. Running for me is a way to think quietly, and running in fall has the added advantage of being able to take in the fall colors. There is also something incredibly satisfying running on dry leaves; the soft crunches they make are almost as if they are cheering you on. I also thought back to the last time I was here in summer – when everything was a lush green. It was quite a sight to behold for the swathes of green to fade away into softer hues of maroon and gold. The whole setting had a perfect aura for introspection, to look at the whole year already gone by. And with the new winter term right around the corner, it seemed like the right thing to do.
There are days when the sky is a brilliant blue with no clouds in sight and then there are those where it’s covered with thick grey clouds for days at end. That’s just Fall in Germany, and I knew there’s no escaping it. Instead, I decided to come to terms with it. The best way to enjoy a rainy day in this season is from the warmth of your bed. The rain doesn’t always announce its arrival however, and on one such unannounced visit I found myself in the second-best place to enjoy an autumn rain – the bookstore! Time spent amidst books with the soft patter of rain from the street feels almost ethereal and timeless. And while I wouldn’t necessarily pull out my bike and drive in the rain to a bookstore for this feeling, I was glad to have found myself in the situation.
With the new semester around the corner, I knew I didn’t have too much to soak up the last of the soft sunshine of this season. I decided to spend it outside reading by the Wendebachstausee. I settled into a cozy spot under a shade of drying leaves and looked around. Every now and then an errant breeze would show up and together with the leaves, it’d put on a magnificent tornado of swirling gold and yellow. The leaves above me would fall down every now and then, ever so slowly, and add to the autumn hues on the ground. I thought of the coming winter term, and how fall truly is a season of transition. With only a few months left to the end of my stay in Göttingen, I tried to learn from the falling leaves above me. “That’s one of the things we can all learn from fall” I thought, “the art of gracefully letting go.”
Saturday morning found me in a small cafe munching on a Pflaumenmus Berliner with hot chocolate in the sleepy town of Bad Harzburg. It was the last sunny weekend of fall, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it than on a trek to the Harz with friends. Visiting the Harz was like no trek I’d ever done before. All of the earth seemed to be covered under a natural carpet of multi-colored leaflike hues and was soft to the touch. I discovered another essential piece of fall in the Harz – the smell of pines. A friend explained to me how the true smell of the pine comes out when you crush a few needles in-between your fingers, and he wasn’t wrong. I kept crushing small pines every hour after that to take in the sweet scent. We kept climbing and braving the winds, finally reached atop the Brocken to see stunning vistas down below. On the way back down, we hopped onto the Brocken Railway to take in the views from the comfort of the train. Watching the yellow-brown of forest leaves go past with the accompanying sound of the steam engine ‘choo-choo!’ was a perfect way to spend the last weekend of fall.
This is it. The 31st officially marks marks my first full month of fall. Even though the 31st is now a newly declared holiday for Reformation Day, I took it as a holiday for me to take in the month and reflect on it. The perfect way to complete my month of fall was also just the way I began it – by walking around with a coffee in an oversized sweater! The city seemed deserted (thanks to the holiday), and I was fine with that. I found myself in front of the Ganseliesel again, unconsciously awaiting that familiar, forgotten feeling I had before. It was only when I was gazing at the last of the leaves still hanging on to their branches, thinking back to all I’d seen and done this month that I realized the feeling. For a brief moment, shaded under the canopy of golden leaves, Göttingen didn’t seem like my everyday place of study. It seemed rather like the magical little German town as I first saw it.