Karthik Subramanian, originally from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, India, has been living in Germany since October 2010 and moved to Erfurt just over a year ago. He talked to The Local about the ups and downs of living in Thuringia’s captial city.
How did you end up coming to Germany?
I got a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering in India. Then after starting work at a multinational company, I realised I had some free time so I started learning German. I was very impressed with the language, culture and opportunities there and even though I had been planning to go to USA to do my masters degree, Germany seemed more promising. I’ve been doing a Master’s degree at the Bremen University of Applied Sciences and came to Erfurt last year to do an internship and write my thesis.
What do you love most about Erfurt? What’s your favourite thing about the city?
The best thing about Erfurt is that it’s small yet sustainable in that it has everything a person needs. The latest products are available here yet you still get the small-city feeling and it’s got a lot of greenery.
What do you do for fun?
I am a nature lover and I love going to the park or taking a long walk. The Gera River flows near where I live, so I like to walk along that or go for a longer walk across the city while taking photos. A lot of these places are a mix of small cottages and bigger buildings – a combination I find really nice.
Is there anything you don’t like about the city?
Maybe the tram as I have to use it every day, and the seating arrangement is uncomfortable. You always feel cold inside and can’t stretch your legs. The newer ones are really good but they don’t come to my line very often. Another thing I don’t like is the fact that the city is dead after 8pm. It would’ve been nice if it were a little livelier at night.
Is Erfurt a friendly city for foreigners?
Yes, definitely and in fact, I would say that people should change this notion that Germans as a whole are not so friendly. I was speaking to a colleague of mine who said that a lot of the people here from the former GDR wonder why people from the west think they’re unfriendly. As for me, except for the infrastructure, I don’t see any difference between the former east and west.
What do you miss most about India?
The food, of course! The other thing I miss is the fact that in India I can just spontaneously hop on a train and go to any city. I don’t have to plan everything. Here, things need to be planned in advance. Also, you need to have an appointment with practically everyone. Spontaneous plans don’t happen very often here.
Are there any Indian restaurants in the city that you like?
There are two Indian restaurants called Bombay and Maharaja. They serve good north Indian food. I cook south Indian food myself at home. I am totally vegetarian and I’ve learnt to cook German groceries and products in an Indian way. I usually buy Indian groceries and food items from Frankfurt when I’m going through Frankfurt or I order them online from Berlin. Otherwise I can manage with what’s available in the German supermarkets.
Do you also like German local food? What’s your favourite dish?
Of course I love German food. My favourite dish is apple strudel. When you speak about Erfurt and its food you can’t leave out the Thüringer Bratwurst – but being a vegetarian, I don’t eat it.
Can you tell us something about Erfurt that only the locals know?
There’s the Nordpark near one of Germany’s oldest open air swimming pools, the famous Nordbad. I personally walk across it to reach the other side called Magdeburger Allee. This is my favourite spot to go for a walk, hear the birds singing, and especially to do yoga and slacklining. Another place people don’t explore much because it is not well connected is the Steigerwald nature park, but it is simply breathtaking.
What’s the one thing a tourist shouldn’t miss in Erfurt?
The Krämerbrücke is a beautiful spot in the heart of the city with lots of eateries and shops. Also, no tourist should miss going to the Molsdorf castle and taking the guided tour. There is a hideout near the Erfurt cathedral which acted as a shield during World War II. By taking the guided tour you get to know how they managed in the heavy snow during the war and the way they’ve connected it to the church. It’s really interesting!
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Interview conducted by Mithila Borker