We've been living in Lyon for three months by now and have gotten used to the cultural mix of German, French, Italian and British quite well. German is the dominating language when the two of us are talking to each other (when others are around who can't speak German, we talk in English with each other) or when we call Germany, whereas English and Italian is featured quite prominently in the locker room. French and English are the dominating languages during practice, in which we try to speak as much French as possible. Outside the rink, our everyday life consists nearly 100% of French, so the language class that we took in February turned out to be very useful in this respect. Unfortunately, such a class costs a lot of money, too, which is why we had to drop out of it again. Luckily, we did get to learn many important things and we were taught the basics. However, one of the problems is that we only learned present tense French in this class and we're therefore unable to speak in the future or past tense. Moreover, our German accent stands out again and again. In the bakery, Daniel has often been in the awkward position of having bought three instead of one croissant even though one "un" doesn't sound all that similar to three "trois."
Even though we could hardly believe it in the beginning, the differences between the German and the French culture are bigger than we expected. Not only are time and punctuality handled with much less obligation here, we have also quickly noticed how status-oriented we Germans are. A nice car, a prettily furnished apartment and brand name clothes (whether they're pretty or not) are long-term indicators with which we flaunt our standard of living in Germany. In comparison, more money is being spent on everyday life in France. A lot of money is needed for cafés, restaurants and food. What has to be kept in mind as well is the enormous spending on body care products (the cheapest gel at a drugstore like Schlecker costs a good 5 euros) and fashionable clothes, which don't necessarily have to be brand name clothes. You really have to compliment the French, though: almost all of them are very well-dressed. The women in particular like to showcase the size of their wardrobe, and the average number of shoes owned by women is surely larger than 40.
The rooms that we inhabit are kept simple (folding bed, table, chair, closet), and even after three months, there are hardly any private things that we brought along. We haven't been home since January, and when we packed our little red 16-year-old Peugeot at the time, there was just enough space for the bare necessities: skating utensils, clothes, bedclothes, and a few personal things. There wasn't even enough space for the costumes, and when we learned about our Worlds nomination in February, we had to have skating friends from Dortmund send the costumes to Lyon by giving them to some new training mates at a competition.
We've also gotten used to the training routine by now. From Monday till Saturday, we start at 7:30 a.m. and train until 9 a.m. before we have fitness training afterwards. Before the World Championships, or whenever we want to practice more because of other reasons, there's always a possibility for us to go on the ice as early as 6 a.m. and join the junior skaters during their first session. What we like in particular is that we practice basic steps during the first 20 minutes of the morning training on a daily basis. Every day, we practice a different step or a specific element particularly intensively. For instance, if we practice rocker turns, we then practice all 4 variants (forward and backward; inside and outside edges) in different step sequences. At 10 a.m. it's time to go home for a second breakfast before the second session of on-ice training starts at 11:15 a.m. On some days, however, the break is a bit longer and we only return at 3 p.m. for our second session.
The nomination for the World Championships was actually totally unexpected, which is why we got all the more excited about it. Of course we knew that the Golden Waltz is a very difficult dance and that we had only trained this dance very little so far, but since we still had a few weeks left, we were confident that we'd be able to practice the dance enough until the competition. In March, we went on the ice at 6 a.m. every day for an additional session in order to specifically practice this dance.
On Sunday morning, we drove to Torino by car. It was somewhat of a strange feeling to arrive at a competition in such a way since we usually fly to almost every competition. Furthermore, in most cases the rule holds true that the greater the distance, the more important and bigger the event. After roughly 3.5 hours of driving and numerous discussions about tolls, tunnel charges and other kinds of road charges, we reached Torino. Driving a car through a larger Italian city is quite exciting for us well-behaved German drivers. The difference between Germany and France was already noticeable, but in Italy you begin to learn that red doesn't necessarily mean red.
There were two different hotels for the event, which were both in a huge building complex, but this fact still somewhat prevented the casual and funny afternoon meals. We often have a few spare hours between practice and competition and then spend hour after hour sitting and chatting with other athletes over lunch or dinner.
Quasi as a compensation, we stayed in a 5-star hotel and enjoyed different Italian specialties every day. Until this day, it is, however, still not entirely cleared up whether this may have been the reason for quite a drastic wave of disease that spread during the competition.
Nothing became noticeable in the first few days, but from Wednesday, several people started to complain about stomach trouble, Carolina being one of them. If the schedule had intended the OD for this day, we certainly would have needed to withdraw. She was feeling a bit better on Thursday, but some 20 people with the same troubles were taken to hospital in the course of the day. A medical communication was released that informed and asked us to use the dispensers with disinfectants that had been distributed since the official assumption was that we were dealing with a viral infection.
This certainly wasn't the only reason why we didn't manage to reach the Free Dance. We were a bit unlucky with the starting order, but most of all, we foundered on the strong competition. For us, it's now time to look ahead and to prepare for the next season.
Carolina and Daniel