Friday began a short trip after finals before going home.  I took a train to Manchester, a plane to Frankfurt-Hahn, and a bus to Frankfurt, arriving at 2 am, dead tired & trying to find my nice hostel two blocks from the station and eerily located in the red light district.  It was not a problem & the police there were really nice.  (the european city centers I’ve seen are really alive with partiers, police, and normal people late at night.)  I found it no problem & the hostel was really nice and safe despite its location.  In the morning I met up with Thomas & his girlfriend & we drove to Soest (on the autobahn!).  I stayed with family friends who we met through an exchange program.  They were really great hosts & showed me all around North Rhine Westphalia.  We took a stroll around a nearby park and dam.  It holds important drinking water reserves.  The surrounding area is pretty & populated by small villages which look really quaint and charming to someone who’s never been far from a McDonalds or WalMart.  The city center is very old and many of the buildings are still classic half timber, which is cool.  The churches are made from a unique green sandstone, setting them apart from all the other churches I’ve seen.  We ate dinner at a restaurant serving traditional German food.  I had a schnitzel with mushrooms & I tried some local spiegel (white asparagus) with hollandaise sauce too.  The schnitzel had great flavor, and the spiegel was very soft & had a more subtle, gentle taste than green asparagus.  The beer is made in-house & is great.  It’s smooth, like Guinness, and the bubbles are not harsh.  It was all very filling.  (photos, more photos)