Greetings! My name is Devesh Singh and I am a rising junior at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. This summer I wanted to come to Germany to improve my German language skills, but the only problem was that I had no money. I would have loved to explore Germany through my university’s summer cultural exchange program, however I don’t have that kind of money. Instead of trying to cover the costs, I opted instead to do workaway. I found the Castle’s page right away and found that it had most of the things I was looking for. A hotel setting in a rural area, German speaking, needed help with cooking, gardening, etc. There were also tons of positive reviews citing how amazing, helpful and life-changing the castle was. I applied right away and in 4 weeks I was in Germany knocking on the gate of the Castle. As soon as I entered the castle I felt the energy that so many other workawayers had written about. It was strange, but also very calming. As soon as I arrived I met Pavlina, the intern that had been working at the castle for 3 months prior to my arrival. She is one the nicest people I’ve ever met and is so incredible, kind and caring. That afternoon I got settled in. I then met with Ingrid and Jim and the other volunteers, who had already spent time in the castle. Some people really enjoyed it, other people not so much. Through my time at the castle, roughly 6 weeks, there were 11 volunteers who cycled through the castle. Some stayed 2 days while other happily spent months there.
My first impression of Jim and Ingrid was very confusing. Ingrid, a German native and holistic healer, and Jim, a dickhead from Liverpool, were the most complex and oddest couple I have ever encountered. The constant arguing about menial things could be quite off putting however, it took me a while to realize that it was just the way the communicated, and there was a lot of love there.
My first days in the castle were very interesting and incredibly difficult. Waking up at 5:55am, doing an activity (yoga, meditation, Zumba, walking) from 6-7, eating from 7-8, working from 8:00-14:00, all of this was incredibly out the ordinary for me. I was used to waking up after 11am and not eating until late in the afternoon. I also did not have regular physical activity which focused on my body as much as it did with my mind. Working was also a challenge for me. The first few weeks I had to do painting and renovation work, which I had not done before. The constant criticism from Ingrid did not make it any better but only added to my uneasy feelings about what I was doing and where I was staying. Looking back I am very grateful and thankful that she did what she did because it showed how much she cares, not only the work, but also about me. She could have easily done the work herself but she purposely puts you into uncomfortable situations to help you increase your skills and grow as a person. Although she may come across as a bit cold, she is such an amazing person who is incredibly kind, caring and knowledgeable. She is wonderful and always gives from the heart. She is also one of the toughest people I’ve ever met. My time with Jim was also incredible, he is one of the funniest and insane people I’ve ever met. He has so many incredible stories about his life and all of the craziness that happens.
Through my time at the castle I have come to realize the importance of paying attention to your feelings and how things are going in your life. I have learned to not take things so serious and to always realize the joy in life. I have also learned to appreciate everything that comes to be in my life, whether it’s good or bad, because everything happens for a reason. I have also learned to trust my intuition more and to have an open mind. I have learned to love waking up early and doing Zumba in the morning. I have found that I love doing yoga and will continue to do more in the future. I have learned to enjoy walking barefoot and to enjoy the cold. I have also learned to love life and to enjoy the dance. I have learned to live in the now, because living right now is all that you really have. I have also learned the meaning of life which, according to Ingrid, is to simply live it.
This experience was not easy, the best things for us and the things that will help us grow never are, but this was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. To all the future volunteers who will eventually grace this castle, brace yourself. This place will reveal things about yourself you didn’t even realized existed, but Ingrid and all of the others in the castle are there to help you. Rely on the other volunteers because sometimes that’s all you have. Make a fire outside, go to the lake, pick berries, go to Halle, enjoy the nature, play with the beautiful cat, have an open mind and most importantly enjoy this experience.
I am sad to leave the castle but I am thankful for all of the wonderful experiences and people who I have had the privilege and honor to meet during my time here. I am going to miss waking up early and doing yoga, eating meals with everyone, Jim’s jokes and his laugh, Ingrid’s personality, and Pavlina’s kindness. I came to the castle looking for something, I’m not entirely sure what it was but I think I’ve found it. To those who wish to know the knowledge of the castle, simply knock at its gate.
Until next time Schloss Schochwitz,