Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

Berlin seminar

Apologies this post may be a little sporadic (and without pictures for the moment) but I’m really trying to stay caught up here (even as I write from my hostel in Malta). SO at the end of March the Fulbright Commision hosted all English Teaching Assistants, Research scholars, and Professors abroad in Germany at the Park Inn Hotel in Berlin (along with a few other Fulbright guests from other European countries). Before I get into the nuts and bolts of it,  I have to say I was really blown away by the seminar as a whole, and it left a much better taste in my mouth as compared to the  Teaching Assistant orientation back in September.

I actually headed up to Berlin a day early (the seminar started Sunday) because I wanted to see Potsdam, a nearby town to Berlin. Luckily, my friend John (from BC, research Fulbrighter) happens to live in a section of Berlin that’s about halfway between downtown and Potsdam, so I got to crash there. Potsdam was really nice, a cute town with a beautiful castle and gardens (like any good German town has). We had a great dinner at a Vietnamese/Cambodian place and then went out first to a very Bavarian-like brewery (a bit of  Sehnsucht for John who studied abroad in Eichstaett, in Bayern) then to a very typical Berliner bar: smoky, small, great vibe, interesting characters. All in all, a successful night.

Brandenburg Tor

Seminar started up Sunday with a great welcome dinner and free wine (until it ran out) at which point we naturally moved onto a bar. But I’ll pat myself on the back for my ‘networking’ abilities (dad will be proud) and the fact that I broke out of my comfort zone and mixed not only with the other Americans I knew, but also got to know Germans as well. The Germans were there for the first 3 days; they’ll be going to the US next year for a year of study abroad through the Fulbright Commission. Monday’s opening panel discussion proved much more interesting than I anticipated. We had two highly esteemed panelists, and while I’m not usually one to enjoy political debates, I really enjoyed this discussion about the future of Europe, and America’s role as well as the current conflicts in Northern Africa/the Middle East. I will say, living over here has made me much more politically and culturally aware. After the talk, Nadiya and I went to the DDR museum which was really cool (mostly because it was interactive and we could act like 4 year olds and mess with everything) but also helped me understand a little bit how the mentality was effective. Then we had a meet-n-greet with Germans/Americans from the same geographic area (supposedly based on hometown but I was put in a group with people from New England) which was followed by a few lectures: one from the current US Ambassador to Germany and one from a former; I really enjoyed both speeches.

Tuesday we dont have any mandatory lectures so Nadiya and I take the day to enjoy Berlin- we’d both been there before but it was full of the ‘rush around and see all the important things’ usual touristy things so this time we went to quite a few museums.

The Infamous Checkpoint Charlie sign

The first having a really amazing and provocative photography exhibit, and the next day we went to Museum The Kennedys (yes, that’s its actual name) which had great pictures as well as an exhibit on Obama. Tuesday night ended with the Fulbright music gala and I’ll just say we’ve got some extremely talented musicians. Wednesday morning I had to myself and took the opportunity to go to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. If you haven’t been, go. I’m not the worlds biggest museum person (though by this post you wouldnt know it) but this museum is well worth the time and money- I was there for 2-3 hours and could have easily spent another 2-3 there. Made it back to the hotel for the closing panel, which was a little disappointing. Each man seemed to be on his own soapbox about certain topics and neither really answered the questions at hand. But in the end, I really enjoyed the seminar (and the structured free time helped as well)

In other more recent events, we have 2 weeks off for Easter break, and last weekend was my first full-fledged lacrosse weekend. Another girl from the team drove with me out to Erlangen for the boys double-header on Saturday (they won both!) and then I played with the Kaiserslautern team on Sunday in Karlsruhe: 2 games, back to back, no subs, and I played midfield. Safe to say I felt like dying on the train home, but the weather was beautiful, they won their first game of the season (against Karlsruhe, 6-5), and I scored my first goal in the German lacrosse league (which naturally resulted in me having to buy my home team a case of beer but hey, I’m not complaining). The next few months look to be filled with more lacrosse (yes!) and hopefully we’ll finally get a partner team and uniforms!

The boys... girls team pic coming soon!

Alright, I’ll add in pictures once I get back home (to Wuerzburg), but for now Happy Easter from Malta!

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April 23, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holidays in Hamburg

I swear the closer we get to Christmas, the more slowly time moves. I can’t believe I was in Hamburg only last weekend! After school on Thursday, I booked it to the train station as quickly as possible to make sure I made it up to Hamburg in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Brendan, an American Fulbrighter from BC, graciously offered to play host to me for the weekend, ensuring I wouldn’t be spending such an important American holiday alone. I made it up with plenty of time to spare, and joined the group of four American Fulbrighters in Hamburg and one American Fulbrighter visiting from Berlin. Our group grew to a size of 8, including a French Fulbrighter as well as a German who wandered into the kitchen claiming that ‘it smelled good and he was just curious to see what was going on’. (of course you can’t turn anyone away at Thanksgiving…)

Fulbrighters and our Thanksgiving meal!

What may be most impressive is the fact that the group of boys cooked the entire meal! We had a turkey that I think was about 4kg (so 9lbs), mashed potatoes, carrots in brown sugar, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and to top it all off, a pumpkin cheesecake complete with a walnut maple glaze. This whole time, mind you, we two girls sat at the table, chatted and drank wine- a welcome change of pace! The meal turned out really well; everything tasted wonderful. We even all ended up going around the table and saying what we were thankful for- it started off as half-joking but we all had a lot to appreciate- that much was clear by the end.

Oh I should also mention that Germany has perfect timing in welcoming the winter season. Thanksgiving day was the first day it snowed over here, and it’s snowed at least every 2 days since. Granted, we don’t have a huge accumulation of snow but it definitely helps get you in the Christmas spirit. That being said, the next day Brendan and I went out and enjoyed Hamburg in the snow. Hamburg is different from any German city I’ve visited for a number of reasons:

It’s actually the second largest city in Germany with about 2 million people. (Berlin is first with I think 3 mil and Munich comes in 3rd with a little over 1 mil). Hamburg is a huge shipping port and there was no shortage of boats/barges/cruise ships out on the water. Due to its proximity to a major body of water, seafood is abundant. That translated to fish sandwiches for breakfast, something I wasn’t totally on board with at first but ended up being pretty good (I still prefer the southern German breakfast of bread and butter/jam/nutella/cheese/meat). So we walked around the harbor for a while and then took a ferry ride so I could see a little bit more of the city. Stopped in St. Michael’s Church (because every good self-respecting German city has at least one must-see church), walked through town some more before finally ending up at the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).

at the Weihnachtsmarkt

Almost every German city has a Weihnachtsmarkt, with the one in Nuremburg being the largest and most famous. They tend to open the weekend before the first Sunday of advent and stay open until the 23rd or Christmas Eve.

The stalls at the Weihnachtsmarkt sell anything from socks to cooking utensils to the more traditional ornaments and candles. We spent a good amount of time just walking around, taking everything in before warming up with some Glühwein. There really is no American equivalent for Glühwein, though the Brits call it “mulled wine”. It’s basically warm wine with spices. This was the first Weihnachtsmarkt where I saw white wine Glühwein (though it turns out they also have it here in Würzburg). You have to pay a 2.50 Euro deposit for your mug, but that’s because each city, or sometimes even stall, has unique mugs which they use to serve the Glühwein in. (obviously I thought 2.50 was a good price for the mug and took mine with me).

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the same manner (Glühwein, walking around Hamburg, back to the Weihnachtsmarkt) before going out that night with other American, French, and Spanish Fulbrighters. That was one thing I was really jealous about, that there’s such a contingent of Fulbrighters/international students in Hamburg. Then again, it is a much larger city, but still.

Hamburg town hall and Weihnachtsmarkt

This week back in Würzburg was actually pretty busy too. It snowed here as well, we had our usual lacrosse practices three times this week (two of which are outside. yes in the snow and negative-celsius-degree weather), our Weihnachtsmarkt is open, I signed my subletter-lease for my apartment AND successfully celebrated my 23rd birthday! A group of girls from the lacrosse team joined me in celebrating which included Glühwein, beer, champagne at midnight on the bridge over the Main river, and dancing away until the late hours of the night/early hours of the morning. Very successful overall.

December 5, 2010 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Orientation in Köln

Phew first day of school starts Wednesday so I’m using this weekend as a catch up on sleep before I get basically none…

Have been getting used to Würzburg since I got here last week. Pretty much know the downtown area now, well at least I can get myself around. Still no Orlando Bloom sightings though the Residenz is all covered with trucks and gates and such so that means theyre filming soon. I had orientation in Köln (Cologne) from Monday-Thursday. It was for all the American teaching assistants, and some of the British ones as well. Germany has an average of about 1000 foreign language teaching assistants per year, only 140 from the US and about double that from the UK. We stayed in a small retreat-like center outside of the town and got boatloads of information thrown at us and I’m now very overwhelmed about everything I have to do, in German. Get a visa, open a bank account, get all this paperwork done, find an apartment. And I thought buying a phone was an accomplishment.

The famous church in Cologne

I had some time to kill when I got into Cologne and then again before I went out so I walked around a little bit. The church is HUGE (yes dad, I even went in it) and there are tons of stores to shop in. On the bridge above the Rhine river there are tons of locks locked to the gates. It was explained to me as some “Romeo and Juliet” thing. Couples write their names on the locks (the really nice ones have them engraved) and lock them onto the bridge signifying their love. It looked pretty cool.

Orientation wasn’t anything too special, but it was nice to get to know some of the other teaching assistants here and I figure we can all mooch off each other when we want to go places in Germany (very similar to the BC-hostel situation abroad). We did get to practice team teaching, and it turns out I’m not supposed to be solely responsible for a classroom so that makes me feel a lot better. There were 4 former teaching assistants there who helped answer our questions and give us idea of extra ways to make money (tutor).

Before I left for orientation, I’ve been walking through Würzburg a lot and was given a tour of the Residenz by my “mentor-teacher” ‘s husband. It’s “Betreuungsleherin” in German so not exactly simple to translate. Her husband was extremely knowledgeable and I must have missed what he does because there’s no way an average citizen would have the depth of knowledge that he did about the art and history. The city was bombed in WWII two weeks before the war ended, and the roof of the Residenz was destroyed and almost all of the rooms had to be restored. Except for this one massive mural on the main ceiling which shows each of the four (then-discovered) continents personified. Oh and the Residenz was modeled after Versailles but it’s much smaller and only has one room of mirrors instead of a hall. I guess it looks enough like Versailles since they’re using it as a French castle in the 3 Musketeers

And there are really nice (but small) French gardens in the back. I’ve been there a few times since there’s a park behind them where I “run” (see: walk somewhat quickly)

Another favorite spot I’ve found is along the Main river. Not on the bridge, which is decked with I believe statues of 12 different saints (St. Kilian is their favorite. More history) but on a walkway below it. So looking back on this blog entry my life looks pretty boring up til now but I’m sure it’ll get more exciting once school starts (I hope). If anyone wants to come visit I’m serious please do. This weekend is actually a street-dancing festival as well as the Würzburg Hofbräu festival so I’ll try and check those out.

Bridge and Residenz

September 11, 2010 Posted by | Germany | , , , , | 1 Comment