Christmas Markets!

IMG_3593It’s starting to feel very Christmassy here! I went on a trip to Bonn a couple of weeks ago, to tour the city and see the market. There’s something amazing about visiting a ‘former capital’, and I generally really liked the city. There was even an English shop, so I could finally buy some decent tea!

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A highlight was definitely Beethoven’s house museum, which is right in the city centre. The Haribo factory shop was also somewhere we just had to visit! It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to visit these places and go sightseeing, as it’s a wonderful break from university life.

The Christmas market was also beautiful – we had some Gluhwein and German food to try and stay warm!

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To continue the Christmas theme, I went to Nuremberg Christmas market last weekend. It’s another very interesting city and we started the day off (after a very early bus ride), by visiting the Nazi Dokumentationszentrum. You can see the huge arena where Hitler gave speeches and I found the exhibition and films really interesting. It was, however, quite a heavy start to the day and we were a bit worn out and cold by the time we got to the market!

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We then went to the Albrecht Dürer house museum, with it’s dark, 15th century styled interior. A highlight was definitely seeing his printing press, a nod to the influence of Johannes Gutenberg. By this point, I think we were feeling a bit overwhelmed with information and gave up after a while to get hot chocolate!


And then we had some time to wander around the Christmas market. It was very beautiful in the evening and as it is one of Germany’s largest, it is impressive. I think Nuremberg is somewhere I would like to go back to – there’s a lot to see and I think it would have a very different atmosphere without the bustling market.


I finished the weekend with a very cultural cinema trip! I went to see Nosferatu as part of the FILMZ festival in the arthouse cinemas in Mainz. It was definitely a weird experience: there was a very long awards ceremony at the start and the film has got to be one of the strangest I’ve ever seen! I’m so glad I went though, it feels like a very stereotypical year abroad activity!

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Winter is here!

The last couple of weeks have been very wintry here! I was recently invited on a trip through the ‘Fremde Werden Freunde’ initiative, where international students are introduced to local people. I had the most wonderful time at the massive Hochheim winter market.


 It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before! The market must have taken up the whole village, and even featured a medieval part!

 

A highlight were the ‘Marktschreier’, people putting together crates of fruit or meat and shouting at everyone to buy them!

The 11th of November is an official Fasnacht day in Mainz, so I went to see the opening speech and parade. It was extremely crowded but there were some very impressive costumes. It was so cold that I probably enjoyed the hot chocolate at the end more than the event, but it made me feel like I’m really getting involved in German culture.


Last week I had a trip to the Schirn museum in Frankfurt with my Visual History of Germany class. We went to see the exhibition ‘Glamour and Misery in the Weimar Republic’. I really enjoyed it because it features mostly works from female artists and focuses on the portrayal of women during this time. I also really loved the very industrial artworks on display.

My classes have been quite busy and full-on and the work is piling up, but I managed to get myself out of the library and go to the remains of a Roman Theatre in Mainz. There’s not a huge amount to see but the ancient walls are quite impressive and it’s a lovely, more quiet area of the city to walk around.


I feel like I’m doing everything I can to get really involved here and meet as many people as possible. It can be pretty exhausting but I’m making the most of my time here!

Trip to Frankfurt

I was really excited to visit Frankfurt last weekend! In comparison to Mainz, Frankfurt is an enormous, bustling city. It is particularly important for business and economy in Germany and is very international.


I was completely unprepared for the freezing autumn weather so we started out by getting pretzels and walking to the city centre. We started off an amazing day of sightseeing by visiting the Pauluskirche, where the first elected Frankfurt Parliament was held in 1848.


We then had the opportunity to go inside the Rathaus or Town Hall in Frankfurt Altstadt. It isn’t normally open for visitors but on that weekend, there was a fair for local companies and for all the city organisations. It was great to see the inside of the building and there were some crazy events on – I got to juice oranges by cycling!


After probably the most wonderful hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life, we went to the Goethe House Museum. This has to be one of the highlights of my time in Germany so far! It isn’t interesting or unusual in terms of the house or furniture, but there is something fantastic about seeing Goethe’s library and writing desk. I can now say that I’ve been in the room where Faust was written, a lovely reminder of how much I love the subject I’m studying.

Goethe’s desk!

I’ve had two days of holiday this week, so it’s been quite relaxed. I’m really enjoying properly getting to know Mainz and other cities in the region.

Settling In

Last week, I went on an Erasmus trip to Heidelberg, somewhere I’ve wanted to go ever since starting to learn about German literature. It was one of my favourite days so far, and I can’t wait to go back!

 

We went for a tour of all the famous places in the town, including the main squares and the bridge. We were shown some parts of the university as well, which gave me utter university envy! A highlight was definitely seeing a hotel where Goethe stayed.


After the town tour, we had a tour of the castle! For the past few weeks I’ve been saying that castles ‘are so much better and more impressive back home’ which was definitely not the case in Heidelberg. It’s much larger than I expected and very beautiful. The pharmacy museum is interesting but a bit creepy! And by far the best part was seeing the largest wine barrel in the world: when it was made, it could hold  221,726 litres of wine!


I feel that I’m getting to know Mainz a bit better too. I’m getting to know my way around the city, and I’m really enjoying walking along the Rhine in my spare time. Although living in student accommodation is amazing because I’m surrounded by friends, I think it’s important to get away from university life once in a while!


I finally enrolled in classes this week, so I can now say that I’m a registered student here! My timetable is very different to what I’m used to: here, it’s normal to have classes as early as 8am and as late as 6pm. I’m enjoying the reading, however, and my seminars are really interesting.  

The Erasmus Life

I’m now midway through my third week in Mainz! It’s already going too fast. Lectures started this week, but I’ve really been making the most of my Erasmus opportunities here.


Last week I signed up for the buddy programme and met my buddy to start a language tandem. It’s pretty intense but very helpful, and has been a great way to meet some people from the Mainz/Wiesbaden area.


A highlight last Wednesday was the Language Cafe, another opportunity to meet Germans rather than just Erasmus students. I really enjoyed finally speaking the language with some Germans, although it was a lot more tiring than I expected!

Last weekend, I went on my first Erasmus trip, my first time out of Mainz since arriving here. We had a tour around a castle (it was pretty, but nothing compared to castles in the UK!) and walked to the Lorelay monument. It was lovely to see some real nature again – and I was so happy to see some hills and walk up a slope! I’m so glad to have seen the lorelay rock and the monument, because I’ve studied the poem. For me, this year is going to be all about experiencing the things I’ve read about.

 

First Impressions

I’m now settling into my Erasmus exchange at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. It’s been a crazy whirlwind week here, but a truly amazing one. 


It started with ‘Tag der deutschen Einheit’, a huge festival held in a different city in Germany every year. This year just happened to be Mainz, on the day after I arrived! There was also a large stand for the involvement of the European Union in the Rhineland – Pfalz region. For me, the most Erasmus moment so far has been walking through Mainz trying different German food and seeing local art and craft displays – while holding a European Union balloon!


I’ve done more socialising in the past week than I would normally do in a month! Some highlights have been film nights and going out for coffee, and I’ve even enjoyed going to Erasmus parties! The majority of Erasmus students here are Italian and French – I had no idea how useful my one year of studying Italian would be here, but it really helped to break the ice. I feel strange about the way that being one of the comparatively few native English speakers has improved my confidence in talking to large groups of people. Of course, we should be speaking as much German as possible, but we’ll have plenty of time for that when classes begin! 

Wohnheim Kisselberg – my student accommodation!

Although this week has been so much fun, it has not been without challenges. Navigating the German bureaucratic system has been pretty horrendous. One of the main issues was that I needed a photocopy of my passport to get my university login and student number. Unfortunately, I needed both my university login and student number to photocopy something on campus – it was a problem. Luckily there are plenty of copy-shops in Mainz, and they happen to be cheaper than at the university!

My first time in student halls is great so far, but again has not been particularly easy or simple. The paperwork – contracts and rules – has filled at least one folder, and we had to buy our own wifi routers! Students also have to be quite creative when shopping here. Supermarkets are completely different here so I’m going to have to adjust a little. At least I have my Semester ticket which gets me free public transport for the whole region, so I’m not reliant on walking everywhere. 

Johannes Gutenberg himself, the statue at the university!

I can barely begin to describe how this week has been. I’m really looking forward to all the new adventures as I start to register for classes this week! 

Berlin August 2017

At the end of my time in Germany, I travelled back home via Berlin. I was actually there earlier this year but it is still one of my favourite cities to visit. This was my first time sightseeing alone in Berlin, and I loved just walking around and eating street food.


Although I only spent two nights here, it was perfect for me to see a few new sights and revisit some old ones. Staying in a hotel was pure luxury after more than a month of workaway, and I really enjoyed finally having time to myself.

My first stop was Alexanderplatz, and although I love the atmosphere and the fact that there’s always something happening, I still don’t think it’s the best part of Berlin. I also took loads of photos of the Fernsehturm, which for me is another symbol of this amazing city.


No trip to Berlin can ever be complete without walking underneath the Brandenburg Gate, and I really enjoyed walking to the Sony Centre, my favourite area in the city. They were even showing clips of Metropolis on the screens there, so I spent a lot of time just sitting and people-watching. I don’t think anywhere in Britain can do social spaces in the way Germany can!


My second day started with the Espionage Museum. Located near the Sony Centre, it was somewhere I had never been before, but it had been recommended to me by a few people. I found the history of the Stasi fascinating, and loved being able to try out a laser beam obstacle course and map games in the less serious parts. It’s very interesting but also a lot of fun, and the most high-tech museum I’ve ever been to!

Help Berlin to stay free!

I ended my time in Berlin with a walk around Museum island, and loved watching all the street performers in the park in front of the cathedral. My last evening was spent wandering back through the city with street food and then an ice cream – and everywhere I went I couldn’t stop thinking about what a fantastic place it was.