Switzerland 2017

This trip is the start of a year of German – speaking adventures! I’m currently staying with my aunt and uncle in Zurich, Switzerland. The weather has been absolutely amazing and I’m so excited to be telling you about what I’ve been doing the last few days. 


The day after I arrived, my aunt took me to Schloss Hallwyl, a gorgeous medieval castle complete with a moat and drawbridge! This is the first Swiss castle I’ve visited, and I really enjoyed wandering around it.

Another highlight was going out on lake Zurich in my uncle’s motorboat. There’s something so continental about taking the boat to a bathing area and swimming in the lake, surrounded by people barbecuing and relaxing on a Sunday morning. Getting the boat to an ice cream cafe is also very luxurious! 

Later that afternoon, I went to a lakeside party with my oldest cousin, Anne. It was held by a company promoting exchanges across the world, and was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet people from Argentina, Finland and Mexico. By far the best part was the chance to speak lots of German, and it’s the first time I can remember being so relaxed about speaking the language, and genuinely understand all the conversations. 

It’s been a wonderful trip so far, and I can’t wait to experience more of this culture (although I’m looking forward to having a rest today)! 

Ruhrgebiet 2016 Continued

I think the second day of my holiday in the Ruhr area of Northern Germany was the best. It was certainly the most alternative, and very spectacular. However, there is a drawback to doing alternative activities in non-touristy paces: even though the public transport in Germany is fantastic, the places we went were quite difficult to get to.

We spent our second day in Duisburg, part of the “Industriekultur” or German Industrial Heritage cities. Duisburg Landschaftspark-nord is a suburban landscape park with a difference. It’s on the site of an old steel-works, and the industrial structures have been stabilized and left in their abandoned state, in the centre.

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This is the kind of place that suits me!

But, by far the best part, is that the towers are open for anyone to wander around. The walkways are just exposed metal grids, so you can see right down to the ground. All the structures are an impressive height, but they make fantastic viewpoints because the area all around is so flat.

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I just think this is an amazing idea! It’s a celebration of German industry, but a lot of fun to visit. Plants are slowly growing over some of the structures, and the old warehouses have been turned into decorative garden spaces. I particularly appreciate this, because I studied Bernd and Hilla Becher when I took a photography course a couple of years ago. They photographed industrial areas in stunning black and white, and aimed to show that something so mundane as a steel – works chimney can be beautiful. They photographed a lot around Duisburg, and helped create a love and appreciation of the unusual shapes.

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That afternoon, we went for a boat trip on the Rhine. But instead of gorgeous rural scenery, this boat celebrated what’s left of heavy industry. We passed cranes unloading goods barges, and machines squashing scrap metal. It’s bizarre – all the German tourists loved seeing piles of materials and were commenting on how photogenic the cranes were. Given that Britain seems embarrassed about what industry it has left, it was a refreshing – if unexpected – attitude.

 

It was an exhausting day, but well worth it!

 

 

Ruhrgebiet 2016

I have just arrived home from a fantastically wacky holiday in Northern Germany with my dad. I’m now really looking forward to writing about it, because it was such a strange week! The area is virtually unknown to tourists, but I found it a welcome alternative to the dirndl – wearing, wealthy Southern Germany.

Getting there was quite a challenge, because the only cheap flight was to Düsseldorf Weeze, which is nowhere near the city! It took us a whole day to get from the airport to Essen, where we were staying, so we only had time for a quick meal.

Our second day, April 10, was the real start of our trip. To ease us into the industrial area, we went to Bochum – Dalhausen Railway Museum. We took the “Schweneschnäuchen” or “Pig’s Snout” train to get there, which was a highlight for me because it was just so bizarre. It’s essentially a bus that works on the train track, and gets the name from its unusual shape at the front.

The museum itself is really interesting to wander around, because the warehouses, sheds and turntables have just been left as they are. Everything’s pretty rusty but most of the trains themselves are beautiful. The sheds dimly lit by natural light, so it’s a bit unnerving to wander so close to the massive steam engines! Although it was a fantastic museum, with lots to see, I did find the WWII trains very unsettling.

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In the afternoon, we went to the Folkwang Museum, which has a lovely collection of 19th and 20th century fine art. It was really the building we went to see, because it was designed by the British architect David Chipperfield in 2007. I really enjoyed both the building and the collection, but the gallery is so difficult to navigate, we ended up walking a lot further than we intended!

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Every day in Germany should finish up with a decent beer. Despite being an area which tends to reject the traditions of the South, the Ruhrgebiet has some wonderful (and cheap, because it’s not touristy) Brauereien and Bier halle. We ended the day in the Dampf Brauerie in Essen. The plates of food were massive and really well-priced!
Writing this is making me wish I was back in Germany! Had such a great time, I’ll make sure I write up the rest of the things we did later on.

 

The Comic Invention

Again, this isn’t really related to travelling, but Glasgow is a really interesting city and I love to talk about the events happening here.

On the recommendation of one of my lecturers, I went to see the Hunterian Art Gallery exhibition of original sketches from comic book artists. These were displayed alongside older examples of art which fit the definition of a graphic novel: widespread media with images and text depicting a story. These included illustrated Georgian Bibles and Victorian panels, like William Hogarth’s “A Harlot’s Progress.”

The exhibition also features pop art work. Roy Lichtenstein’s painting “In the Car” is featured. The poster for the exhibition is a fun modern take on it!

 

I really enjoyed it because I got the chance to see the original artwork for “Maus” a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman. It was one of the texts I studied last semester for comparative literature, and I think it had the most effect on me when I was reading it. It is about Spiegelman’s father and his harrowing experiences during the Holocaust.

I know that was a pretty short post, but it’s definitely something to look out for if you’re in Glasgow!

General Update!

Hi again! It’s been far too long since I last posted, so I’m just going to keep you updated about what I’ve been doing since Christmas. Although I haven’t done any travelling since December, I still have a few interesting things to blog about.

Since I couldn’t go to Germany to see the fantastic Cologne Carnival, I went to my university’s mini version! All I can really say is that it involved plenty of beer, pretzels and German schlager music. I had a great time, despite it being a missed opportunity to practise my language skills.

 

Something you might not know about me is that I love Jane Austen novels. This obsession certainly reached a peak recently, because I’m now involved in the Glasgow University Jane Austen Society. One of their latest events was a group cinema trip to see “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”Although I had very low expectations to begin with, I think it was so crazy it worked! There was just enough zombie action to appeal to people who like that genre, and adequate regency romance for a group of Jane Austen fangirls to enjoy it. Our society members seemed to either love or hate it, but I think it’s worth watching if you’re not planning on taking it too seriously! In our discussion of the film afterwards, we agreed that it wasn’t the zombies which really made it funny – it was simply the free reign with the plot. Austen had originally intended “Pride and Prejudice” to be a comedy after all!

You can probably tell from the number of exclamation marks in this post, that I’m really getting into university life. I know I complain about it all the time, but I truly love my course and I can’t imagine this happening any other way. This semester has gone far too quickly, I honestly can’t believe I only have a few weeks left of first year. But I am really looking forward to the summer, because I might be attending a month-long language course in Italy!

I’m sorry if this hasn’t been a particularly interesting post, but I’m trying to get back into blogging after nothing for three months, and I promise I will have some entertaining stories the next time I post!

 

Zurich 2015

I had an absolutely fantastic time in Switzerland! Although it was short, I managed to cram in lots of exciting visits. It was my first time travelling abroad during the Christmas holidays – and I would definitely do it again! The travelling was one of the easiest parts, because the public transport is so reliable in Switzerland. Ironically, the most difficult part was getting home from the airport afterwards!

The cantons of Switzerland, represented in the ceiling of the Bundeshaus in Bern. 


My first full day was spent in Bern, the capital. My aunt (who I was staying with) gave me an amazing opportunity to have a tour around the Bundeshaus (Swiss parliament building), which few people get to see in such detail. I just really enjoyed seeing the beautiful interior and learning strange stories about the building.

Main entrance to the Bundeshaus. 


For example, in the curved Wandelhalle, there is a painting of the figure of Heavenly Justice. Her eyes follow you out the room! Also, all the British people in the paintings have red hair, and no one really knows why.

Display of a hundred candles outside the Bundeshaus.


I went to Konstanz, in Germany, to visit my exchange partner again and see the famous Christmas market. It was lovely to see – maybe the time to really see Germany looking beautiful is at Christmas! It was very cold, but the frost made everything even prettier. I even got to see a very cute kindergarten nativity play, but I didn’t expect Joseph to be wearing a Bavarian hat! It was amazing to see everyone again as well: it’s so great to have that connection with Germany.

Towards the end of the week, I had the chance to go to school with my oldest cousin. She is in Gymnasium, the Swiss equivalent of a high school. I can’t believe how tough the school system is! It starts very early in the morning – 7.10am on some days – and the lessons are much longer than I’m used to. The German literature lesson I attended was 2 hours long, but really interesting. The class were discussing a book I’d read so it was great to be able to take part. It was actually quite nerve-racking, because understanding the language was more difficult than I’d expected. I really enjoyed it though!

No visit to Zurich can be complete without a trip to the Lindt und Spruengli chocolate factory. The Christmas displays were absolutely magical and my suitcase was just loaded with treats when I came back.

Overall, I had a lovely time, and I really discovered how much I enjoyed travelling alone. I’m trying to accept as many opportunities I can while I’m at university, because I think it’s the best time to just agree and accept the consequences afterwards!

 

Hello Again!

I owe a massive apology to everyone who reads this. I’d love to say that I had “Blogger’s Block,” but really I just forgot to post. Anyway, I’m back now! And I certainly have a lot to write about.

I’ve just finished my first semester at the University of Glasgow, where I’m studying German, Italian and Comparative Literature (we compare books from different cultures on the same theme). I’m really trying to be positive about it, but it doesn’t stop me from doubting myself. It’s been a LOT tougher than I had expected, but my choice of subjects meant I only had one official exam – I can’t really complain, because it means I get a whole month off for my Christmas holiday!

I can’t write a post about starting university without mentioning the insanity that was Freshers Week! I’m a commuting student, which means I live with my parents, so I only went to a couple of evening events. I came second in the commuter students quiz (my specialist topic was Taylor Swift, and it was as embarrassing as it sounds)! Went to the ceilidh but everyone there was so wonderfully professional I was too scared to dance! I didn’t really stay long though, because my German introductory lecture was at 9am the following morning.

  
I didn’t really meet anyone I actually wanted to be friends with until my courses officially started. In my small German seminar alone, there are students from Spain, the Czech Republic, Finland and Greece. It’s absolutely wonderful! I can’t get my head around it sometimes.

It’s taken me a really, really long time to get properly settled in. I hated university at the start of the semester – which is part of the reason I left this post so late. I was just feeling really negative about the whole thing, finding it not just challenging, but impossible. I’ve discovered that meeting people really helped however: university coursework shouldn’t be struggled over alone! My Italian study group meet in Italian cafes around the West End, and we usually order in Italian (much to the delight of the staff)! I think I might finally be finding my feet here.

  

The campus is pretty amazing too. Although most of my lectures are in the boring, 1970’s blocks that they don’t show on open days, wandering around the old part is about as close as I’ll get to Hogwarts!

Overall, the past 11 weeks (the semesters are so short!) have been the most eye-opening, terrifying but completely awesome times of my entire life. I really owe an apology to everyone who put up with my complaints! 

 Tomorrow I set off for Switzerland, as a celebration that my exams are over (and a chance to practice my German)!