So, I’m in London

I know it’s been some time since I last wrote, but it’s mainly because there hasn’t been a lot going on. I’ve been focusing on school and getting to know the city and that isn’t always very exhilarating, so I thought I wouldn’t bore y’all with details like, “I studied for three hours straight.” Hopefully, my posts will be every week in the coming months since Christmas is around the corner and there’s always fun festivities and culture during the holidays.

Even though I’m far away from home, I’m still going to celebrate Thanksgiving. I don’t think I could stand November ending without eating some juicy turkey, buttery mashed potatoes, expertly spiced gravy, delicious stuffing, pumpkin pie, and–of course–gelatinous cranberry sauce (which I haven’t found in Germany, but I’m determined). Its tradition and I’ve found that being abroad has brought me closer to traditions I’ve taken for granted over the years. While it won’t quite be the holidays without my merry family around, I’m going to make the most of it. And I definitely plan on decorating for Christmas–just you wait, my apartment is going to be a winter wonderland by December.

Before I address the title of this post, let me tell you about a few things I did last week with my friends.

While riding the tram one day, my friend and I spotted a cool looking windmill and promised each other that we’d check it out at some point. I finally got the time to look it up and discovered that it’s actually a restaurant/cafe, so of course we decided to grab lunch there during the week. The windmill sits atop a small hill, giving a nice view of the adorable little park of which it lives. Unfortunately, the day that we went, the upstairs section happened to be closed (or maybe it’s only open for dinner)–but that didn’t keep the food from tasting delicious. I ordered something called Knipp that tasted a lot like corn beef hash. Knipp is a type of sausage made by mixing grain and pork–absolutely heavenly. I’ll definitely be back for more.

Now, I don’t think I can get through this post without mentioning the election–even though I’d like to forget the subject overall. When I woke up Wednesday, I was greeted with a snow covered Bremen; if you know me, you know that this made me positively giddy. For a moment, the election had slipped my mind and thoughts of possibly having a truly white Christmas had taken its place.

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SNOW, Y’ALL, SNOW

Then, like every morning, I checked the news.

The happiness of snow and the intense disappointment of Trump being elected President packed quite a confusing emotional punch. I didn’t cry–I was just awestruck. This is who my country had picked. Yes, Hillary had won the popular vote, but it had been heartbreakingly close and made me realize just how upset America has become. While Trump isn’t the president I wanted, maybe he’s the one we deserve. I don’t think he’s the next Hitler. I don’t think he’s going to destroy our country, but I don’t think he’s going to benefit it much, either.

I do think he’s going to teach us a lesson.

Honestly, everything is up in the air and no one knows what’s going to happen next–and that’s terrifying. I felt like I knew what to expect from Hillary, but from Trump? Not a clue. I think the people that claim to know what he wants for our country are dreadfully mistaken; I don’t think there’s a person out there that knows what Trump wants except Trump.

I’ll say one more think about the election and then no more. While I’m upset Trump won, I don’t condone the violence erupting across the nation because of it. There’s a strong irony in individuals being outraged with Trump for not admitting he would accept the results of the election if Hillary won and then those same individuals refusing to accept the results when he wins. It’s not logical and I don’t think it’s going to get anything accomplished. All of the protests, the anger, the hatred–it’s fueling everything we were fighting against and now both sides are increasing tension to dangerously high levels.

Okay, now onto London! I arrived last night and experienced riding on the Tube for the first time–talk about hectic. There’s nothing like an enormous city to put some perspective on how small you are. There’s also nothing like ridiculously high prices to make you understand just how little money you have in your wallet. I haven’t done anything exciting yet–that starts today. Just being around one of my closest friends (you know who you are) has put me at ease. I hope the next few days make next week’s blog post a bit more thrilling, but it’s hard to imagine that they won’t.

Until next time, y’all!

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Some cool art.

 

 

 

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(A Little, Tiny Bit) Homesick

Ah, the feelings of homesickness finally arrive. Don’t get me wrong–I love being in Germany and I will continue to love it, but I can’t help but be a little homesick during one of my favorite times of the year: autumn. Back home, the leaves are turning. The mountains have transformed from deep greens to burnt oranges, brilliant reds, rusty browns, and golden yellows. It’s one of the most beautiful periods of the year (just look at the featured photo)–and I don’t get to see it this year. It doesn’t help that every time I scroll through Instagram or Facebook, photos of WNC spam my feed.

While I’m at it, there’s another thing I miss about home: being able to see the stars. I noticed this the second night I was here, but I really feel its absence now. One thing I love to do back home is just look up at the stars and lose myself just for a moment. It’s hard to do that when you can only see a couple of hazy specks sputtering through the light pollution.

Fortunately, Western North Carolina isn’t the only place with mountains and a clear sky–I can travel to go see those things. So, while I may be hit with a pang of homesickness for my mountains and my home, it’s not so bad. Now, onto my week!

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be going to London in early November to visit one of my closest and most hilarious friends! I’ll get to be there for four nights, so be prepared for a post with tons of photos after that week.

My week has pretty much been full of school and Freimarkt again. I do have a couple of funny stories, though.

So, like any woman you know, Dirty Dancing is one of my all time favorite movies–I mean, how can you not like hot ‘n’ sweaty Patrick Swayze, right? Anyways, at Freimarkt, I’ve heard the song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” twice. During both those times, something hilarious has happened.

The first time was in one of those beer tents I’ve mentioned. I was sitting around a table with a couple of my friends, drinking beer and mouthing the words to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Then I notice a girl passionately singing the words to the song and looking like she’s preparing to run somewhere. I follow her gaze to a man. He’s kneeling down, arms spread out and ready to receive this girl Dirty Dancing style–I’m talking about that epic dance move right at the end. Of course, all of us turn our full attention to this potential disaster with glee. The girl even waited until the exact moment in the song that it happens in the movie.

I watched as she closed the distance between her and the man. He grasped her waist, lifted her up–and they collapsed. She fell right on top of him, wasn’t even up for a second. I actually caught all of this on film, but I can’t upload it onto the blog because I don’t pay for it. I’ll probably post it on Facebook at sometime, it’s quite glorious.

The second time happened just yesterday. Let me give you a little background information. I had seen these pineapple slushy cups all over the fair and for the past week had been trying to hunt down the small hut that serves them–which I finally found yesterday. I promptly bought this ridiculously expensive pineapple cup filled with cherry slushy and then we decided to leave the fair.

As I’m leaving, I hear “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” in the background–so, like any Dirty Dancing fan, I stopped for a second, sang along a bit, then continued on my way. Well, during that moment, a very large, very drunk man stepped in front of me, took my hands in his, and began twirling me around while singing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Of course I was pretty taken off guard, so I didn’t notice right away that this hulking man had taken my pineapple straw in his mouth and was slurping down my prized slushy. Once this registered, I turned from baffled mode to get-my-slushy-out-of-this-drunk-man’s-mouth mode. I grabbed my straw and tried to pull it out of this man’s face, but he had the cap of the straw securely between his teeth–at this point, I was determined enough that I gave it one good, hard yank and the cap ripped right off, freeing my slushy from the boozer. Pretty sure I heard a pained sound come from him, but that’s what you get when you mess with my food, man.

Then I quickly walked to my friends and we made on our way to the tram station–crying laughing the entire way.

Other highlights of the week included winning a stuffed unicorn, spotting a pirate on the tram, and seeing the American flag flying above a corn-shaped hut. Oh, and getting a selfie from my parents–even though they were rubbing in my face that they were at a nice restaurant without me (love and miss you guys just so much). I also tried the smoked eel game, but I didn’t win, so maybe I’ll try again in the coming week.

Until next time, y’all!

 

 

Freimarkt Begins

First off, I finally got my laptop, so we’re back to regular updates on the blog! Before I begin talking about Freimarkt and all its exciting festivities, I’m gonna give a little run down of my first full week of classes. I’m pretty proud of myself since I didn’t end up in the wrong room even once this week (which is no small feat for me). My classes all seem to be fairly interesting and I’m most excited for Industrial Economics–it seems like a class I’ll get a lot of useful information from. I have friends in almost every class, there’s only one that I have no one in and I sort of prefer it that way because I’ll actually focus.

Enough of school, onto Freimarkt. Freimarkt is a 17-day fair that has two locations in Bremen: the Market Square (Kleiner Markt, the featured photo) and Bürgerweide (the main Freimarkt). The annual fair is one of the oldest in Germany–it’s been goin’ down every year for nearly 1000 years. It’s also considered the largest fair in Northern Germany–and it happens just a tram ride away from my apartment (this could be catastrophically fun for the next couple of weeks)!

Now, I have to admit something a little embarrassing: at first, because it’s all I had seen, I thought the Market Square was the only Freimarkt. So when I showed up, expecting a load of people, there were only a few because–unbeknownst to me–everyone had gone to the main fair. Once my friends and I found out there was a larger fair, we immediately hopped on the next tram.

The difference between the two locations is stark. The rides in the Market Square are made for children and all the booths are meant to give off an “antiquated” vibe. This is supposed to pay homage to what the Freimarkt used to be–which was an actual market with actual vendors, not tons of rides, fried food, and fun. Today, I was walking into the Market Square to wait for my friends and walk around Kleiner Markt. At the perfect moment, I looked up at St. Peter’s Cathedral and gasped at the sight. Bubbles were scattered throughout the air, capturing the sunlight and creating a fantastic, awe-inspiring view. It’s already a magnificent structure, add some huge bubbles and you’ve got something close to heavenly in my book. You just don’t get that type of view at the big fair.

The moment my friends and I entered Kleiner Markt for the first time the other night, we saw two doves on a stand–then a man dressed in a ridiculous Romeo outfit appeared out of nowhere. He plucked one of the doves off the stand and put it on my friend’s hand with confidence, telling her that its name is Juliet. He posed for photos with us and even stuck one of the doves on friend’s head–how he knew it wouldn’t poop on her is still a mystery to me. As you can see in the photos, I had both doves on me.

For the first time ever, I tried hot fruit wine. I got the “Dragonfire” flavor, which was a mix of something like mead, cherry, and strawberry–whatever the combination, it was delicious and just what I needed in the cold. I think the Market Square’s fair feels a bit more cultural, which I like, but it’s definitely not as entertaining as the big one.

The big fair feels a little bit more like home (except I can drink and there’s beer literally around every corner). Sweets, junk food, tricky games, and rides–all very similar to the State Fair in North Carolina. Now, they don’t have fried Oreos here, but they do have potato cakes and they are my weakness. One thing that I think is different–I’m not quite sure because I haven’t tried out the alcohol options at the State Fair–are the music/drinking tents. These tents have live music, as much beer as you can drink, and warmth–a combination that makes them wildly popular. At some point this week I’ll really try one out, I haven’t had the chance yet. I did try a fantastic drink today, though. I’d noticed people ordering these drinks with strawberries in them–so I finally asked a bartender to give me one. Turns out, it’s just strawberries in sugar syrup with a dark beer and it’s damn delicious.

I think I prefer German fair food–it tends to vary a bit more and feel just a little better for you. Next time I go (which will be this week), I plan on playing a game of chance where you try to win a smoked eel–I assure you, if I win there will be photos. I’ve gone on two rides so far (they’re dreadfully expensive for a college student): the ferris wheel and a terrifying swing. I’m afraid of heights, so I’m not sure why I chose these two, but overall I think the intense fear and euros were worth it.

I’m sure I’ll have more stories about Freimarkt in the next two weeks–especially with Halloween coming up. Speaking of Halloween, here’s some scary things: mini-vibrators available in the local cinema bathroom and my spooky kitchen! Until next time, y’all!

It’s Really Cold Here

It has gotten cold! I went out and bought a winter jacket because I couldn’t take another day of shivering my way through Bremen. Despite this, I am having a grand ol’ time in Germany (the beer helps). I apologize for not updating sooner, but I haven’t had access to a laptop and I hate writing on my phone. Currently, I’m using a friend’s laptop with the German keyboard on it, which I’m sure has created some grammatical errors throughout this post (sorry). I’ve finally registered for classes and it turns out that I’ll only have class 3 days a week–not sure how I got that lucky.

This is going to be a fairly long post, since I’ve been absent for two weeks and a lot has happened!

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Just fantastic English.
First off, they have the equivalent of the Dollar Store here; it’s called Euro Shop and it’s fantastic. I found some pretty hilarious place-mats, coasters, and other merchandise with absolutely awful and incorrect English phrases on them. My personal favorite was, “NOW butter BY THE fishes.” Why were some words capitalized and some not? No clue.

Update: I’ve been informed that the bad English phrases are badly translated from German phrases as a joke. Now I know and it’s still hilarious. 

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Our stoic tour guide.
After this little discovery, my friends and I embarked on a free tour of Bremen. Our tour guide was a funny, frumpy-looking German grandpa type–and he walked faster than all of us college kids. He was filled to the brim with little facts and jokes that went with pieces of Bremen. My favorite part–and of course the most touristy part–was our tour through Schnoor.

Schnoor is low German for “string.” It’s called this because the rope makers and fishermen used to live in that part of town (or at least that’s what I was told). Schnoor is actually Bremen’s oldest quarter. It has a certain medieval charm to it. High, thin buildings line the winding narrow pathways of the district. Charming is the word that comes to mind when wandering through the fairytale-like maze that is Schnoor.

I’m not sure when–before or after the tour–but at some point I had an even tastier cappuccino than the one in my last post. It was from a small shop in the Market Square–who would’ve thought it’d actually be cheap and good!

I finally visited the Town Musicians of Bremen statue to grip the donkey’s legs and rub its nose. This is supposed to grant me good luck or a wish–it varies depending on who you ask. One thing that I’ve noticed in Bremen is a load of graffiti and murals–some delightful, some awful, but a lot nonetheless. I’ve been making sure to take photos of the ones I admire.

The Roland statue has become an easy meeting place for my friends and me. It’s also a symbol of freedom and trading rights (learned that on the tour), much like the Statue of Liberty–but a lot smaller and a lot older (erected in 1404). If you mention it to anyone in Bremen, they’ll know exactly what you’re referring to.

I’m slowly becoming more and more accustomed to Bremen. I understand the trams now (thank god) and I even got on my second train!

Thanks to a friend of my mother’s, I was given the chance to go to Bremen Nord (North Bremen) and have supper with a lovely German family. We talked about American politics–big surprise–and they offered support if I ever need help while I’m in Bremen. Even though it was a bit chilly and rainy, I enjoyed seeing a part of Bremen I probably wouldn’t have ventured out to otherwise. While I did fall asleep on the train ride back, I woke up right on time to get off for my stop–so crisis averted and train attempt #2 has been labeled a success.

I’ve met a lot of wonderful, fascinating people so far–but I keep getting told one thing: Germans are much more closed off than Americans. While people keep telling me this, I’ve experienced so much openness and interest that I find that generalization to have little merit to it.

During the last two weeks, I’ve learned a bit more about German politics. I learned about a new party that’s gained popularity called Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). As I heard the details concerning this party–hate and fear towards refugees, frequent lies to incite anger, discrimination towards Muslims, extreme right-wing supporters–I couldn’t help but draw parallels between it and what’s going on in the US. Fear, anger, and hate driving a whole group of voters–a whole party. I continue to be intrigued by Germany and what it has to offer.

My next post should be a lot sooner if my laptop will just hurry up and arrive!

Politics in a Bar

I can confidently say that week one in Bremen went pretty smoothly! The featured image above is the market square in Bremen.

A damn good cappuccino.

I’m finally starting to get comfortable with the area, mostly because I’m still too scared to try out the tram, so I walk everywhere. I’ve probably walked more in the past week than I’ve walked the whole summer (a little sad, but true). I explored the city, made a new friend, and ordered my first coffee in Germany (I had made it myself up until that point).

Yes, that is a centaur battling a snake.

I discovered a lovely park close to where I live. I haven’t spent much time in it yet, but I plan to later on. I also got a SIM card for my phone, so I have a back up plan for when I get dreadfully lost. I wasn’t sure if I set it up correctly because all the instructions were in German–big surprise–but it seems like everything is fine. 

River in Bremen.

Also, I’m writing this on my smartphone because I happened to dump a whole cup of coffee on my laptop this morning–so please excuse the lower quality of writing. I find it hard to proofread or notice flow when staring at my phone. 

I found the lack of people eerie.

Now to the really interesting stuff. 

The refugee crisis and the US election are regularly in the news cycle. It’s hard for me not to read about one of them at least once a day. I usually feel like I have a pretty good grasp on international issues, but it’s different when it’s really thrown in your face. 

The other night, my friends and I ended up in some smoke-filled bar around midnight. Naturally, once the bartender heard our lack of German, he asked where  we were from. He was thrilled to talk about America and why we chose Germany–and then it turned to the US election. The bartender explained to me why he disliked Donald Trump so much (though he didn’t like Hillary much, either); it mostly revolved around Trump’s lack of compassion and class. 

He wasn’t just complaining about Trump, though; he brought up other politicians–ones he liked, ones he didn’t. Then it hit me: this random German bartender knows more about American politics than many Americans. It’s not something happening in a distant land for him, it’s very real and very close. We continued to talk about politics and not once did he try to blame me or other Americans for Trump, which contradicted what I assumed would happen when this topic arose. 

Then when the bar got busy, I ended up talking to someone else. This was a very different experience. When he found out I was American, he immediately wanted to rant about the refugee crisis and America’s role in it all. He didn’t like refugees–he told me to be careful on my way home because of them. I want to believe that he was coming from a place of fear, not outright hatred. Fear that his security would degrade because of the influx of strangers fleeing a war torn zone. 

He had his opinions about the US election, too. He told me he liked Donald Trump, mostly because he doesn’t trust Hillary (sounds a bit familiar). He didn’t have much explanation for why he held these views–but to be fair, it was late and beer was involved. 

I mention these two experiences because one of these individuals was interested in an open conversation and the other wasn’t. I can say that I gained a deeper perspective on how people actually living in Europe feel about the refugee crisis and the reality TV show called the US election. 

I’m not saying that either of these people represent the two sides of European views–that would be a very large generalization. However, it did give me two views that I haven’t experienced before and I’m excited to be exposed to even more as the days go on. 

Also, if you haven’t already watched it, here’s the link to my apartment tour video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WTjZ_VdRbIw 

Dorian Tries to Get on a Train

Two days ago, I said goodbye to my family and dogs to get on a plane to Germany. I thought the process would be fairly easy, but I was pretty wrong. Let’s start off by saying I’m in my apartment safe and sound. It may have taken longer than I thought it would to get here–but that part is entirely my fault.

img_3232So, let’s begin this ridiculous tale. Aside from having to go through security twice and my glasses deciding to break right when I reached my gate, my first flight went smoothly. I didn’t get a lick of sleep during those 8 hours, which put me at about 22 hours of being awake. Once I landed in London, I had to go through security again. They even patted me down twice–I’d be fine with all of this if my flight wasn’t supposed to take off in less than 25 minutes.

After I got through that security experience, I sprinted to my next gate and made it in just in time. I got a super luxurious seat next to the toilet and a sick girl, but it was fine–it was only supposed to be an hour long flight, right? Well, we just sat there in the plane for a good hour before taking off, so it was more like two hours.

Then came the trains. Let me be clear: in my short life of 20 years, I have never stepped foot on anything close to a train–or even a bus (except in Ecuador, but I always had someone with me to help out).

Well, I didn’t understand how to get to Hamburg Hbf (central station)–I didn’t understand anything. Only older men and women surrounded me, which meant they didn’t speak english very well and had no clue what I needed. Eventually, I just hopped on one of them and fate gifted me with two English speakers that told me which stop I needed.

I thought that was the hard part–absolutely not. I missed my first train because I trusted my phone for the time, but forgot it hadn’t connected to wifi, therefore it would still be on London time–which was an hour behind. So, I missed the first one, but I had a flexible ticket, which meant I could use it whenever.

So, I get on the platform, ready for the next train for Bremen to come. It does and I just stare at it. People had exited and I’m not sure what I expected. Something similar to what happened in The Polar Express: a ticket man yelling, “All Aboard!” Well, to my crushing disappointment, that didn’t happen and I watched the doors shut right in front of my face.

Finally, I found a worker and they told me exactly what I was supposed to do and I ended up on the next train perfectly. All of this put me about 2 hours past the time I told everyone I would be in my apartment, so when I finally did reach wifi (which wasn’t until I reached my apartment) my phone blew up with messages from everyone–sorry, y’all!

All of this was probably caused by a combination of overthinking, extreme sleep deprivation, and too much excitement–but I won’t make excuses. On the bright side, I think I know how to catch a train now.

Despite all the confusion and near breakdowns, I’m extremely excited to be in Bremen. I’ll be uploading a video tour of my apartment (if I can figure it out) or a photo tour soon.

 

My Last Time on Foreign Soil

380737_2294331055161_366014302_nI’m now less than a week away from boarding a plane to Bremen, Germany–well, actually to London, then to Hamburg, and then a train to Bremen. However, it’s easy to say that I’m filled with excitement and thoughts of my last trip abroad.

Last time I was preparing for a trip abroad, my suitcase was filled with potent bug spray, quick-dry clothes, and a mosquito net. I was getting ready to go to Quito, Ecuador for a week, then the Amazon for 4 more weeks. I was only 15-years-old, which seems insane to me now.

In Ecuador, I found my confidence. Before Ecuador, I had a fear of talking to strangers or going places alone–that dissipated while I was there. It was sort of forced out of me; traveling has a way of doing that to you, especially traveling in countries starkly different than your own. I discovered how flexible I could be, which I struggled with a fair amount before that trip.

185497_4177938204188_1530783060_n.jpgI would’ve never dreamed of speaking broken-Spanish to a random man with some tangerines on the bus. I would’ve never dreamed of hiking up a muddy mountain every weekend just to climb onto a sketchy bus to take me to a small town an hour away. I would’ve never dreamed of getting attacked by a monkey named Grumpy. It was all very new to me and definitely helped in molding me to be the person I am today.

I feel like this upcoming trip is going to be vastly different than my previous one, but there’s no way of knowing. I hope to discover just as much change within myself as I did 5 years ago.