Wow, it’s been awhile. Seriously.
Despite all the COVID-related stuff, there’s a BIG update needed.
So, the last post I left off by saying that I also needed to update. In the meantime, I’ve taken a couple small day trips – I went to Speyer with ESN (mentioned in the post-script edit of the last post), Freiburg im Breisgau, went to Wissembourg (a small town in far-eastern France), went to Strasbourg twice (once with ESN and once alone), went to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for Christmas, and I took a three-day trip to Hamburg for the New Year. So buckle in, this will be a fairly long post. Some of it will be chronologically incorrect probably, but it’s the memories that count, right?
But let me start off with what’s happened in Heidelberg first.
First of all, I’ve made some pretty damn cool friends, both in the MA and BA programs and within ESN (and elsewhere). At the introduction pizza night with our American Studies program, I got to meet a bunch of the BA students and get to know the MA students even better – I’ve become even better friends with all of them since (it’s now been almost 4 months since that introduction night lol), but from a very early perspective, I didn’t know them too well. A few of the BA students and I went out with ESN students to a bar called BOHO, and then we decided to get together for spätzle, which is essentially cheesy egg noodles with caramelized onions – it’s really tasty, and it’s become a (sort of) tradition. Anyways, here are some photos of that night.
I’ve also been hanging out a lot with the other MA students since then, but I didn’t know them super well early on, so Carol, Katharina, and I went out for dinner after one of our classes and I got to know them a bit better. As was the case with the BA students, I know them much better now that it’s been a few months.
Pretty soon after that, on the 21st, it was Marine’s birthday, so we went out to play laser tag with a couple of her friends from Switzerland and a bunch of the people that I knew from ESN/Marine’s other friends that I’ve become good friends with. We had a really good time at laser tag, and I think Marine really enjoyed it.
We also went to go to a club, but we took the bus in the wrong direction, so a few of us ended up at Vetter’s, which is a traditional German brewery. It was a really chill night and we just got beers and food and talked – it was super pleasant!
(We ended up going to the club the next night, which was also really fun. Really crowded, though.)
Here are a couple of other miscellaneous photos from the first few weeks in Heidelberg:
At some point (told you this would chronologically be off), a few of us also went up to the Schloss to watch a sunset:
Also around this time, one of the BA students, Luisa, taught me how to drive a stick! In exchange, I taught her how to use her grandpa’s old film camera. It was a ton of fun, and having experience on a motorcycle definitely helped. Plus, the laws are pretty similar to the laws in the US, so once I got out onto the road, it was a lot less scary. It was a ton of fun actually!
ESN also took a daytrip to Speyer, which is a small town near Heidelberg that we could visit for free. It’s a point on the way of St. Jacob, which is one of the routes for the Camino de Santiago, which is pretty cool. It’s kinda an “archetypal” German small town – plus it has the biggest Romanesque church still standing, the Dom zu Unserer lieben Frau, which also contains a number of old Holy Roman Emperors’ graves and a number of kings’ graves too (it was the capital of the HRE for awhile). We mostly just took the tour with ESN, went up to the top of the Dom, and grabbed some food, where I got to talk with another group of international students. It was a really lovely day, the weather was nice, and the company was good. What more can you ask for?
Back in Heidelberg, we had a little “Beer Olympics” and a barbecue with ESN, which was also really fun. Lots of flunkyball, lots of new friends.
In late October, a group of the international students and I took a little day-trip to Freiburg im Breisgau, which was really cool. It’s such a quaint little university town, and there was this cool little market open. We mostly spent the day wandering around the Altstadt, where we saw a big church and went to the city museum (which was, admittedly, a bit underwhelming). But it was still a great time with a great group, and the city is seriously so beautiful. I’m still waiting to get film back from it, since I have 4 rolls that I need to send in before I can get any of them developed (it’s a package deal), but I’ll hopefully remember to include them once I’ve gotten them developed.
We grabbed food at the Markthalle, which is a big market hall – it definitely reminded me of Seattle’s Pike Place Market: it has TONS of international food stands, and was super packed with people ordering different countries’ foods. I got some feijoada from a Brazilian restaurant, as did a couple of other people. It was suuuuuper good; after that, we wandered around a little more and ended up walking up to the hill overlooking the city, where there’s a lookout tower.
Honestly, the tower was terrifying. It was super windy and shook so violently that all of us were pretty ready to get down after a little bit of hanging out up there. But it was a good time nonetheless!
Here’s a short photo break of some photos from the weeks in-between that trip to Freiburg and my next trip to Wissembourg.
I ended up joining a program with the school for language exchange, and ended up getting a language partner, Stella, who’s from Hamburg! She studies Psychology, Computational Linguistics, and Sinology (Chinese studies). So, to put it very concisely: very, very smart – her thesis is insanely complicated and she’s very invested in it. She also used to dance and she mostly listens to classical music. And she also speaks Chinese, but will say that it’s not great. I don’t speak any Chinese, but I have a feeling that’s wrong.
We met up at Uniplatz one night and took a nice little walk around town, switched between German and English, and just got to know each other. It was a very pleasant time, and our conversation was super interesting! So we’ve met up a couple more times to explore town, check out the Christmas markets (will come up later lol), and walk up to the Schloss, as well as I got to see her hometown in Hamburg (also for later lmao). Anyways, here are some of the photos from some of the little walks I did around town at night (not necessarily with Stella, but within that timeframe).
Anyways, the next trip I took was to Wissembourg. It’s a French town but it’s right on the border with Germany, which meant that I could travel there for free with my Semesterticket.
I headed out pretty early in the morning – it was a very last-minute decision – and just spent the morning exploring. Nothing too special – didn’t stay too long, but it was a really cute little town. I would go back in a heartbeat!
That evening, Marine invited me out to a hockey game with a couple of our mutual friends. I didn’t know any of the rules, but Amine had played hockey competitively and explained everything to me. It was actually SO much fun – I would absolutely go back in a heartbeat; the energy, even though we lost, was just incredible. It was a ton. of. fun.
When Ruby visited, she’d already been to Heidelberg so I mostly just showed her the local spots. We spent the afternoon wandering around and I introduced her to some of my friends, but as I still had class, we couldn’t hang out for too long, so we went out to dinner with some of my BA friends after class, and we met back up in the morning before I had class. It was super nice to see her! She’s currently teaching in Vienna at a couple of different schools, alongside USTA. She’ll be out there for at least a year and has the option of extending it – it was just great to catch up and hear about all the exciting things she’s been up to! I’m hoping I’ll be able to get out to Vienna at some point to give her a visit.
Sheridan (another German student at UP, but a couple years under Ruby and me), who studied in Freiburg, also came out to visit, and she brought along some of her friends. None of them had been to Heidelberg before, so I could give them the more “touristy” tour. They were all SUPER friendly, and I really enjoyed getting to meet them! – we spent most of the day together, grabbed some food, and I showed them all of the tourist & local spots in the city. They all study environmental-related stuff, since the IES Freiburg program is centered around that.
In the evening, they came over to our flat and we ate, had some wine, and chatted (everyone also vaxxed and tested!). It was a ton of fun.
One of the most fun parts about Heidelberg has just been hanging out with my friends, whether with the MA program, BA program, or just some of the other international students. So of course when the Christmas markets opened, we knew we had to give them a visit together. I ended up visiting the market a couple more times before it closed – first with Stella, then with Marine, Loïc (a student also from Lausanne), and Jane (a German student), as well as a couple of their friends, and then Marine invited me to go out and play billiards with Loïc, Patrick (his flatmate), and Marine (unfortunately it didn’t work out, so we just hung out at a bar lol).
Another wonderful memory was when my flat decided to bake cookies together. It was a lot of Christmas music, cozy clothes, Glühwein/Kinderpunsch – the whole evening was just very “gemütlich,” to describe it best. It’s said that there’s no English word that properly equates with it, but it’s kinda just a feeling of “comfy belonging;” it’s like “comfy,” but much more warm and cozy and friendly and pleasant – it’s the kind of feeling where all is where it should be, no worries, just pure bliss. It’s like when you’re sitting in front of a fireplace after a cold day exploring in the snow, and you’ve got hot cocoa and your favorite movie, music if you’re into that – just very blissful.
We also had a couple karaoke nights sprinkled in here and there (also everyone is vaccinated and/or boostered and testing). It was hilarious – it only started out with a few of us; I think Jakob or Mateusz found a flyer for it – and we went, and turns out there was another group of German students there for the exact same reason, that study Anglistik (English studies, kinda like Amerikanistik, which I study) and history. We got to talking with them, and turns out they have a lot of the same professors as I do. Since karaoke night at this restaurant is every Thursday, we ended up exchanging numbers and have had a couple karaoke nights together. I think it’ll become a tradition. They’re all super friendly, and they got along well with our group.
The next trips I took were to Strasbourg with ESN and by myself.
I signed up for the ESN trip on December 5th and Karolina (one of the MA students) decided to join, but she didn’t know anyone from ESN so I introduced her to all of my friends, though we mostly just ended up wandering around by ourselves and with another girl from Portland, Sequoia (turns out she went to high school with one of my former German classes, Shae! Small world!).
We wandered around the central part of Strasbourg, went into the Cathedral and checked out the Christmas markets, went to Petite France, and wandered around some of the river. It was really pleasant, and it was nice to get to know Sequoia better, and it was nice to spend some time with Karolina as well. Plus she got to meet some of my Polish friends, which was pretty cool lol. Sequoia was kinda the photographer/photojournalist lol, and I got some photos on my cameras, but I’m still waiting on the film. I wanted to catch up with some of my other ESN friends (since Myriam is from Strasbourg), but it didn’t end up working out, so I missed them. Oh well. Another time, hopefully!
I’d already been to Strasbourg, so I didn’t take many photos on my digital camera – most of them are on film and haven’t been developed yet.
(A couple weeks later, I went back to go Christmas shopping, but didn’t take any photos. Still was a lovely day at the markets though! It was really funny though, because on the way out, I had to go HD-Wissembourg, Wissembourg-Strasbourg, and when I was at the stop in Wissembourg, a couple of tourists asked me if I could help them to figure out how to buy the tickets. I told them that I didn’t speak any French, but turns out I could remember all of the French I needed in order to get them their tickets, which was pretty cool.) The second time in Strasbourg was nice, because I only ended up speaking German for the entire time I was there; since it’s right on the border, you can generally assume that most people know some German as well, which turned out to be the case for almost everywhere I went in Strasbourg, except a couple of places.
And that brings us up mostly to the present! Right before winter break, a couple of the MA students got together to do a marathon viewing of Lord of the Rings. We ordered pizza, chatted, and watched the movies – I could only stay for two, because I was going to Strasbourg for the aforementioned Christmas shopping in the morning. But it was seriously so much fun – it was just a wonderful group, very “intimate” insofar as it was just so peaceful. Only having four of us there was actually really nice – we hung out in Max’s kitchen and ate our pizzas, everyone had tea and we all huddled into Max’s room to watch – switching from couch to bed, bed to couch when people needed to move. We’ve done a couple movie viewings at his flat – earlier in November, we’d watched Ex Machina and When Harry Met Sally, which was also just lovely. It’s just a great, great group, and having so few of us was just really pleasant. It was such a chill way to spend both evenings – good company, really meaningful chats – seriously made my heart swell.
Over winter break, everyone headed back home, so I had the flat to myself for a little while. I decided to take a day trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is a famous small town in Bavaria – it’s a pretty well-preserved medieval town, and it’s especially well-known for being a “Christmas town.” So on Weihnacht (the 24th), I went out to Rothenburg with my Semesterticket. On the VRN website, it said I could get out there with my Semesterticket, but turns out there was a slight problem: one leg of the journey went slightly into one of the Bavarian tariff systems, so I had some trouble figuring out how to get back without having to pay: I could take a bus to Creglingen, then to Würzburg, and go back to Heidelberg that way, but unfortunately, the bus stop was closed (Christmas, you know), so I ended up having to walk 20km to Creglingen and then from Creglingen to Würzburg and back. It was kinda a pain in the neck, but oh well. Rothenburg was beautiful nonetheless! It seriously felt like a Hallmark Christmas movie; the streets were so empty because it was Christmas (and it was rainy), especially in the evening, so it was just the perfect time to be there. Normally, it’s apparently PACKED with tourists, but it thankfully wasn’t the case while I was there.
As aforementioned, the way to get home was quite a pain in the neck, but I ended up making it back after about 5 hours and a lot of walking. Made for a good story though, I guess.
And that brings us to my last trip – Hamburg!
I needed something to do on NYE, and right before break, Stella and I had gone on a walk up to the castle and we chatted for a long time, and she invited me to stay with her and her mom & brother over New Year’s. I didn’t want to intrude, though, since she had a lot of work to do on her bachelor’s thesis, but I’d been wanting to get up to the north of Germany for a long time. She’s been super busy with her thesis, so I told her that she should at least be taking a break for the holidays (she’d originally said that she’d eat dinner with her family and just go back to work lol), so when she told me that she’d take a break from the work if I ended up visiting, I took that as a promise and booked a hostel & train tickets.
On the 31st, I took a train in the afternoon and got into my hostel at about 10:00 pm. I checked in, met my roommates (one of which was already incredibly drunk and fairly rude), dropped off my stuff, and headed out for the city. Stella had invited me to a NYE get-together with her friends, but I declined (I didn’t want to intrude, plus COVID), but it turns out she didn’t end up going anyways, so neither did I lol. I spent the night wandering around Speicherstadt and Hafen-City, which are the old historical river districts in Hamburg – it was SO COOL. The architecture felt like it was right out of the late 19th Century – lots of cobblestone streets, old industrial brick buildings with gold text – it was just like a total blast to the past. Plus, having the rivers there? Gorgeous. I went out to the Elpbhilharmonie, which is actually where Stella’s mom performs (she’s a musician), and it was incredible! Way, way bigger than I expected. Apparently it’s one of the biggest concert halls in the world – the photos really do not do it justice.
After hanging out outside of the Elphi for a little while, I went out to the promenade looking out to the harbor and watched a little bit of the fireworks show. It was definitely a pretty shitty way to spend a NYE – cold, rainy, didn’t know anyone, and I couldn’t call to wish my family a happy New Year’s because they were traveling from Hawai’i. It just felt very odd – but I would much rather spend a weird NYE in a new city than stay in Heidelberg, so I can’t complain too much. Though I got back to the hostel, and THAT? I can complain about. My rude roommate was INCREDIBLY drunk, and I just wanted to go to sleep – I was tired, cold, and absolutely soaked to the bone – but he had his light on and 1) snored and 2) coughed so loudly, so I really tried to keep my distance from him, even though our beds were “next to each other” (probably like 4 feet away). At 5am, he got up, which I thought was just him getting water or something, but when I woke up, he had puked over all of the toilet and hadn’t cleaned it up. I had to get ready though, so dodging vomit and wearing boots into the bathroom (I didn’t have flip flops!!!!!!!!!!), I managed to make it work. The shower was less gross (no vomit, nothing “out of the ordinary”), but still, without flip flops, not ideal. Anyways.
The second day, I woke up early and headed back out to Speicherstadt and the Hafen-City. I ended up wandering around and taking lots of photos in the daytime; from the Wasserschloss, to the general district – it was a little unfortunate, because everything was closed throughout the time I was there (NYE, New Year, and a Sunday all in a row), but there are definitely some things I’d like to see when I’m back: I’d like to eat at the Wasserschloss, there was a museum called “Dialogue in the Dark,” in which you are blindfolded and guided around by a blind tour guide; essentially, it switches the role of blind and seeing. Seeing people become put into a totally foreign situation where they have little to no control, while the blind tour guides are their source of guidance and comfort in a situation in which neither of them can see, but the blind guides are used to. It was made as a way to hire blind people, all while showing seeing people what blind people go through every day and raising awareness and tolerance for otherness. I’d also like to go to Miniatur Wunderland, which is the world’s biggest miniature “world” – it has replicas of tons of cities and countries, and apparently is quite a sight to see.
Anyways, yeah – I spent the day just wandering around the city, particularly in Hafen-City and Speicherstadt, as I really liked the industrial architecture and the general feel to it.
Hamburg is definitely a “hip” city – lots to do, lots to see, lots of music and art and apparently some good food too, but unfortunately due to the time I was there, I didn’t get to see much of it. I’d definitely like to get back – they have a big museum for photography too, which I really wanted to check out but didn’t get the chance to.
In the evening, Stella invited me out to her part of the city, Blankenese, which is like 30 minutes out of “central” Hamburg. Originally, the plan was to go to Blankenese, she’d show me around, and then we’d head into the city center together. Thankfully, since I was staying right next to the Hauptbahnhof, it was pretty easy. Unfortunately though, my phone gave me the wrong directions 3 times, so what should have been a 30-second walk from the train station to her house ended up turning into 15 minutes because it sent me in the wrong way out of the train station (left, instead of right). Once I finally got to Stella’s house, she showed me around the center of town, which felt also, ironically, like it was from a Hallmark movie. It felt oddly “east-coast-USA” in that it was just super quaint, very small, all local businesses, Christmas lights still hung up – it was very dreamy. The cobblestone streets, the atmosphere – just really pleasant. We walked down by the river and chatted some more, went back up to her house. On the way in, I heard piano playing – it sounded like one of those professionally-done songs for a pre-recorded piano – do you know what I’m talking about? But turns out, it was her mom playing! I was blown away. Anyways, I introduced myself, we hung out inside for a little bit, I chatted with Stella & her mom & met her dog, and then I headed back to the hostel. It was SO stressful though, because I kept overthinking everything I said in German – Stella and I generally switch off between German and English, but I’d say more English than German – so I was cringing with every mistake I made. But it was a lot of fun! – her mom was super nice and also invited me to just stay with them instead of going back to the hostel, but I really didn’t want to intrude. Maybe the next time I’m in Hamburg lol.
On the way back though, I decided to stop by the Reeperbahn, which is essentially Hamburg’s Red Light District. I’d seen photos from it and I KNEW I had to get out there, because the neon signs were just incredible. I didn’t take any photos on my phone or on my digital camera (it’s kinda a sketchy place, and I figured having an old camera from the 80s would look better than a new camera from the 2000s), so I’ve gotta wait for that film to develop, which should be done in three weeks or so. EDIT: THEY ARE BELOW (and above lol). I headed back to Speicherstadt to take some more photos of the industrial district at night (same issue), as well as some of the U-Bahn stations (they just looked cool), and then headed back home, where I promptly fell asleep.
The next day, I checked out of the hostel – and coincidentally, saw my rude roommate already drunk and with two more beers at 10am. I definitely think he’d gotten into a fight, because his whole face was bruised and cut up. Anyways.
After checking out, I went back to Hafen-City again and decided to go into the Elbphilharmonie to warm up in the cold & rain. It was SO COOL. I really want to go there for a concert some time – I think it’d be so, so much fun (plus apparently the concert halls are gorgeous!). (And Stella’s mom plays there – how cool is that!!!!!)
I’m really excited for my film photos to come out, because the focusing on the digital camera is a little bit weird so some of the photos are blurry. Anyways:
The photos seriously don’t do it justice. Apparently it’s nicer to visit in summer when the weather is nice, but it was still pretty cool to visit in the winter.
After hanging out in the Elphi for an hour (it was 2 Euros!), I headed out to the promenade (pictured in the last photo above) and took some film photos. I went back to the hostel, charged my phone, and Stella invited me out for tea with one of her friends, Lene, since they were going to a play (“Die Katze und der General,” which is about working through a rape & murder in the Chechnyan War in 1995) that evening. Stella, Lene, and I met up at a little tea place, though we all ended up getting lemonade and just chatting. Turns out Lene studies in Norway but she and Stella went to the same school together (she just moved for university), so we just had a nice little chat with the three of us. Talked about cultural differences, schooling, you know how it is. It was just a lovely way to close off the trip – I walked with them to the theater, said my goodbyes, and headed to the hostel & to the train station. I for sure want to get back out to Hamburg and see all of the museums and things I couldn’t see on this trip. Plus maybe I’ll go to a concert in the Elphi lol. I would have booked a ticket while I was there, but since it was New Year’s concerts, they were all around 50 Euros. Anyways, it was a good trip, really cool city, and good company.
Except that the joy from such a good trip was very quickly cut short by delays and a mishap with my room key. My first train was delayed by 20 minutes, then 25, then 40, then 45. Once I FINALLY got onto the train, all seemed well (except for the fact that I would miss the connection in Frankfurt), but at one point 2 hours in, I realized that I lost my room key for my room in Heidelberg. I frantically called the hostel, and they said that they would check and get back to me, though they never did. I ended up sending two more emails and another call before they told me they hadn’t found it, though I know exactly where I lost it. I was actually tempted to just book another trip back to Hamburg right on the train, but it was way too expensive. But since I’d locked my room WITH Marine’s key in it (she’d asked that I keep her key as well over break), I needed to get in my room. Thankfully, my wonderful landlord, Gerhard, came in clutch and unlocked my room for me. But even with that, the delay in my train by 40 minutes, plus the second train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg being delayed by another hour – it definitely put a damper on the good feels brought on by the trip. But oh well. Hopefully I can get back out to Hamburg at some point, maybe it’ll make up for it. Though with as good of a trip as it was anyways (despite the hiccups), that might be tough to beat. Next plan is to explore more of northern Germany – Hamburg was just SO COOL, and I really want to see more of that part of Germany.
Anyways, that’s it for this long (and late) update! Not sure of what the next trips are going to be, but there’s a concert thing going on in Schwetzingen (it’s actually at the castle, which is pretty cool), so I may go to that. I’m also trying to go to Paris at some point for another concert, and Italy over semester break. I guess we’ll see if any of that ends up happening.
That’s all for now! No video (I’ve gotta figure out what’s wrong with the camera’s focusing before I can start recording videos), and I’ve still gotta upload the film when I get it back. But hopefully I’ll remember to do that.
UNFORTUNATELY, I’m running low on storage space on WordPress. I only have 13GB available with my current plan and have used up 97% of it, so I’m not sure what I’ll do if I hit 100%. I can upgrade to get more storage, or just not post any more pictures I guess.
Now onto exam season and all of my presentations! Wooo…
Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland (und Frankreich),
If you need a song rec, I’ll be doing this again lol: