The time after fall break has basically been filled with festivals (and a couple class trips). Thanksgiving, many Christmas markets, a chocolate festival.. It’s crazy. The first one was Thanksgiving. The international program at Hochschule Reutlingen (the university) puts on a Thanksgiving dinner every year for all the American students and other international students who are interested. They asked everyone to bring a dessert, but provided turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn. All the staples of a Thanksgiving dinner except the green beans. Because for some reason they think that corn is this American thing that we always eat. Since they only eat corn on top of salads or pizza, which I think is weird, but whatever. (And I don’t have any pictures of the night since my camera was apparently dead without me realizing.. Oh well.)
It was so nice to have that little taste of home, since obviously Germany doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. The downside: the rediscovery that a bunch of Americans in one room is super loud and annoying. Yay America. It’s going to be interesting just how much my perception of Americans has changed when I get back. I can only imagine that I’ll be a little annoyed at times..
So that was Thanksgiving. And then that weekend all the Christmas markets started going up! I had never been to one before, even though there are a few in some of the big cities in the U.S., like Chicago. Of course, being at those would be nothing like actually being in Germany at a market, because it is an experience I think everyone should have. It’s just rows and rows of wooden stalls selling scarves and hats, ornaments, candies, brats, miniature houses, nutcrackers, and anything else related to Christmas. And of course all decorated with lights and garlands. It really is beautiful.
I already wrote about the one in Vienna at the end of fall break, and since then I’ve been to several. The one in Reutlingen of course, which is surprisingly large for such a small city. It even has an ice rink. And my favorite part was the advent calendar they projected onto one of the houses downtown. So creative. And just awesome.
Next event of this time was a trip I took with a bunch of international students to Nuremberg. The home of the original Christmas market. Nuremberg itself is a really cool city, and I wish I had had more time to look around, since I was only there for a few hours. It’s one of the few towns left in Germany with the city wall still remaining and in good shape, and is really just beautiful. The Christmas market though, that was amazing even though it was super crowded. Anything you wanted to find, you could find there. And the bands and choirs playing on the stage added even more to the atmosphere of Christmas. I had thought that being one of the original Christmas markets would have made it bigger, but that was the only disappointment. And we were still able to make use of the few hours there wandering the stalls and drinking Gluehwein, the spiced hot wine that’s a specialty in the winter.
Next stop: Ludwigsburg! There’s a somewhat famous palace here, and it’s only just over an hour train ride from Reutlingen, so we decided to make a class day out of it for our German culture/literature/history class. The interior was gorgeous, especially the two chapels and the theater. As a nature lover, though, I was drawn to the gardens more. They were beautiful, they even had a fairy tale part that was closed, but had figurines scattered throughout a wooded part to be sort of a fairy tale world. Ludwigsburg also had a Christmas market that we had some time to visit. And I finally found a cheap winter hat! So of course I picked the one with the most colors. I’m now the proud owner of a purple, blue, and lime green hat from Germany!
The weekend after this class trip I went to Stuttgart with Sarah for some Christmas market browsing and Christmas shopping (since we’re running out of time pretty quickly). Neither of us had actually been anywhere in Stuttgart besides the airport and the train station, so it was good just to walk around the city itself. It reminded both of us of Christmastime in Chicago- tons of people walking around in coats, scarves, and hats, and crowding all the stores and malls doing their shopping, and eating at brat places along the main pedestrian area. It could’ve only been more beautiful if it had been snowing. The Christmas market was completely packed with people. Which was frustrating, but on the other hand gave us plenty of time to look at everything in the stalls while in stand-stills in the vast crowds. And it was gigantic, so we had plenty of stalls for stall-browsing while we stood in the crowds.
The final festival I’ve been to is the Tuebingen Chocolate festival, also last weekend. Apparently it’s really popular, because there were chocolate stalls from all over the world and people in throngs trying to get to the stalls to buy some bars or hot chocolate (or even chocolate beer or chocolate noodles). I decided not to go too crazy, so I stuck with hot chocolate with chili, although chocolate beer sounded really intriguing.
After a day of fighting crowds in Stuttgart and then a day fighting them in Tuebingen, we decided to be done with crowds for a while. Which was fine, because it was our second to last weekend in Germany.. So really, our last weekend to go anywhere except for maybe a few hours to a nearby town.
We leave on Tuesday already, and there are finals to finish up, stuff to pack, rooms to clean, and plenty of people to say good-bye to before we head off. I’m kind of sad. It’s been an incredible semester, and I’m sure I won’t realize just how much I’ve grown and learned and changed until I get back to the States. Living here is so normal now. The language is so normal, the public transportation so normal, the hills so normal, the colorful money, the ability to buy alcohol, pedestrian areas downtown, sorting trash into four bins, living with people from all corners of the world, even the showers that only spray for 30 seconds before you have to press the button again, all of it is so normal, it’s just a day in the life. Coming back home is going to be a culture shock–it will seem like everything has changed a little bit, when really it’s mostly my perceptions that have changed.
This semester has been absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world, and I only hope I can take my experiences back with me and that they will have changed me for the better, and for good. So likely this is my last post until I get back, and then maybe I’ll do one about the transition back to American ways of life. Aus Deutschland zum letzten Mal, tschüß!