In the middle of January, I spent a weekend skiing at Germany’s biggest ski resort, on Germany’s tallest mountain. The town were we stayed is called Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In a few ways, it reminded me of Banff in Canada: the people walking down the streets carrying their ski equipment, “village-in-the-mountains” kinda feeling, several aprés skiing locations, and of course, the ski hill. All together we were 18 students, all on an exchange program, taking the train down to this southern german town for a weekend filled with skiing. Once we got to the town, it was only a 45 minute walk in the rain, 20 of which was going the wrong way, to the space we rented. The place were I and 13 other people stayed was a 3 story tall (plus a basement) bavarian-styled home that was quite spectacular, especially considering the cost of the place – compared to accommodation in Canada – and the size and quality of it. It had two kitchens, two living areas, and plenty of sleeping places. We skied for only two days due to a miscommunication of the group tickets; we wanted to ski for 2.5 days but our cards were only loaded for 2 days. The first day was spent on the lower section of the resort called “Garmisch Klassik.” While it had a nice view, it was rather warm which kept the snow icy in the mornings and slushy in the afternoons. The next day we visited the “Zugspitze,” which coincidentally is also the name of the highest mountain in Germany. This section was quite a bit better than the one we went to the previous day as it was located on a glacier and was situated at a much higher elevation. Even though Germany’s largest ski resort was worth a visit, it is still comparably smaller than other resorts in countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, and of course Canada.
View from the Zugspitze
When I got back from Garmisch-Partenkirchen I was scheduled to appear before the Einwohneramt (registration office for residence) to received my Residency Permit. It is strange, that I had been living here for 4 and a half months before I received my Residency Permit. This was due in part to my later application, the holiday season, and bureaucracy. It was a nice feeling to finally be living legally in another country!!! This also ensures that I won’t be deported before my stay ends at the end of August The next few weeks are the exam weeks here, so it will be quite uneventful, filled with books, notes, and studying. However, after that period there is a 2 and a half month break till the next semester, which I plan to use for traveling to some of the nearby countries. I will leave you with a picture of the place were I am officially allowed to stay
Building called "Weinstadl"
After spending my first christmas away from my family, I realize how big and experience this exchange program really is. I started to get used to living on my own, in a country different that my home country; but the feeling of being away for christmas is completely different. You discover just how much you are leaving behind at home and how many events you are missing during your stay here. You are feeling a strange mixture of being both omitted and included. I couldn’t help but wonder how grand a moment this is for my personal development. As far my first away-from-home christmas went, I can’t complain. Most of the students had went back home for the holidays (as they live in Europe) but 4 other finnish guys stayed in Nuremberg for the holidays. We made foods that were typical christmas items from our canadian and finnish families. Since the student residences were quite empty, we were able to occupy one of the common rooms and a kitchen for the entire day. Here is a picture of our “Dinner Table” for our christmas dinner.
Christmas Dinner Table
Not only was my christmas a first for me, but also my new years experience. It was my first new years (eve) away from Canada. Of course, this wasn’t as drastic a change as I spent it with other students in a “responsible” manner.
I also had time to visit Switzerland for 5 days while classes were on break. One of my fellow exchange students here had family living in Liestal (about 15 km from the city of Basel) so we were able to stay there during our travels. We visited the cities of Basel and Bern. Basel was the bigger of the two and had more of an industrial economy and a large city center with many brand shops and nice restaurants. Just north of the city was a place that’s called “Dreiländereck” (literally “Three Country Corner”) where the countries of Germany, Switzerland, and France all meet together.
Dreiländereck (Three Country Corner)
The second city we traveled to was Bern, the capital city of Switzerland. It is a bit smaller than Basel, and had a more rustic feel to it. It had a smaller shopping center and was focused more on maintaining the similar appearance of the city over the years. Because if its location close to the Alps, the city was nestled nicely in the valley of the Aar River. This city is very picturesque and quiet for its population.
Bern and the Aar River
This weekend I will be heading to the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany, in the south for skiing. I will be sure to tell all you ski/snowboard lovers what Germany has to offer for alpine slopes
Now that we are into the thick of the german/world famous christmas market, the christmas atmosphere is nearly impossible to avoid. And to add to that, over the last couple days we have received roughly 40 centimeters of snow! On the opening day of the market there was only a sprinkle of new snow. About 30 000 people paid a visit to the market on this day. At the market, they offer some of the best Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread) and Glühwein (mulled wine) in all of germany, and arguably the world. People visit from all over the world to experience this christmas market. Some of the nationalities that I have encountered have been Chinese, Americans, Canadians, Britons, and many other europeans that live closer to Germany. This place is and absolutely fantastic place to spend the holidays. As this will be my first christmas away from my family, anything that can make this time of year feel more warm and welcoming is great. Luckily for me, there are four other students who will be staying here over christmas, meaning I will have people to have a dinner with . As it grows closer to christmas day, I look forward to seeing what Nürnberg has to offer me.
Frauenkirche at the Christkindlesmarkt
As I write this, the very first snowfall of the season has just started to come down!! And even though it isn’t likely to stay around to long, it is still a slight reminder of home. It is also a welcome sight, seeing as the german famous Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market) opens this friday and it would be nice to have a little bit of snow during this month long festival.
In the recent weeks, I found the time to make it out to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. And I have to say, that this city is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. Built in the valley of the Vltava River, the view from above the city are spectacular! And the unique architecture of the city add to the welcoming atmosphere; one that reminds you that this city, and the country itself, are not just another european travel destination. Situated here is the largest castle in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the famous Astronomical Clock, the Žižkov Television Tower, and many more buildings of modern design or those of the older Baroque and Gothic design.
Prague from the Hills
Last weekend was a university organized trip to go and watch a Bundesliga game at the local Nürnberg Stadium. Even though the home team lost and it was freezing, the seats were very good and they served very tasty warm spiced wine (to keep you warm). Being my second european soccer match that I have seen, I can say that europeans are passionate about the sport and their teams. For all the soccer fans out there, here are a couple photos; one from Nürnberg vs. Kaiserslautern (Bundesliga) and another from Bayern München vs. CFR Cluj (a Romanian team, Champions League).
Nürnberg vs. Kaisterslautern
Bayern München vs. CFR Cluj
And as I finish this post, the snow has already stopped. I can only hope that more will come before the festival starts this friday. Fingers crossed!
Now, being two weeks after the beginning of the semester, it is time to start to get back into my study habits and shake myself from my extra long summer vacation. Almost 6 months. So I have a feeling that it won’t be the easiest task to get back into the school groove, but studying in a brand new atmosphere should make the transition a little more exciting. Because the business faculty is a standalone building, with the rest of the faculties located in the neighbouring town of Erlangen, the University here feels a lot smaller than the U of A. But they make up for the small size of the student base with semester start-up events and parties that make the university feel a lot bigger than it really is. As the semester progresses and my european travels continue, more posts will come.
Nürnberg's Main Market
What an UNBELIEVABLE time I had in Berlin! No other place I have been to has been quite like this city. With a population of 3.4 million people it is the largest city in Germany, but with the amount of activities and places to visit, it feels a whole lot bigger. The days were spent being a tourist: visiting landmarks, eating traditional Berliner foods, and absorbing the culture and history that Berlin has to offer. And the nights. The legendary Berlin nightlife was nothing short of spectacular!!! Clubs, Lounges, and Bars open to the beginning hours of the following day left you with something to do 24/7. Of course with the exception of a decent night’s sleep! I can honestly say that those 4 days and three nights were some of the best of my life! Nonetheless, it still feels good to be back home in Nürnberg and looking forward to the beginning of the semester and classes resuming here in Nürnberg.
Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall) and a the Neptune Fountain
As my classes start in a couple of weeks it is time to begin to select which ones I will take and get into a routine. Fortunately, the last couple weeks have definitely not been a routine!! First off was an excursion to Rothenburg; a town filled with remnants from the Holy Roman Empire. The city wall and the church perked up on the hill give you plenty to look at. And for those who do not follow history too closely, by far the best German food I have had in Germany was in Rothenburg .
View of Rothenburg from the Wall
The next Friday was my once-in-a-life-time opportunity to take a visit to the world famous Oktoberfest!!! It is the largest fair in the world with over six million visitors each year. This is where you can experience Bavarian culture at it’s full extent. Traditional bavarian food such as pretzels, bratwurst, baked goods and much more. But, as expected, the bavarian germans have more pride in their beer than anything else. And they do not shy off either; a Maß (glass of beer) is served with 1 liter of beer. Once the evening hits and the germans have had a few of those, with the traditional german music playing loudly, you experience a whole different kind of energy. Would not pass up the opportunity if it presented itself to me again.
Inside the Augustiner Tent at Munich's Oktoberfest
Will be experiencing more of germany very soon, and I will be sure to post them here afterwards. ‘Til then!