Thursday, 9 April 2015

Goodbye UK; hello Deutschland!


So, I realise it's been a *little* while since I wrote okay not since 12th February, that's a little horrifying! If it makes you feel any better, I have numerous draft posts saved that I never got round to posting...

The main reason not for posting was that I didn't want this blog to become a chore, I didn't want to feel guilty if I didn't write but at the same time I didn't didn't want to write...nothing, which is what I've done these last two months. A few times I would set myself time to write something and then feel a little blue or homesick and not write anything - I've tried it before and, whenever I write when I am homesick, it doesn't make for a fun read.

After that I was having too much fun in my last few weeks in Bologna: I had two good friends from home to stay on separate occasions so that kept me busy (I know, should have written about that!), and then all of a sudden my room was packed up and I had to leave to go back home. I was sad to leave, but I'd planned so much even in the first few days of my being back in the UK that I was also excited to be going! I stayed with my bestie in Brighton, visited my sister, then visited family, and then went finally made it home all within the first like five days!

Lovely seeing my pooches again!

Brighton with the bestie

I was lucky to be in the country for the whole of last month and I don't think I can quite express the...relief, I suppose, of being at home, with my friends and family. There was just this huge weight taken off my shoulders and spending a good amount of time at home has really helped. Don't get me wrong here - I loved being in Bologna, and I love my year abroad, but the whole thing does drive me to distraction sometimes!! (I'm actually starting to go grey, how sad is that?)

That's it - I just wanted to walk you quickly through my last two months, and now we shall move swiftly on!

Because something new has happened: I have begun my second year abroad placement and, if you haven't guessed already, I'm in Germany now! Specifically the weeny little city of Jena (is it a city? I don't know. Check your facts Claud) in the Bundesland of Thüringen (south of Leipzig and way in the East). I've been living here for one week and now I'm going to tell you what I've been up to!

So I left the UK via a coach on the evening of Wednesday 1st April. I'd traveled down to London to take said accursed (good word, accursed, no?) coach all the way across to Leipzig, to then get a train to Jena. Why accursed, you may well ask? It was a stuffy, noisy, crowded coach - though I don't know whether the woman next to me who was practically sat on me, the constant shouting from the people on the back row, the man in front of me who played his youtube videos on his iPad loudly with no headphones (who does that?!), or perhaps the two hour delay at the ferry terminal that was the worst part. Never. Again.

I eventually arrived to my new apartment, which I share with two lovely Germans, on Thursday evening, and I absolutely love it. You have to go on the tram to get into the city center or to the uni but that's perfectly okay, and on top of that I love my room!

I have ALWAYS wanted one of these beds!

Already decorated with my photos..

Friday was spent sleeping, unpacking, and discovering the city center (although being a bank holiday of course everything was shut - I could still tell that it's a nice place though!). But the real fun began at the weekend.

At lunchtime on Saturday I went and met four of my lovely friends who I study German with back at Bangor at one of the train stations. Beth and Chan are studying in Leipzig, Alex in Heidelberg and Megan is working in Mönchengladbach. I hadn't seen them in aaaages so this was just perfect, what better way to spend my first weekend in Germany!?

First on the agenda was food. A fast food stand I'd noticed on the Friday turned out to be Jena's best-seller for the ever delightful Currywurst - you can also get it here with chips and a heaping of mayo, in whichever flavour you fancy (I opted for pesto & lemon and also guacamole). Needless to say, it was awesome. You do have to queue a bit though, as it's so popular, so perhaps I'll just go when people visit...or when I really really fancy one.


We spent the rest of the day wandering through Jena and enjoying the sunshine, even going so far as to crack out the sunglasses. But the main event of the afternoon (or second main, if you count the Currywurst which I definitely do) was the visit we paid to the JenTurm (Jena tower).

You pay just €3 to go whizzing up to the top floor of a tower (built during the GDR reign dontcha know), and are rewarded with stunning views across the city.

Looking this way I was *pretty* confident I could make out my building...

Wow, right?!

There's also a reasonably swanky looking restaurant on the top floor too (indoors of course), so we nipped in for a coffee and to warm up a bit. Afterwards there was time for another walk through the main streets and then we were off to the station to make our way over to Leipzig.

The trains vary, so you can either get to Leipzig direct on the ICE (means very fast) one in roughly an hour, or instead take two hours on the regional trains and probably have to change somewhere - we did the latter, but after all our walking it was quite nice just to sit down for a bit!

Our evening in Leipzig was spent cooking spag bol (well, we ate it, Chan and Beth cooked it...) and drinking lots of wine, followed up by some cocktails and drinks in a bar called Cafe Pushkin, which was ace.

Sunday morning consisted of nursing slightly sore heads (well, mine was at least), meeting another of our friends, Flo, who has just begun her semester in Leipzig, and hunting down some breakfast - we chose 100 Wasser, a place that does a great brunch buffet and, should you go, a really nice caramel cappuccino.

Good eggs - 4th year in Bangor with these girls will be awesome!

We saw some of the main sights of Leipzig the remainder of the day, in both cloud and sunshine which made a nice change! My favourite part was seeing the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, which is a Monument to the Battle of the Nations. We managed to take all our photos whilst there was some blue sky hanging about - not long after it turned grey again...

Dat reflection.
And then it was time to part ways - two of them had flights back to other parts of the country, three were remaining in Leipzig and I was heading back to Jena via a nice little train journey. I'm really, really glad that I got to see these girls on my first weekend of living in Germany - not only was it great to see familiar faces having just arrived, but I'd not seen three of them since we'd left Bangor back in, what, June?! This year abroad thingy is going fast, for sure..

Having successfully caught Beth's cold (thanks again bud! Jokes) I spent Monday largely watching Netflix and eating the last of my Easter chocolate (which I had bought myself. Sob sob)...

..but as I've since been feeling a bit better (still snuffling though, boo hoo), I've spent the remainder of the week exploring the city and getting to know my way around; taking a placement test for my 'German as a foreign language' courses; discovering local supermarket Kaufland and it's miles and miles of cheese, beer and meat (cannot tell you how excited I was walking around that place for the first time, I'm such a loser) and, most importantly, working on my German language skills.

That last one hasn't been so easy - after several months spent neglecting my German in favour of bringing my Italian up to speed (natural, having been living in Italy), I've found that when I open my mouth nothing short of rubbish comes out of it. Bless my poor housemate (only one is here right now, until tomorrow anyway) for constantly having to listen to me trying to make sentences! And if you think 'oh I'm sure she's just being modest' - no, no no no, I am not.
(On the plus side my writing, listening and reading skills seem to be just fine - can I just text everyone, instead of speaking to them face to face? Sigh...)

So in short, I'm getting used to being in Jena, and I'm pretty confident that I like what I'm seeing. My lectures will start next week so things will get busier and I'm sure that then the last of the feelings of homesickness will creep away - it's also meant to be nearly 20 degrees and sunny here over the weekend, so that is bound to help....

More updates soon, promise!


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