Saturday, January 5, 2013

It's a Danish Christmas

While traveling to Denmark is nothing new for me, it has been my first time spending Christmas with Anders and his family.
I arrived December 20th, so right before Christmas which, like in Poland, is celebrated on Christmas Eve. I think I can officially count the festivities as starting the day before for Jule Frokost, Christmas lunch. Anders' aunt and her husband arrived for a lunch, though it lasted pretty much all day. We had many delicious things, my favorite at the moment being sild med karry salat (herring with curry salad). Now this one surprised me, my parents make herring in a classical Polish method every Christmas, soaking in oil, vinegar and onion and while I've grown accustomed to appreciate it, I wasn't the biggest fan until this year. I wish I remembered all the delicious meals but I believe the images disolved with every plate of food I took.
Christmas, the next day was filled with meat, the main course being duck with sweet potatoes (not the orange ones but they were covered with sugar), brown sauce and a cranberry (?) I believe marmalade to enhance the meat. It was so appetizing. Though very different to what I am used to, (Polish Christmas Eve contains no meat but rather a lot of sauerkraut, cabbage, fish, vegetables and pierogies) I very much enjoyed this new experience. After dinner we had dessert, which was risalamande, rice with almonds and the trick was to find the full almond and then keep a secret. This meant that people would eat as much as possible. I actually ended up finding the almond, in the very beginning  so I hid it until the very end. With this 'achievement' I won some Belgian chocolates (courtesy of Laura who is living in Brussels). We then participated in the Danish tradition of dancing around the Christmas tree, we sung about 7 songs, with every verse we had to turn the other way. This ended up taking, I'd say about 20-30 minutes. The last one, was the classic Nu er det jul igen and with every verse you must dance faster until you break the circle. Finally, we got to open our presents and needless to say, I'd like to assume everyone was satisfied. 

New Years Eve
Most people think of this day as glamorous as it gets, going to a club or party with dozens of people around, way too much booze. The other opinion is that people hate New Years because of the mindset that comes as mentioned above. I have tried to find the find the happy medium and for the second year in a row had a 'private party'. Last year I just had my best friend and boyfriend over while my parents were away in Boston. This year, I had my boyfriend, his sister and his best friend over. We had dinner with his parents, celebrated with the confetti bombs, watched the Queen deliver her speech and then we were left alone. Of course we had a few drinks, waited until midnight, celebrated and went to bed at around 5. And that was definitely fantastic. Pictures accompanied. 

Just because Anders' face makes me laugh

On Monday, it's back to Leipzig, and I'm excited despite the stressful time period I'm facing. Exams and research essays, I believe I'll be in my natural habitat in the next few weeks: the library. And I'm gonna face this challenge. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2.5 months later...

I admit it, I can be a terrible blogger. I find that I get too caught up with too many things at one time and  lose track of too many things. New Years is coming up and yes, it will be one of many resolutions for 2013. 
So where have I been in the absence of 74 days? What have I been doing? 
Let me mention some names: Berlin, Meißen, London, Wrocław and now I'm back in Fredericia/Herslev/Kolding (Denmark). These are the places I have visited since October 15, 2012. 76 days ago. I know I have still got about 7 months left in Europe (though approximately 3-4 weeks I'll be in hiatus in the US) but I feel already so blessed to have seen so many different and interesting areas. 
I suppose it only makes sense to describe my trip chronologically then.


November 2012

"The greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine."
(David Bowie, on 1970s Berlin)

I only spent two days in Berlin, and most of the time I felt lost. In comparison to Leipzig, it's much bigger, with many more people. The city is very spread out and very often seems like a hodgepodge of culture, art, fashion and well, history as well. I suppose that this is it's appeal, and I very much enjoyed the eccentricity  though I am looking forward to going back again when it's warmer (it was much to grey during the first week of November). Also, kneipes (pub-like areas) are experienced better in the sun and warmth. 
I travelled with a group of 13 Erasmus friends, who are from all over Europe. We are all studying at University of Leipzig and so often travel together. As it was my first time in Berlin, I wanted to see the most important sights and figured I would come back to visit the museums, galleries and other cultural institutions.
Checkpoint Charlie
Unter den Linden is a boulevard filled with numerous historic buildings which of course we took the time to see. Brandenburger Tor along with Alexanderplatz was another area obvious to visit. You can see other things worthy of seeing here. I'll most likely be reusing this later. Throughout the day, we walked around all of Berlin, the premise being to go to the Jewish museum, which was only supposed to be a informational point. After some miscommunication a group of 7 of us ended up across the city at the National Jewish Museum which, though not inteded was still an interesting sight.  On Saturday night we went out to a club which was in an abandoned church (I believe) and even though it was a week after Halloween, Berlin was still celebrating. It was great fun, consisted of three or four different rooms with different types of music. No wonder so many clubs are open until late morning. On Sunday morning a good friend of mine Camilla took us to the weekly weekend outdoor flea market which was huge and filled many goodies. And without a doubt, we saw the wall! 
Brandenburger Tor!
Oh Berlin, we'll be back!


November 2012

Known for it's porcelain, I travelled to this small destination on a day trip with the student group WILMA and with another friend of mine.  We were there for a few hours, did a quick stadtrundgang (city tour), went to the museum, had some coffee and went around the castle. After that, it was getting a bit chilly so after a walk we got some mulled wine :) 

"Der dumme Junge von Meißen" (The dumb youth from  Meißen)

Goethe lived here...for a night

 London and Cambridge (!)

November 2012
London called and I flew over from Leipzig. A friend of mine invited me to come with her as she wanted to visit her sister who lives outside of London. We went for three days, one afternoon was spent in Bedford, Sunday in London, Monday in Cambridge and on Tuesday morning we were on our way back 'home'. 
Westminster Abbey
As I originally come from New York City, it was wonderful to go back to the quick-paced, robustness of a major metropolitan area. Though I really enjoy living in a smaller city like Leipzig, there is something exceptional about the rush I encounter or encountered in London. I really loved how spread out it was and how separated certain parts of the city were. Joanna and I walked all days and still only saw the most important things. Again, like in Berlin, we weren't able to go to any museums or galleries because we only had a few hours just to explore. But we did it anyway and felt like I had really seen so much. We were extremely lucky with the weather Sunday morning, blue skies and only some wind until noon. The rain didn't come down until about 7 in the evening which seems like a success to me, considering what I was imagining. My impressions of London? I loved it. It's a huge city but it's much cleaner than NYC. I wasn't too fond of the prices (so I suppose it was good we were only there for a day) and there were tons of foreigners. I giggled a bit at the English accent though secretly envying it. I loved all the little shops I kept finding when we got out of the center and yes, I hate the tube. Perhaps it's my claustrophobia but it was incredibly crowded, insanely small and just too round for my taste. But on the other hand, it was very easy to go around and super quick. And it's always better to look at the positives.  

The London Eye 

Of course
Big Ben

And we had to go to Notting Hill
Across from Buckingham Palace

On Monday we headed out to Cambridge, an hour away from Bedford. Though before we did, Joanna and I made a quick pit stop at Primark, a smaller version of Forever 21. The weather was grey and somewhat rainy. Our trip over to Cambridge took a bit longer than expected. Many of the little rivers in small towns had flooded, blocking roads which meant that it took longer for cars to get through traffic. When we arrived in Cambridge, we walked over to the main campus of the university and then proceeded to get lunch. After recharging with a cappuccino, we set out for the city centre. As we had no city map with us we relied on street signs and directions, which made adventuring much more spontaneous. We saw all the colleges of the university and walked down all the little alleys on the way. Joanna and I also did some more shopping and I acquired a beautiful Cambridge satchel.

King's College


December 2012

 Wrocław, my most spontaneous trip thus far. I decided to go the day before, once someone had dropped out. It was also just for a weekend and for 40 Euros, including train fare and hostel, I couldn't pass it up. Another reason was that I had actually never been to Wrocław and it would be really nice to be in a country where I am fluent in the language. 
Like with every trip, there was lots of walking and exploring of the city. Of course it had to be on a weekend where it was approximately -5 degrees Celsius during the day. As the city was a former part of Germany, traditions like the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas markets) still remain, and so we explored them as well. Our of 19 students, there were 4 of us that were native Polish speakers and we wanted to have people learn about Polish culture, food and traditions. We first took them to a Pierogarnia which is a restaurant that primarily serves pierogies, Polish-style dumplings. I of course got my favorite, potato, cheese and onion. They weren't as great as my grandmothers but it was definitely delicious. After that there was more walking around the city centre and basking in the lights.  


View from the University tower 
One of 212 dwarves around the city!

Fredericia/Herslev/Kolding (Denmark)

December 2012 - January 2013

I am currently back in Denmark, visiting my boyfriend and his family. They live in Herslev but we are often alternating between Fredericia and Kolding. On details about my stay and experiencing my first Danish Christmas, see my next post :) 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The beginning of University, Dresden...

First off, I sincerely apologize for the lack of posts in the past 2 weeks. If anything, I've been too busy being social and experiencing all the free moments I had before University started. But as I've acquired some kind of cold, I find it most appropriate to skip 'Montagskneipe', nurse myself back to health and finally let all my readers know what's been up.
I have divided up this post into the most important events from the last time I wrote.

The end of our Sprach und Orientierungskurs:
October 5th marked the end of the course that was supposed to prepare us for University in Leipzig. From my experience, it was a good review of basic grammar and practice with our speaking. I thought the program was really great in letting us learn about Leipzig. We often had trips to museums, activities and opportunities to hear lectures for exchange students and preparing for studying. I almost wish we had had more class time as I could always use some more practice with grammar (it always feels like a struggle). But when looking at the program as a whole, I would really like to emphasize how wonderful it was to get to know so many people before parting ways and the best part is, is that we all have a strong network of friends that I'm sure we'll all be hanging out with and meeting from time to time.
(I'm in the third row all the way on the left)

University and German classes so far:
So I've had a week of classes (though to be fair I haven't been to all of them, one was cancelled, and another the Professor simply didn't show up) and the best way to explain my experience could be that after each and every one, I've left with a headache. The system is very different, lectures and seminars are both 90 minutes long and each meet once a week. So technically you're in class less often than at Mount Holyoke for example but you have a lot more reading to do. It's an interesting system not to have assignments often but only exams and presentations or papers (it depends on the course) and I feel a lot more liberated. I have more time to read which is great as taking Politics and History courses here means that all I do is read. All of my classes are in German which right now means that I listen a lot, but have yet to say something in class. I keep telling myself that it'll come, but it all seems too slow for my hasty self.

Last Wednesday, October 9th marked the anniversary of Leipzigs peaceful revolution which took place October 9, 1989.
Taken from the city's website:
"The decisive event of the peaceful revolution was the large Monday demonstration on the 9th of October, 1989 in Leipzig. 70,000 demonstrators overcame their fears and faced the armed security forces with their chant “We are the people”. The peaceful revolution could no longer be held back. With their courage, the people of Leipzig contributed greatly to the fall of the GDR regime.People in many large cities and small towns demonstrated against the regime but Leipzig stands, perhaps more than any other place, as exemplary for the peaceful revolution in the minds of people in and beyond Germany. The 9th of October, 1989 became the day of decision for the democratic movement’s future.This is why the 9th of October is not only an important historical date for Leipzig’s city government but, rather, it sees itself more so as obligated to continue to create an audience for the spread of democracy, nonviolence and critique as well." 
The demonstration included people holding candles and at the end of the 'show' placing them on a large neon "89". The story of the DDR and the struggles encountered were demonstrated by an interpretive dance that lasted about 45 minutes. 

Yesterday, October 14th, I took a trip with the student group WILMA to Dresden (only 6 euros round trip!). I found Dresden to be wonderfully charming, the architecture outstanding and the sights breathtaking. We all started out with a tour around the city, but because we were taking too long for "picture brakes" my friends and I decided to go out on our own, and I'm pretty glad we made that decision. I can't wait to go back during the infamous "Christmas market" in December!