GLÜH-ed to my WEIN
AAAAND… WE’VE MADE IT. 4 MONTHS IN GERMANY. GESCHAFFT.
Honestly, I can’t believe I’m writing this. As it stands, I go home in 2 days… Although we all know this will probably be posted a bit late, lol can’t even stick to my own deadlines, so just know that when this is posted I have hopefully geschafft (means ‘accomplished’ but the Germans use it literally every day to describe something or other and I love that everyday there’s something you have accomplished) 4 months in this weird, but wonderful place.
Over the last few weeks there have been MANY a Weihnachtsmarkt visited (Christmas market – a key piece of vocab for this post). I am going to go through them and rate them all for you because I thought that would be a FUN way to do things!!
SO, the FIRST, as briefly mentioned in the last post, Weihnachtsmarkt to be visited was in FRANKFURT with Connor juuuuust (literally) before he flew home.
I was so happy, we just about caught it as it opened! We really didn’t spend very long there though, Connor had a flight to catch and, it would seem, Frankfurt public transport is actually quite complicated… especially after some Glühwein…
Glühwein (mulled wine): 7/10
Bratwurst (sausage) rating: 9/10 I had Currywurst instead of your typical sausage in a bread roll (aka a ‘Brötchen’, another piece of vocab for you!); basically, it’s a cut up Bratwurst in sweet curry sauce, sounds rank but is actually YUM and this one was no exception. One mark knocked off because I never like to give a sausage 10/10, always give room for improvement.
Overall festiveness: 8/10
That’s all I have to really say about this one, the overall festiveness would definitely have been a 10 if it had been dark because, as every girl knows, everything is better with fairy lights.
Moving swiftly onto the second market, my other teaching assistant buddies and myself organised to go to Nürnberg Weihnachtsmarkt which I was BEYOND excited about because, despite being the epicentre of Nazi rallies, Nürnberg also has one of the most famous Weihnachtsmärkte (there’s the plural for you all!!) in Germany!
Nürnberg is quiteeee the treck from deepest darkest Boppard and Hunsrück area, so to break up the journey Rachael and I decided to make it a Weihnachtsmarkt CRAWL (or, in German “WEIHNACHTSMÄRKTESCHLÄGEREI”, what a beautiful language), and stayed with Becky for a night in the lovely town of Speyer which ALSO had a Weihnachtsmarkt! Who knew?!
I have to say Speyer Weihnachtsmarkt has to be one of my faves, small and cosy but also with MULTIPLE Glühwein stands which sold many different TYPES of Glühwein, including WHITE Glühwein!! Which had mixed reviews from @rachyearabroad…
Becky had heard there was an ICE RINK at the market in Speyer, which Rachael and I were very, very, excited about. Sadly, as we drew closer to the ‘ice’ rink, it became apparent that it was actually just a massive sheet of plastic with confused kids in ice skates WALKING on it, and a massive scary Olaf walking around on it in trainers. Not quite Somerset House, even the kids weren’t buying it.
Glühwein: 9/10 (extra point for variety)
Bratwurst rating: 6/10 (taste was still 8/10, but I thought it was a bit short)
Overall festiveness: 10/10 (could have burst into carols at any moment)
The following day we got the FLIXBUS (like German Megabus but, because it’s German, just better in every way) to Nürnberg from Mannheim. This was delayed but it was cheap and quite fun, it felt like we were on a school trip!
When we got to Nürnberg it was pissing it down. Literally pissing it down, so we decided, after failed attempts to find a bus, the best way to get to our air b and b was to split up into taxis. Sounded good… until the language barrier struck once again, and we (I) managed to tell him the right street but in the wrong TOWN and had to pay him 30 Euro to take us to the right place. Turns out we aren’t quite fluent yet…
After that little shenanigans we arrived in our cute air b and b in and decided to head back into the rain to the market.
I’m not saying it was grim, but it was raining, cold, and busy. BUT the Christmas lights were still twinkling away, and Becky and I had possibly the BEST sausages yet in Germany… a bold claim!!!
These were typical Nürnberger sausages, which are smaller, but you get 3 (!!!) and they taste YUM.
DAY 2 in Nürnberg was SO good and SO festive. It was honestly so pretty, even in the day-light!! We wandered around all morning, sipping Lumumbas (hot chocolate with your choice of alcohol), looking at the cute stalls and just thinking how lucky we were to be there on the first of December.
After a morning of festiveness, we decided that because we were in Nürnberg we should probably do something cultural… especially because when we went to Munich literally all we did was go to Oktoberfest and drink beer all day (even if we were in Dirndls).
We went to the ‘Dokumentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds’ on the outskirts of Nürnberg, and even though I had been there with school, it was still so interesting (did I mention I study German and HISTORY).
As your personal travel blogger, I would highly recommend it as a museum to visit if you are ever near Nürnberg, especially if you want to see something cultural but don’t have much time, or don’t want something too heavy. The information is clearly laid out and the audio guide is very informative without being boring because you can choose what interests you to listen to (something which is often difficult for history and historians… someone tell me when I become boring, if anyone says I already am, I’ll kill you xo).
Before we went to the museum, we had lunch at the market which involved some mushrooms in a creamy sauce. They looked and smelled delish, so we all ate a massive tub each. Sadly, despite looking creamy and yummy, these must have been some kind of spiked mushrooms because all 3 of us who ate them suddenly got stomach cramp and… all I can say is I can now tick off shitting in a Nazi Museum (wasn’t on the year abroad list but neither is a lot of stuff which seems to happen this year). Winning.
After the museum we headed straight back to the market for some Glühwein… I won’t lie the Nazi museum had put a SLIGHT dampener on the festive feels BUT the twinkly lights at the market and a glass of Glühwein (or 6) soon sorted that out.
Another quick tip = just because Glühwein is hot doesn’t mean it doesn’t have alcohol in it… I had been fully convinced that because it was warm, most of the alcohol MUST have bubbled away… ha ha nope. 6 Glühweins later Becky and I were singing Christmas songs merrily to the people Nürnberg.
Our singing must have been brilliant because 3 (potentially lost) Americans came over to us to ask for a photo which we obviously said yes to.
Turns out they wanted a photo WITH us, cute except we didn’t get a copy LAND we ended up on their insta story. SO, if you are reading I except at least a follow (@alextwem) in return for our modelling abilities, danke.
After the market we headed on to do some more culture.
So, in conclusion for Nürnberg Weihnachtsmarkt:
Glühwein: 10/10 (well from what I can remember)
Bratwurst: 9/10 (could have squeezed 4 into the roll tbh, I have heard in Munich they give you 6!!!)
Overall festiveness: 9/10 (1 mark knocked off because of the rain)
When I got back to Boppard, on my bed was a little present from Frau Nicky consisting of socks (because she said she’s fed up of washing mine with holes in), and chocolate (because she loves fattening me up) for the 1stof Advent! It would seem the beginning of advent a bigger thing here than it is at home and I loved it bless her.
Sticking with the present theme, in Germany they also have St Nikolaus day (basically they adopt every possible celebration day ever) which is on the 6thof December.
For kids the tradition is to leave your boots outside the front door on the night of the 5thof December for St Nikolaus (father Christmas) to fill with presents or coal, depending on if you had been good that year. I can remember doing this when I was little, pretty sure Josh got coal one year… but anyway I remember always looking forward to it, but obviously I haven’t done it in 9 years; partially because I now live in England, and partially because I’M 20.
DESPITE THIS, Frau Nicky came into my room ringing a bell on the evening of the 5th(which can I say scared the crap out of me… I already think her house is haunted and I thought she was still at ‘hip-gymnastics’ lol), with a whole plate of biscuits AND some cherry liquor. Love it she’s trying to fatten me up AND make me an alcoholic.
After all these presents, I’m going to have to think of a really good Christmas prezzie for her now…
The following weekend I went home for a few days which was so, so lovely, I had always planned to go home between October and December, and it just so happened the only weekend I was free was 2 weeks before I went home all together. I had such a lovely time, but I do want to write a bit about it because I had such mixed feelings after I got back.
I think whenever someone does a year abroad, you have to think about the best way to go about it FOR YOU. When I was leaving to go home for a weekend two weeks before Christmas, I will admit that stupidly I felt so guilty about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I should have just stuck it out, to the extent that I felt I was somehow ‘giving in’ to year abroad, and that if I went home for a weekend it wouldn’t be such an achievement.
In reality, EVERYBODY deals with a year abroad in different ways, and there is no right or wrong way to do things.
Yes, I probably could have stuck it out all the way to Christmas, but if you had told me at the end of October it would be 9 weeks until I would go home and see my doggy again, I can tell you now, November would have been a far more difficult month.
I am glad I went home, it meant I was around to get and decorate the Christmas tree with my family (something VERY important to me and one of the best days of the year in my book), and I have accepted now that it doesn’t make this year any less of an achievement (even if I needed a bit of convincing).
When I arrived back in Boppard I did however feel a bit flat I won’t lie, after such a lovely festive weekend at home, and knowing a lot of my uni friends were about to head home, the thought of going back to Boppard for another two weeks made me quite sad. BUT I was greeted by the loveliest Christmas lights when I got off the train which made me feel a whole lot better (told you I’m a sucker for fairy lights).
The last few weeks here were very festive so really, I had nothing to feel sad about. A highlight certainly being our Christmas dinner. All of my other British council gals (aka other language assistants in my area-ish of Germany) gathered in Charlie’s cosy apartment in Bad Dürkheim for a Christmas dinner and general catch up before Christmas.
All I can say is, if anyone is thinking of adding mac and cheese (and 5 bottles of Glühwein) to their Christmas dinner this year, I would HIGHLY recommend it.
The following evening, I went to my school Christmas ball. I was absolutely BRICKING it before I went. The thought of making awkward small talk in German with teachers for potentially five hours filled me with dread (especially because small talk doesn’t really exist here, if you ask someone what their plans are for the holidays, they look at you strangely and ask “Why? Are you coming with us?” lol).
Despite this I put my glad rags on and headed to school (after a few glasses of wine aka courage juice).
It was actually so nice, I met up with Frau Nicky’s family, spoke to a few teachers and even had a conversation in German with the head master who said he is very excited about the fact I’m going on the year 8 ski trip in January… so excited I think he’s actually coming with us lol, such fun!!
The strange medieval bag pipe player from the upper 6thalso played a piece (same as he played at the strange music evening I went to a while ago), to which everyone clapped along and absolutely LOVED… honestly, I felt like I was witnessing something from a cult.
I ALSO FOUND OUT THERE IS A CLUB IN BOPPARD. I REPEAT. A CLUB!!!
It sounds super cool, it’s called “die Falle” (the ‘trap’) so that good!! One of my students asked if I would come with them after the ball, but seeing as my courage juice had worn off, and the fact that most of the people who seemed to be going were 16 year olds who I teach, I decided to miss this one out (sad times), and head to bed like the granny I have become lol.
The morning after the ball Frau Nicky and I had planned to drive to her brother’s at midday because he makes wooden Christmas decorations and she thought I might want to buy some as presents for my family. Turns out for Frau Nicky midday means 10 am but luckily, being the granny I now am, seeing as I didn’t go “in die Falle” I was bright eyed and bushy tailed!!
He brother and his wife were super lovely, both were over 80 and had supperrrr strong Hunsrück accents (@rachyearabroad you will know what I mean), luckily, I just about understood that I could take the decorations home, and just generally said “ja” a lot. Again.
She also drove me through the town where she grew up and we visited her mother’s grave, honestly, I really am part of the family and I felt so touched that she wanted to show me these places, bless her.
When we got back however, we both realised I hadn’t paid her brother for the decorations, so, even though I could have sworn he said I didn’t have to pay, on Frau Nicky’s orders (with which I think its wisest not to mess with), I wrote them an apologetic card in German and sent it with some money.
While writing the card I realised how little I actually WRITE German, it was such a struggle, but hopefully they get the idea.
I really miss watching films with my house at uni so that evening I watched love actually and timed it to start at the same time as Becky, we might be in small towns in Germany, but through power of Netflix and Hugh Grant it was almost like we were watching it together. Cuteee.
Now for the fourth and final Weihnachtsmarkt rating of the post, on Monday we met in Mainz to go to the market. Earlier that morning I had excitedly woken to snow outside my window!!! (but also to an even more excited Frau Nicky bless her haha).
Seeing the Weihnachtsmarkt covered it in snow made it even more MAGICAL than usual, and I have to say, I think Mainz’s market might be one of my favourites.
First of all, the usually very pretty train journey to Mainz was even MORE beautiful because everything was covered in a light smattering of snow…
Shock, we drank even more Glühwein, ate even more sausages, AND I even remembered to buy a few Christmas presents, including a yellow bird decoration for Frau Nicky’s tree.
I am aware this sounds like a strange present, but she had been telling me that she has every colour of bird on her tree except yellow, so in my ongoing quest to become the best student she’s ever had stay before (she has had a lot, and often compares us, bloody Ben who always used to cook for her) I got it for her, partially because I knew she would love it, but also for the brownie points.
In summary therefore of this market:
Glühwein: 10/10 (extra mark awarded because it was the cheapest yet – 2 Euro for a glass!!)
Bratwurst rating: 10/10 (even tried a new version – FEUERWURST – fire sausage and yep it was pretty spicy)
Overall festiveness: 10/10 (probably helped by the fact we were all going home that week)
The last 4 days DRAAAGGEEDDD like never before. I couldn’t sit still or do anything because I was so excited to go home. I made Frau Nicky and I some mince pies to pass the time when I wasn’t at work (told you I am Nigella – those who have been reading since post 1 will know what I mean !!).
While making mince pies was fun, Frau Nicky has taken them all up to her sitting room in a tin and I haven’t seen them since… at least that means she liked them!
The last few days were, as I am sure you can imagine, hectic. All the kids were a bit crazy (as was I) and everyone just wanted to break up for term. Despite this we had a lovely day of basically just Christmas card making, and I gave a class about Christmas in England all in German!!
With the danger of sounding big headed, or like a year abroad dick, sometimes I do forget that my German is quite good now! When I was talking about Christmas traditions in England to the kids in German (which, given, is quite a simple topic) they were all fully listening to me and genuinely wanted to know more about it, I felt so proud of myself… and now I’m a little bit worried that my whole “oh I don’t actually want to be a teacher” mentality might be starting to crumble….
BUT then I had the year 5s and they threw glitter in my hair so my attitude towards teaching was realigned… for now.
The final day of school included a Christmas “Gottesdienst” (prayer service) in the morning, which I mistakenly thought would be like my end of term carol services from when I was at school.
Lol as with everything with this year… nothing is ever quite as it seems.
Turns out it really wasn’t very Christmassy at all, but it was still a lovely thing to be a part of… even if bible readings were a wee bit tricky to understand in German. At the end of the service we sang a song in Hebrew about Hanukah, and a song was played about ‘Kristell Nacht’ (‘Night of the Long Knives’; in case you escaped being taught WW2 German history at school, this was basically a night in 1938 where Jewish people, shops, businesses, and synagogues were targeted by and attacked), because this year marks the 80 year anniversary since the event.
Following this, the younger children were each given a little candle, and as a school, we walked through town to the sight of where the former synagogue used to stand in Boppard, which was also destroyed in ‘Kristell Nacht’, infront of which the kids placed their candles.
As a historian (lol did I mention) I thought this was so interesting, and it really touched me.
On a slightly more serious note, throughout this year I have been realising just how courageously German people have stood up (and still stand up) for what happened in their country less than a century ago, for which I think they deserve an immense amount of respect.
When we got back to school, I taught a few more lessons about Christmas in England, played some games with the year 6s, and then I was DONE!!
My mentor had got me a cute present, and I gave out my imported Christmas cake and Christmas cards (all written in German and almost certainly including lots of mistakes but it’s the thought that counts right?).
After the last day of school, I went to help at the old people’s home with Frau Nicky, because it was their Christmas ‘party’. It was actually quite fun, I helped served coffee and cake, and then later Glühwein.
It did however, mean that my incurable confusion between the words ‘KUCHEN (cake) and ‘KÜCHE’ (kitchen) made the command “get more cake from the kitchen” really quite confusing… but no one was served kitchen when it should have been cake so all was well. It also ended in me being blessed by one of the nuns who ran the home… I mean it was in very fast German so equally she could have cursed me but I’m going to hope it was blessed lol.
AND one of the older nuns told me she couldn’t tell I was from England when I spoke!
4 months in and I can say “would you like a cup of coffee” without sounding English. Result.
So, I am finishing writing this post on the plane on the way back home (told you lol) and honestly, I am SO EXCITED!! I’ve listened to “I’ll be Home” about 8 times today and keep crying. What an emotional wreck I am.
To finish this last post of 2018, I just want to say how proud I am of all the other people doing year abroads – this shit certainly isn’t easy.
Equally I want to say a big thank you to everyone who listens to my complaints, egging me on, and cheering me up when everything seems a bit shit, you know who you are so thank you x.
And finally, I want to say that I’m proud of myself too.
I think we often forget to give ourselves a pat on the back… which I would do right now but it’s a full plane and people will think I’m either weird or pulling out a bomb vest, so maybe not.
In the last 4 months, there have been many an occasion where I’ve had to say to myself “just put your big girl pants on and do it” (sadly still don’t own any actual big girl pats), and in the last few days I was certainly running out. Being independent and coming across as confident 24/7 isn’t always easy, so I take my hat off to anyone else also doing this strange thing, we’re all in this together.
Thank you for reading and SEE YOU IN 2019!!!