Fröhe Weihnachten! They definitely know it’s Christmas time…

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And all of a sudden it’s nearly Christmas, how did it sneak up like that?

Well, actually it didn’t sneak up at all…

For in Germany you have the glories of the Christmas markets, which ensures that unless you’re living reclusively in a cave, you don’t just know it’s Christmas, but rather feel like you’ve been doused in Glühwein throughout December!

And so this post entails what it’s like working towards the Christmas break at H, trips away and the festive cheer that wraps itself around you despite all the work we have and looming exams at the end of January…

Working right up until Christmas…

Perhaps one of the most unusual things about the end of this half of term (in Germany they have two larger terms rather than three which we have at Durham) is that holidays only begin on the 23rd December – what!?

I seem to remember that term in Durham finished on the 17th last year, which I thought was late, but the 23rd, oh my gosh… and you’re really working right up until then too, which is rather more difficult than I thought – everyone is exhausted and ready for a break and whilst the work slows down a little bit, it becomes rather overwhelming for many.

losing out minds in mcdonalds

we need more sleep here – hostage situation at a well-known fast food outlet

You’re frantically trying to keep up with your work, but you also have the urge to go out with friends, enjoy yourself and be merry.

And suddenly, that enjoyably tough 11am Seminar on a Tuesday becomes a monster to prepare for and you turn up bedraggled, exhausted even though you actually got to sleep at a good time, did all the reading and made good notes.  The really nice professor who leads the seminar is just as tired as we all are and we all desperately try to fill the silence with something that sounds vaguely, intelligibly academic…

Not only that, but I also feel that my level of German hasn’t improved very much at all in December.  What started out as rapid phases of improvement has slowed up as I’ve acclimatised myself to Heidelberg and suddenly realise that I really do have to work on my Grammar if I want to improve my German to the level I desire.

It’s certainly cool being able to understand almost everything (I don’t quite understand how my brain is doing it), however it sometimes irritates how obvious it is that I’m not a native speaker when I’m chatting to people.

In particular, merely having the name ‘Sam’ is enough to tell anybody I meet that I’m a foreigner.  Aside from changing my name, I don’t see a way of addressing this problem.

tired on the train

Sleep when you can

So anyway, to summarise, on a year abroad in Germany, you’re not necessarily working as you would be during third year at Durham, however it becomes exhausting!  Acclimatising and whatnot has been so much fun, the decision to come here is one of the best ones I’ve ever made, but I can’t wait for the Christmas break – and then I’ve only got about 2 weeks off!

Oh and I’m going back by bus on the 23rd December, a journey which will take about 15 hours… Grim.

Trips away: a quiet few days in Amsterdam – well, not exactly

Of all the trips I’ve made recently, one stands out above all others.

At the start of December a group of ten of us made our way to Amsterdam and it’s safe to say that it was an eye-opening experience.

Amsterdam jumping

Amsterdam joy – the canals are beautiful in the morning and surprisingly full of bikes thanks to the activities of Amsterdam’s more unscrupulous youths.

Amsterdam is an absolutely beautiful city, rich with history, but as our tour guide told us, for many, it’s the legality of ‘space cakes’, other such substances and prostitution that draws many tourists there.

little rapscallion.jpg

Our tour guide Geert telling about ‘The rapscallion’, which has become a focal point for protests throughout Amsterdam’s history

And walking through the red light district at night (a thriving, well-lit party place of Amsterdam rather than what the name would refer to in the UK), you really do get the sense that this is a city like no other in Europe.

I’ll leave our partying in Amsterdam by the wayside here – we had a tremendously fun time in this regard and it felt the same as usual partying-wise.  We had a few drinks, some of us tried some ‘space cakes’ (alcohol was enough for me) and then we went to a few clubs.

Matt birthday party

Actually quite a normal night out

So we partied at night, but the day time was breathtaking too – the city tour (free if you look up the times beforehand), visiting the van Gogh museum (not allowed to take pictures, sorry!) and the Anne Frank House, it was just an awesome experience.

You arrive in Amsterdam not knowing what to expect – it seems bizarre that you leave enthused and with more questions than answers.

Festivities & Fun

Thank goodness the Christmas markets are open here by the start of December…

As the holidays come so late, the constant reminder that it’s nearly Christmas and the endless sea of smiling faces that pour through Heidelberg is just awesome.

The Christmas markets are simply beautiful and the walk and bus journey home after a days’ work is lit up by all the glowing festivities that surround the city.

Heidelberg christmas market + castle

I’ve been able to buy all my Christmas presents for family over here and my only problem is how I’m going get them all home via a 15-18 hour bus journey!

As always, there’s too much to say and not enough time to write and document it all, but it’s safe to say that Heidelberg at Christmas is wunderschön.

Heidelberg Christmas markets 3

I can’t wait to go home and give my family and friends outrageously big hugs – but I also know that as soon as I’ll be aching to go back in January

Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heideberg verloren,


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