Only Cool Kids Live in Ehrenfeld

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Fair warning, this is in no way whatsoever a criticism of Ehrenfeld or anything associated to Ehrenfeld. In fact, I’m very much fond of Ehrenfeld and everything Ehrenfeld has to offer. How many times can I fit Ehrenfeld into the first paragraph? Five times. That’s less impressive than I anticipated.

Most of you, if not all of you, have no idea what the so-called ‘Ehrenfeld’ is; allow me to enlighten you. Ehrenfeld is a neighbourhood in Cologne that is considered to be the ‘hipster’ zone. Now, I’m not very fond of the term ‘hipster’ for many reasons, so I will simply admit that this neighbourhood is pretty cool. I’ve been here for about two months now and many photography missions have been accomplished in that area. Please enjoy the fruits of my labour scattered throughout this blog post.

What makes Ehrenfeld so cool, you ask? Well, if the extensive range of graffiti and mural art isn’t enough of a justification, I’d be glad to elaborate.

This neighbourhood has something for every single person that comes to mind. Do you like reading books in quiet but awesome parks? Ehrenfeld. Do you like niche little cafés with exclusively homemade cheesecake? Ehrenfeld. Do you like outdoor movie theaters? Ehrenfeld. Do you like partying in some of the most unique clubs of Germany? Ehrenfeld. Do you like shopping for clothes by the kilo? Ehrenfeld. Do you like anything? Ehrenfeld.

I realise I must be coming off as a total fan right now, but I guess I need to justify the significant weight of euros that I have spent there. Worth it.

For those of you considering Cologne as a future destination, here are my brief but succinct recommendations;

  • Favourite Café | Madame Tartine: This café gives off a very chill rustic French vibe (I’m French, so it fits). The coffee is top notch, and the food menu changes literally every day. It’s all homemade. All of it.
  • Favourite Club | Odonien: Picture a junkyard that has been repurposed to be a nightclub for us super responsible young adults. The toilets are in an old container. One of the music rooms is in an old bus. Another music room is in an old bunker. It’s very very unique to say the least.
  • Favourite Restaurant | Karl Hermann’s: Best burgers in town, hands down. Even a range of vegetarian options that had my mouth watering. I can’t say many restaurants have that effect on me.
  • Favourite Detail | Everything: Literally everything. There is nothing that does not happen in Ehrenfeld. A few weeks ago I was throwing my money away at a food festival. This weekend I’m throwing my money at a vintage clothing kilo sale. Call me a hipster, I’ll take it.

Everything put aside, the whole city of Cologne is such a cool place to explore. I could (and have) gotten lost for hours just strolling around.

If you guys enjoyed the photos I posted on here, be sure to give me a cheeky follow on Instagram @alex_laval for more. Otherwise, I shall see you next time with another story. Bis Bald!

Boring but Necessary

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Here it is. Today marks the two week point since my arrival in Köln, Germany. It’s been busy, to say the least, but I can’t say I would change a thing. If you ever decide to apply for a year abroad (which I highly recommend regardless), you’ll notice that little bits and pieces of the application will seem incredibly confusing and sometimes frustrating. I’ve split this post into three parts to make it as clear and concise as possible: the initial application, pre-arrival and post-arrival.

The Initial Application

Applying through Durham University was relatively simple. The coordinators were unbelievably helpful in explaining exactly what we needed to fill out / how the process would unfold, etc. Having applied for an Erasmus exchange, I wasn’t too worried about not getting my first choice of location (at the time, all Erasmus applicants got their first choice). If I remember correctly, we were required to fill out the generic application paperwork as well as write a motivational letter (#UCASalloveragain).

Once all that was complete, all we had to do was wait for the verdict. Weirdly enough, I was stranded in Amsterdam due to a cancelled flight when I received the email confirming my place at the University of Cologne (I believe this was at the beginning of the second term). Let’s say I went a little crazy in the waiting lounge.

All in all: pretty straight forward and great amount of help from Durham.

Pre-Arrival

The build-up to moving abroad was a bit unconventional in my case. As mentioned in my last post, I was backpacking Vietnam days before leaving for Germany so I had to get everything ready beforehand. This included registration at the University of Cologne, finding accommodation, figuring out if I needed any specific documentation and basically all the other boring stuff that needs to happen before moving.

To make matters worse, Köln is infamous for its’ nightmarish housing market. With over 100 000 students living in the city itself, you can imagine that it quickly comes down to a ‘first come first served’ scenario. I must have sent out hundreds of emails begging for a bed and a roof above my head, and I started the search early. I have friends here who are staying in hostels 2 weeks into the term because they still haven’t found a place! I ended up finding a room in a private residence perfectly placed in between the University and the budding nightlife: I was a happy bunny.

All in all: don’t let the housing market scare you off, it’s doable and worth it in the end – just don’t be picky and start looking EARLY.

Post-Arrival

The road doesn’t end there! My dad was kind enough to drive the 5 hours separating Paris and my new home, so I could take more with me than the common Erasmus student. I share a flat with a dude from Finland – very quiet but very nice – and my room is more than enough to fulfil my needs (maybe I’ll post some pictures in a next post?)

During the first week, we had to register for our courses (strange system – so strange that I can’t even explain it, I had to have the International Office help me) and then for our exams (even more strange – was a bit disappointed with this German (un)efficiency ironically enough).

I also had to wait for hours to get my campus card (which is your public transport card for the whole region of NordRhein-Westfalen, your library card, your cafeteria card, basically your life on one card). Again, a few hours were waited to register with the townhall (biiiigggg fine if you don’t shout ‘hey ho I’m living here now’ within 2 weeks of arrival). And then a lot of hours were spent discovering the city and wasting money unnecessarily. More on that in another post.

I hope I have cleared up at least a few ambiguities, I hope I haven’t scared any of you off, and I genuinely hope you decide to take part in the Erasmus Program. It’s been 2 weeks and I already know I’ll hate the day that I need to leave.

And then there was Alex!

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You would think that after 20 years of constant travelling, I’d be ready to move to a new country. That would be an incorrect thought.

I just recently returned from a backpacking trip in Vietnam; it was the most stunning, fulfilling yet terrifying thing I have ever done in my life (see pictures below). Yet here I am now, sitting in my room, trying to figure out if I have everything sorted to move to the country next door.

Between the paperwork, the packing, the procrastinating and the subsequent stressing I think it’s safe to say my plate has been full this summer. (more on the application process in my next post)

This might all seem completely out of context to you, so I think it’s time I gave a bit of information regarding the brain behind these words:

My name is Alex(andre) Laval and I am a 20-year-old Business & Management student. I was born in Watford, UK but did not stay long enough to consider myself British by any means. In fact, I spent most of my life travelling through France, Australia and the United States before coming back to the UK for university. Officially (as in according to my passports), I am French and Dutch. Weird, I know. And in about 6 days, I will be flipping the page again and moving to Cologne, Germany.

That aside, I am very much into anything that has to do with distraction and entertainment. I love photography, I love watching / making movies and I strongly believe music and books give you something that nothing else in this world can. I guess we could also say I love travelling seeing how often I find myself on a plane or on a train, in a car or more recently on a motorbike; maybe I’m just addicted to the adrenaline of adventure?

Regardless, I am officially moving to Deutschland as they say, and I have no doubt that it will be exactly that: an adventure.

You can count on me to express down to the most minute details the best and worst moments, touching on a whole range of themes from the application process / arrival to actually being in the country as well as whatever I find myself getting into once there. If you have any special requests or specific questions you would like me to answer, feel free to email me at ‘alexandre.laval@durham.ac.uk’ or contact me through my Instagram which is @alex_laval (expect many many pictures there as well!)

My next post will most likely cover the application process / packing and arrival in Germany – tune in for that, it’ll totally be worth it.

On that note, I bid you all farewell and look forward to writing you all for the coming year! Bis Bald! (that’s ‘see you later’ in German)