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Celebrating Spring and Science (and Wine!)

Hello All!

It has been quite a while since my last post, and for this I apologize. After the whirlwind of travelling adventures that took place in April, May has slowed down a bit. However, I’ve still been up to lots of entertaining activities, so I shall take advantage of this blog to write about them!

For quite a few years now, Sebastien has attended a Wine Festival just outside of Berlin during a weekend in late April/early May. I often get to hear about the Wine Festival, but have always been unable to attend thanks to living in Canada. But like so many other things I have finally been able to partake in this year, I was able to come to the Wine Festival! A group of us (some of Sebastien’s friends, along with one of my good friends from England), took the Regional train out to the small town of Werder, where the festival takes place. Apparently this town is extremely quiet for most of the year, but during the festival it goes insane. Reminds me a bit of the Canmore Highland Games in that way, except that the festival goes on for multiple weekends.

The proper name of this festival is “Baumblütenfest,” and it is primarily a celebration of Spring and blooming flowers. A large part of the festival is the fruit-flavoured wine. When we first got off the train in Werder, there was a wine stand selling 1 litre bottles for 5 euros. They had tasty flavours like raspberry, strawberry, rhubarb, cherry, and pear. Sebastien and his group knew to stop and pick up a bottle here, because everywhere else within the festival was selling the bottles for a minimum of 6 euros. By this point, it was about 11am – perfect time for a bottle of cherry wine!

It was quite a long walk from the train station to the area where the primary festival takes place. We walked along a main residential street, and eventually stands started appearing along the sides of the road.

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There had been a lot of people on the train, and as everyone moved towards the festival, the streets got continually more crowded. Once we were in Werder’s more commercial area, there were lots of shops everywhere. Mostly they were selling different foods and drinks, but there were some shops selling jewelry, clothes or other hand-made knick-knacks. I was ecstatic to see that they were selling langos (a thin dough deep-fried and then loaded up with toppings like garlic and sour cream) but didn’t get one on that particular day.

After walking for a while, we eventually crossed a bridge that lead to most of the main events. We veered off to the right, where there were a lot of various rides and games for children (very much like the Calgary Stampede) and we found an area of grass to sit and relax on by the water.

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We hung out here for quite a while, and enjoyed the sunshine. We had been under the impression that the day would be rainy, so it was a pleasant surprise to see blue sky (even if that did mean I was boiling in my waterproof layers!)

After this, we went across to a more adult-themed area of the festival. At this spot, there was a stage where live performances were going on (which would turn into DJ performances during the evening) and there were picnic tables to sit at. The thing that made this an “adult-themed area” was the increase in alcohol-selling booths, and the only ride around there was a crane from which people could bungee jump over the water for 50 euros. Come to think of it, there were also bumper boats, but the bungee jumping was a more noticeable attraction.

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Sorry for all of the pictures all at once! But as you can see, the bungee-jumping crane was situated behind the stage – the picture I took from close up was near the washrooms.

For our first time at the festival, we didn’t stay all that late into the evening. But we decided to go back the next weekend, and once again lucked out on the weather. There were a few different people on the second outing, but we still had a great time. The primary difference between the first and second visits was that I got to enjoy a langos, and we stayed later into the night and danced in front of the stage for quite a while.

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One of the things I love most about Berlin is all of the outdoor events. In the future, I would love to plan trips to Germany around the beginning of December, because that’s when the Christmas Markets are all beginning, but aren’t too full yet. And the Christmas Markets are pretty legendary!

Similarly, there are a fair number of Easter Markets that go on. A few days after Easter, I went to work and found out that I wasn’t needed in my first class because the students were writing a test. Since I had 90 minutes to kill, I headed back to Alexanderplatz (two stops away) and got to look around the Easter Market since it was still going on for a few more days. There were rows of different shops selling candy, cheese, bratwurst, t-shirts, jewelry, and other goodies. Based on my addiction, and the fact that I will probably not have access to any once I’m back in Canada, I bought a langos. There were quite a few beer booths and sitting areas around, but they weren’t very busy since it was still 10am on a weekday by this time.

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The most exciting parts of this Market (besides the langos, of course) were the merry-go-round and the goats. At least, I think they were goats…I’m not quite up to snuff on my different breeds of sheep and goats. But there were also bunnies beside the goats, so in general there were a lot of adorable critters. And the merry-go-round was a double-decker one! In the end I resisted the urge to take a ride – it costs money and I didn’t quite blend in amongst the 6-year-olds. But it was fun to look at and take pictures of!

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But enough about animals and merry-go-rounds. The last exciting thing I wanted to mention in this blog took place this past Saturday, and was the “Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften,” or in other words, long night of sciences. Berlin is known for it’s various “Long Night Of” events, and in the past Sebastien and I have been able to attend both the long night of Museums and the long night of Libraries. The concept is that people pay one fee, and are able to walk in to any number of institutions. On the long night of museums, we were able to make it to about four museums between 5pm and midnight. For the long night of sciences, various libraries and universities were open, and you could go and see experiments take place. Sebastien, being the amazing planner that he is, took the time to make sure that we could hit up a lot of different things that specifically interested us. We started off at the Humboldt University Library, where they were offering tours of the library and a look at some of the “behind-the-scenes” work of a librarian. Of course, the complicated part of this entire evening was that everything was in German; even if my conversational skills in German are now fairly good, my understanding of complex science is pretty terrible! Our first plan was to join a tour of the library, but once I realized that this was the same library I’ve visited with different grade 11 classes at work, I figured that it was unnecessary. After that, Seb and I were able to see books being digitized. We saw how a fancy scanner is used to make a copy of each page, and after that, the librarian adjusts how the pages are seen on the computer before they are made accessible online. I learned a lot of interesting things about how copyright is involved and how this process differs from things like Google books. At least I think I learned these things: Sebastien translated most of it for me once we left!

We then headed over to the Technische Universität to catch a few lectures and experiments. We started out with a lecture on the idea of life on other planets, and this was followed by a lecture on satellites. After this, we went to see various experiments – two of which involved wind and the idea of wind resistance affecting the speed of vehicles. There was one huge hurricane machine, in which wind is simulated at different speeds. A few people got to go inside it individually, and the challenge was to see how long they could hold on to a few boxes as the wind speed increased. This was a lot of fun, especially since I could enjoy the visual experiment and didn’t have to try and understand the German. I also ran into someone that plays in my orchestra there – it’s not very often I see people that I haven’t met through Sebastien! Another experiment we got to see involved a plane turbine. I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, but Sebastien explained it to me after we left. The experiment itself involved the energy it takes to give a plane speed. So we went into one room wearing headphones and eye protection, and watched a controlled stream of fire. When certain factors in the machine were changed, the sound of the fire got insanely loud as the pressure changed, and I was holding my headphones even closer to my ears in an attempt to drown it out.

At about 11pm, we went to watch a science competition in the lecture hall – different scientists explained their experiments to the group, and at the end we voted for the best one. The guy that won gave quite a good presentation – he was on a team trying to build a robot that could function on Mars, and he made his presentation engaging and funny.

To end off the evening, we headed to the Technische Universität Library for some dancing. You couldn’t hear a sound as you walked up to the library, because everyone on the dance floor was wearing headphones! It was quite the cool concept – there were three DJs, and each person could choose which DJ to listen to at any given time. When you looked around while not wearing headphones, it looked like everyone was dancing without music. But once you put on the headphones, you could join in the party – even if you were off the beat from the person next to you because you were listening to a different station. Who said libraries were just for nerds?

On Sunday, I went to a vegan restaurant for one of the tastiest brunches I’ve ever had, and on Tuesday I am headed to a blind restaurant with a group of my friends. We’ll be eating in complete darkness! It’s been a lot of fun exploring events that Berlin has to offer. I am down to my last three weeks of work in Berlin, and am determined to enjoy every moment before heading home for the summer.

I hope that you have enjoyed this latest blog post. Have a terrific week!

Auf wiedersehen!

-Robyn

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Potsdam, and other Adventures!

Hello there!

I love the irony of writing blog posts: when you don’t have a lot going on, there’s lots of time to write blogs but nothing to write about. Then when everything exciting happens, you have tons of things to write about, but no time!

There hasn’t been a heck of a lot I’ve been up to in the past few weeks, but I was surprised when I realized that it has been almost a month since my last post. A few mildly exciting things have gone on in the past month, so I shall try to summarize them now!

A few weekends back, Sebastien and I spontaneously decided to take a day trip to Potsdam. If you take a regional train from Berlin to Potsdam, it can take as little as an hour. I love the regional trains here, especially the type that we took to Potsdam – it’s a double-decker! So we got to climb stairs up to the top floor of the train.

The day of our trip was absolutely gorgeous – one of the first true days of Spring. Potsdam has the largest outdoor Heritage Site in Germany. There is a huge open park, and by following various paths you come across several historical buildings. Sebastien and I worked our way across the park from one side to the other, beginning with two buildings across from one another. One of the buildings (the first photo below) is used as part of the University of Potsdam. The one across the way is a building that has played a part in history. The most significant thing that comes to my mind is that it was where the Declaration of War was signed, beginning the first World War.

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The last photo I posted is from the backside of the building – we had officially walked from between the two buildings into the long park. As you walked through a lot of green space, you could continually look back behind you and see this building in the distance. In this photo you may also notice that there is something on the ground in a circular shape – Sebastien and I are pretty sure that these are fountains for most of the year that are currently empty. The only problem with our awesome day in Potsdam was that it was still too early for a lot of the fountains and flowers that will be there later in the summer. But it was still gorgeous, nonetheless!

The next historic site we came to was the “Orangery”, which was the last building built in Potsdam’s historic park. From what we could see of this building, it was a large greenhouse with orange trees growing inside. The setup of the building reminded me more of warmer European climates, like perhaps Italy or Spain. Sebastien and I then took this opportunity to eat an orange. It didn’t come from inside the building, but we could pretend.

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After we were finished here, we went to see the Chinese Tea House. A lot of the buildings in this park were built for the benefit of Friedrich the 2nd, because Potsdam is where he would come and stay during the summer. The Chinese Tea House was built by Europeans, who based it on Chinese design, and it is where Friedrich the 2nd would go to enjoy his afternoon tea (don’t quote me on that, but I think it’s a reasonable theory). The whole building is apparently very fragile, and every time someone moved a bit too close to the fence an alarm would go off. In any case, it was very beautiful to see!

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The next building along was one that is primarily used for gardening, but at this point in the year it wasn’t very impressive yet. Made a good spot for us to sit and have a bite to eat though!

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Right next door to this building was the most impressive of all: the Sanssouci Palace. Sanssouci is French for “Without Worries”, because this was where Friedrich the 2nd would go for his summer retreat, and apparently French was the trendy language back in those days. We didn’t go inside for a tour since it was quite full, but enjoyed admiring it from the outside. The fountains in front of the Palace were full of water and everything!

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I apologize for my photos…they don’t really do it justice at all!

In any case, we headed out of the park after that point and searched for a place to sit down and eat. Every outdoor patio was completely full thanks to the weather, although we were able to find one beer garden with space. Unfortunately this beer garden had space for a reason – the service was terrible. We spent a total of 1.5 hours there and never received food, so we left. Good thing we hadn’t been starving beforehand! We then got some ice cream, and walked through town for a while.

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Our last stop before heading back to Berlin was checking out a few of the cathedrals. We didn’t go inside any, but we definitely made a good call going to Potsdam on a Sunday: when Mass was beginning, the bells from several churches all began to ring, and it was the most beautiful cacophony of sound I have ever heard. It’s hard to describe just how powerful that sound was. In any case, it made me want to watch “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

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After this, it was time to head back to Berlin. Seb and I went to a restaurant with several of my British friends for “endless schnitzel” – which was just as amazing as it sounds. 10 euros for all you can eat schnitzel and fries, plus one drink.

Apparently I had a lot more to say about Potsdam than what I originally thought! I’ll make my other updates quick.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that a friend of mine from the University of Victoria (she had been in my English Honours class) was in Berlin for a few days. We managed to get together and check out the East Side Gallery together. It felt a bit absurd to me that I’ve been in Berlin for so long and had never seen this gallery before! I was surprised to find out that it’s actually about three minutes away from my school. This gallery is basically a long portion of the Berlin Wall that is still intact, and has been painted on by people with a lot of talent. It was great to catch up with my friend, and experience a bit more of Berlin as a tourist!

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I also had the chance to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Berlin. One of my British friends said that there was a St Patrick’s Day parade we should check out – according to the website, it looked like quite the big festival! In the end, the parade was basically made of four people under a sheet pretending to be a snake while St Patrick chased them with a stick, and the Berlin Pipe Band. It was interesting for me to check out the pipeband – it was quite small, and half of the members were under 11, but they certainly owned that parade! They had a very cool bass drum head – it had the Berlin bear playing pipes in a kilt! Hopefully you can see it in the pictures. We didn’t stick around for the festivities after the parade, but it was still fun to be part of the festivities!

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My work has been going well lately. This week, the grade 10 students have a major oral exam in English – they have to speak in pairs for about 12 minutes in front of a teacher. While my conversation class has been slowly growing in size (I’ve gone from a regular three people to about seven), I suddenly had thirty grade 10 students come to me for help with their MSAs! I hope that what I told them was helpful: mostly it was basic language rules like when to use “many” versus “much”, and I had to explain that “funny” is not equivalent to “fun”. You don’t usually think that “doing sports is very funny”. This one backfired on me a bit when a German teacher used “funny” incorrectly the next day, but at least the students know what’s right.

I shall now conclude my blog with an update on what I will be doing next year. I have officially been accepted to Dalhousie University, and will begin my Master of Library and Information Studies there in the Fall! I am extremely excited. I have also decided to begin a whole new blog that will center around my library experiences, which you can find at http://thebagpippinlibrarian.wordpress.com/   Don’t worry, the “pippin” is on purpose as opposed to a mistake. I’ll try to connect one more link in case that one didn’t work: http://thebagpippinlibrarian.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/why-a-librarian/  I’ll still keep this blog going as well, but this one is more focused on my European adventures.

That is about all of my stories for now, but things are about to get very busy around here. On Monday, my Dad arrives in Berlin! I’m very much looking forward to seeing him. We have lots of plans for while he is visiting, including a short trip to Amsterdam. It may be a while before I write another blog, but by then I imagine I’ll have lots to tell you!

Thank you so much for reading. Sorry that it was such a long update – in any case, I hope you enjoyed it! Have a lovely rest of your week!

Bis Später,

Robyn

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Short little update :)

Hello All!

When I realized that it has officially been a month since my birthday, I realized it has been almost that long since my last blog post! So I shall briefly summarize the most exciting things I’ve been up to lately, and it’s up to you to decide whether they’re actually that exciting or not.

Since my last post, Berlin was hit with a fairly large amount of snow – just a little sample of what everyone else at home has been experiencing all winter. Luckily, I finished knitting my very fancy scarf right before the snow hit, and was able to coast through the bad weather in comfort. Now, it’s back to being nice and mild. I realize this is a pretty boring update, but it does present a good chance to put up a few photos: one of my school in a winter wonderland, and another of the amazing scarf.

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One of the teachers at my school has put me in charge of the Lesson Plans for a grade 10 class. I’ve been producing tables that list what the class will be doing every ten minutes, based on their current unit (Science…who would have thought I would be teaching science! Good thing it’s not their first language). I get nervous before every class I teach, but so far I’ve been very pleased with how each one went. The students are attentive and good at doing the tasks I set out for them. I think they enjoy having me teach them vocabulary, because I involve my amazing charades skills to describe exactly what each word means. During the first class I was able to use the seating chart to memorize a good portion of their names, but by the second class they were back to sitting wherever they wanted – so by now I know about 25 percent of them. Most of the time, I point and kind of make a vague murmuring sound so they think I have addressed them by name. A few of their names are really tough, especially since I’m learning from a sheet of paper. My personal favourite is ‘Ngoc”. I thought maybe she was prone to choking, and that’s where her name comes from. But if I recall correctly, it’s pronounced “I-nuq” or something like that. There was another one that was spelled really strangely, but in the end it’s pronounced “iTouch” which isn’t too hard to remember. In any case, I’m really enjoying working with that group. All grade 10 students have a really intimidating oral exam coming up, so when I’m not acting as the main teacher I’m taking pairs of students into the hall and helping them to practice their speaking skills.

This Thursday, I attended my last German class at the Technische Universität. Each student was asked to bring some sort of food for the last class, so I made three separate attempts at baking cookies. Unfortunately, granulated sugar and icing sugar are very different, so my first batch of shortbread cookies turned into one big sugar-butter blob. Then I tried my classic peanut butter cookies using German peanut butter, and these turned into…well, they actually looked the exact same coming out of the oven as they did going in, except greasier. Luckily, my boyfriend very kindly gave me some of his Canadian peanut butter, so that batch turned out a lot tastier. (Note to self: better ask my Dad to bring Sebastien more peanut butter in return for his kindness!) I brought said peanut butter cookies to the class, and they went over very well. There were a lot of really interesting dishes there for me to sample too – a friend from Britain brought in English mustard with sausages, and there were a number of different Chinese delicacies to try. We finished the class by playing “Mensch ärgere Dich nicht” which is the name for a game that basically every culture knows. I think in Canada we have “Trouble” and “Sorry” and it’s all basically that same concept. It was really sad to say goodbye to everyone in that class – it had been a really close group thanks to the small size of it, and I feel like I learned a lot through having such long discussions all in German. An excellent experience to add to the list from my year here!

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And Friday was, of course, Valentine’s Day! It was my first Valentine’s Day in the same city as Sebastien, but we didn’t get up to a lot of romantic things. Sebastien’s sister invited us to an event going on in Hohen Neuendorf, which is a small town outside of Berlin. This event was “One Billion Rising” and was actually taking place throughout the world. I think I read somewhere that in 2013, the event occurred in 203 countries worldwide. People gather in public places and dance in protest of violence against women. The event was well publicized, with coverage in the newspaper and an entire youtube video created afterwards. I had a lot of fun at this event, although I acted all shy and was therefore in practically no photos. However, I’m going to attach a photo of the event – I’m the one in the dark purple sweater and colourful sheepie hat, if you would like to try and spot me. Also, here’s a link to a video of the event this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9PVO_ZPbVc

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The last, but certainly not least, most interesting thing that has happened to me this past while is that I’ve been accepted to two Library Science Master’s Programs! Yay! I have been accepted to both Western Ontario University, and the University of Toronto. I still have a ton of decision-making ahead of me, but it’s nice to know that I can officially begin a program in September. The application process isn’t over yet, especially since I’m still applying for a few scholarships, but it’s nice to finally be getting results.

And this weekend, Sebastien and I are off to Prague! It’s a short trip, just for the weekend, but we’re hoping to fit in lots of sights while we’re there. Perhaps my next blog post will be longer than this one was, with lots of new stories to share.

I hope that you have a great week! Thank you so much for reading!

Auf Wiedersehen,

Robyn

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Orchestras, Teaching, and Life in General

Hi Everybody!

It has been a while since I’ve had the time to sit down and write about what’s been going on, but that’s basically a sign that life is keeping me busy with exciting things!

The most exciting thing that has happened within the last few weeks is that I performed in a concert with the orchestra I’ve been practicing with. They have a performance every November, and it turned out to be a fantastic show! The orchestra itself is quite small, but there are tons of guest players that were nice enough to colour our performance using their musical expertise. It was fun listening to the talented oboist and bassoonist – they are such unique and lyrical sounds! It made me miss the days of when I played oboe in high school. But I had enough instruments on the go that night!

For the most part, I played the stand-up bass. My boyfriend, his sister, and her boyfriend all came to the show (seeing as their mom, dad, and me were all performers in it!) and it meant a lot to me to be playing for people I knew in the audience. I was extremely nervous, seeing as it was my first orchestra performance since high school. It didn’t help that our first piece was the most complicated one! But the more we played, the more relaxed I got, and I really enjoyed myself. Sebastien’s sister was on photo duty, and did a fantastic job!

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A new wave of angst hit when it was time to play the bagpipes. A few weeks beforehand, we had settled on sheet music for “Highland Cathedral” that had a melody for brass instruments as well as bagpipes. We had practiced it enough times that I was confident with how it would all sound, although there was that fear I always have of my reeds falling into my bag before I play, or a drone going drastically out of tune for some reason. The song turned out lovely though. It began with a trumpet soloist playing the melody, then two flutists joining in. Then I came in closer to the end, and it added loads of power to the performance without being overwhelming. Something slightly funky was going on with my “F” so I had to work around that (heart going a million miles a minute) but in the end it all came together very well, and it was a very strong performance. I wore a big goofy grin the rest of the night, and was absolutely delighted to be presented with flowers at the end of the night, for my solo. I’ve also included a picture of my name as a soloist in the program, because that was pretty exciting to see too!

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After the performance, we went out for a fancy Italian dinner – we had invited all of the guest musicians, as well as our significant others, to join us. I was able to talk in German for some of it, and someone who had never met me before actually asked my boyfriend if I had grown up speaking German. She probably realized that my German is far from perfect once she heard me speak more, but I was still extremely flattered!

All in all, it was a fantastic evening. It sure is lovely to be able to play music you love for an appreciative audience. And I was so lucky to receive so much gratitude for my bagpiping! A terrific memory that I can add to my experience here in Germany.

Another semi-exciting thing that has been going on over the past few weeks is that I’ve accompanied various groups of grade 11 students to the Humboldt University Bibliothek. I informed one of the teachers here that I would love to get involved in Library Science, and he set it up so that I would be the supervising teacher on these tours of the library. Each time I went was very similar – a tour guide came and set us up in a “student room,” then we were shown various important spots in the five floors of the library. After that, the students would have to complete an assignment back in the student room using the computer research resources. The first two groups I took were very well behaved, but unfortunately the third one had a few people that spent a lot of time goofing off. I caught one of them on youtube when he was supposed to be listening to the assignment, and I walked up to him and said “can you please turn that off” with a great big smile. Oh ya, that’s the disciplinary Canadian. It’s a wonder the students weren’t terrified of me.

Anyways. I got to learn a fair bit while on these tours as well. I got quite good at taking attendance in German (I figure it’s a language transferable skill though, so I’m set for taking attendance in English too) and I loved getting to explore the various resources this library has to offer. The architectural design of the building is very artsy, and I could never get sick of spending time looking around. Also, our tour guide is my new idol. She always dressed very professionally and tastefully (without her hair in a bun or wearing glasses, just to throw in the stereotype so many people think of) and was extremely knowledgeable. Overall, I am very grateful that the other teacher thought of me to do these tours when he learned of my enthusiasm for libraries.

On Tuesdays, a group of Canadian Education Officials came to visit the school I work at. I was asked to spend that day working with them, and I like to think I proved to be helpful. The officials there were trying to learn how to emulate German’s language teaching practices. While there are many potential languages in Canada that people could learn, there isn’t the same initiative early in the education system that there is in Germany. The officials made reference to wanting to promote exchanges between Canadian and German schools, and they asked me all about how I came to be spending this year here in Germany. The group of us attended a grade 7 French class to see what a language class in Germany is like, and I now know some very useful words – primarily “la chien” or something to that effect. Maybe “la chat” but I’m not sure if I got those genders right. After that class, we spent some time discussing our countries and how we approach language, and there was a mixture of English, French, and German all in one discussion. It was pretty neat to be around Canadian speakers again, and they were interested to hear that I come from Calgary – there were two there from Winnipeg, and two working in Ottawa. It’s crazy how within Canada, the language challenges are completely different within each province. People of different descents settled in various parts of Canada, and it has resulted in different language specializations and priorities today.

The last experience I will rant about in today’s blog is a teaching related one. My schedule recently changed, and last week I was with a class I had never been with before. The teacher beforehand told me that she has quite a lot of problems with this class – they apparently are very lazy, and she often has difficulties with getting them to pay attention. The class is about to start the novel “Of Mice and Men” and my job for that class was to talk with groups of four or five students at a time about the Great Depression. I was quite surprised by the result. I had expected these kids to be unresponsive and lazy in our discussion, but instead they were thoughtful and insightful. Some of them expressed passion for changing the poverty situation in Germany, and it was great to hear people that are so driven and inspired. I guess my point here is that it’s amazing what kids are capable of: a lot of the time they’re self conscious and trying to impress others in a large class, but once they’re given a chance to talk on a one-on-one basis, they are each brilliant in their own way. Sorry for the lame cliché speech, but it’s hard to express how pleased I was after that class experience.

Anyways! This may have been a slow blog post, but thank you so much for reading! Things are about to pick up around here – I’m meeting my mom at the airport in a few short hours! She’s spending ten days here with me, and I can’t wait. While I will have some work to do, I’ve already been planning touristy things to show her. Next weekend we will be going to Dresden with Sebastien’s family, which is extremely exciting! I should probably get back to cleaning the house before her arrival. Not too much cleaning though, just enough to make her think that my house is normally that clean.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Tschüß!

-Robyn

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Weekend Roadtrip through Small German Cities

Hello Everybody!

Sorry it has taken me so long to get a chance to write this blog! When Sebastien had the day off school last Friday, his parents kindly lent us their car and we took a small weekend trip through Germany. I meant to write about our adventures the moment we got back, but I had my first German exam on Thursday and therefore spent a lot of the week studying! And let’s be honest – when I wasn’t studying or at work, I was knitting. But here’s the blog now!

I’m very lucky to have a strategic planner for a boyfriend. Usually I mention the things I would like to see within a trip, and he makes it all smoothly flow together. His hope for this trip was to take a hike through some hills, and I had said recently that I wanted to return to Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther had spent some time. I visited the castle once before with my high school band, but that was before I had studied Martin Luther in university and come to appreciate his achievements.

So on Friday morning, we drove the three hours to Weimar and spent some time wandering around. Weimar is a city best known for its historical buildings, and its connection to Goethe who was a famous German writer. There is a “Goethe House” which we walked by, but decided not to go inside since it didn’t look overly impressive. Thanks to my slight obsession with libraries, we walked over to the “Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek” soon after our arrival. Apparently this library is extremely popular during “tourist season” and a maximum of 250 visitors are allowed in per day. However, we got lucky and were able to look around! The library belonged to the Duchess Anna Amalia (go figure) and although it burned down in 2004, everything has since been fully restored (although it took until 2007!) The library exhibit began with a portrait of Anna Amalia, in which she is holding a book – this was a fairly unique characteristic for a portrait back in the day. My audio guide was in German though, so forgive me if my facts are slightly wrong.

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To me it looks like she didn’t really know how to properly read a book, but I guess she’s the one with the cool library so I should keep my mouth shut. After that, we went upstairs and saw some video footage of how the library burned down, and the extensive work that was put into restoring everything. There was also a really interesting old clock that kept track of the days of the week, the month, the year, and the time. Maybe the temperature as well, but I’m not sure. Only thing it couldn’t do was take pictures or receive phone calls.

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We got to wear big huge slippers over our shoes to keep the floors clean, and then we entered the library itself. It was absolutely amazing, and I can confidently say that it is the coolest library I have seen to date. I am going to admit that a few of the following photos are actually postcards I bought instead of pictures I took within the library, but that’s just because I couldn’t get the full span of the room with my camera. I was told in the audio guide that I could technically request to take a book to the reading room, which would be incredible considering the age of some of those books. There were portraits and sculptures of historical figures, including Goethe himself. As you can see from some of the photos, there were two floors full of books – and then a third floor that was covered all except for a narrow opening, through which you could look up and see a painting. It’s hard to describe, but I was in awe of it all, and could have spent hours there looking around. 

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After we left the main event, we were able to check out an exhibit detailing the steps involved in using a word press. There were a series of photos detailing how every letter would be strung together in order to make a page, and after that it would go through an elaborate printing process. There were samples of works created through using this process, including “Hamlet” written with a combination of English and German. Each picture would have to be hand carved as well. Hard to believe it used to take such an extreme amount of work to create just one page in an entire book, whereas now we can create huge documents within the space of hours if not minutes!

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After we left the library, we spent a fair bit of time wandering through the town. There was a small German “Weihnachstmarkt” going on that I had seen from the window of the library, but it was pretty small and deserted this early in the season. There were different places where we could buy food, as well as a small ice-skating rink. It makes me excited about the bigger Christmas markets I want to check out as the season goes on!

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We made sure to eat some bratwurst with mustard, because that’s a specialty in Weimar.

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We walked through a park, and saw Goethe’s garden house as well as a mass amount of sheep in an enclosed area. Not really sure how those sheep came to be there, but when we stood still it sounded as though it was raining because the sheep were constantly moving leaves as they munched on the grass.

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As we were getting ready to head back to the car, we saw a group of small children and their parents, carrying lanterns and quietly singing as they walked along the path. Apparently in Germany, it is a tradition that happens every year in November alongside Martinstag (November 11th). Children walk with lanterns and sing, and it scares away evil spirits – or something to that effect. Either way, the kids were adorable, and I got to hear all about how Sebastien and his siblings did the same thing when they were kids while their mother played accordion.                                                                                                   ImageImage

After that, we got back in the car and headed for Erfurt. We checked into our hotel and headed to a Chinese restaurant in the area, and had an early night. The next day, we got up bright and early for our hike. We packed up some banana juice and granola bars, put on our best walking shoes (in my case, running shoes) and drove to Tuphüringer Wald, where we proceeded to climb up Schneekopf. Unfortunately I made a knitting mistake while driving there, so I was a bit anxious about that while we were making the climb.

This was actually my first hike in what seems like forever, so I went into it with minimal expectations. I had taken it for granted that I was not a hiking girl, but Seb continually talked it up for me and made me decide to give it a try. I had expected to be toasty because of all the movement, but in the end it was very good that Seb brought a hat and mittens for me to wear. There had been a heavy storm across Europe a few weeks earlier, and it meant that a bunch of trees had been torn from the ground. Unfortunately one of these trees must have had a path-marker on it, because we ended up taking the wrong way at a fork in a road for lack of sign-age. The way we went wasn’t too bad either and still got us to the same place, but there were a lot of fallen trees we had to climb through, and my feet got massively muddy. When we reached the peak, it was extremely windy, but the view was pretty amazing as well. We were lucky to have a clear day, but it was also pretty chilly! On the way back I was a bit irritated by how cold my wet feet were, but Seb said that normally we would be hiking much earlier in the fall. It took us about four hours in total, and I treated myself to a hot chocolate pretty soon afterwards. All in all, I would say I haven’t been turned into a wilderness woman, but I would be up for more hikes in the future.

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After our hike, we drove back to Erfurt to act like proper tourists. We checked out the two Cathedrals central to the city, and could see the signs of a Weihnachtsmarkt slowly being put together. We then climbed to a great viewpoint, and got to admire the view as darkness settled in.

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While the night was extremely chilly and my poor feet were completely numb, I enjoyed getting to see the city. Being outside when it was chilly made me think of Christmas, and I started getting excited for the holiday season. I also did a bit of shopping at the artsy stores around while Seb patiently waited. Only had one embarrassing moment where my German failed me: the shopkeeper asked me if I was finding everything okay and I answered with no thank you. Wasn’t sure why she looked at me so strangely but I walked out of there quickly and Sebastien explained it later.

The night ended with a hot meal, followed by cozy pajamas and a good sleep. The next day, we headed to Eisenach so that we could see the Wartburg Castle. It was a Sunday so the city was pretty much deserted, but we managed to find a bakery that was open for breakfast. It was exciting to be back in Eisenach after I had travelled there with my grade 11 group, but this time I didn’t check out the church where Bach had been baptized, or his house. Seb and I walked around a little bit, and then drove up to the castle for their English tour. Last time we went there, it had been completely dark and we were only given a sample of the full tour since we were technically there past tourist hours. It had been an impressive view to see all of the city lights, but it was something completely different to see it during a fall day, complete with yellow and red leaves as well as birds in Vs flying south for the winter. The castle itself was interesting to see, although a lot of the artifacts in it were based on speculation instead of exact knowledge. It has an immense amount of history, and Martin Luther’s time in the castle was a very small event in the grand scheme of things. I had a lot of fun thinking back to that trip I took in grade 11. The only flaw about the castle I found was all the construction going on – it made it seem a bit less authentic, and made it obvious how many modern tourist additions have been made. Unfortunately my camera was basically full by the time we reached the castle, so I was unable to take mass amounts of pictures, but I still managed to get “a few”…so feel free to look at all 600 I have posted here.

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After that, Seb and I drove back home. I was unable to spend that time knitting, but since then I think I have discovered the mistake I made. It was a fantastic trip all in all, and it was great that we were able to fit so many interesting things into one weekend!

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you’re all having a great weekend yourselves.

Auf wiedersehen!

-Robyn

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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