Caroline Beaumelou

Caroline is in Germany on her year abroad from University of Aberdeen. She is linked with Meldrum Academy in Aberdeenshire.

Es war einmal in Dezember...

Hallo, Klassen! Wie geht's?

Sorry for getting back to you late, I've been a little krank, or sick, lately! (Do you think this is where the English word 'cranky' comes from? I certainly get cranky when I'm krank.) It's been snowing on and off in Freiburg, what's the weather like in Aberdeen?

Since our last contact, I've written an essay in German -- sehr schwer! -- as well as been to four different Weihnachtsmärkte, so in this blog I'll answer your questions and then talk a little about this Christmas markets!

  • What happens if you step in one of the gutters and don't marry a Freibürger/inn?

Firstly, I remembered the name of them at last: they're called Bächler! I've asked around and nobody seems to have an idea -- most people just repeat it as something they've heard their grandparents say. My best guess would be seven years of bad luck, as that seems to be traditional. I suppose I'll just have to avoid stepping in a Bächler so I don't have to find out!

  • Is University the same in Germany as it is in Aberdeen?

This one is tricky -- yes, and at the same time, not at all! There is a lot more work that is expected of you here in Freiburg: I'm taking 7 classes this semester, instead of just the 3-4 I usually take in Aberdeen. (That's because 1 credit in Aberdeen is worth 0.5 ECTS credits, if anybody is familiar with the system! So a 15 credit course in Scotland is only worth 7 or so here. Additionally, most of my lectures are only worth 3 credits, ergo, I have to take a lot of them.) They also seem to prefer presentations, which they call ein Referat, over essays: what you do, is essentially teach a class! You and your group take up the entire 90 minute class with your Referat, and then you're given a mark. It's a bit intimidating at first, I won't lie! But so far mine have gone well, as when you pick a topic that interests you it's possible to go on for as long as you like. Also, outside of how uni works, they're extremely strict about their libraries, in Germany: you have to lock up your coat and bag in a locker with your student ID before they let you in, and you're not allowed to bring any food or drink inside. The first time I tried to go to the UB, or Universitäts Bibliothek, I got scolded for trying to bring a coffee with me! Not what I'm used to at all, but I definitely learned my lesson.

  • What's some traditional food?

Well, the archi-traditional food would probably be Currywurst! They have this in the UK as well, so I don't think I need to go into it, but German curry is far from the curry sauce you can get in Scotland. What the Germans call the feuer level of spiciness isn't spicy at all! I was quite disappointed. It's also traditional to eat Pommes mit Mayo, which you might be able to guess is chips with mayonnaise. I'll stick to vinegar, thanks! In the region of Schwarzwald, besides the famous cake, a quite popular regional dish is called Spätzle, and it's something between a pasta and a dumpling. A little like gnocchi, it's served as pasta, although the texture is really quite particular. If you ever get the chance to try it, I suggest you do, as it's very nice! They sell it in packets to make at home as well, although I've never managed to get it quite right. I'll stick to those they have at the Schwarzer Kater, a tavern near the university in the Freiburg centre: they don't serve any kind of pub food at all, no chips or bread -- all you can buy is drinks, or Spätzle! And while it isn't really a traditional food, I've noticed that in Germany you can buy lactose free milk that still comes from cows; I'm not sure how, exactly, but as I'm allergic it's perfect for me! When you buy bacon it isn't sliced, either, but a big slab of bacon. It's these little differences that can make for a lot of weird discoveries, I've found!

And finally, if it's all right with you, I'll answer the question of 'is life better here or in Germany' at the end of the year! That way my answer will be a bit more fair than it is now, after only three months.

Regarding the Christmas markets: starting in December, every city in Germany, I feel like, has a Christmas market set up somewhere in the city. The one in Freiburg is off the Kaijo, which is the slang word for the Kaiser-Josef-Strasse. You can buy food and drink, Glühwein of all sorts, and little homemade Christmas ornaments or gifts there. With a group of students I also participated in a 'Studitour', or a trip organised by the Freiburg student association Studentwerk, to visit two medieval Christmas markets in Alsace, France. Technically, this isn't Germany any longer, although over the course of history it's somewhat gone back and forth between the two countries! I'll post some pictures down below as they were really quite fascinating. Being back in France, my home country, also proved a very strange experience, because despite being immersed in my mother tongue, I found myself instinctively reaching for German! When I bumped into someone, I'd say Entschuldigung instead of pardon, which I had to think about after, and say -- wait a minute, that's not right. (Funnily enough, the Germans most often just say Sorry with a German accent, even the older ones.) With some of my fellow Students who I know speak English, including one from my German class in Aberdeen, we sometimes will start a conversation in German or switch half-way through, and just continue like that. It's wild how quickly you get used to living in another language than English. In my case, it's quite convenient as well!

I'll log off for now, and if you get to see this before the holidays I hope you have sehr schöne Ferien, and if not, I hope you had a sehr schöne Weihnachtspause! Scroll down for the pictures, same as last time, and I'll write to you again in the new year!

Tchüss! (Did you know that the Germans actually say Ciao more often?)

P.S. Did anyone recognise the title of the blog? It's German lyrics from a song by Anastasia -- have you ever tried to watch a cartoon, or a film you know very well, in German? When I was in school I used to do this as a way to revise.

P.P.S. Still haven't found a bathroom with a bag hook inside the stall yet! Come on, Germany!

 

^ This is Ribeauvillé, one of the Alsacian towns I visited! You can't see the stalls too much because of the crowd, unfortunately. 

 

^ Here's a better picture of the market.
 

^ Currywurst. Sehr lecker!
 

^ Und diese sind Spätzle mit Zwiebeln!

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