Lake Garda’s Lure

Land of sunshine and wine, I discovered last weekend that Italy seem to have it sorted.

On the bank holiday weekend last week (hold on.. is every weekened in Bavaria a bank holiday weekend?) we packed our rubber rings and our suncream into our Skoda Superb (yes.. we were the coolest kids on the Autobahn) and embarked on the road trip from Munich to Lake Garda in Northern Italy.

There were a few obstacles to this trip by road, namley having the ‘avoid Autobahns’ setting turned on on the Sat Nav, not realising, and adding a good few extra hours onto the 30 degree heat journey in a black car. However, due to this pesky setting we did end up taking a mountain side tour of Austria (this invloved lots of ‘heart-in-throat’ and ‘hanging-on-for-dear-life’ moments on my part caused by some rational vertigo and a lack of crash barriers). During this scary mountain goat drive we were forced to take an hour break in a mountain side town to let the Pfingst parade (pentecost) go past. It was a strange experience and I personally thought that we had landed ourselves on an episode of Derren Brown and that we would never get out alive. However, we did and there’s nothing like a roadtrip that can bring you closer to friends – 5 people squished into a car and 5 hours of conversation.

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Parade in Austria that caused the traffic jam

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Situated between Milan and Venice, Lake Garda itself is spectacularly beautiful. With a dramatic mountainous backdrop and clear blue water, you can see why it was a favourite destination of the famous German poet Goethe. The sheer size of the lake is breathtaking – it is 160km around and at 17km wide you really feel like you’re in the ocean (hence why I refused to jump off of our hire boat as I couldn’t shake my inherrent irrational fear of sharks).

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Our Ait BNB house was huge! The balcony went all the way around the house!

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The hire boat in itself is a story.  We, despite having no experience whatsoever, decided we would like to get further out into the lake and hire a boat.  It went a little bit like this:

Boat hire man:  Ok girls! This is your boat.

Emma: Emm. Ok.. Do you need our details or anything?

Boat hire man: Emm ok .. first name?

Emma: Emma

Boat hire man: Ok great Anna!  This is how you go forward, this is how you go back, please bring the boat back with a full tank of petrol, the petrol station is over there *waves vaguely out to one side of the lake*.  Off you go!

As you may be able to tell already, this did not go as smoothly as planned.  After attempting to get out of the harbour and doing some crazy out of control donuts which involved a lot of screaming and getting beeped at by a huge passenger ferry, we managed to sort-of learn how to work the thing.  Filling up the fuel was a ridiculous task, it turns out that reversing into a lake side fuel station apparently isn’t that easy!

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I caught the whole reversing into the petrol station disaster on video.

The trip involved lots of red wine and lots of good bread. We found the Italians to be wonderfully friendly even although our Italian was more a mixture of French and Spanish with a hint of Robert di Niro. On our last night we enjoyed some cocktails by the lakeside and the owner of the bar kept pouring Peach Schnapps into our cocktails and exclaiming ‘Salute!” while we tried to sip our now- confused Mojitos without grimacing. Not the cultural highlight of the trip but a highlight nonetheless.

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Our house in Italy.

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I think it is impossible to visit Italy and not fall in love with the culture and the mentality. The Italian people are the most chilled and relaxed people I have ever come across. Choosing between pasta or pizza at a restaraunt was the most stressful thing I endured all weekend.

Plus, Antipasto is a way of life.  Italy,  I’ll be back!

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Trials of Law Student in Germany

This year abroad so far has certainly been very picturesque and fun-filled, but I may not have talked so much about how studying the law at Munich University is VERY DIFFICULT (yes capital letters are necessary). Obviously German is famous for its crazy long words, compiled nouns and sentences – and I can tell you first hand that the legal language is no exception. Because the legal terminology is so long and time consuming to pronounce and write, they use an abundance of abbreviations. A quick example is: BverfG = Bundesverfassungsgericht (Constitutional Court of Germany). I also came across this word the other day whilst studying: Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften. I’m not even going to try and attempt to count the number of letters in this word or I’ll end up with a headache but it basically breaks down to mean ‘insurance companies who provide legal protection.’ We need SIX words in English to translate this one German word! SIX!!

Mix these huge and complicated words with my professor’s Bavarian accent and I really start to believe that I am in over my head.

One thing that I have noticed about the German law that is quite refreshing is that there is huge emphasis on democracy. It’s highlighted in every text book and every piece of legislation. I guess that it is a product of WWII and the German lawmakers wanting to do everything they can to avoid a similar situation ever occurring again. Speaking of the war, last week marked the 70th anniversary of its end. A day to celebrate or a day to remember quietly? I’m not so sure myself.

I just did a mid-term examination on Naturrecht. During the beginning of the lecture about this particular topic I scribbled notes on Environmental laws and other such things involving nature.  Little did I know that we were not discussing how to protect animals and trees but rather were knee – deep in legal philosophy and the law of morals.  Of one’s Nature. EMBARRASSING. Can I blame that one on the language barrier?… WHat did I say about being in over my head…?

Anyway, I’m not a philosopher (trees obviously make a noise when they fall?!) but the content of the subject of Naturrecht v.s. Rechtspositivismus (legal positivism) in Germany is really interesting.  A Mr. Gustav Radbruch had a theory that judges should not just have to apply laws to individual cases and follow legislation – if there is a situation where a law does not follow the rules of equality and treating everyone the same or does not follow the rules of justice etc, then a judge should be able to make the piece of legislation void.  This was crazy for me to hear, I mean, judges don’t have that power.. they’re not elected and they have to just go with the laws that the parliament gives them.  But Radbruch and many other Naturrecht supporters believe that judges should not be left defenseless like they were in the time of Nationalsozialismus in Germany (and like they are now).  I could delve into this for hours and I’m sorry to all the non-lawyers/philosophers if that was boring – I can almost head the eyes of anyone who reads this glazing over.  Just some food for thought!

I passed that exam but I’m struggling a bit with my German studies. I knew that it was never going to be easy. I only have 9 weeks left and 5 exams to do in that time as well as trying to pack everything that I need to do before I leave. 9 weeks + 5 exams + a trip to Italy + packing my life up + everything else = not enough time. However I never have been good at maths so I’m hoping that my calculations are wrong.

To continue on the moaning, I am also really struggling with problems in my back and having to attend physio twice a week. Can I just say that I can’t be the only who, when I heard the words ‘sports massage’, didn’t expect there to be screaming involved?

Buuuuut….. I’m making up for it by following this month’s motto of ‘Essen Sie sich Glücklich’ (eating yourself happy) and trying to try out loads of different restaurants and ice cream bars (who knew vegan ice cream was so delicious). Shout out to the German health system anyway for being so helpful in the case of my pesky stressed out back.

Well I think that’s enough of this blog of self-indulgent complaints so bis nächstes mal, ciao!

(I’ll end up with a pretty photo taken on my phone of the English Garden, where I eat my lunch most days (in a bid to be more German as they LOVE eating outdoors) to relax everyone after wading through legal phliosophy)

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Weeks left in Germany: 9

Favourite German Name I’ve Come Across So Far: Heiko Wunderlich

Vienna verified.

We spent a long weekend in Austria’s beautiful capital city, Vienna.

We began our journey on the bus. The bus driver apologised profusely that we were ‘behind schedule’ as we left at 1503 and not 1500.  Typical Germans.

We then arrived at our Air BnB flat (an amazing website that I would definitely reccommend!).  It was set in ‘District 1’ of Vienna which made me feel like I was part of the Hunger Games and it was beautiful.  We were extremely lucky to live like princesses for the weekend.  And this even included a champagne breakfast (admittedly Vienna is very cheap…).

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At the ‘Kantine’ in the Museums Quarter. Sunday Brunch is a huge thing in Vienna.  Vienna is really quite on Sundays, like Munich a lot of shops and places are closed.  But brunching is the Sunday activity as we discovered when trying to get in to any cafe and all the tables were reserved!

And of course there are the obvious differences like Vienna being hillier, it was a bit scruffier – not that it was dirty, more that it emphaised just how impeccably CLEAN Munich is.

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The very bright orange Ubahn has magazines that you can read.
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Baroque Cathedral

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It is obvious to see how the likes of Mozart and Beethoven found so much inspiration in this city. It is a very dramatic setting – think Sturm und Drang and you’ll get the idea.

Schönbrunn Palace 

The castle
The palace

It is fabulous. Beautiful and enchanting – even although we visited at this kind of dull time of year; the snow is gone and the sky is a bit grey and the flowers haven’t yet bloomed.  These transitional months are sort of the worst and I hope they pass by quickly. The tour was great and it told the story of the families that lived there and I found that the story of Empress  Elisabeth of Austria (and Queen of Hungary) particularly spoke to me and I found her history so fascinating.  She was assisinated in 1898 and was married to Franz Joseph I.  She was born into Bavarian royalty and was therefore brought up quite informally but when she was married to Franz at 16 she had to coform to a much more formal way of life and suffered because of this which wasn’t helped with the occurrence of a million family tragedies such as a mysterious murder suicide of her only son Rudolph.  Franz Joseph was passionately in love with imaginative and artistic Elisabeth but this was unfortunately not reciprocated  and she is quoted:

 “Marriage is an absurd arrangement. One is sold as a fifteen-year-old child and makes a vow one does not understand and then regrets for thirty years or more, and which one can never undo again.”

 I mean, she was also first cousins with the main man Ludwig II of Bavaria (i.e. my favourite king ever) and he was her favourite cousin so I couldn’t help but love her.

BORING HISTORY LESSON OVER.

Vienna was beatiful and we really enjoyed our weekend there.  We managed to squeeze a lot into the four days and a personal highlight of mine was seeing the Opera – we got to listen to ‘an der schönen blauen Donau’ (on the Danube) in Vienna – too cool . Oh and the butterfly house is a must see if you like flying insects!

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I’m back in Munich now and enjoying it more than ever – even felt a little homesick for Munich when I was away. It is good to be back to the more direct Germans, the Austrians are definitely more laid back.  Last night I went to a bar and was stopped on the door by the bouncer – naturally I started fishing around for my ID and that’s the reason bouncers always stop me (I’m a mini 5 foot).  But nope, he simply said ‘No no, not ID, I just want to know.. HOW SMALL are your feet?!’ It’s great to be back Germany!

I am excited to take some time out now from travelling and just getting to see different places and eat in different cafés in Munich now. I do love travelling but I also believe that there’s so much value in staying still now and again.

But I am so grateful to be able to travel to so many places.  You got to travel now and do the things you want to do NOW – don’t wait til you have more money or til you have more time – just do it and make it work! Who knows what might happen next week and nothing is guaranteed. 

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Not sure what is going on in this photo and don’t suppose I will ever find out. But important questions go unanswered and we still live on.