‘Alles ist eine Frage der Haltung’ – Tollwood Festival!

Alles is eine Frage der Haltung! 

It’s all a matter of attitude!

Tollwood Christmas market was my favourite part of Christmas in Munich and now summer has rolled around, I’m lucky enough to be able to say that the 25 day summer Tollwood festival is happening right in my back garden – the Olympic Park.

In my eyes, the festival is nothing short of incredible.  Tollwood is a forum for environmental conciousness and a platform for many other social campaigns. Through being so mulicultural it promotes tolerance, internationality and openness.  Although Munich is a big city – it doesn’t always feel multicultural in comparison to cities like Berlin.  Hearing any other language than German on the train is very rare so it’s great to see Tollwood promote so many other cultures in this festival.

Tollwood also campaigns for an end to intensive animal farming.  We saw this yesterday whilst wandering around the Markt für Ideen (Market of ideas):

DSC_0150
Giant breathing bratwurts in pig cages.

There are so many different types of food and countless food vans serving every type of cuisine from every corner of the globe.  That’s already cool in itself – what’s even cooler is that all of the food on offer at Tollwood is Bio (organic)-cerfitied. Even the beer is organic. Chinese, Bavarian, Turkish, Indian.. all the food is there! I personally enjoyed some crepes and vegan ice-cream made only from cashew nuts, strawberries and dates.

Also, more than 70% of the events are free of charge!  It’s such a cool day/night out and we saw some amazing performances completely for free.

I dare anyone to visit Tollwood and not be transported into the best mood – you just feel as though you are celebrating the very vitality of life when you are there. There’s such a buzz and every corner you turn you see something different- from giant people dressed as birds to break-dancers to indian drumming groups.

DSC_0159
‘You’re right.. But I like my opinion better.’
DSC_0123
If anyone has any idea as to what this might mean please enlighten me.

DSC_0139

DSC_0098

Sometimes hippy-ish events like these can sort of feel like they are trying too hard.  It’s hard to explain but you know what I mean – like they are doing everything they can to be different and to superficially care about charities and the environment.  But it’s different at Tollwood.  It is so relaxed and you can see every type of person there having fun – from young kids to old Bavarian men and women.  It’s not an alternative crowd – it’s totally mainstream and everyone fits in. It’s anything but try-hard and you just get the feeling that the organisers of this amazing festival really actually do care. You don’t have to dress a certain way to feel accepted or cool here.

I see countless blog posts all about ‘how to fit in in Berlin’ or ‘how to act like a Berliner’ and the posts then begin to set out how you should wear mainly black, listen to techno music, become a vegan etc etc. You have to try so hard to be not mainstream that in actual fact you end up the same as everyone else. In my eyes, Munich as a whole just isn’t like that. You can do whatever you want and feel normal.  And Tollwood festival embodies this!

Tollwood’s social committment is so refreshing and just wandering around the festival for a few hours will thoroughly renew your faith in the human kind. 

If after watching the news in the recent weeks and seeing all of the horrendous things happening, you’re suffering from any sort of Weltschmerz (a feeling of melancholy and world-weariness) then a trip to Tollwood is what I would prescribe. Get down to the Olympic Park for a yoga massage, a colourful braid in your hair, an organic Thai meal, a refreshing beer, a music show, a glass of Prosecco, or some Indian dancing…. The list could go on and on and on!

DSC_0101
Eintritt Frei! Free entrance to most of the events.
DSC_0102
‘Green energy only here’

DSC_0100 DSC_0104 DSC_0107 DSC_0112 DSC_0118 DSC_0129 DSC_0145 DSC_0156 DSC_0161

I really believe that Munich doesn’t get enough credit for stuff like this – as it is so prosperous and expensive, it is often seen as a stuck up and conservative city but I haven’t experienced that at all.  Tollwood feels so effortless and just adds to what Munich has to offer – other than Tollwood, this weekend the Olympic park has seen the Munich Mash event as well which involved an international BMX tricks competition and bike polo matches as well as a huge inner-city waterslide! I’ve also tried slacklining (like tight-rope walking) and watched some cool stand-up paddle boarding and trampolining. I don’t think I even need to go into how hard it has been to revise….

DSC_0171 DSC_0115

Denn Kultur, Lebensfreude und Engagement für eine bessere Zukunft sind eine Frage der Haltung – der eines jeden Einzelnen.

“Because culture, joie de vivre and commitment to a better future are a matter of attitude and everybody is responsible.”

Confessions from a Person Living Alone for the First Time Ever

During my 21 years in this world, I have never lived alone.  I have also never lived in a foreign country. Up until this year.. where I am currently doing both.

The first thing I noticed about living alone was the amount of STUFF you need.  SO MUCH STUFF.  Bin bags, basins, hand soap.  They didn’t just magically appear like they have done most of my life and I actually had to go out and buy them instead of spending my extra money on hummus and avocados, how mundane. This is what it means to be an adult in the technical sense of the word, I think.

I’ve had some times where I’ve been scared of the late-night creaks and shadows.  There have also been times where I have slipped in the shower and imagined them finding my body, days later.  But all in all, when it has rained it has not poured, it has merely drizzled. There have also been times where a sharing size portion of ice cream has found its way into my freezer and I have told myself that I want to be healthy and shouldn’t scoff it all, but on the other hand I really like scoffing ice cream – and in the end the latter has proved to be the more deeply held conviction.

I’ve learned that I can entertain myself for a few days without even seeing another soul. I have also become a master of Ikea flat-pack furniture. I have also learned that spiders are the enemy. But best of all I have learned that whilst I am a very sociable and chatty person, I am extremely comfortable in my own company. Life is all about lessons, they do say.

This is a very strange camera angle but I wanted you to get a feel of just how teeny weeny these little houses are in the Olympic Village. This is upstairs in the bedroom of my appartment. Small, but then again, I’m probably under 5 foot so I can’t complain.

Of course there are some disadvantages to living alone. You do have to be quite self-disciplined in your routines as it is much easier to press snooze on your alarm for the 4th time when you can’t hear anyone else up and about and burning their toast – 9am lectures are definitely a bit more difficult.  I can imagine that being a girl in a city isn’t exactly safe if you have to come home alone late at night after meeting friends at the pub but I am quite lucky in that all of my friends are also my neighbours here in the Olympic village.

I also don’t have to miss out on the cooking together with flatmates part of living alone because myself and my direct neighbour Emma do our weekly shops together and cook together a lot. SO because I do have really close relationships with my neighbours, I maybe haven’t quite gone the full way of living alone.

However, I have moved to a new country and moved into my own place and I have managed not to be lonely (even without a TV).  Pretty cool for someone who slept with the light on for 3 years after watching Paranormal Activity.  It is definitely a liberating thing to have done (even if liberating only means singing extra loud in the shower without feeling embarrassed.)

I can’t see myself living alone for the next few years either, this summer I’m going to live with my Granny whilst I do an internship in a law firm in Edinburgh, and then I’m heading home for a couple of weeks to my family home and then I will go straight back into Uni flat sharing for the next few years. However, I’ve proved to myself that I can do it and Die Zukunft steckt voller Fragen (the future poses many questions.)

Observations on the Ubahn

Ubahn – the network of underground trains that whisks thousands of Münchners around the city every day.

I hadn’t really had any experience of underground trains before moving to Munich.  I frequently got the train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh or other similar journeys when I lived in Edinburgh but those sorts of trains are different.  On these sorts of trains you can have wonderful conversations with people and have a few drinks with a hen party heading to Edinburgh for a night out.

So the Ubahn is something I use every day to get me from A to B.  That’s what everyone uses it for – that and only that.  It’s a means of transport and nothing else.  People get on.. and then they get off – it just carts people around.  They ignore everyone around them don’t pay any attention to anything except their book or their iPhone.  But that’s what I think makes it so interesting – this little hidden world underground world full of stories and interesting peculiarities.

It is the most interesting place I’ve ever been in a really non-obvious way.  Everyone is on their own little journey.  To where? No idea.  For what purpose? No idea.  And that’s the fun of it.

At home I drive everywhere – driving’s a cool thing, you travel by your means, when and with who want to (unless you’ve been roped into giving someone a lift when you cannot be bothered).  But by no means do you get the same enjoyment in people watching that you do on the Ubahn.

Marienplatz - the Ubahn station that services the city centre.  I like it because it is orange.  This is also the reason I like to do my shopping at Sainsbury's.
Marienplatz – the Ubahn station that services the city centre. I like it because it is orange. This is also the reason I like to do my shopping at Sainsbury’s.

There are also some beautiful stations slightly more outside of town.

Ubahn_westfriedhof_muenchen
Westfriedhof
ubahn-24
Georg Brauchle Ring

My favourite part of my day is sitting on the Ubahn on my 15 minute commute to work. A thousand mornings, a thousand train journeys.  Commuters are even stranger than the other Ubahn users.  The best types are the types that have perhaps taken an extra 30 seconds to brush their teeth that morning and make the horrrendous decision to attempt to sprint down the escalator and jump onto a train when the doors are closing instead of just waiting for the next one in 5 minutes. They then get really embarrassed as everyone on the train has just watched them fail – so they get angry and let out huge sighs or make ridiculous gestures.

The best one was a boy who decided to do this aforementioned sprint and did not make it – however his fingers did make it on to the train before the doors closed.  So there he was, stood on the platform on the outside of the train and his little fingers on the inside of the train waggling away and straining to free themselves from the closed doors. He was stuck.  At this point everyone started trying to prise open the doors to save this boy and there was even a nun (yes.. this is Bavaria) who was doing the holy prayer.  He did manage to free his fingers but he had a rather red face after it.. bet he wishes he had just waited the 3 minutes for the next train!

The escalators are very steep in some cases and this is one of the reasons why the sprint to reach the train before it moves on is usually an ill-judged decision.
The escalators are very steep in some cases and this is one of the reasons why the sprint to reach the train before it moves on is usually an ill-judged decision.

There are certain rules on the Ubahn, especially in the mornings on the way to work.  Number one being: do not talk to anyone else.  All sorts of social interaction are shoved.. underground.   Unless they have a dog.  Then you can complimemt them on their dog.  And in Munich, there are dogs everywhere! In shops, on trains.. even in restaurants.  Some restaurants even put out bowls of water for visiting dogs to enjoy. One time I even saw a sausage dog wearing lederhosen. Yes, I know, wonderful.

The inside of the Ubahn
The inside of the Ubahn. 

And then there are the sneaky ticket checkers who can be anyone from the cute Granny knitting beside you to the teenage boy chewing gum across the way.  It is an effective system to catch people out. But can lead to a sense of distrust.

Sometimes you see people upset on the Ubahn and sometimes you see people smiling to themselves.  And you have absolutely no idea why.  Everyone is on their own little journey.  That’s the thing about living in a city as opposed to a small town, you have no idea who people are or what their stories are.  You just have to imagine. I definitely think it must be easier to be lonely in a large city than a small town.

Oh and also to anyone who eats hot stinking food on the Ubahn – I hope you know how much we all despise you.

Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher. Yes that is an actual word.

I spent this past weekend with my Bavarian friend in her family home situated on the lush green land that is Bavaria. And I couldn’t help but get the feeling that her family literally personified Germany for me so I thought I’d write a little about my time there. As well as learning that an Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher is the tool you use for taking the top off of your boiled egg (my love for this gutteral, overly precise language grows every day) – I experienced many new things.

From the cow outside the house with the bell around its neck who wouldn’t sit still the whole night to being served a basket of bread (pretzels, cheese rolls..you name it) with every single meal.. it was an experience. And I am slowly becoming OK with the combination of carbs and..more carbs. Not so much OK with being kept up all night by a large cow who has to wear a bell incase it wanders up into the Alps and gets lost.

(Kuh is the German word for cow. And it is pronounced koo – just like how the Scots say cow. I notice hundreds more links between Scots and German all the time and I will probably write a blog post on that in the future for all you etymology enthusiasts.)

I know I keep harping on about the whole ‘Germans and their directness’ thing, but I think my British self still isn’t quite used to it. When they answered their house telephone, they just picked up the phone and barked ‘Wolf” into the mouthpiece (Wolf being the family’s second name!) Not even a Hallo. I would have personally found it quite terrifying to be on the other side of the receiver. Side note – the family call themselves the Wolfsrudel which translates to the Wolf Pack. How cool is that?

IMG_0090
Amazing Autumn colours on our walk on Saturday.

The weekend was lovely and the beautiful weather provided us with an amazing display of colours. Every morning her little brother proudly wore his Bayern Munich Tshirt as he sat scribbing away trying to make sense of his English homework (one girl, two shes?) and we set off to embark on some outdoor activites, as the Germans love to do, such as hiking and walking around a lake. Her little sister who is 16 attended a club in the nearest town on the Friday night and I couldn’t help but think how weird that seems to me – with the age for clubbing being 18 in the UK. Her Mum expressed her dissapproval on the lower age limit for drinking but I’m not so sure.

IMG_0031
Our little house in the Garden for the weekend. Many cows outside.

I didn’t have much phone signal out in the countryside but it was nice – when you finally get to put your phone down and only have the people in front of you to talk to. However this was very tiring – and at the end of a whole weekend of speaking and thinking non-stop German, I lost the ability to speak English. For example I tried to construct a sentence in English when I got back and ended up saying ‘because I the toilet need’. For all you grammar geeks out there (oh.. just me then?) the Germans put their infinitive verb to the end of the sentence after a subordonating conjunction like ‘because’.

It was also nice to not have a phone all the time because this meant I did not have to get reminded constantly through Twitter and Facebook that I was missing out on Guy Fawkes back home! I surely can’t have been the only one who didn’t click that I’d miss out because Bonfire night is obviously only a British thing.. actually let’s be honest, I probably was. Embarrassing.

IMG_0058
Neuschwanstein castle.

There have been countless more events in the past week or two – from an unexploded WW2 bomb having been found near the University and no body thinking it was a big deal to someone stealing the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at Dachau concentration camp (blog about my experience at the camp can be found if you scroll down the homepage a bit!)

And as I saw on the train back to Munich (which was exactly like the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter with cabins and everything..yes I was delighted) I couldn’t help but be shocked by that typical ‘time is going too fast!’ feeling. It just felt like the day before I had sat on the train going to the girl’s house.

I have also discovered that the childhood curiosity of discovering new things and exploring different places most definitely does not go away just because you’re a so-called adult. I went to watch the Bavarian Orchestra perform today in the Residenz and at one point the conductor stopped the music, turned round out of the blue and said to the audience – ‘find a connection to the music and just stop, and feel and experience everything you hear.’ And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do with everything before my time is up.

10752061_10153343445252519_948620826_n
Watching the Bavarian Orchestra in the beautiful Residenz.

The weeks are just whizzing by with only 5 weeks before Christmas and I can’t do anything to slow down time but I do know that I am definitely being challenged – and becoming more aware of myself. I would never say that dreaded clichéd phrase that I am ‘finding myself’ because I don’t think life is about finding yourself at all – it is about making yourself. Doing the things that you choose to do and that you love so that you can build yourself into a better person every day.

Tip of the day: never buy a stool the same colour as your carpet. As it will camouflage into the carpet. And you will fall and cry and not be able to walk up stairs for 1 week (and counting).

Those rare moments of peace

The 10k walk along Starnberger See’s shore was wonderfully quiet. With only the mountains and the trees for company, we were as close to nowhere as I have ever been. But it turned out that this nowhere of a place was more of a place than anywhere I’ve ever been. DSC_0042

It was so refreshingly quiet. But when I thought about it, it wasn’t really quiet at all– the sounds of birds and the water and the wind rustling through the leaves in the trees were very loud. I feel like when we think of quiet places we don’t count these natural sounds as being, well, noisy.  They’re a good type of noise.

DSC_0054

We were away from all distractions. Everyone knows that in this every modern world, this is a rare occurrence. Hardly ever are we just totally alone with our thoughts. The only times I can think of that fall under this category are that point when you’ve lain down and turned off the lights and are trying to fall asleep; or in the shower, once you’ve finished shampooing and whatever else – and you’re totally alone with your thoughts and nothing to distract. Even then I’ll start to read the back of shampoo bottles (that’s when I know it’s time to get out.) I think that with such short attention spans in this fast-paced world we are incapable of not being distracted until we are forced to do so. But anyway, my point is that these moments when we are truly alone with only our ideas and feelings are rare – and precious.

I went to Starnberger See because this is where King Ludwig of Bavaria (the Fairy Tale King/ Märchenkönig) died on the 13th of June 1886. I have followed his life history around Bavaria and visited his castles where he lived and therefore I thought it only right to visit his last place. No one knows for sure how the mad King died – whether it was self-inflicted or otherwise. Wherever I travel in Germany – it is absolutely awash with a thick history.

This place was no exception. Just being here and being immersed in its history is to be reminded all the time that there were people before me. And that there will be people after me. And to them I will be the ‘before’. It fills me with a growing responsibility to try everyday to do things right so that those who come to this world later can enjoy it the same way that we do today.

…However I don’t feel quite up to that responsibility yet as I can’t even remember my student card when I go to Uni. This may not seem too problematic to someone who does not live in Munich BUT your student card acts as your train ticket. For 2 months I have never been ticket checked but the one day I forget my student card, I get ticket checked. In Germany, the ticket controllers are dressed in normal clothes and just whip out a badge as soon as the train doors shut and you have to show them your ticket. So when the nice looking man sat next to me suddenly demanded my ticket – you can imagine my horror. I now have trust issues. It was certainly a scary experience and made for a fitting Halloween anyway.On top of this my wifi has been down this week – a true modern day horror story.

But despite these types of negative things – I feel as if there is no better healing power than sitting and listening to the water. This sound was something I have certainly missed living in a landlocked city and coming from an Island where I’m never more than a few miles from the shore. So now I feel more than ready to let October go, and November.. Let’s see what you got!

DSC_0024
How is it the 3rd of November and still this warm?!

On Observations

Practical People

Walking around the town centre and never in my life have I seen so much sensible footwear. Mostly boots. There are no questionable sandals you bought in Primark that will only last a week – there are only thick, outdoor, comfortable sandals. They may not be pretty – but it’s their utter practicability that actually makes them more attractive.

There are hardly any pedestrian accidents here. As I’ve mentioned before, they only cross roads on a green man. Unbelievable isn’t it? In Edinburgh the red man is taken as a mere suggestion.

Private and Secure People

None of the young Germans who I have met and subsequently became ‘friends’ with on Facebook have had their real name as their display name. Also there is very little shared on their newsfeeds. A lesson some of us could take perhaps?

You can pay by card almost nowhere. Even Lidl and Ikea only want your cash. In the UK I’ll pay for things under a pound at the self-service in Tesco with my VISA card, something that I totally take for granted.

And getting set up with the overly secure German online banking system was almost as difficult as my experience with peeling tatties with a 99 cent Ikea peeler. Hint: very difficult.

Direct People

The Germans have an utter disinterest in small talk. The cashier doesn’t care how your day has been whatsoever.

Friendly People

Lots of asylum seekers have gathered in the Olympic Stadium this week.  There has been a huge campaign from the Olympic village residents to help them in any way possible – clothes, translating etc. And it’s amazing. Seeking asylum is a human right that I feel carries so much controversy in the UK.

Another example being that my flat mate for September gave me a kettle.

Logical People

After a lecture or a presentation in class has ended, the students do not clap. They knock. On the desk with one hand. At first, you can imagine my baffled face as it happened, but I was not surprised in the slightest when it was explained to me – the Germans knock with one hand so that they do not have to waste time to clap with both. So that they can keep writing notes whilst showing their appreciation to the speaker. Wonderful.

I also think that the language (literally) speaks for itself on this one. I could list examples all day but I’ll leave you with just one: Staubsauger. This translates to dust sucker. Which we would call a hoover. How great is that?

Body-Confident People

We’ve all heard that stereotype that German woman are, how to say, not bothered about the gardening. Although I cannot confirm or deny this stereotype as I have not had any direct experience – I can say that the people are extremely body confident. The sheer Adam and Eve nakedness in swimming pool showers and saunas would actually be illegal in the UK. I feel like our whole attitude to the naked body in the UK could do with a lesson from Germany, why are natural things made out to be so provocative in our society? Why are we so embarrassed of our bodies? Maybe a question for another day.
Another thing that I have noticed is that here in Germany, children are children for much longer. The little girls dress like little girls up to a much higher age than in the UK.

Environmentally Friendly People

Even the students take the time to sort their food waste from their paper waste here. You receive ‘pfand’ (money back) for empty bottles you are finished with that you take back to the supermarket. It’s a great money-saver for students. Money saver student tip number 2: sleep through breakfast and go straight to lunch so as to save money on food.
(I’m kidding)
(Except this may have happened today)
(But it was karaoke night last night so I can’t blamed).

Anyway, whether you like their behavioural ways or not, Germans probably made your car, your washing machine and brewed your beer. Being the dominant country in Europe today, both politically and economically, they’ve got to be doing something right.

I’m sure I have a lot more still to note about the German culture so watch this space. For now, I’m excited about going out every day and learning something new about this city I love and call my home – and like any true love its totally and utterly unpredictable.

On Contradictions

The more time I spend travelling around Bavaria, the more I can’t get away from the fact that there are so many beautiful contradictions in this corner of the world.

It’s the perfect mix of old and new – from forward thinking green renewables and recycling to picture perfect castles nestled in the alps. Where I live in the Olympic park, swans glide around a lake placed in an unspoiled landscape – next to an impeccably maintained Autobahn filled with brand new, top spec BMWs zooming along at 120km/hr.

DSC_0043
A mountain top tiny village we stumbled upon, just after we walked through the Partnachklamm gorge on Sunday.
DSC_0236
Porsche Pavillion
DSC_0172
Bavaria is a Catholic state and the place is brimming with breath-taking cathedrals.

Shops that shut on a Sunday to mark the day of rest and the lack of wifi connection everywhere you go is just unimaginable in the UK, with our 24 hour Tescos (Germans gasp in awe that these exist) and internet in almost every shop and cafe. In Germany there are butchers and bakeries on every street corner, and they’re busy. There can be upto 4 bakeries on the same street, and they are all full of normal people. I always just grab my meat and my baked goods at a supermarket back home, it’s sort of sad. I feel like Bavaria is better in touch with its past than we are in the UK.
However this massively contradicts with the clean, futuristic environmentally friendly techonolgy and amazingly well thought out ideas and projects that the place has to boast. The modernity of the area is clear. Just one example being the astonishing transport system around Munich – it is faultless and everything runs like clockwork, with your ticket you can enjoy the underground, the trams, the buses and the overgrounds trains.  The train stations are all decorated differently – flowers for one station, a mosaic for the next.  All so that illterate people can differentiate between stations.  Its little things like that that are so impressive.

DSC_0077
A tiny and traditional beer garden, equipped with lederhosen and music, we found at the top of Eckbauer – a mountain we climbed yesterday.
DSC_0034
Nymphenburg Palace – where King Ludwig was born and spent some of his childhood. I can only hope that the buildings we build nowadays will hold so much beauty and be enjoyed as much by our descendants as we enjoy the buildings of our ancestors.
DSC_0239
Two towers displaying brand new Volkswagen cars.
Motorway under the Olympic Park
Motorway under the Olympic Park

I could go on all day about the different contradictions that I have slowly come to love in this place. But I won’t. It just seems to me more and more than these contradictions compliment each other beautifully and go in hand in hand – there is no conflict.

I feel that we, as humans, are also full of contradictions and are not one thing or the other and that this is why I have become so fond of this region. I’m having such a good time but I know it is going to fly by and that before I know it, it will be over.  I’m making memories that I can’t wait to feel nostalgic about. I think I’m going to have be dragged kicking and screaming back to Scotland at the end of next year.

Wenn dir das Leben eine Zitrone gibt…

Mach Lemonade daraus.. oder frag nach Salz und Tequila?

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade… or ask for salt and tequila?

So there have been more trials and troubles for me this week. From cracking my uninsured iPhone screen whilst leaving the Apple shop (ridiculous I know), to getting served Earl Grey tea passed off as normal black tea (why do Germans not drink normal tea?!), to getting caught dancing in my room to ‘Come on Eileen’ due to a misplaced mirror in my room being angled in such a way that my neighbour has full view of my bedroom from her balcony. Can I be blamed though? The song is a true Ohrwurm (ear worm – how the Germans brilliantly describe a catchy tune..).  With an ever growing to do list and a very unhealthy ‘stuff to do’ vs ‘time left to do stuff’ ratio, life is most certainly giving me lemons.

Anyway, I’ve already said in prior blog posts that on Sunday all the shops are closed.  On the signs in the windows of the shops’ opening hours it doesn’t just say ‘geschlossen’ or ‘closed’ next to the word Sunday.. it says ‘Ruhetag’ which literally translates to ‘day of peace.’  I love this German outlook on the day off.

So, on Sunday it was 24 degrees and we therefore decided to take the long trip to hike up to the the so-nicknamed ‘Eagle’s Nest’ just outside of Berchtesgaden. The journey included train strikes, a good few wrong turnings, trekking through private property with scary Bavarian farm owners, plenty of Google mapping and a lot of guessing – but we did in fact make it to the top of the 1,834m high mountain. The view was stunning – you get a real 360 degree view over Austria and Germany: Berchtesgaden, Salzburg and Königsee.. I think that the idea was that Hitler could have a full view of the ‘Vaterland.’

DSC_0115

At the top there is das Kehlsteinhaus. This beer garden/resteraunt was orginally a 50th birthday present for Adolph Hitler in 1939 and it was to be his retreat. Hitler loved this area and even built his own home lower down the slope. The beer garden is so peaceful and idyllic. Its difficult to compare this unspoiled, peaceful landscape with the evil atrocities that Hitler brought upon Europe during his time of power. Whilst we sat at the top chatting happily with a beer and a Schnitzel, it was strange to think that perhaps Hitler had once done the same.

DSC_0085
Me looking rather dishevelled at the top after a long journey.

DSC_0076 DSC_0116

But I do not think that this amazing mountain and area should continue to be associated with Hitler and the many awful plans he hatched here. It really is an area of complete beauty and deserves to be known for this.

DSC_0105
das Kehsteinhaus. Hitler’s retreat in the mountains.

The week also ended nicely including a trip to the top of St. Peter’s Kirche and a visit to an ice cream parlour Verrückte Eis (crazy ice cream) that served flavours such as Champagne and Beer (however I did get served lychee tea when I asked for a cup of tea… LYCHEE flavour! Come on Germans, you need Tetley’s).

DSC_0014
View of Munich from the top of St Peter’s Kirche. Had to climb 306 steps to reach the rickety platform on top and my fear of heights took over just after I got this snap.

SO  I’m still hoping for a change in luck when it comes to the frequency of my stressful situations. However as Autumn hits you in the face here due to all the trees, you really can’t but help but feel the change that Autumn brings about. The leaves are now a rusty brown, the air is now crisp and colder (very cold in fact – I’m currently waiting on a care package shoe box from home full of winter goodies including some ‘Handschuh’ – hand shoes. Yes, that does mean gloves. I really do love this language sometimes.) Change is definitely necessary – without it we’d be stuck with the sweaty summer forever … or in my case with bad luck forever. I’m hoping you carry me along with you Autumn and I can experience some of your change too.

DSC_0055
The town hall earlier this week on a cold but sunny Autumn day.

On Immune Systems and Stressful Situations

(I’ve added a few more pictures from my camera than normal into this post! Click on them to make them bigger if you want to see them in more detail.)

The stress levels have been up this week. From trying to cook mince, tatties and veg with only two pans, paying the extortionate sum of 3 euros for a small packet of pine nuts, accidently crossing the road on a red man (illegal in this country) to rollerblading on some dangerously slippy leaves – it has not been easy. So we visited Thalkirche Tierpark (Zoo). This zoo was seriously cool – from the clever design of the enclosures making you feel like there was nothing between you and a lion to the funky beer gardens. I decided to enter the bat cave – big mistake. There were bats everywhere, flying in your face and everything, it was carnage. I made a quick exit.

DSC_0117
Thalkirche Zoo – no zoom used on this picture, you are actually that close to the lion.
Having a chat with a baboon - just before he turned round and showed us his colourful bum
Having a chat with a baboon – just before he turned round and showed us his colourful bum
An elephant shrew. Aka the cutest little thing in the world.
An elephant shrew. Aka the cutest little thing in the world.
Anteater up close.
Anteater up close.
DSC_0061
The leaves make it dangerous to rollerblade but on the plus side they are also making it very pretty around here. Especially for someone who comes from a no-tree island.  This was taken in the Englisher Garten.
DSC_0159
The Isar River looking pretty in Autumn one night last week.

DSC_0145 DSC_0146

When I got home I watched the news and learned that the first Ebola patient had died in Leipzig. I had just visited Wolfsburg the week before to visit the Autostadt (very cool place) and we had driven past Leipzig. At this point I was already applying the hand sanitizer and worrying when I decided to google ‘Ebola’. Huge mistake. Turns out a major carrier of the disease is bats. Obviously I immediately started to feel ill. I have been assured that I should be OK, however I couldn’t help but move seats on the UBahn today when a man was sneezing near me.

I decided to ditch the daily pilgrimage to the bakery for a pretzel (and yes they have actual pretzel vending machines here – mind blown) and chose instead to eat some fruit and veg. The courgettes are especially fresh here. Time to boost up the immune system I think.

Oh and I also entered a maths lecture by accident this morning and had to endure the walk of shame right from the back to make a swift exit after 10 minutes. I sit at the back not because I am a badman, but because I do not want anyone to be able to read my jumbled half-English half-German notes and therefore have my cover blown as the year-abroad kid.

However, there is nothing quite like the arrival of a 4 day weekend (Fridays and Mondays off) to cheer a stressed-out student up. That and the discovery that all the fitness classes run by the council are completely free if you’re under 21 – how amazing is that? I do need to firstly overcome my lazy ‘Innerer Schweinhund’ (inner pig dog – yet another untranslatable but beautiful German phrase) before lacing up my running shoes. Maybe I’m just suffering from the ‘wow this is new, everything is better’ year abroad student mindset but right now I really think the Germans have things sussed a little bit better than we do.

DSC_0123
Just one last leaves picture – sorry – I can’t help myself! I could stare at these colours all day

Das ist nicht mein Bier

Ok. I think its about time we spoke about beer. When I learned that the German version of our English phrase ‘that is not my cup of tea’ is ‘Das ist nicht mein Bier’ (that is not my beer) I was not even surprised. Bottles of beer are cheaper than bottles of water in Munich.

The love and devotion to this beverage is definitely something that you cannot turn a blind eye to in this city. The beer is very strong – can be up to 6% alcohol. This is a dangerous game for a small person such as myself and I do have to remind myself that even though it is cheap – it is not actually water and that it is strong stuff.

This doesn’t stop the youngsters getting started early on the beer. The drinking age is lower in Germany and you can in fact drink beer in the pub from the age of 16. I don’t feel I’ve been here long enough to make a thorough observation on Germany’s drinking culture or alcoholism however I feel like the atmosphere around drinking is very different. There doesn’t seem to be so much of the student binging that goes on in the UK at the weekend and this can only be a good thing.

Everywhere you go in Munich you will see people with bottles of beer in hand. There is no law against drinking in public – however seeing drunken people staggering about is almost completely unseen. No drunken bums staggering around with a bottle in hand in the bus stations which is a common sight in Edinburgh. I can’t help but get the feeling that the drinking is much more sensible in this part of the world.

You can buy beer absolutely anywhere – from supermarkets to newspaper kiosks.  But yet it does not seem to be abused. The Germans take their beer seriously. You cannot simply just order a beer at a bar – you have to be exact about it (Weißes, Kölsch, Helles, Dunkel, Pils..etc etc).Or a Radler which is mixed with lemonade and is therefore sweeter and more to my taste!

Oktoberfest – Beer Festival

10423635_10153206569667519_4186515242919103240_n
Wiesn – Maß of Beer

Or ‘die Wiesn’ as it is called here in Munich. An amazing festival with the the most wonderful atmosphere and the most welcoming of people. At Oktoberfest last year approximately 6,900,000 litres of beer were consumed. And these beers are served in ‘Maß’ which are litre glasses and much to my dismay they require me to use two hands to lift. Which isn’t the coolest look.

Oktoberfest’s ambience was truly electric. Now that Oktoberfest is over I am suffering majorly from the post-Wiesn blues. There’s a great word to describe my situation – ‘Kummerspeck’ (literal translation: Kummer = grief and Speck = bacon.) This is a wonderful German word which I cannot find the equivalent for in English but it sums up my current circumstances perfectly.. it can be translated as a sort of excess weight gained due to emotional overeating. Or maybe it’s not the overeating, maybe its just the excess beer that has been suddenly added into my diet.  Whatever it is I feel its time to start some sort of exercise.