‘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):

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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.

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

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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!

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

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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….

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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.”

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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.)

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

Sunsets and Solace

I went home to Scotland for Christmas and although our time together was but short – it was fun.

So as I said hello to Germany again I also said hello to January. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to wish my life away but I normally can’t wait til January is over. I miss Up Helly Aa (celebration in Shetland) due to uni, it’s always dark outside and the weather is miserable WITHOUT even the promise of Christmas. It’s just a gloomy month and to be fair to January, Christmas is a tough act for any month to follow. And this year I even have exams in January. It’s a fairly dreich month, as we would say in Scotland. LEBENSMÜDE!! (life tiredness. tired of life.)

BUT THIS JANUARY

…has been the January to top all Januarys.

Reason number 1 – I got a job in a German law firm! I am now officially European chic. I will say  ‘ciao’ when I leave the office. Job hunting is really an emotional coaster and I can tell you for free that phone interviews are the work of the devil when they involve bad signal and a different language – however I did manage to not fall off that roller coaster and things are great.

Reason number 2 – The weather has been outstanding.  None of this gloomy dark stuff. The weather back home was pretty disappointing. In Scotland it rains sideways if you know what I mean. But the weather is really making it easier to get outside more and that was in fact one of my resolutions – to get my butt into the great outdoors a bit more often. I know a lot of people hate and moan about the whole clichéd New Year New Start thing and put others down about it and I agree it can be a bit annoying and yes people should try to be the best versions of themselves all year round. But actually if the year changing is the thing that gives you the motivation to do new things and be a better person then that’s fine – what’s the problem? (Clue: there is not a problem.)

Picture of the sunset two days ago.  Just taken on my Iphone I couldn't believe how beautiful it was.
Picture of the sunset two days ago. Just taken on my Iphone I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.
Less showy-offy sunset yesterday from the highest hill in the Olympic park
Less showy-offy sunset yesterday from the highest hill in the Olympic park
Calm night yesterday
Calm night yesterday
Out for a walk with my two frien
Out for a walk with my two friends

Reason number 3 – The sunsets are incredible! I mean the pictures speak for themselves but I can tell you that there’s nothing more special than standing on top of the Olympic park hill and being able to momentarily escape your crazy thoughts and feel like you are being transported into a fairy tale world where the sky is burning. .. Just me? Maybe exam stress is actually getting to me more than I thought! Ha.

Reason number 4 – Autumn is officially over and the obnoxious early morning leaf blowing machines have finally disappeared.

And it is supposed to snow this weekend!

There’s been lots of other things going on in life such as I bought a pair of black boots that I don’t even really like purely because they are practical and fur-lined for the cold. I actually chose practicality over fashion. I am becoming German.  Well maybe not quite – yesterday I was in the supermarket and they only had a few tills open and the queues were starting to get sort of long but nothing compared to the co-op back home.  A woman from the back of the queue bellowed to the cashier ‘ANOTHER TILL OPEN PLEASE’ and not one person batted an eye lid.  Another till was opened. I stood in shock at how bold she had been. But yet in awe at how effective.  SO maybe I have a bit of a long way to go before actually becoming German.

So it has been a month of coincidences among chaos and I’m not complaining the way I would normally do in January.  Happy new year to everyone and all the best in 2015! Prosit Neujahr!

P.s. small tip for anyone thinking about doing a year abroad in Germany: you know how we use Kleenex tissues at this time of year when we all have a snotty nose?  Well in Germany the popular brand of tissues is ‘Tempo’.  When said in a German accent this will sound like tampon.  SO when someone asks for a Tempo, do not hand them a small feminine hygeine product made from absorbent material. This will lead to embarrassment. Mark my words.

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Home from home: Munich Olympic Park

Sorry for the lack of posts! My laptop decided to die conveniently during exam time in December but he’s all back to life now – just now with a German hard drive which is making my life slightly more difficult – who knew computer talk in a different language was this complex?! I’m back from spending Christmas at home in Shetland and I have found myself really appreciating where I live in Munich. Especially when I got on the plane and the pilot said “The weather is very similar to Edinburgh in Munich.  Except in Munich it’s not windy or rainy or cloudy.’ And not to mention my new Professor is called Rudolph so this makes me very happy. So we took a long walk today.

I consider myself unbelieveably lucky to have landed accommodation in the Olympic park for my year abroad. Although the Olympics were held here way back in the summer of 1972 when I wasn’t even dreamt of yet – the place is more alive than ever and you can do just about everything here – skating, boat hire, mini golf, tennis, outdoor cinema, swimming, ice skating, football, flying fox and so much more.

Die Heiteren Spiele – The Happy Games

As the motto of the 1972 Games shows, the Olympic park was centered around creating a new image for Germany – this was their chance to put history behind them as the 1936 Games were held in Berlin under a Nazi government and the Germans were well aware of the connection people had between Germany and the Olympics because of this. The intention of representing a new democratic Germany was clear. They wanted a ‘Demokratisches Grün’ (democratic green) Olympic venue. And so they decided to call this place I call home the Olympiapark as it fit well with the whole ‘green’ theme.

Unfortunately The Happy Games were overshadowed and are still remembered today for a most unhappy event that unfolded to be one of the most shocking tragedies of the 70s. The organisers’ intention of creating a new image for Germany was indeed clear however it is hard to get past the fact that when someone mentions the Munich Olympics, the first thing that comes to mind is the Munich massacre. Sadly this amazing place comes along with a horrific history. 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer were brutally murdered.

On September the 5th a Palestinian Terrorist organisation stormed the Olympic Village and took these athletes hostage in their own apartments. Anyone who wants to know more about the events of that day should watch a documentary called ‘One Day in September’ or Steven Spielberg’s ‘Munich.’ I cannot imagine how horrible the atmosphere was in the village on that day and it is almost impossible for me to imagine how such a brutality could have happened in this happy, welcoming place. If anyone is interested here is some footage of News Anchor Jim McKay announcing the news. ‘My father used to say that our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realised. Tonight, our worst fears have been realised… They are gone.’

In 1972 was the first time a terrorist attack had been broadcast live across the globe.  With the attack in Sydney only a few weeks ago and yesterday’s attack in Paris – it doesn’t seem like we are moving any further forward.

Upon moving in to my apartment in the village I knew that the hostages were held in one of these apartments but it did not really hit home until I was out for a run one day and stumbled upon the exact flat:

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‘The Israeli athletes lived in this building… they died a violent death.’

The Park

I hope I haven’t depressed everyone too much with that and I’ll move on to more happier things. The way that the Germans have kept this place alive is really amazing – to live in such a huge green space in the middle of a city is indescribable. It’s a beautiful area. I took a walk today through the park and was able to see the Alps in the distance.

The Alps in the distance
The Alps in the distance
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The lake in the park frozen today

The weather was a bit warmer when I arrived in September so I bought myself a pair of skates from a Flea Market (basically a car boot sale) and got skating.  The olympic park is just MADE for exercising.

Us skating
Us skating
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View from the Tower.

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Now lots of famous bands perform in the stadium every month.  Kylie Minogue was just here and so was Ed Sheeran.

The Village

The Olympic village is a happy and welcoming place.  As students, we are allowed to paint or ‘graffiti’ whatever we want on our little houses. Here’s some pictures I took of some of my favourites (sorry it was a bit of a grey afternoon).  I think its so cool that the students are allowed to express themselves and brighten this place up – and that all the paintings are happy and colourful and no one abuses it.  I still need to paint mine!

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Finding Nemo
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Care Bears
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Mario Cart
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The tardis
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Madagascar
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The Lion King
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Alice in Wonderland

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All in all it is a beautiful place to live and perfect for students.  I think its really remarkable how the Germans haven’t just let this place go but have kept it going and now the history of the games can live on forever.  I just hope that this place can be seen for more than just the location in which a brutal attack took place. No person is perfect and in the same sense no place is perfect – I have sung Munich’s praises in my blog up until now but it wouldn’t be true or fair to not address some negatives.

This place today is just proof that the Happy Games really did succeed – happiness will always be more powerful than terror. Just as Hollande said yesterday following the attacks – liberty will always be stronger than barbarity.

The Park is definitely worth a visit and you might even catch an old person zooming by on a scooter as that seems to be a popular method of transport here. Also if you want to fit in, bring outdoor gear.  The Germans love their North Face and Jack Wolfskin kit.