It’s Beginning to Look a Bit Like Christmas

Alright, so first of all, I know I’ve been awful at the whole keeping-on-top-of-this-blog thing. I don’t know what happened; I don’t feel like I’ve been that busy, but all of a sudden I’ve been here for 10 weeks and where did that time go?!

So I’m not really going to try and catch up on all of that because I don’t remember all of it (though I may blog about my trip to Bratislava at the beginning of November sometime soon) and because it would take a lot of blog posts that I don’t think anyone would really read.

Instead, let’s talk about Christmas!

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Excuse me; I have some shopping to do.

Shopping, shopping shopping. Who doesn’t enjoy shopping? 😉 Certainly not me, judging by all the things I’ve bought since I’ve been here…

Seriously...

Seriously…

...I need to stop.

…I need to stop.

So I thought it might be a good idea to put a post together that just talks about shopping in Beijing – where to go, what you can buy and, most of all, how to haggle! 🙂

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You know, I think this Christmas thing is not as tricky as it seems! But why should they have all the fun? It should belong to anyone!

Day one of the week of posts: Christmas markets. I probably should have written about this last month, but oh well, it gives you all ten months or so to book your flights to Germany to come and see them 😉

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Get your ass behind the yellow line!

Whew, so today’s post is going to be about the weekend in Berlin that I enjoyed back in… early November. I know, I know, I’m catching up.

So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Note: I’m writing this from memory and I can’t find the itinerary (if we had one; I don’t remember) so if there are things that are clearly wrong and you were on the trip with me, let me know. I’ve just spent 10 minutes looking for a sheet of paper I’m not even sure exists. I should have written this two months ago, you guys. Also, this is mostly pictures, so I’m sorry if it takes a while to load.

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These go to eleven.

So… long time, no blog, huh? I’ve not been as good at keeping up with this thing as I’d have liked, though I’m hoping to improve on that front :). It does mean I have a lot to talk about though, yay!

I’m going to split this up because we have done a lot of stuff since the end of September. Basically, I’m going to talk about going to Oktoberfest and our Saturday trips to Dortmund and Düsseldorf, respectively.

Here goes!

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We plan, we get there, all hell breaks loose!

Well, I’ve been in Germany for just over a week at this point. It’s been a busy, busy time. I’m going to break it down day-by-day because: 1) visually, it’s going to look better than a whole load of rambling and 2) otherwise, I will just ramble.

So, onwards:

Tuesday, 4th September.
I posted in the airport in the morning, but then nothing after that – and with good reason! This was the most tiring day I’ve had in a long time. Basically, the flight only took an hour and then I found myself in Düsseldorf airport, with no clue except a need to get to the main train station, because from there the trains ran to Paderborn every hour. Okay. Easier said than done. I managed to get to the S-Bahn (the fast trains) that would take me to the main station, but for some reason I panicked at the first stop and thought I was going the wrong way, so I got off. That meant an extra fifteen minute wait for the next train and then a journey through a bunch of places I didn’t know. At the main station, things were a little easier. It was a bit like the one in Nuremberg, so I managed to get my ticket (33€ for a two hour journey; not bad), but when I went to get my train — there was a twenty-five minute delay!

What is going on there, Germany? I’ve spent weeks reading blogs where people say that the idea of Germans being on time everywhere is true, and it immediately turns out to be a lie?! 😉

Still, I got that train and eventually — about three hours after I’d left England — I was on my way to Paderborn. The train ride was uneventful, except I found that the Europass internet I’d paid for on my phone from 3 stopped working the closer I got to the city. Apparently it doesn’t get coverage across certain parts of Germany, which was not what I needed.

I got a phone call about half an hour away from Paderborn from a guy named Danial from the International Office, saying he would pick me up and take me to get my keys because my buddy couldn’t make it. Sure enough, he did – and he drove me and another guy to the university, being unbelievably helpful and friendly the entire time. He rang the person who had my keys, helped with my (very heavy) bags, and even took us to meet the woman who runs the International Office. I don’t know what it’s like for international students who arrive at Trent, but if it’s anything like the welcome I received here, we’re doing something right.

At some point in between signing housing contracts and getting lunch, I sneaked back to my flat for a nap. The flat is awesome, by the way. I have my own kitchen (though without an oven or microwave – just two rings, which is odd), bathroom and a massive sitting/bedroom, with a window that is actually a door. (I am on the first floor though, so there’s a barrier in front of it – no one wants to fall out of there anytime soon!) Plus, the person I’m subletting from has left me great things like a hairdryer (mine had to be left in England because of weight restrictions) and an iron.

I met Lisa (also from my university in England) later, and all the friends she’d made in her few days here. There was a meeting with Eurobiz (the student group that looks after Erasmus/exchange students) where they told us about all the trips we can go on this semester, and then it somehow developed in us going back to Peter-Hille-Weg (the other student dorms) and hanging out in someone’s kitchen until we decided to move on to a club. Fun times!

Wednesday, 5th September.
The whole point of my leaving for Germany in September instead of October is the crash course that I’m taking part in. Wednesday morning was all about that – we had a meeting to explain it first, then the people who know absolutely no German got to leave on a tour of the university. We, the lucky remaining ones, got to take a placement test. It was about as fun as it sounds; it was all fill in the gaps for grammar and I ended up with spot on 50/100. Apparently that’s not too bad though, so I wasn’t that worried.

We had the tour afterwards and went up to the Mensa (canteen) to have lunch, after receiving a massive pack that has all the information we should need for our stay in Paderborn inside. We visited one of the supermarkets in the evening – I, especially, needed something to eat – but spent the rest of the day relaxing and thinking about the fact that classes began on Thursday. Oh, fun.

Thursday, 6th September.
Even though the buddies had told us the day before that it would be alright to get up at 10 to go and check which class we were in, we’d heard that classes started at 9, so we dragged ourselves to the International Office at 8.45 a.m. to check our results. I found I was in the same class as Lisa and Amanda (a girl from the University of Oklahoma, who we met on Tuesday at the Eurobiz office), so it was good to have some familiar faces. They use the European levels to score where you are with your language, and we were all put in class B1.2 – so in between levels B1 and B2. Not too bad, until some people in the class said they’d only been learning German for six months.

Still, the class is pretty friendly and the teacher is great – he started by making us introduce ourselves so it got us talking. There are a lot of Spanish exchange students that speak no German – or a lot of exchange students in general who speak no German, but some English, so it’s been hard to find anyone to practice with.

After class finished at 1.15 p.m. (with a half hour break, so it’s not all bad), we went and got something to eat and then went over to the shopping centre again. There are all kinds of things in there; they’ve got a bookstore that sells two books for 3€ outside – I got a novelisation of Where the Wild Things Are and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. We went into the city centre later, where we found this sign telling us who Paderborn is twinned with:

For Dave; I made Lisa model in the picture 🙂

Then we just ended up going for a little wander around the city.

Friday, 7th September.
Class again in the morning, but there was supposed to be a tour of the city in the afternoon, though people couldn’t seem to decide what time it started – either 2 or 3 o’clock. We went to the Eurobiz office at two and couldn’t see anyone, so sat in a bakery across the road until three, at which point we realised that, yes, it must have started already.

We decided to go into the city ourselves – it was great weather (apart from the last two days, it’s been sunny and hot every day we’ve been here!) and we wandered around for a little bit, looking in shops, until we came across one of the groups. We joined them as they made their way up to the cathedral, where I managed to get some nice photos.

That night was also the pub crawl, though we only ended up going to four different places. One of them was a nice cocktail bar, where they told us everything was 4,40€; but the waitress bringing drinks to our table ended up dropping three large beers, completely soaking one of the girls through! After that bar, we went to the club and stayed out until about 3.30 a.m. I don’t know how long everything stays open until here, but it didn’t look close to emptying then!

Saturday, 8th September.
I used Saturday to catch up on some of my sleep and got up at 11 to skype home. The rest of the day was very lazy, though having heard some of the horror stories of Germany on a Sunday (all I’d heard was that everything closed), I stocked up on some food and drinks for the next day. We didn’t go out; instead, Amanda came to mine and we watched The Prestige – but in English instead of German, I’m afraid! 😦

Sunday, 9th September.
I got up late again Sunday (and it’s still weird having nothing to do on the weekends) but there was a group decision made at some point in the day that we should go into town and see if we could get coffee or ice cream somewhere. I was a little sceptical that anywhere would be open (see above) but it turns out that it’s all lies.

Well, sort of.

None of the shops are open on a Sunday, sure; but most of the restaurants are, especially on a day like that, where everyone was out eating ice cream. I ended up getting something called ‘Spaghettieis’, which is just awesome.

Look at it! Just, LOOK! 😀

It was so good, too!

Monday, 10th September.
With the excitement of a (lazy) weekend over, it was back to class. I finally managed to meet my buddy Julia too, who took Lisa and I into town so that we could register with the local authority and I could sort out my phone. Registering didn’t take long at all; it’s made even easier by the fact that we’re EU citizens, because all the Americans, at least, still have to go and get their visas. It took about ten minutes, maybe, but now I have a little piece of paper saying I live in Germany.

As for my phone, we went to an O2 store and I signed up for a SIM with internet on it – but it may have turned out to be less cost-effective than I originally thought (it’s 9 cents a text and 1€ a day for internet… not so great :/), so I’m going to look into it again. Still, it’s better than trying to use my 3 SIM; my bill for this month is pretty awful :(.

Julia took me back up to the university then and we set up my uni network account, so I can register for courses in October. We forgot to go to the bank on the way back up, so we’re going to go and open an account tomorrow, which’ll be fun…

That evening, Amanda let us know that a bunch of the students were planning a barbeque around our dorms (Vogeliusweg), so we went down to that. They’d bought a ton of sausages, burgers and beers and we sat out until about 11, when the security guard came and told us to leave. I met the other two guys from the UK as well; they’ve both come from Aston University and study English Language. It’s strange; very few people here seem to be studying German.

Tuesday, 11th September
The weather took a turn for the worse; it had been pushing 30 degrees on Monday but I woke up to the sound of crashing rain yesterday at 7.30 a.m. Not the best thing. I went to class and we ended up sitting in the campus pub after, because it was raining too much to go back to our rooms! (I’m not joking, at one point it looked almost white outside and we lost phone signal!)

When I got back, I was supposed to be getting ready to go out (Tuesday are the Eurobiz nights out), but I fell asleep and woke up at 7.30 – we were supposed to be at Peter-Hille-Weg for 8. I rushed and met Amanda, but we went up there to find that no, we were leaving at 11 – and the three of us were starving because we’d all rushed out of our flats. So, we made a trip up to the nearby Burger King and actually got to use some of the things we’d learned in lesson that morning when we were ordering our food.

It started raining again so we stayed in Burger King for a while, but eventually we went back to Peter-Hille-Weg and then on out to the bar. (It’s not really just a bar, but it’s not quite a club, either…) Lots of other exchange students had gone to the Eurobiz office earlier, and they piled in about half an hour after us. It was a fun night, though we ended up walking back quite late, again.

I’m sure nothing I post will ever be this long again, but it’s been, like I said, a very busy week! Hopefully things will start to settle down (sort of), though as far as I can tell, the parties never do!