Donnerstag, 10. August 2017

The Half Way Post

About Half Way

So the day has come and actually gone. The 4
th of August marked officially 7 months into my exchange and the least I can say is that they have flown by. Its been a while since I last wrote and that comes squarely down to the fact that im quite lazy. I also have been studying a lot more and so haven’t had as much time. In this blog, I will just briefly cover a few major things that have happened in the past few months to catch everyone up.

AustriaIn June I managed to make my way to Austria twice. Considering that I live in Munich its not actually that big of an achievement, just a mere 2 hours with the bus. The first time I went was for a weekend in Vienna. Vienna is a nice city and is still in relatively good shape, not so much of it was destroyed during the war and so the old town maintains a lot of its original look. Vienna was the centre of the Austrian empire and home to the Hapsburg dynasty and so I found Vienna as, what I would say, a fairly imperial city. Many large impressive white stone buildings, very symmetrical looking and in that typical neo classical or what ever the name of the style was at that time. Whilst I was there I was intent on having the full Austrian experience. I was going to eat apple strudel, I was going to eat a Wien (Vienna) schnitzel and most importantly I was going to eat the world’s best chocolate cake. Vienna has a very strong ‘coffee culture’ with the history being that after the failed Turkish siege of Vienna in the 1600s, the Ottomans left behind the coffee bean which apparently was a hit amongst the locals. As a result, there are loads of really neat little coffee shops hidden away all over the city. A fun fact associated with these coffee shops is that the cappuccino, the humble Italian sounding coffee, is in fact Viennese and was invented in Vienna. What makes this fact a little more interesting is that the schnitzel, the relatively German sounding crumbed and fried slice of meat, was actually invented in Italy. In these coffee shops it is also normal to have a slice of cake alongside of your coffee and one of these being the best chocolate cake in the world. About 200 years ago the king / emperor at the time was hosting some very important people and on the night of the big reception he fell ill and could not attend. Fearing displeasing his guests, he asked his kitchens to make a special dessert. The task fell to Hanz Sacher a crafty young apprentice chef who just happened to make a chocolate cake that was so good, the recipe has been safe guarded by a café/hotel in his name for over 200 years. It was at this hotel where I decided to take my afternoon coffee and give the cake a shot. Because of this cakes fame and the way it is peddled every morning to tourists by the free walking tour guides (precisely how I found out about it), the place was packed. I ordered a cappuccino and the Sacher Torte to a fairly cold waiter who I think was sick of dealing with tourists all morning. In the end I got served my coffee and cake, however, it wasn’t the Viennese cappuccino id asked for. It was a special kind of coffee that was supposed to be drunk with the cake. I didn’t mind, I was confident the waiter knew better, I was just some Australian who takes a cappuccino in the afternoon (which is apparently criminal according to just about every Italian I’ve ever had a coffee with). The cake, for all its hype, was not bad. It was not all that sweet but I suppose in the 1800s they probably didn’t have all the artificial sweeteners available that are today. The best part of being in that café, however, was definitely sitting and people watching in the centre of Vienna, a city that had been the heart of an empire, been the home to people the likes of Mozart and been the target of countless sieges throughout the last half century.

'Best Chocolate Cake' (Rubbish camera quality)

Vienna was impressive, but like just about every city so far in Europe the tourist track was simply palaces, museums and old buildings on repeat. In the last 3 hours of my time in Vienna I made a decision totally worth making. It was about 7 at night and I was pretty tired from walking around. I had seen it all and just wanted to sit and chill and wait for my bus home. As I sat, I thought, why sit alone? Why not try and meet some actual Austrian people, put my German to the test. So that’s what I did. I walked through one of the palace gardens - full of groups of hip looking university students on what was a nice sunny day - silently weighing up my chances with each group. Towards the end of the park, feeling just a slight bit nervous, I found a group of fairly accepting looking students and took the plunge. I went up to them and in my best German (Austria is a German speaking country for those not aware) I told them I was waiting for my bus and asked politely if I could join them. Expecting some awkward stares, I instead got an over whelming, Gerne! (please/of course/be my guest). They not only let me sit, they gave me a beer and had plenty of questions about Australia, my exchange and what I was doing in Munich. It was definitely the highlight! In Vienna hanging out with the locals like I lived there, id trade a slice of chocolate cake in for that any day. In the end we said our good byes and wanting to return the favour I told them if they were ever in Munich id definitely show them around. Vienna was a cool place and I have no doubt that if the majority of Viennese are like that then I could easily say: Vienna watch out, I will be back and maybe for more than two days next time.

In June, I also managed to spend a day in Salzburg. Much like Innsbruck it is a quaint little town nestled between two hills. Salzburg was also very pretty but by far the best are the walking tracks on top of the hills that offer some pretty impressive views. Unfortunately, the castle and the birth place of Mozart had some pumped up tourist prices but the view off the top of the castle is spectactular.

Back to StuttgartIn addition to Austria, a friend from my course in Stuttgart returned to Germany for a visit and so I made my way back to where it all began. It was good to catch up with every one again and even though 6 months had past we were right back at it as if we had seen each other yesterday. I really enjoyed going back because it was a real opportunity to reflect on just what has happened in the last 6 months. I must admit I miss Stuttgart, although Munich is an amazing city, there is just this slight element of imperfection in Stuttgart that gives it a bit of character. I also caught up with a German friend who I had met in January. It was good to see them again too because it wasn’t hard for us to pick up from where we left off. I remember being sad leaving Stuttgart because I knew that if I had only stayed then we would have definitely become good friends. On the last day, I caught up again with my host mother for some coffee and cake and I was so glad that I did. My host mother is probably the first person who I tried to speak German with and if you go back to my first blog it’s clear that I struggled. Back then I could hardly participate in any conversation around the dinner table but this time round we spent the whole time speaking in German without too many problems at all. I think this experience was good closure for me, it was a real indicator that I have come along way with my German.

What ive been up to in-between.When not in Stuttgart or in Austria I’ve spent the time in between really trying to recover what was left of my studies. After a solid April and May of just hard partying I found myself with exams looming and 6 courses with unopened books. As a result, I have been almost every day in the library playing catch up. To be honest though, this has been one of the most enjoyable times to date because not only did I develop a routine and catch up on my studies I also got to hang out with the same friends everyday just like I would in Adelaide. With that our friendship had the opportunity to really develop and everyday I would always be looking forward to our gossip sessions, discussions about life or just our chats about some interesting topic over lunch. 

Whats now… Today on the 7th of August, I’m sitting in the Kreisverwaltungsreferat in the midst of German bureaucracy, waiting in a very long line simply to register my new address with the city of Munich. I’m in the middle of exams with 3 down and another 3 to go and I’ve just changed rooms ready for next semester. Study is beginning to drag on and I’m beginning to feel the burn, being able to pace yourself during a 6 week exam period is proving to be crucial. It has also been a fairly sad time as many people, including the said friend from the Library, have started to go home and many of the first friends I made in Munich have gone. Simply put I cannot wait for the exams to end, for my parents to come and visit for my birthday and to have a decent break before I do it all again next semester.

Mittwoch, 14. Juni 2017

A Summary of April and May

Ok so like I said im going to try and smash this blog out so I can catch up to where I currently am in May. Lets go from the end of the last one.

The UK. Well lets just say that was one pretty intense week. After the exam for my language course I had a solid 10 days in which to travel before orientation week began. I didn’t want to waste this time so I took the plunge and bought some tickets to fly to the UK. I wanted to go there to catch up with an old friend who I had met in Sydney the year before. I managed to get some very very cheap flights with Ryan air, 50 euro return in fact. It wasn’t long however before it became apparent why Ryan air is so cheap. For those who have never flown with them before, here are some tips. Check in online. If you don’t it’s a 50 euro fee to check in at the counter. The size of your carry on is effectively what’s restricted. That’s right, even though your carry on baggage is well under 7kg, if it doesn’t fit into this rigid rectangular box you’ll be slapped with another 50 euro fee. Ryan air makes its dollars by slapping you with plenty of hidden little fees that even the most vigilant of customers will miss. My bag didn’t actually make the cut when I arrived at the airport but luckily, I only had clothes and it was just a matter of rebuilding the way it was packed until it fit. Once I arrived in the UK we hit the ground running. There was a lot planned and not a lot of time. We went straight to London right on the first day where we spent two nights. There we naturally did plenty of sight seeing, making it past big ben, the tower of London, the tower bridge, Saint Pauls cathedral, Buckingham palace and the Camden markets. We spent the nights drinking plenty of beer and meeting some pretty cool people in our hostel. As a complete coincidence, some of them were actually Germans who lived and studied in Munich and whom id later catch up with. On the first night, we also decided to take part in possibly the worst pub crawl on earth. We were told that on weekends it racks up over 100 participants which led us to believe that on a Monday we could expect at least 30. In the end there was a total of 7 of us and the minute we had had our free drinks we were well on our way back to the hostel to hang out with our new friends from our dorm. After London, we headed to Dover which was a surprisingly good stop. The castle there has awesome views of the surrounding landscape and inside has actors performing small skits throughout to give you an idea of what life would have been like in the middle ages. The war time tunnels also had some very thorough tours that gave an insight to war time dover. For my week in the UK I was incredibly lucky with the weather and from Dover we could see Calais and the French coastline. I actually didn’t pack properly because I didn’t even check the weather. I just naturally assumed that the word England meant cold and wet, in the end I actually got burnt. After the castle and the tunnels, we went to take a look at the famous “white cliffs of dover” but to my surprise they were not actually that impressive. From land, you can’t actually see them and of what you can see it’s not actually that white. We then spent the night in Canterbury which turned out to be a really neat little student town. From what we saw, there were plenty of small bars, clubs and cafes on the main strip and the cathedral was fairly impressive. It was a shame we didn’t spend the day there, but nevertheless a night out instead turned out to be not too bad. With a fairly solid hangover, we hit the road the next day towards Eastbourne and the town of Battle. Battle hosts the original field on which the battle of Hastings was fought. It was a decent history trip but maybe not as impressive as dover. We then spent a night in Eastbourne watching the sunset and drinking beer at beachy head (Not sure if that’s the name but something along those lines). Here there were more chalk cliffs and if anything, they made me question the hype over the cliffs at dover. If you’re a real white cliff enthusiast I would implore you not to waste your time with dover, go straight to the south coast. Here the cliffs with their views over the ocean and the downs were 100 times better, especially at sunset. From Eastbourne, we travelled to Brighton and if anyone has ever been super enthusiastic about how beautiful Brighton is, it’s because it is. The boulevard and the peer is a complete step back in time. The feeling is so old fashioned, or better yet old world. If you took a black and white photograph of it I bet you 9 times out of 10 someone else couldn’t guess when it had been taken. There I did the typical “English thing” and have fish and chips on a stony beach. It was alright. After another heavy night out we went to Stonehenge. I have seen countless TV shows and documentaries from the discovery channel on Stonehenge and so was naturally keen to see the monument. Although in the end the stones weren’t as big as I had thought, the story about how they were brought there was still impressive. I spent my last two nights in my friend’s home town where we sussed the local brewery, went rowing on the Thames and saw a very old village. I covered a lot of ground in the UK and had a great time but it would not have been the same without the hospitality of my friend and his family. The whole time I was there, instead of having to catch trains and buses everywhere, my friend offered to drive. In addition, I was also able to spend a few nights at his place and a night in Eastbourne at his grandparents. With this, I was able to get a more authentic English experience whilst saving countless pounds at the same time. For that, I am immensely grateful.

Eastbourne cliffs


After the UK I returned to Munich only to jump straight back into O week. As I hadn’t properly moved into my new apartment yet, I arrived home to a bunch of suitcases and a fair amount of admin work. For the next couple of days the reality of having your own apartment settled in and with it the hidden costs that you never really thought about when you wrote your budget. Towels, a clothes line, a washing basket, a bin, just some of the things that you casually don’t think about when you’re faced with the cost of bigger things such as flights, rent and insurance. After finally settling in so began what I call the month of the endless hangover. What’s this you might ask? Its called being an exchange student, studying at university and living in student housing simultaneously. It is an endless timetable of parties, socials and activities that involve more than enough alcohol. All I can say is the month was a blur and as much as at the time it was super fun by then end of it I was left with an empty feeling inside and a realisation that I hadn’t really achieved a lot besides falling comfortably behind in university and murdering countless braincells. Despite that, there are some of the events I’ll never forget and one of these few was my time at the Frühlingsfest. There I caught up with my new pals from London and armed with my new Lederhosen, in which I felt like a million bucks, we danced, sang and drunk the night away (also danced, sang and drunk my house keys away which cost me 150 euro to replace).

During this month of the endless hangover I also started university and with it my first German lectures. Entering my first lecture was nerve racking. Here I was, where I had worked so hard to reach. The lecture started with the Einführung (Introduction) in which I understood everything boosting my confidence dramatically, however this was short lived as when the professor started with the actual Inhalt (content) I did not understand a thing. Leaving the class I was in shock, instead of writing notes I had written a vocab list. After sending a few shell shocked messages to some friends I was assured that this was normal and once I had learnt the vocab then I wouldn’t have a problem.
Now that Uni had started, I was moving a lot more around the city of Munich. The public transport is actually really good so this is a piece of cake, however when one travels with the train they miss a lot of the city. As a result, I thought that buying a bike would be a good idea. Not only that, with a bike I would be able to ride to some of the lakes around Munich which would make for some good day trips. I thought that it would be a good idea to hit up one of the flea markets around town and pick myself up a bike. So there I was in a very dodgy carpark looking at dodgy bikes being sold by dodgy looking people. I gave some of the bikes a go to see how they ride and in the end I managed to find one that was pretty good for a decent price. It had solid breaks, new wheels and the gears seemed to work just fine. I therefore proceeded to hand 70 Euros to the shady Russian man, took the bike and rode off. It was kind of strange as the whole procedure was very unofficial for all I know the bike could have been stolen. It had been hot the entire day with not a cloud in the sky, however as soon as I got on my bike the clouds decided to roll on in and open up. It absolutely poured down and on my first ever ride I got completely drenched. Not only that, the minute I arrived home I noticed some strange noises coming from my bike. After no more than 20 minutes riding, the gears all of a sudden sounded kind of funny. I was worried that I had been conned and I became frustrated with myself but in the end, up and until this day, the bike works just fine. With this bike, I have ridden to the Ammersee and around the Starnbergersee. These are two lakes just on the outskirts of Munich which to anyone who comes and visits I would definitely recommend.


It is fast approaching 6 months in Germany and I need to admit that I finally have felt a bit of homesickness. It hit me in the early weeks of May. I found that Uni was hard, I was drinking a lot, not achieving anything and I was spending a lot of time at home, on top of this it wasn’t getting any warmer, in fact it was so cold on one of the days it snowed. As a result, I began to miss my time in Stuttgart and slowly but surely being at home. In both of those places I was in control and in familiar territory. To this day I still feel a bit home sick but in the last couple of weeks it has really warmed up and I have become more accustomed to the life style.

As for my German in the last couple of weeks, I believe that I have hit a wall. What I mean by that is that I don’t feel its improving anymore. My day to day language is still English and as a result when I start talking with German people I need about an hour to familiarise myself with the language. After that I can hold a decent conversation, however the problem is that the next day I speak English again. When I meet with these German people the next week, because I’ve been speaking English the whole week, I go right back to where I started and require that hour again to familiarise. I personally think that the next step is really switching languages. I need to spend every day speaking in German in order to improve from here on in.

Today is the first of June and as you can see it has taken me a long time to write this blog again (Edit: its actually now the 14th of June it took me even longer just to post it). Now that I think I have caught up, from here on in hopefully I can do shorter smaller blogs that describe individual experiences in a lot of detail.

Samstag, 20. Mai 2017

First Month in Munich

So its been about 6 weeks since I wrote my first blog and considering it was such a hit, there has been a bit of pressure to release the next instalment. Like the last post this blog coincides with what could be considered the end of a “chapter” in my exchange. I have spent the last 6 weeks doing a bit of travelling, living and studying, throughout which I have learnt a lot about myself and honed a fair few life skills (namely cooking). This blog post begins where the last one left off, an early morning train from Stuttgart to Cologne.

Between Stuttgart and Munich I had about 10 days of travel. I first went to cologne on what was a bit of a dreary day. It was grey and wet and it really matched the mood that I was in. I was sad from leaving behind so much in Stuttgart and I was anxious for what was about to come. I spent two nights in Cologne and the least I can say is that it is a beautiful city. It really continued on the themes that I spoke about in my last blog post of old buildings and history around every corner. Its only a shame this time that it was now beginning to warm up and there was no longer any snow. Besides the old town and the cathedrals something occurred there which I noticed and it was a real insight into a little aspect of living in Germany and possibly German culture that I would see again and again even when I was in Munich. On the first day I was too cheap to pay for a bus tour and decided instead to see the sights myself and reach them all on foot. It was cold and wet and I came across a market square that was quite large and open but was completely lifeless. I was finding much of Cologne quite similar and it was giving me a pretty poor initial impression. The next day, however, the weather decided to improve a little, it was still cold and a bit cloudy but there was no rain. On this day I caught up with a friend and we decided to do a little bit more walking of the city and see a couple more sights. In the morning we walked along the Rhine river together which for me was quite cool. I had only ever heard of the name on TV and read it in books but I knew that it was one of Germanys most important arteries, and well finally here I was. The banks of the Rhine, similar to the day before, were empty, there was almost no one and my impression of the city was not improving. As time went on, however, the weather started to break and just as we decided to loop back around and walk back to the central station the sun came out. This simple event absolutely transformed the city. We came across the square I had encountered the day before and it was almost un recognisable. There were people everywhere, there was drinking, laughter, talking and music that had been completely absent only just the day before. My friend and I decided to revisit the banks of the Rhine and all of a sudden, almost as if there were hidden networks of tunnels everywhere, it was as if the population had quadrupled. From what had been a completely vacant footpath along the river had now people walking, jogging, busking, drinking, talking. I was struggling to comprehend what had just happened, they honestly appeared out of no where. On that day, I learnt that when the sun shines German people will do what ever they can to get outside. It was like nothing I had seen in Australia before. We decided to sit on the banks of the Rhine and have a couple of drinks and chat. It was nice just to take in the atmosphere, enjoy the sunset and try some of the local Kölsch beer. I must admit that one of my favourite things about Germany is that beer is extremely cheap and it is legal to drink in public. That might initially sound a bit like a recipe for disaster, ‘oh he just wants to go and get smashed’ (cannot deny that that maybe true in some circumstances), but in reality most of the time it means that a group of friends can seek out the best place under the sun to call their own, sit down relax, socialise and enjoy the day. Ultimately Cologne is a beautiful city with a quaint old town and an iconic bridge with hundreds of thousands of love locks attached to it, its only a shame that I wasn’t there for the Karnival.


After Cologne I travelled to Aachen. This was a bit more of a history trip and it was only for a day but I think that was all that I needed. The town is small and it takes only about half an hour to walk from one side to the other but it is none the less another pretty little town with lots of old buildings. There, I did a small tour of the city hall and then the cathedral, in which I was able to touch the throne of Charles the Great, Charlemagne or Karl der Groß however you want to call him. For most people this name probably means nothing but I still remember my time in year 8 history with Mr Wright and I thought it was pretty cool that I was able to touch the chair on which he sat. Not sure if you were supposed to touch it but no one was looking so it doesn’t really matter.
Next was Amsterdam which was quite an experience. Amsterdam is a beautiful city and, given that the weather is good, one doesn’t even need to do anything except walk along the canals to enjoy it. I was there for 5 days and I have to say the hostel I stayed in was possibly the biggest shit hole in the world. I don’t really know how to describe it, I’m not normally a picky person and can deal with pretty filthy conditions but this was next level. Anyway, I guess it just kind of added to the experience. In Amsterdam I caught up with some friends from Stuttgart, so it was good to see them one more time. I saw the Anne Frank house, the wax museum, some churches and then went on a pub crawl. It was fun to just sit and relax with some friends. Anne Frank’s house was interesting as I had just spent 6 weeks in Stuttgart staying with a host family and studying a bit of the German culture. The way I saw the house was therefore coming from some kind of German perspective. Not from the perspective of being a German person but from the fact id been spending my last month and a half trying to understand German culture more and learn the German language. As much as the house is confronting and I felt awful for what happened to the Jews in the second world war, I found myself feeling just as bad for the Germans. What I mean by this in particular is mainly the young German population, the people my age who ive been getting to know over the last 3 months, who now have to bear the responsibility for something that they had completely no say in or control over. When I was in Australia last year I met a few German exchange students with whom I discussed this topic often and discovered this idea of collective guilt which I previously had absolutely no idea about. This feeling of responsibility for everything that happened 70 years ago is propagated throughout society from generation to generation. In school the German youth are taught absolutely everything that happened, nothing is hidden from them and there is no bias, it is straight up ownership. As a result, in the words of a German, they learn “they should be proud to be German but ashamed, proud but ashamed!” and in the words of another “To say im proud of being German it sounds false it doesn’t sound true!”. In addition, there was a German song recently made that a friend showed me and the lyrics are very pro EU against the rise of right wing extremism and nationalism in Europe. The song itself, I must admit, is very catchy. It makes fun of stereotypes of German culture and hence the music itself is very rammstein-esque. The lyrics however were quite striking. One of the lines of the song was “we are proud of not being proud” and it continually had this theme of “we have made the mistake already please don’t fuck up like we did”. Hearing this song in combination with all of the conversations I have had and the amount of time I have spent trying to come to terms with what the “collective guilt” must feel like, made me feel quite sad. I think its such a shame that there is such a restriction on how the German youth can express their pride of being German.  This is especially considering how proud I am to be Australian and is in stark contrast to the words of an English friend of mine who said when I was there “god I love this country.”. The whole time I was in Anne Franks house I couldn’t help but imagine how awful a German person would feel walking there regardless of whether they were alive at the time or not. I suppose the collective guilt plays a role in insuring that the mistakes of the past are still repeated but honestly it must suck when the first thing that comes to anyones mind about your history is the Nazis. As a disclaimer I would like to say that ultimately I have no idea whether people do or don’t have this collective guilt and what I’m reporting may not apply to every German but it is just an observation that I have made time and time again. Amsterdam was a lot of fun but by the end of it I must admit I could not wait to get back to Munich. Munich was to be my home for the next year and I was very anxious to get started settle in and start exploring.
Before I get onto the topic of my first month in Munich I want to say that I have been immensely lazy and as a result I am writing this post almost 2 months later. Therefore, I cannot write about everything in complete detail and chronological order so I will write a few paragraphs on specific milestones and events that I think are important.


When I arrived in Munich I was able to stay with an old friend for the first couple of days whilst I got my bearings. I moved into my accommodation on the 1st of March and this was the first time in my life that I was finally living on my own. Now accommodation in Munich is not easy to find and it is one of the most (if not the most) expensive cities in Germany. I must admit that I am not the most efficient person and I like leaving things to the last minute (My parents can testify). I searched for an apartment during my time in Stuttgart and having no prior experience and being quite slack I resorted to booking a last minute air bnb for a month. I was a bit worried as I had to sleep in the same room as 4 other people (a bit like a hostel) and I was quite annoyed at myself but in the end it was not as bad as it seemed. Although I shared a small room with 4 people the apartment itself was enormous, it was brand new with a massive bathroom a huge kitchen and a sauna. For me, living in a room with 4 other people was a small price to pay in order to have such an apartment. My first day in the apartment involved my first ever trip to the super market with the sole intent of buying the weeks groceries (I’ve been to the supermarket before obviously but never was I buying for myself and myself alone with complete control over what I selected). Well guess what, I was super healthy. I bought plenty of fresh fruit and veg as well as meat, cheese, eggs and some muesli. Up and until today I have maintained this balance. After I returned home from shopping I began what would be the beginning of the long road to becoming a master chef. That’s right, all of a sudden I now had to cook for myself. Mum, dad and Briah used to always give me a hard time about how I would never be able to survive on my own and would always question: “well what are you going to do when you have to cook for yourself?”. Well the answer is, as it turns out, I actually like cooking and I took it very seriously. Armed with a bag full of groceries fresh from the store I began, of course, on my first dish: a traditional, a favourite and a staple for all those who can’t really cook out there… pasta. All great master chefs have to start somewhere right? But that was only the beginning, I found cooking as a massive creative outlet and preferred to muck around with what I had than to follow a recipe. In the end, if what I did worked out, it would be an immensely satisfying feeling and would encourage me to continue cooking. Slowly, my repertoire began to grow and soon included, omelettes, curry, fried rice, chilli concarne, stirfry, burgers and to this day continues to grow. Because I didn’t use a recipe it was not uncommon to make some mistakes and end up with some pretty dodgy food. My approach to cooking was to buy the necessary groceries to cook one dish but to cook it day after day for the entire week. Each attempt I found out where I went wrong and would make the necessary adjustments for the next. This kind of systematic approach I think reflected my personality and the way I work very well. I learn by trying something first and making a mistake in the process, not from watching or being told by someone else. When I studied for my exams at uni and in highschool, I would watch some of my friends write and re write notes over and over again. I couldn’t do that, instead I would do question after question until I had made every single mistake there was in the book so that when I walked into the exam there were no others to make. This is what happened with cooking, and on the last day of the week when I sat down to eat, and I put that first spoonful into my mouth only to find out that I had completely nailed it, the feeling was incredible. A perfect example of this was with my omelettes. The first day I made some curried vegetables and thought I could simply tip some whisked eggs over the top and let it cook. In the end I went to flip it over but unfortunately ended up with some messed up scrambled eggs. The second attempt I tried to cook the eggs separate in a pan but used a bit too much oil and ended up with a pretty oily egg pancake. The third attempt I used less oil and nailed the egg pancake but still didn’t really have an omelette. The fourth and final attempt I made some curried veg, took it out of the pan. Made an egg pancake, but just before it was done put some curried veg onto the pancake and folded it over and bam I suddenly questioned why I was wasting my time with mechanical engineering.

Besides cooking and learning to live on my own I also had a lot of administrative stuff to do throughout March. I sometimes wonder how I survived as it was not uncommon for me to just scrape through by the skin of my teeth. An example of this was registering with the city of Munich. By the time it was March I had only 30 days left on my passport and needed to apply for a Visa. Rather unfortunately, the application process for that was not entirely made clear by neither my host university nor by the German government. The order in which I needed to apply, open a bank account and register with the city, at the beginning of March, appeared to be an illogical circle in which each step required at least one of the others to be completed first. As a result, I was entirely confused where to begin.  I thought that the Visa was the most important and therefore the initial document that I should obtain. Before I continue with this story, I need to clarify that one only has 14 days to register with the city after moving in. I moved in on the 1st and on the 10th I found the time, and in a fit of urgency, the motivation to apply for my Visa.  Just as I printed the visa application form that I needed to fill out, I noticed an interesting requirement. I needed a number from a certificate confirming my registration with the city. It was at that moment that I realised the first step was actually to register with the city. Under just a slight bit of pressure, I looked up when the registration offices were open and found that they all closed at 12 pm. Now the 10th of March was a Friday and all the offices were closed on the weekend so remembering that I had 14 days to register and that I moved in on the 1st its not hard to figure out that I had to get my shit together fast or I was going to be in trouble. It was 11 am and I had an hour to some how print the new form off, get my land lord to sign it and then race to the office to hand it in. Luckily my land lord was home and he was familiar with the process and so was able to print me off a pre filled out form. Now in a complete hurry, I took it and ran as fast as I could to the train station. I must admit Munich public transport is pretty damn amazing but as always whenever you are in a rush it just seems to be going at that slightly slower pace. Completely out of breath, I reached the office only to be the last person who was allowed to take a waiting ticket. I managed to register with the city and the week after aquire my Visa. This was not the only time I managed to scrape through at the last minute, it was a recurring theme throughout the following weeks but in the end, however, I managed to survive, sorting out everything I needed to in order to stay.

On the 27th of February I began with my next intensive language course, like in Stuttgart I met so many different and wonderful people from all over the world. The course really was quite multi-cultural and on a regular basis I was hanging out with people from Spain, The Czech Republic, Croatia, Italy, Turkey and Switzerland just to name a few. Together we explored a lot of Munich, made a small trip to Innsbruck and made our way round to a few different bars and cafes. Not only did I make friends in my course I also made friends with the people in my apartment. These people were from all over and we had some good times enjoying the sun in the Englischer Garten. The garden is easily my favourite place in Munich. It is apparently larger than New Yorks central park and in a similar fashion to cologne the minute the sun shines the Garden comes completely alive. The atmosphere is indescribable. Its almost like there is some unofficial sun worship festival going on. I am confident that I’m going to spend at least 50% of my summer there because it is just so amazing. All over the Garden there are people, drinking, playing games or music, and relaxing. To finish off the afternoon, the sunset over Munich is equally as impressive.

Sunset in the Englischer Garten

Now something that is 100% worth noting about my first month in Munich is… The Starkbierfest. Yes that’s right not Oktoberfest but the Starkbierfest. Most people in Australia associate, without pause, German culture with drinking beer and beer fests like Oktoberfest. Now I could sit here and write a whole other essay about how that’s technically not true and there are lots of different states in Germany and beerfests with their brass music and lederhosen are really just from the state of Bavaria but im not going to. Instead I’m going to explain my first beer fest experience and why I now 100% understand why there are so many stories from German people about drunk Australians at Oktoberfest. So yes Munich has the world famous Oktoberfest that takes place actually in September every year. Yes everyone I ever told that I was going on exchange to Munich asked me if I was going to go there and yes I will. The thing is, Oktoberfest is only one of many beerfests in Munich / in Bavaria. The Starkbierfest is only a much smaller version that celebrates the opening of this seasons strong beer barrels from the Paulaner brewery. It was 10 at night on a Saturday and I was with a group of friends who were deciding where they would like to go out for the night. We decided in the end to go to the Starkbierfest which had just begun the day before. The festival actually ended at 11 so we were only there for an hour but we were catching up with some friends who had been there for the whole day. The fest is at the Paulaner brewery and it began with us entering the courtyard full of people dressed in brightly coloured dirndls and lederhosen. These people were already well underway having been on the strong beer all afternoon. The beer is served in Maß’ which is the one litre portion in the glass we know as a stein. Walking through the courtyard you can already feel an incredible vibe among the people. Everyone there is having a good time and you can hear the faint sound of brass music coming from the main hall. The fest hit me the minute we walked through the double doors into the main hall. There you are greeted by an enormous hallway full of long tables with benches, hundreds of fairly drunk people mostly dressed in lederhosen and dirndls singing and dancing to the lively brass music coming from the band at the front. I do not think I have ever opened my eyes so wide in utter dis belief. It was absolutely incredible. Literally like Christmas. I have never had a bigger smile on my face in my entire life. The place was on fire. My explanation here is simply not enough, one can only experience it by going. The festival starts around 2pm every day and by 6pm everyone is standing on benches, singing and carrying on to the music, it is incredibly loud. The music itself is a mixture of traditional brass music with its collection of trumpets and at the same time some real sing along classics that are great after a couple of Maß’. The best part was easily when the band played nena’s 99 Luftbaloons. I was drinking German beer, at a German beerfest listening to a live German band playing a German classic that people know about even in the English speaking world.   

Stark Bierfest

In the last blog I spoke about how I was just getting the hang of conversational German, well since then a lot has changed. After my first week in Munich speaking in German just kind of clicked. It was good because all of the people in my course were motivated to learn German and were eager to also speak it outside of class. As a result I had a lot more opportunity to practice and so I got the hang of putting sentences together with relatively the correct grammar. I also made a big effort to take every opportunity I could to speak German. I went to language Cafes in which there would be tables with particular languages that would be spoken and I searched for tandem partners on the internet with whom I could practice my German. By the end of March I could hold a decent conversation but I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. The ultimate goal of thinking and dreaming in German was still evading me and unfortunately my day to day language was still English.
On the first of April, I had successfully passed the exam for my intensive German course, had really settled into life in Munich, had made a solid group of friends and had moved into my new home, the Studentenstadt. March was an incredible month, it flew past before I’d even really come to terms with what had happened. On the first of April I dumped my stuff in my new home, caught up with an old friend and the day after embarked on another journey, this time to the UK.

PS. It is now the 20th of May. Almost 2 months after I started writing this.

Donnerstag, 16. Februar 2017

Am Anfang

So where to begin... I have a lot of thoughts on my mind and so I am just going to write them down as they come. Blogs and Facebook posts are not normally my thing but I want to be able to share my experiences with everyone and I said that i'd try a blog so here it goes. I am going to be absolutely blunt / honest about my experience and not sugar coat anything, no cliche "this is the most amazing experience of my life" unless it actually is. It is currently 12:34am on the 17th of February 2017.

This post is called Am Anfang which means "in/at the beginning" (i'm pretty sure) because it literally is based on the last 6 weeks which have really been a precursor to the monumental challenge that is just ahead of me. These 6 weeks have been a mix of too many emotions but also emotionless. I arrived in Germany on the 4th of January and spent the first couple of days adjusting to the colder climate and doing a bit of sight seeing with a good friend. The snow was obviously the major attraction to begin with. Although I have seen snow in Australia on the skii slopes, it is a completely new experience to see it lining the streets of a city and decorating the roofs of houses. Every photo was made better with snow and this was no more evident than in Heidelberg where it just made the castle and its surrounding gardens that one tiny bit better. After I had become accustomed to the white winter wonderland that surrounded me, I was naturally blown away by the stunning architecture of just about any Altstadt (old town). Just looking at a stunning old building began the inception of so many questions about who had lived there? How long for? How did they live? What did the world look like for them everyday when they stepped out the door every morning to go about their daily business? What came before? To the utter frustration of my friend who obviously couldnt answer them, I always ensured that these questions were vocalised in order to express my interest. The first few days were a good introduction to Germany and allowed me to have a small taste of what is to come in the next 12 months.


After my first 4 days I traveled to Stuttgart in order to begin my first language course. Typical of me, I had high expectations for what needed to be accomplished in the course. As a result, this would cause both a lot of stress in the days to come but also a slight shift in the way I perceive the future of my exchange. I expected to submerge myself in the German language and immediately leave English behind, but it was never going to be that straight forward. In the first week I got to know many new people some of whom would go on to form a tight nit circle of friends who would experience many new , weird and wonderful things that would only ever bring us closer and closer together. I began German classes pretty soon and it didn't take long for me to discover that it was going to be easier said than done just to leave English behind. As much as I felt like I had learnt so much in a year of German at University it also became clear that there was a very long way still to go. It was difficult to express every idea that I wanted with a very limited vocab and many grammar rules missing. Also the largest proportion of people participating in the course were beginners and of the 67 students present 61 were from Australia. As a result it wasn't long before English prevailed as the dominant day to day language and the idea of speaking German indefinitely was forgotten. This was a cause for stress as it clearly wasn't what I had planned and was thus undermining the expectations I had of what I would achieve from the course. Nonetheless, I was still learning many new words studying German 3 hours a day 5 days a week. Some relief also came from the fact that the entire course was instructed in German. Ultimately, with a lack of skills and not too many people to talk to only in German it was largely out of my hands and so, with advice from a friend, I decided to re-evaluate how I would approach the exchange. I decided to remove all expectations of what was to come and immediately I felt better. I think this was for the better as I concluded that I will never be able to truly predict what a course or my study will be like.

The first week culminated in an excursion to the black forest where we tried traditional black forest cake; had fun with sleds; got to see allegedly "average" German skii fields which turned out to have more snow than possibly all the mountains in Australia combined; and had epic snow ball fights. The black forest was absolutely beautiful, especially with all the snow (no surprises there), and the black forest cake was surprisingly alcoholic. The second week began by diving straight into the course work. Everyday my German vocabulary was expanding and I was making flashcards endlessly night after night after night. I also had a lot of time on my hands as my afternoon course didn't run in the second week at all. In this time I visited galleries, museums and hiked around the beautiful snow covered hills of Stuttgart. I also spent a lot of time on the königstraße, which is the main shopping street in Stuttgart. In Australia I never considered myself a fashionable person and was never very good at shopping. In Germany, however, being in Europe and surrounded by many sophisticated looking people, I felt pressured to change this. As a result there were many expeditions to the shops in which, to the annoyance of friends, I spent hours browsing items of clothing often in order to buy just one item. This was due to the fact that I often had an idea of what I was after and wanted to ensure I buy the right piece but also because I generally had no idea of what looked good. In the end I felt like I had done pretty well but it had definitely thrown my budgeting a bit out of order.

Hiking around Stuttgart

The second week ended in a trip to Munich with a small group of friends which served as a good bonding experience. The trip was full of fun and laughter. We visited many tourist attractions such as the famous Neuschwanstein castle (what the disney castle is based off of) and the Nymphenburg palace. There was also a night out to an Australian bar and then my first German club, all kindly sponsored by two Singaporean tourists. It was such a good weekend and I couldn't have spent it with better people. Week three began and I began to notice that I was feeling very emotionless. What I mean by this is that I was feeling just as if I hadn't left Australia. I didn't feel excited because I was in Germany or sad because I was missing my family it just felt like nothing had changed. This was neither good nor bad but surprising, I had managed to slip into a comfortable cycle of going to uni and then going home just as I had in Adelaide. To this day it has never really "hit me" that I am now in Germany it's almost as if I had thought about it and planned it so much that my body was expecting it.
Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, snow, tree, outdoor, nature and water
"Skating" in Munich

My home experience has been very comfortable, my host mother was absolutely lovely. She offered to cook for us every night and said she would wash our clothes. Maybe this is why it never really "hit me" because I had never really left home. Every night we would eat dinner together as a family which was a new experience but one that I enjoyed because at home in Australia we all fend for ourselves at dinner and eat at different times depending on what suits us. Around the dinner table we would begin with a German conversation in which I would try to speak German.This was a little difficult as my host brother, who was also from Australia, already spoke fluent German. My host mother and him would go on and have large conversations which I struggled to follow as my vocabulary wasn't quite large enough to accommodate my participation. I found this a little intimidating but it was good practice to try and follow. Ultimately, after half an hour of German we would swap to English which I thought was a good mix. This enabled us to also have large meaning full discussion on more complicated topics which I enjoyed.

In the 4th and 5th week things began to change with my German. It started with a bizarre night out where  a group of us went around introducing ourselves to some of the locals in a bar and ended up going night clubbing with them. I found that when I had had a bit to drink and tryied to speak German I was thinking less about forming German sentences in my head and as a result it started to come out a little more fluently (maybe it didnt actually make sense, who knows). I met someone that night who id go on to catch up and have my first proper German conversation with. This is when things started to look on the up for my speaking ability. All of a sudden, after a couple of German speaking hours, I could now hold a conversation only in German provided the topic was basic. This made me excited and gave me that feeling of success that increased my enthusiasm to try harder to learn more German. In combination with my ever growing vocabulary, I was able to contribute more in class and participate more at the dinner table. The original stress was finally being put to rest by more visible results. At the moment, all I want to do is try and have German conversations because every time I nail a sentence it is such a satisfying feeling and it boosts my confidence that little bit more.

In these last two weeks we also visited the city of Strasbourg and Ulm. Strasbourg was just an absolutely visually stunning city. With a practically untouched old town it was an incredible excursion. The cathedral was easily the most impressive thing there. The cathedral first came into view after walking around the corner of a narrow street. It loomed ahead in a misty morning dwarfing all the houses around it and creating an unbelievable view. Ulm was also an incredible experience. We traveled there for the Karnival, a pagan tradition where people dress up as witches or monsters and parade around the city to shoo away the bad spirits of winter. The whole city had shut down, the atmosphere was incredible and it became obvious that this was one of those events that everyone counted down the days to in anticipation. Many bars and night clubs were full of people at mid day dressed up, drinking and dancing, and this created a cultural / traditional atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere in Australia. Karnival is a tradition that dates back over hundreds of years. It is passed down through each generation and as a result it is a deep tradition that clearly holds an important date on the calendar for many.

Straßburg Cathedral

In the final week I sat my exams in which I did not do too bad and then to celebrate went to a naked Sauna (because why not). The naked Sauna was definitely a strange experience but it was something that I thought was worth trying. It definitely took the friendship of the people who went to a whole new level. Nothing is a better bonding experience than sitting naked in a Sauna with lots and lots of very old also naked German men staring at you. There is no doubt that the friends that I have made have shaped my experience here in Stuttgart. There has been so many jokes, dumb moments, chats and so on that have provided laughs and smiles for days on end. I have met so many different unique people here and I have had a blast spending the last 6 weeks with them. Without these people my 6 weeks in Stuttgart would not have been the same.

So basically that's what ive been up to for the last 6 weeks, its not everything but I gave it my best shot to try and summarise it all. It's been an experience with highs and lows but it has been a great way to start my time here in Germany. I will now proceed to include photos in this post and also upload more to Facebook for people to look at and also so mum and dad will get off my back. Maybe tomorrow it will begin. Maybe tomorrow it will hit me. Tomorrow I will have no host mother to look after me or brother to support me, it will be all up to me to look after myself and make my way through the next 12 months living in Munich. Its 2:08 am so I guess its technically today now. Bring it on.