Moin Moin schon wieder, ihr Lieben!
It struck me that, having been here for three months now, I’m actually already one third of the way through my time as an ELA in Hamburg. This is a terrifying thought. Before I had even stepped foot on German soil back in August, I had imagined that things would be quite different by the time December rolled round, compared to how they actually are now.
For example, the shopping situation has not changed too much. You may remember I’ve talked about the neglect of the little dividers on the checkout conveyor belts, as well as the speed at which the people at the till shove your items through to be scanned. Well, what I’ve noticed is that most supermarkets have a table behind the checkout where you’re expected to take your things to pack them once you’ve paid. This is so impractical it hurts. I don’t see why the staff can’t just simmer down a bit and give you an extra two seconds to pack up your things, rather than throwing you a dirty look if you dare to pack your items away, you know, where they were actually scanned. Odd.
But, as I sit with Michael Bublé’s Christmas album playing in the background, I thought this would be prime time to reflect on what else I have picked up throughout my time here, as well as some general updates on my activities in this beautiful country.
Well, given that we are fast approaching the most wonderful time of the year, I thought it fitting to let you know that I think I’ve cracked just why German Christmas markets are so popular, and indeed so famous around the world. German Christmas Markets, my dearest Reader, are merely a guise to make daytime drinking an acceptable thing.
Yes, the atmosphere can be quite magical while you stroll past little stalls in quaint wooden huts, the sky above peppered with twinkling fairy lights.
Yes, you can buy some beautifully handmade, quintessentially Deutsch items there.
Yes, the Germans do a mean Bratwurst, but the most crowded places of all are the Glühwein huts. Queuing up to get a mug of this burgundy festive nectar is brutal. Move one inch in the wrong direction and you’re done; no prisoners are taken when it comes to getting Glühwein.
Furthermore, when you ask for a ‘Glühwein mit Schuss’ (Gluehwein with a shot (of amaretto or rum etc etc)) you had better brace yourself; when they say ‘Schuss’, what they actually mean is bucketful. Just a handy warning, especially if you’re like me and can’t handle your alcohol.
But yes, from the time the markets open at 11am, people will start drinking, and it continues til closing time towards midnight. But hey, it’s fine, it’s Christmas after all! Who doesn’t like a drink or six before midday?
Along that vein, a group of us ELAs ventured north-east of Hamburg to the gorgeous city of Lübeck this last weekend to visit the markets there, and this of course entailed some Glühwein drinking, too. I collect the Christmas Market mugs, so it was also a chance to get the Lübeck one for this year.
There was one stall selling another kind of Glühwein marketed as ‘Drachenblut’ (dragon blood), which I didn’t have any of as the hefty amaretto shot in my first mug knocked me a little, and I was already having issues walking over Lübeck’s cobblestones anyway. Some of the others did, however, but it seemed a little much for everyone, and at one stage Emily called out and asked if anyone wanted any, ‘dragonfly juice?’ Close enough. Strong stuff, that.
In the photos above you will see Sarah. Not only is she an ELA, but we also know each other from Nottingham; she’s standing on the right in each photo, wearing a white bobble hat, and she’s been incredibly supportive in terms of this blog, and I know I can always count on her to give it a read! So, when we were in Lübeck, she asked for a shout-out, which is absolutely fair enough, given how wonderful she’s been.
That night, however, Sarah most certainly earned herself a mention! It was her birthday party, held at her flat in Eimsbüttel, and it’s putting it lightly to say that the alcohol was flowing as we approached midnight, when Sarah would turn 21.
So, when the clock struck 12, we gave her a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, and Sarah delivered a marvellous speech.
This speech, my dear Reader, began, ‘I was on the toilet earlier, and thought, “This time last year, I didn’t know any of you!”‘ (apart from me and Harry and Michael), and it continued in this hilarious fashion.
Now, there’s a slight debate over whether the preposition ‘on’ the toilet, or ‘in’ the toilet, was used. Sarah assures me it was the latter, but I’m sticking to my guns.
This party leads me to my next point, which is that parties in Hamburg are always an international affair. At that house party alone there were people from the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Belgium and, of course, Germany (although they were perhaps in the minority), and probably lots of other countries, too.
Ed, another ELA, seized the opportunity of this party to have a little fun, only he didn’t tell me that that was what he was up to. So, when I was hanging around the crisps bowl (as you do; someone has to), I was very surprised to see Ed point at me while talking to someone and say, ‘Have you met my friend Pearl?’
No one else was hanging around the crisps, so I knew this one was for me. Meanwhile, Ed had given himself the highly unimaginative fake name of Tom (we (I) later decided that Godfrey suited him better), and he watched as I had to spell out ‘P-E-A-R-L’ and stress that it was quite the popular English name, to someone who had never heard it and couldn’t pronounce it to save his life. I have still not forgiven Tom/Godfrey for offloading the guy he was talking to on me in such fashion.
Pearl and Tom having a ball.
And so I left the celebrations a little later and returned back to my flat across the city. This sort of leads me on to my final point of this post, from my flat to my bed to bedding. Seems quite logical.
I have a problem with the way Germany has decided to do bedding, dear Reader. By this, I mean that I would like to find the person who first thought that a square pillow would benefit anyone. Once you have lived for most of your life with a normal, rectangular pillow, a square one can be quite the novelty for a few days.
FOR A FEW DAYS.
But when you’re trying to buy new pillows, prepare to walk around the German department store of your choice in deep frustration. All you will find are impractical square pillows, and don’t even get me started on the duvets. Germany can’t do them. Just canNOT do duvets, dear Reader.
I’ve been trying to find a new one, and the first one I found here which even slightly resembled my beloved M&S duvet in England came in at around 450 Euros. Down from 700 Euros though, so I’m sure that’s a bargain in some people’s books. You’ll hopefully not be surprised to hear that I didn’t buy it; it wasn’t even as good as my English one, despite being many, many times its price.
The countdown to heading back home to my family, friends and my favourite duvet is now on, and I cannot wait to celebrate the festive season with all of my loved ones.
Speaking of England, I found out today that none other than the Hoff himself, David Hasselhoff, made an appearance at Oceana in Nottingham this week…I have mixed feelings about this, that’s all I can really say! I’m glad, however, that some sort of German spirit is being maintained in Nottingham while all of us third years are abroad.
In a few days I’ve got none other than the lovely Charlotte Horne coming to stay with me for her first ever trip to Germany, and I’m already thinking of lots of different things that we can do, so you can hopefully expect an action-packed blog post next week!
Before the fun, though, I have to go to the launderette tomorrow. I’m hoping that my next post won’t also have to tell the tale of any further unfortunate things which usually happen to me in the launderette. Fingers crossed!