wanderlust

How handy are those German loanwords, amirite? Anyway, the point is I have a serious case of wanderlust. Very well-timed as of the next four weeks, I’ll be traveling for three!

Flashback to almost 3 years ago in Vienna (who could believe it's been that long)!

Flashback to almost 3 years ago in Vienna (who could believe it’s been that long)!

I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve gotten to see so many amazing places in the past few years. As far as major European cities go, I’ve visited (in reverse chronological order)

not to mention smaller-but-often-more-delightful places in every country represented on that list.

About to dig into a huge plate of pierogi in Krakow. Of course the food is a vital part of any travel experience.

About to dig into a huge plate of pierogi in Krakow. Of course the food is a vital part of any travel experience.

And coming down the pipeline I can look forward to

  • Madrid (actually, I’m on the way there now, as you read this!! Woohoo!)
  • Salamanca
  • Lisbon
  • Athens
  • Patras
  • Hamburg
  • Rome (again!)
  • Amsterdam
  • Bruges
  • Paris (again!)

And with this list, I think I will have satisfied many of the countries/cities/regions I’ve dreamed of visiting. I am psyched to see Greece and the Netherlands especially!

Candidly captured in front of the Strahov Library in Prague, a real highlight

Candidly captured in front of the Strahov Library in Prague, a real highlight

But for every city I visit, I learn or experience something new that sparks fresh travel inspiration. When I read Kristin Lavransdatter this summer, it made me want to go to Norway something fierce. And once I’m there, why not see Sweden as well, and maybe Copenhagen on the way back! I’m hoping I’ll have enough time in June for this trip… I’ll have to write extra quickly during April if I want to make it happen!

History, mystery, and color, 3 of Europe's great appeals! (Kölner Dom)

History, mystery, and color, 3 of Europe’s great appeals! (Kölner Dom)

And this month, L’Angelus, a pretty sweet Catholic-Cajun band, has been releasing some awesome new songs (available fo’ free), including a rendition of a Scottish folk song that I just can’t stop listening to. This is probably a low point as far as a) my general nerdiness and b) any travel inspiration ever, but man would it be cool to see Scotland! And, you know, once I’m there, Ireland and Wales and the rest of the British countryside?? (On second thought, I guess finally watching Downton Abbey the past few months has contributed a bit. Branson’s accent, my goodness!) This trip will probably not happen this time around, but I’ve found it helpful to keep some travel inspiration tucked away for the future. Always gotta have something in the works…

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the part where i actually do some research

Well, actually, that’s a bit misleading.

The truth is that I have been doing a LOT of research since October. Probably too much research. Because every time I found a new article about flood management or residual risk management or reservoir construction or flood mapping, I would read it, stress about how this new information would fit into my mythical research project, and go on to get absolutely nothing done.

So finally, when I was at the end of my rope with a 15-page outline that contained a lot of information but absolutely nothing of interest, I had a great meeting with my research advisor after which I knew EXACTLY what I would write.

Don’t you love when that happens?

I fully accept that I make my life much more difficult than it needs to be, but I’m thankful that things normally come together in the end.

So I am happy to report that after 5 straight days of getting up early to go to the library (I have to get there within 20 minutes of when it opens at 8 or the whole place will be full… finals season), I have officially written 15.5 pages and over 4,300 words! I am 6/8 of the way done with my first chapter [actually, it’s my second chapter, but it’s the first one I’ve written], and it’s not perfect, but it exists!

(Don’t be fooled by that last sentence/paragraph, which is probably a run-on and contains two different parenthetical thoughts. I am normally considered a “good writer” but I guess your mileage may vary.)

I am a big fan of just getting things written. I wasn’t always this way, but once I started writing my thesis and I had deadlines and responsibilities and high expectations, I started subscribing to Anne Lamott’s school of the “shitty first draft.”

All good writers write [shitty first drafts]. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have […]. But this is a fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I just wanted to check in here quickly to report that even though I haven’t been blogging, I have absolutely been writing! Also, if anyone would like to read over my shitty first draft, please give me a shout. 😉

“how has living in germany changed your life?”

“It didn’t. It just made it better.” 

All obscure, 6-year-old, Houston-specific jokes aside, living in Germany has made my life better. But, although I haven’t converted to Lutheranism or started enjoying sauerkraut or exclusively drinking Apfelschorle, it has changed me, at least a little bit! Since I’m now about halfway through my stay in Dresden, I’ve decide to reflect a little bit on the things I’ve learned here and share what little German mannerisms, amusements, or mindsets I’ve acquired!

1. Kaffee trinken is a thing.

It was a great accomplishment in my eyes that I made it through four years of undergrad without acquiring a coffee habit/addiction. But since I’ve lived in Germany, I have begun enjoying the occasional cup of coffee. Kaffee trinken is the traditional German mid-afternoon relaxation time (similar to tea time in England, I guess), when friends meet or families gather to share a pot of coffee (or tea) and some cake/cookies. My host family invited me over for Kaffee trinken shortly before Christmas and were surprised when I requested coffee instead of tea, which is what I drank exclusively while I lived with them. I had, indeed, begun ordering the occasional cup of coffee at a café (normally a latte macchiato or Milchkaffee [is ‘milk coffee’ a thing in English? Not sure]) and maybe had begun to enjoy it. But at the Brauns, I immediately regretted requesting coffee instead of tea, because I still prefer the latter by far. I’ll drink coffee to change things up or if I’m particularly tired, but I’m still a tea girl at heart.

2. Deposits/rebates are simultaneously life’s smallest bonus and its peskiest annoyance.

I’ve talked before about the German Pfand deposit system, where you are charged a little more initially for a bottled beverage to create an incentive to recycle the bottle later. There are also deposit systems on lockers at the library and on shopping carts at the grocery store. I’ve talked about that before too, I know, but the point here is that these things aren’t TOTALLY annoying anymore. I always feel very proud of myself when I remember to hold onto a 1 or 2 Euro coin for use at the library or the store! But it is incredibly pesky during those (not very uncommon) times when I’ve spent all my change on chocolate and pastries, as I am wont to do.

3. I’ve become a cold weather snob.

But only kind of. It’s a little ironic that this year, even Texas (not to mention the rest of the US! Goodness gracious!) has experienced WAY more inclement winter weather than we have here in Germany. But it has been way colder here on a regular basis this winter than we Texans are used to, and I have successfully lowered my “cold threshold” to about freezing or a little bit under. Which is my weird way of conceptualizing the fact that I don’t register it being “really cold” (provided that I am properly dressed) until it gets to about 28 or 29. [One thing that has still not changed: thinking about temperature in Fahrenheit.]

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The 8-degree day, and my bright idea was to go sightseeing in Meissen

That being said, I did judge all you Texas people a little bit when you posted on Facebook complaining about freezing weather, especially because I knew full well that the previous week, and probably the next day, you were enjoying balmy temperatures in the 70s, while I was enjoying lows of 8 degrees at some point. And especially because during the time of the many UT “snow days,” we actually had legitimate snow here that I had to walk through to get to class. I do understand the whole “the south isn’t prepared for winter” thing, but still. Cool it on the Internet complaining, people.

4. I love public transit.

My [admittedly silly] goal is to be able to name the end points of all the tram lines in Dresden by the time I leave. So far, I’ve memorized the ones for the lines I use on a regular basis, which I guess is understandable and not all that impressive. [Line 8: Hellerau/Südvorstadt! Line 3: Coschütz/Wilder Mann! Line 11: Zschernitz/Bühlau! Line 9: Prohlis/Kaditz! I am a loser!]

You gotta know your bus/tram schedules!

You gotta know your bus/tram schedules!

Anyway, public transit is awesome because it means you don’t need a car, you can see more of the city in less time, and also it comes included with my student ID so I “don’t have to pay for it”!  However, I may buy a bike once it gets warmer because you can take the girl out of Freiburg but you can’t take the Freiburg out of the girl. [I am getting nerdier and nerdier as this post goes on, aren’t I?]

5. I have learned how to use the word “doch.” 

“Doch” is a word you hear a lot, but I had never really learned its meaning or how to use it appropriately because it is a little bit difficult to explain. But finally, I have learned it and now use it liberally, like any good German! It is basically an affirmative in response to a negative. Like, if someone expresses a negative thought, such as “There isn’t any more dessert, is there?” or “It won’t rain tomorrow,” or “Jennifer Lawrence has never won an Oscar,” you can say “Doch!” in response to indicate that the person you’re talking to is wrong. So basically it is my favorite word ever. We need something like it in English.

you know you’re a bad blogger when….

I’m sure I have many “bad blogger” characteristics, as evidenced by the lack of activity going on here lately. But it’s especially bad when WordPress forgets who I am and I have to manually log in….

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Goats/rams (?) in a Dresdner Heide nature preserve area

I’ve now been in Dresden longer than 4.5 months, which is how long I lived in Freiburg, and while I am 100% sure that 10.5 months is a more respectable and less hurried duration to spend abroad, the truth is that the blog-worthy material gets spaced out a lot more! So I’m going to go ahead and stretch the definition of “blog-worthy” and call it even.

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Just an adorable fuzzy baby deer

The semester is now over! The German semester system (at least for the university calendar) is totally off from the American one, which can get confusing sometimes. The Winter Semester, which spans from October to February, just finished up.  That means there aren’t any more lectures, but the testing period has only just began… if I’m not mistaken, it continues well into March. Luckily I only had one exam, and we took it last week, so my semester is finished. Classes will start back up in mid-April.

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Yesterday I visited the Asian markets underneath the train station for the first time!! That sounds incredibly sketchy, and indeed I felt sketchy taking the escalator down below the train station, but the markets were so delightful that I was happy for the rest of the day!!! They have a much more varied produce selection than I normally find at the traditional grocery stores in my neighborhood, I finally was able to get my hands on some crushed red pepper (I know it exists elsewhere but I had had no luck actually finding it), and they even have black beans! I’ll have to go back later on in the year and see if I can’t scrounge up the ingredients for some decent Mexican food.

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I discovered a few weeks ago that one of the cafés around the corner from campus (or, rather, the part of campus where all my classes are/were) has free WiFi! This is the best discovery ever, because it allows me to use my time incredibly well and also to consume a lot more pastries than I had been previously. 

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This Thursday is the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden during World War II, and apparently the traditional way to remember that occasion is to stage a peaceful protest. I’m told that the Neo-Nazi groups have their own protest, while the rest of the city, in response to both the Neo-Nazi protesters and the general idea of solidarity brought on by the memory of the bombing, gathers to form a human chain. I’m going to participate and have no idea what to expect (other than what I just told you) but it should be interesting!

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I have quite a few trips planned during the semester break! I’m very excited. I’ll be spending two weeks in Spain, a week in Greece, and a weekend each in Hamburg and Rome over the next 2 months! I know I’ve talked about this at least a few times, but rejoice, blog readers, because that means that at least 4 different times over the next few months, I will be able write legitimate posts about things I’ve done! So look forward to that.