“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.

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exploring dresden (plus snow pictures!)

I’ve been up to a lot of cool stuff in the past few weeks that I haven’t gotten around to writing about! I’ve gotten to see a bunch of different aspects of what Dresden has to offer, and it has me energized to get out and see even more!

[I have been awful about taking pictures while doing these various things, so enjoy these pictures from our SNOW DAY today! (That might actually be misleading. It was a snow day because it snowed, but life went on as scheduled because it’s not like this is Texas.)]

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The view from my window

If you haven’t caught on yet, I really love Dresden. It is the happiest of accidents that I ended up here! I knew almost nothing about the city before I decided to come here, and the reason I ended up at the university here was correspondence with a professor with whom I’m not even working anymore! The university, the Technical University of Dresden, is one of 12 distinguished universities in Germany as of 2012 (and the only east German school on that list!), so even that was a happy surprise, but as far as cities go, I couldn’t be happier!

Dresden is big enough that there is lots to do, even after several months of being a (fairly) active tourist-slash-resident. But it’s small enough that it doesn’t take 3 hours to travel from one place to another, a la Houston. It’s old enough to have so much fascinating and inspiring history, yet new enough to have a great art, music, and cultural scene. It’s ideally located right between Berlin and Prague (2 hours from each). Basically, I love it here and I’m so glad this is “my” city.

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Our balcony view… the Russian Church is so pretty!

I’ve blogged already about exploring the historic city center, including the Frauenkirche, the Kathedrale, the Christmas markets (when they were there…), and the many museums. (I have yet to make it to the Zwinger Palace! This is my one big, gaping Dresden hole so far!)

Two weekends in a row, some of the “internationals” decided to explore Neustadt. Neustadt (“new city,” literally) is the part of town north of the river where most of the bars/party scene is. I had never really been there… I’m not much of a party gal, but it seems to be pretty much my speed, so I’ve been enjoying getting to know it a bit better.

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One night, Felicitas, Nathaniel, and I got dinner and drinks at one bar where we made fools of ourselves first thing by not knowing how to operate the front door, and then moved on to a magical place called the Schokoladenbar (chocolate bar) where they served wonderful drinks that might as well be dessert! During our wanderings through the Neustadt, we stumbled upon the Kunsthofpassage, where there is a bunch of cool street art and cute little shops. This building supposedly plays music when it rains (though based on this video, that may be an exaggeration… it wasn’t raining when I was there so I can’t confirm)!

The next weekend, a few of us went on an outing to the Erich Kästner Museum, also in Neustadt. The name sounded vaguely familiar to me, but it wasn’t until after we got to the museum that I was reminded that Kästner was the beloved German children’s author who wrote Emil und die Detektive, which I think I read in German 2 or 3 in high school! I definitely remember watching the movie at some point. It turns out that Kästner was born and raised in Dresden Neustadt, not far from the museum building!

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The Lukas Kirche, whose bells wake me up every morning… if you can see the inscription above the door, it says “Glory to God in the Highest” (Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe)

The museum itself was fascinating. It’s an “interactive micro-museum,” which sounds like a strange or hipster-y concept, but really it was the perfect medium for displaying the life and work of a children’s author. It was all housed within one room, which contained 12 “columns” — basically shelves which each had a bunch of color-coded drawers. The drawers contained various items from Kästner’s life… photos, quotes, documents and letters, books… it was a lot of reading and not much of it was translated, so I wouldn’t recommend this museum to people who can’t read German, but for those who can, this museum was amazing, definitely worth 4 Euros and an hour of your day!

One of my favorite artifacts was a letter from Kästner to a children’s theater group in Dresden who were putting on one of his plays and had invited him to their performance. He personally wrote to them to regretfully inform them that he wouldn’t be able to attend, but that he would send his father (the original Emil!) instead! I thought that was so sweet. There were also a few letters of correspondence between Kästner and Astrid Lindgren, who wrote the Pippi Longstocking books (among others).

The trees in front of this house looked like lace.

The trees in front of this house looked like lace.

While we were in the neighborhood, we also popped into a store called “Beyond the Pond” that imports American and British goods — food, beer, books, etc. I didn’t buy anything, it was all pretty expensive, but it was cool to go check out the American things I could easily access if I ever had an emergency Betty Crocker or ranch dressing craving.

As you can see from all these pictures, it snowed basically non-stop yesterday and today. None of that Polar Vortex craziness, just a light little flurry that’s left a blanket of probably 4 or 5 inches all over the place! It’s so pretty! I was such a Texan all day, carrying my camera everywhere to capture the magic before it disappears. I was a little self-conscious about openly taking pictures of things with so many people around… otherwise I would have a lot more.

This is the Schumann-Bau where I have 3 of my classes. I think it's really beautiful. It used to be a prison, which is a little creepy, but also kind of cool.

This is the Schumann-Bau where I have 3 of my classes. I think it’s really beautiful. It used to be a prison, which is a little creepy, but also kind of cool.

But because everything was looking so pretty and magical, I decided it would be fun to go to the Großer Garten before it all melts (hopefully it won’t for a while, but fresh snow is prettier than week-old snow). The Garten (Garden…yay cognates!) is really big and pretty under normal circumstances, but I thought with the snow it would be gorgeous. Unfortunately it was dark before I got there today, but even though the pictures didn’t turn out, it was so beautiful and peaceful to behold! I’ll have to go one day when it’s actually light outside.