The Beginning

(I just typed ‘ich’, realised my mistake, and thought I’d let you know that my self-assimilation into German-ness is already well underway)

I’ve been in Leipzig for four days now and it’s going well. I didn’t think I’d ever say that on Monday when, exhausted from my 4am start, traumatised by my bumpy flight in a questionable looking plane, humiliated from having crashed into multiple passengers while dragging my luggage – more than I could really manage – through a crowded train carriage, and sweltering in the thirty degree heat, I burst promptly into tears at Leipzig Hauptbahnhof.

It’s all much better now.

Important task no.1 was finding myself somewhere to live. I had spent hours and hours over the past few weeks trailing through adverts on various websites and sending friendly-yet-slightly-desperate messages to possible housemates. My criteria were fairly straightforward: I wanted to live in a decent location, in a flat with at least one other woman, in a room with a double bed and nice windows (aesthetics matter), and a clean, tidy communal area. (I’ve learnt from my year in chaotic but loveable East Oxford). I was, however, prepared to completely forego all of those criteria if I could find a place to live on Gustav-Mahler-Straße…

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IMG_6200Can I live on one of these please?

There were so many exciting street name options. Mozartstraße. Telemannstraße. Schumannstraße. Chopinstraße. I could have even made a serious commitment to FHS Paper X and lived on Martin-Luther-Ring…

I’ve actually settled for a less excitingly named, but still rather lovely, apartment. I signed the contract and picked up the keys this morning. I’ll be living with three German students in a pretty, artsy district called Connewitz. I get two rooms – a bedroom and a study – and am very excited to move in tomorrow and adorn them with fairy lights and photos!

Well-wishing friends keep asking me what Leipzig is like. I’ve been trying to think of a good answer. The city centre is perfectly pleasant but not incredibly exciting: it’s big and bustling with lots of shops and glossy shopping centres. I particularly like the buskers, who are everywhere : jazz bands and string quartets and wonderful solo cellists playing Bach partitas. Lots of Leipzig was destroyed during WWII/ripped down in the DDR years, but the replica gothic buildings are still quite staggering. There are two famous and rather beautiful churches, which I’ll write about another time. There are also water fountains all over the city, quite often full of squealing naked toddlers and their watering cans. I didn’t think a photo would be quite appropriate…

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Once you leave the centre, though, it’s completely different. My journey into town takes me through a huge park, green and plush and beautiful. The main cycle path runs alongside the river, which tends to be full of rowers – so it’s not that different to Oxford! In the evening the fields fill up with people and the smell of cooking sausages and the hum of guitars (guitars everywhere). I sat and read there for a few blissful hours the other day, until I was pushed away by a swarm of wasps, who, as a species, seem to have even less respect for personal space than English wasps…

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I’m getting used to a few slightly unexpected (and slightly inane) things. Leipzig is the only German city I’ve ever been to where people cross the road without necessarily using a crossing. It felt rebellious at first. Cycle paths are, in fact, part of the pavement, and so it’s my fault when they swerve and swear at me, not theirs. You have to press a button for the tram doors to open, and if you don’t do it quickly enough, I found out, you don’t get off. And, most bizarrely, although double beds are quite normal here, it turns out, as I discovered when shopping for my new room, that double duvets don’t exist.

I have been, so far, mildly impressed with my German speaking. Everybody seems to understand me. There haven’t been any embarrassing lapses of communication, but I chose the word ’embarrassing’ carefully there. I’ve just managed to disguise them well. On the first night, I realised I’d drifted off completely and hadn’t been listening to my host at all, but found myself nodding in agreement anyway. I quickly realised I’d told her that I was a vegetarian. This, for context, is about as far away as possible from the truth. I love meat. It’s a staple. Unfortunately it was too late to go back on my word (or, at least, my nod), as she told me how glad she was, and how much she disapproved of eating meat. (I’ve been sneaking in the odd Currywurst when alone to compensate).

I’ve just about shaken the ‘tourist’ bug from my system. I am, after all, registered as a Leipzigerin! Tomorrow I move into the flat. My internship starts on Monday. I’m far less terrified than I was this time last week and rather excited about the next few months!

Next job: make German friends/any friends (other than this guy)

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One Comment

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  1. Hi Ella, very much enjoyed reading and seeing your update and so glad you are now feeling excited rather than terrified!
    I rather think the ‘yellow bear’ a potentially positive new chum. Imagine, no answering back, doesn’t make a mess, listens to everything you say, bilingual and best of all ‘vegetarian’! 😳 xx

    Liked by 1 person

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