Wien, Berlin and Thanksgiving abroad
The month of November has been a very full one. At the beginning of the month, I had a wonderful visit from two Whittie friends, both of whom recently graduated and are now living abroad. For a weekend I pretended to be a tour guide, showing them touristy sites like the Münster and the Alter Friedhof and suggesting different sorts of Bier to try. It was great to see them and great to share a little bit of my new city with someone else.
Their visit also made me think about how much for comfortable I’ve become in Germany since September 5. Showing off Freiburg made me realize that my insecurities about navigating new cities and speaking German with strangers are all but gone, and the little city that seemed intimidating at the beginning of the September has actually become my temporary home. That’s a really cool feeling.
This month has also brought with it two trips to very different but equally captivating cities: Vienna and Berlin.
I had been looking forward to Vienna immensely because of its reputation as a city of music. And since my friends and I were fortunate enough to get standing seats at a Staatsoper production of Tosca, my expectations were met. The opera house was beautiful, the story was wonderfully tragic, and the cast put on an excellent show. And, though it might be a little cliché to say this, it meant a lot to me to actually see music transcending language barriers. Despite their differences, people from all over the world came together for a few hours and felt something in common.
In addition to the opera, we visited one of Vienna’s many Kaffeehäuser and several Weihnachtsmärkte. The Christmas markets were absolutely magical, filled with lights, crafts, drinks and people. There I experienced that same feeling of joyful anticipation and community that I remember feeling during holidays when I was a child, and I felt very much at home.
Perhaps it was because we visited the Hapsburg palace of Schönbrunn or perhaps it was because the coffee was terribly expensive, but Vienna felt almost regal to me. It’s a city I’d love to visit again.
And this past weekend, I visited the lovely Hauptstadt, the so-called black sheep of Germany. Berlin is a very different world than Baden-Württemburg, but I’ve greatly enjoyed my visit. Since we’re staying with another Whittie who has lived in Berlin for a while now, we had a laid-back, not-so-touristy visit. We visited the Schwules Museum, had Mexican food for the first time in months and got a taste of the Berlin nightlife, which is going to be very hard to emulate in the States.
Though I don’t think I picture myself living in Berlin forever, I definitely want to come back and spend some time here. The city is very unlike Vienna or Paris. Primarily because of its history, it seems to sit in this strange in-between place. Between east and west. Between old and new. Between German and international. Between calm and restlessness. This in-betweenness gives Berlin a special identity that separates it from the rest of Germany, but also connects the two. I feel fairly connected to this identity at this point in my life, and I want to get to know the city better in the (hopefully) near future.
Here are a few pictures from the trip:
Lastly, November has been a reminder that my semester in Germany is coming to an end. Our program recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a fancy, white wine-filled Thanksgiving dinner, and Christmas kitsch is now making its way into German stores. In just over three short weeks, I’ll be back in Amiland.