Winter Exchange 2015-16: Bremen, Germany
So I more or less took a lucky dip and decided to head to Bremen for a European winter semester abroad. Being only the 10th most populous city of Germany, Bremen is a relatively smaller city located in the North West and situated along the Weser River. It is historically and still to this day known as a Hanseatic, maritime trading point. A quick Google search taught me Bremen was only 3 hours from both Amsterdam and Berlin. For me, this smaller “local” city easily accessible to some of the major tourist destinations offered me the best of both worlds. I have never seen snow before so when people asked me, “why Bremen?” this also became an obvious answer.
I left one month early and embarked on a solo European backing trip taking full advantage of the ease of travel throughout Europe, as well as in some search of sun before the cold winter to come. After enjoying the hustling and bustling of London city I couldn’t have asked for any better sun to find than on the Greek Islands of Santorini and Ios. This place was truly the picturesque blue and white heaven you see on the postcards. Athens was next, which would give me an insight into Ancient Greek history and philosophy, which would enhance my political science studies in Germany. I then literally ate my way up through Italy experiencing the finest pizza, pasta, olive oil, red wine, coffee and gelato of the world. While ticking off all the tourist must see’s and do’s including Pompeii, Ancient Rome, Florence and Cinque Terre it is no surprise to admit that my most enjoyable moments were spent getting to know like minded backpackers who would go from strangers in one minute to life long friends the next. We bonded over the thrill of jumping from hostel to hostel, taking chances on which trains to catch not knowing completely where we would end up and swapping stories of the antics this caused.
What would a semester living in Germany be without diving head first into the most famous German cultural enriching experience of all time; Oktoberfest? This was next on my list and although I don’t remember much from over the 4 days after 5 litres of beer everyday, the photos seem to suggest that I had the best time of my life. Oktoberfest no doubt prepared me for my next 5 months in Germany as I’ve now learnt that the stereotypes surrounding Germans loving their beer is not one word of a lie. After many sad goodbyes and promises to meet in the near or distant future I now had to attempt to settle into reality on my solo 12 hour bus ride to Bremen from Munich. I arrived to Bremen with 8kgs of luggage on my back and an address in my hand, which would be home for the next 5 months. With time to kill before meeting my host family I decided to walk 2.5kms to my new home and take in my new surroundings. When I arrived I was lucky to find an English speaking female flat mate waiting for me on the other side of the door who was equally as keen to go out and explore our new city and the German culture.
Easy on the eye, Bremen’s city centre is filled with beautiful old medieval and gothic style buildings entwined with an art and musical history. In the following weeks Bremen became more than this however, with each quarter, offering something unique. From the old ships turned into theatres and restaurants along the Schlate, to the grungy, boho, hip area of Viertel and then to the quaint historical quarter of Schnoor, these districts intertwined with each other offering a unique, multicultural and diverse city. Market life thrives here if you can get out of bed in the cold. Any market you could think of including flower and plant markets, flea markets, antique, fresh fruit and vegetables and local produce as well of course the Christmas markets. Additionally, after 1 week orientation at Hochschule Bremen I quickly learnt that Bremen thrived in an after dark student nightlife which had been promised by the ever so accommodating young staff of the university. Meeting all the other exchange students was thrilling. There was always something on, someone to hang out with and someone making sure you had a drink in your hand. The following weeks I had no time to rest as I was launched straight into my studies while trying to adjust to the culture shock I was faced with. With little English being spoken, minor tasks became an exciting challenge. From finding ingredients in the supermarket to figuring out the German’s ever so complex and environmentally conscious recycling system. Nonetheless I was desperate to plunge further into the German way of life and so I purchased a bicycle. Cyclists in Bremen hold the upmost complete power as they always have right of way no matter what. After adjusting to driving on the opposite side of the road and pulling out in front of cars, pedestrians, trams and buses as a I pleased, I soon felt like a true German and that I was prepared for the next 4 months. At least I thought I was…. It wasn’t until the beautiful orange and yellow leaves were covering the streets and the trees were slowly becoming bare that I started to question how one from the “Sunshine” Coast was going to survive this winter…
By Freya Kinden