Germany Thus Far: 4.5 Years

The last time that I did one of these posts was back in 2018 which marked three years in Germany. Looks like I have a lot of time to catch you all up on. Let’s jump in to some of the big events and changes from the last 1.5 years, bringing you up to date on my 4.5 years in Germany thus far.

Close to home

Most of the time, I stayed close to home, either in Germany or in the States. I’ve made a few trips back to visit my family of course, but otherwise, I didn’t do a whole lot of travel. Most of my travel has been in Bavaria, or even to places around Munich.

Exploring Bavaria
Don't look down.
Don’t look down.

There are two main reasons that I didn’t get out much. First is that my partner was furthering his education last year in an intense accelerated program, so there wasn’t a lot of time to travel together. The second was that I didn’t really have the money to be able to travel alone, even though I had an entire month off in August because…

I switched jobs

After I realized that I could not stand it any longer in the travel technology company where I worked, I got to work looking for jobs. Luckily, I found a new position in a financial technology company which is much more challenging and intellectually stimulating.

It’s nice to be in a job where you feel like you’re a fit for the role, and your work actually matters. Not to mention, I get along with the people much better despite the fact that many of them are really intense.

New bike

Along with the job upgrade, I also came to the realization that I needed to upgrade my bike. My first bike in Germany was a cheap buy at a flea market. It’s quite worn, and it is not a good long-distance bike. Considering that my commute is about four times as long now, and I am getting more into longer rides in the warm months, it was time for something new.

Instead of buying another second-hand bike, I actually spent the money to get what I wanted. It’s stable and stands up really well to longer rides. If the current lockdown ever ends and the weather improves, maybe I’ll be able to go on some new adventures with it.

Pandemic

Speaking of the lockdown, I think I have to include the pandemic in this list. It’s still ongoing, of course, and it’s likely to last a lot longer. Still, I never thought that I’d be watching a global health pandemic unfold from Munich.

This week is my fourth week of home office. Everything except essential services are closed in Germany. It is only allowed to leave your home if you are going to the grocery store, pharmacy, work (for those who still have to go in), or for fresh air and exercise. In order to stay sane, I make of point of going out for a walk every day.

I’ve heard from people in the States who are concerned about my safety in Europe. No doubt they see what is happening in Italy and Spain in the news, but I think I’m much better off here than back in the States. At least I have health care, and Germany also has a world-class healthcare system which is actually accessible to people who need to use it. Plus, there’s the fact that there are certain protections in place that make my job much more secure than if I were in the States. I’ll stay right here, thanks.

Staying permanently

Before the lockdown, I applied for permanent residency. Since I wasn’t able to go and pick up the card, imagine my surprise when they sent it to me. I am now the proud owner of a Niederlassungserlaubnis.

Yep, I’m fine with staying somewhere that has villages and mountains like this.

What’s it mean? Basically, I get to stay in Germany for the long run, and I don’t have to get approval from the immigration authorities anymore if I want to change my job. Plus, I don’t have to carry my passport around anymore since it’s an actual ID card instead of a giant sticker in my passport. And yes, I seriously count that as a nice perk!


That’s about it. It’s obviously not an exhaustive list of what has happened the last 1.5 years, but you get the idea. To everyone reading this, stay healthy and sane.

Cheers!

A Picturesque Medieval German Village

Over the two years of my Master’s studies, I had the pleasure to spend some time in the small German village of Bad Waldsee. This village is located north of the Bodensee, near Ravensburg. It’s probably not the top of anyone’s travel list, but I enjoyed visiting there on occasional weekends and semester breaks nonetheless.

To highlight some of the my favorite things about the village, I’d like to tell you all seven things I enjoyed there. Without further ado, here’s a list of my favorite things in Bad Waldsee in no particular order.

Snow in BW2

No. 1: The Charming Architecture

Wandering around Bald Waldsee Altstadt (Old Town) is a good way to enjoy an afternoon. There are several buildings and churches which have been around for centuries, and part of the old town wall still exists as well. Bonus points if you get to enjoy Bad Waldsee in the snow!

Merry Christmas!

No. 2: The Giant Advent Calendar

Around Christmas time, Bad Waldsee puts up a giant Advent calendar on one of the city buildings right in the middle of the Old Town. Every December evening leading up to Christmas, the townspeople gather to see a new window opened, enjoy live music (which is surprisingly frequent despite the cold), and drink Glühwein (mulled wine).

No. 3: Take a Walk around the Lakes

Bad Waldsee Old Town is sandwiched between two small lakes: Stadtsee (Town Lake) and Schlosssee (Palace Lake). Many people like to walk around Stadtsee, the bigger of the two. The pathway around the lake offers lovely views of the town, especially at night with the city lights or in winter with snow and ice.

DSCN2525

No. 4: Seenachtsfest

Long-time readers may recognize Seenachtsfest as the evening summer festival in Konstanz, complete with fireworks. While this is indeed an event in Konstanz, Seenachtsfest loosely translates to “evening lake festival,” and is held at other lakes besides the Bodensee (Lake of Constance).

Bad Waldsee hosts their own small, but enjoyable, Seenachtsfest each summer. The event is usually accompanied by a Flohmarkt (flea market), carnival, live music, and numerous food and drink vendors. There are also, of course, fireworks over the lake. The fee for entry to the fireworks is much cheaper than Konstanz, and much less crowded as well.

No. 5: Künstlermarkt

Speaking of festivals, I can’t forget to add in the Künstlermarkt. This happens on one weekend of September. I’ve always caught it on a Sunday, and all of the shops open their doors for the day (which is not normal on a Sunday in Germany). There’s also a little handmade goods market, live music, and food and drinks. Definitely worth a visit if you’re around.

Stadt See Tulips

No. 6: Dinner at Amadeus

Because I’ve mentioned food in several of the above items, it’s only fair that I recommend a few places to eat for when there isn’t a festival going on. My favorite place in Bad Waldsee to go for dinner is Amadeus.

Amadeus has a bit of a funky menu, from chicken curry to burgers. There’s certainly something here for everyone. I can especially recommend their pumpkin soup with shrimp. Yum.

If you’re in the mood for a drink, Amadeus also makes amazing cocktails.

No. 7: Cake at Café Weinstube am Markt

For those of you with a sweet tooth (like me), you’ll enjoy eating some cake at this old-fashioned café. While the décor may be a bit traditional, the cake is some of the best I’ve bought in southern Germany. There’s always a mix in the case, and I’ve never left disappointed. When the weather is good, you can even enjoy your cake on the patio. To me, this place is Kaffee und Kuchen at its finest.

Stadt See Schnee

So I guess that’s my small virtual introduction to Bad Waldsee. If you’re ever heading through there, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Cheers!

P.S. This town is also home to a Spätzle Museum, perfect for Swabian cuisine enthusiasts!

Lost and Found No. 2

Hello, all! It’s Easter weekend, and here in Germany we have a lovely four-day weekend to give us a break from the daily grind of our jobs. As spring has hit its stride, so have my allergies. As much as I want to be outdoors, I’m spending a lot of time sitting indoors trying to avoid the pollen. We could do with a nice rain shower to clean the air, but there sadly isn’t any precipitation in the forecast in the next days.

Anyway, let’s get down to it. What has been lost and found in my life and the greater world lately?

Cherry blossoms

Found: Spring blooms, ducklings, and swans

As you can probably guess from my spring allergy statement, the trees are turning green, flowers are blooming, and nature is going wild. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom (yes, they’re in Germany, too), as well as another tree with small white blossoms of which I do not know the name.

I sometimes hop off of the bus a few stops early on my way home from work so that I can walk along the small lake near my flat. This past week, eight new ducklings were chirping their way around the lake.

Mother duck with ducklings.

At the end near my flat, a swan pair have built a nest and are protecting it from passersby (meaning any duck stupid enough to come near). Still waiting for their offspring to appear.

Found: An ache to read more from Margaret Atwood

Last October, I bought some new English books in the London airport where they are not as expensive as in Germany. Two of them were my very first Margaret Atwood volumes: Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale.

I read the latter quite soon after my purchase. And yes, I already saw both seasons of the series. Alias Grace was different. I’d seen the mini-series on Netflix back in 2017 and was not quite sure what to make of it. The book is really an amazing work of art, tying in many themes that are just too subtle to come through in the TV version.

Having read both of these, I’m hungry to read more of Atwood’s books. Not that I’m lacking any reading material at present, but any advice on which ones I should tackle next?

Found: New growth

After not doing much of anything all winter except protesting because I accidentally exposed him to direct sun, my avocado plant has finally started shooting up some new growth.

New growth on my avocado plant.

New leaves are shooting out of the top like a little crown of velvety new green. Let’s see if I manage to nurse him back to a happier state. For a while in the winter I thought I might have to scrap the tree and try again with another seed.

Lost: History

What has been very sad is the news of not only Notre Dame burning, but also the burning of three historically black churches in Louisiana. While Notre Dame is an accident and a loss of symbolic European history, the burning of historically black churches in the States is something that has been going on for decades.

I’ll never understand racism and hate against an ethnicity or religious community, but at least one can take heart in the fact that those donating to help restore Notre Dame in Paris have also been donating to the churches in Louisiana. I hope that communities on both sides of the pond are able to rebuild and find a sense of peace and safety again.

Found: The bees of Notre Dame

In the aftermath of the fire at Notre Dame, many have been focused on structural stability, the historic art inside, the stained glass… But some Parisians who knew that there were also bee hives up on the roof were curious to know if the bees made it.

While it isn’t clear how many survived the blaze, there’s evidence that these bees are quite hardy and the hives will live on!


So that’s what’s been lost and found in my life view lately. Hope you all have enjoyed / are enjoying a lovely Easter weekend, and please keep your fingers crossed that the rain comes to Germany soon!

Cheers!

I Didn’t Think I’d Like You, Frankfurt

Back into the travel journal we go! This time we’re heading to Frankfurt in January. Cold, right? It actually snowed while we were there. Maybe that’s a factor in me liking it even more!

Speaking of snow, it’s snowing as I write this, as it has been doing off and on the last months. Anyway, Frankfurt….

Most of the weekend was spent socializing with friends, as one does when visiting friends in other cities. It was also my first time there, and we spent a good part of Saturday running around to take in the nearby sights.

We walked along and crossed over the Main (the river that runs through the city). From there we had a view of the city center which houses all of the tall financial towers.

Coincidentally, on this same weekend not too far from where we were, a bomb from WWII had been found in the river. Finding these old bombs is actually not that uncommon in Germany. They usually just evacuate the area and either defuse the bomb or, in some cases, safely detonate the bomb. The same thing happened not that long ago here in Munich.

We continued on to the Old Town where we passed by the old city hall. As it was quite cold, we didn’t linger. Arriving at the Frankfurt Cathedral, our group made the decision to walk up to the top despite how chilly and windy we suspected it would be.

Indeed, it was freezing up on top of the cathedral, but it also gave great views of the city.

After escaping from the wind, we headed to an indoor market called Kleinmarkthalle (Small Market Hall). You can buy everything from flowers and fresh produce to regional specialties and ready-to-eat snacks. We munched a bit and explored what the vendors had to offer before touring some of the shopping in the city center.

In the evenings we explored the night life a bit. We visited an Irish pub, and the next night a very fancy bar before heading to two ritzy clubs.

Initially, I thought Frankfurt was pretty much just the financial capital of Germany, full of high-minded Germans with advanced degrees in finance and related fields. It is a little bit that, but it’s also something more. Here I found a city that didn’t feel as busy as some I’ve been been in (ehem, Munich…), had great night life, and an excellent mix of walking and shops to keep one occupied for a weekend.

Cheers!

Germany Thus Far: 3 Years, Can It Be True?

It was shortly before my three-year anniversary of living in Germany when I realized it was coming up. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here that long, but the calendar says that it is true!

So in the past year, what are the most significant things I’ve done?

1. Got a Job in Munich

Since I handed in my Master’s thesis in early September last year, I also had to get a job. I started applying in July of last year and was very lucky with timing, as I then started working in October.

The challenges of transitioning from academic life to work life are enough to begin with. Add in that I somehow did it in another country, succeeded in changing over my residence permit, and moved to the city (I’m not a city gal), well… That’s pretty impressive for me personally.

Do I love working more than I loved studying and doing research? Nope. But hey, I guess that’s part of your first few years working; you learn what you like and what you don’t.

2.Visited the Family

It was September 2015 when I moved to Germany, and throughout my entire Master’s program I could not afford to make the trip back home. Therefore, going home last December was the first time in over two years that I saw my family in person. It was also the first time in two years that I used US dollars, that everyone I spoke with had a Midwestern accent, and that I was surrounded by American flags everywhere I went. Yes, I suffered from reverse-culture shock.

LOZ

It was a nice little adventure to go back home, although it was the dead of winter. At least my Grandma can’t be upset that I always miss the holidays since I finally made it for Christmas!

3. Distortion in Copenhagen

After several years of A telling me about Copenhagen and how great it is, I finally went. The first few days were filled with bike rides around the city to do all the touristy things. The second half of the week was all about the electronic music festival.

While it’s true that Copenhagen is quite expensive, the city has a great vibe, amazing architecture, and delicious food. I even had my first bagel in several years (my life without bagels is very sad, indeed). Copenhagen is pretty spectacular, one of the few cities in which I can see myself living happily, albeit probably broke.

4. Another Trip to the US

So the trip that I was not planning to make was to head back home in the middle of summer. Living away from home when someone in your family is in poor health is pretty tough. I eventually got to the point where it didn’t make sense to keep stressing in Germany when I have a regular paycheck that can get me over the ocean to check in with my family in person.

Although it’s not what I planned, I now remember how flaming hot and humid Missouri gets in the summer, and why Missourians actually need air conditioning. A more pleasant part of the weather was walking barefoot through a summer storm to pick up my aunt’s car.

Family’s all okay now, too, in case you’re wondering.

5. Isle of Skye

The first trips I made to Scotland were back in 2014, and I documented them on the blog. (Read about them here and here.) Those two trips led me to falling as much in love with Scotland as I already was in with Ireland. One thing that A and I have wanted to do for several years now is to make it to the Isle of Skye. This year was the year to do it.

We rented a car and attempted Ben Nevis before going on to the Isle of Skye. That trip was an absolute dream, and the cool weather was dearly cherished after a brutally hot summer in Munich. I’ll eventually write about it here, but for now, I’ll just say that I can’t wait to go back to Scotland again.

Learnings

So those are the big things, but my international adventures are not the entire takeaway. Here’s a short list of some things I learned this year.

  1. Skiing is not for me. Tried that in Austria on a company ski trip, and the conclusion is that I will just skip straight to sledding and hot cocoa.
  2. I need to put the plant down, and walk away. I now have… seven plants? I think it’s seven, maybe there are more… Having a green thumb doesn’t go away just because one moves abroad!
  3. My German has gotten better. In fact, a few weeks ago I made a trip to the foreigners’ office and spoke in German during the entire appointment with the Munich bureaucrats.
  4. I need to plan a lot of hiking trips. Since I didn’t painstakingly plan out any options, I didn’t end up going on any. I tried to be a bit more relaxed, but it seems that being a planning freak does lead to more adventures into nature.
  5. Legal residence doesn’t get easier with time. In fact, the bureaucracy is so large that it even lost my file, resulting in multiple temporary permits and a long wait until they find my file before they’ll process the application that I already submitted. Never-ending story, this residency thing.
  6. December is too short, and there are too many Christmas markets to visit. Last year, I tried very hard to experience some new markets because I have had a love affair with them since my personal discovery of Christmas markets back in 2014. This year I will have to map out every one that I want to visit and be a bit more calculated in my excursions (and my Glühwein fund).
  7. Forcing myself to live in a city does not mean that I will learn to like it. Nine months into living here, and 12 months into working here, Munich still isn’t my favorite place. If anything, it’s more of a headache. If only I could find Munich-style jobs in the mountains….

Seven seems like a perfectly arbitrary number at which to pause here. So I guess that’s a wrap on year number three in Germany. I don’t really have a lot of plans for the next year yet (apart from Christmas markets), so let’s see where life takes me!

Cheers!