Hallo! I’ve decided to start a new series called “Deutsch Donnerstag,” or “German Thursday.” On as many Thursdays as possible (I am a busy grad student after all) I will try to write a little snippet about some German that I learned during the week, or share a story about German gone wrong (it’s pretty easy to mess up).
To begin, I’m going to tell you the best word in the German language (that I know of so far; this is likely to change often). It’s Schnee.
Schnee means “snow.” It’s my favorite word right now because of both its meaning and awesome pronunciation.
You might think that it snows a ton over here in Germany. In some places, it does, but here by the Bodensee I actually don’t get a lot of Schnee. The lake keeps the air relatively warm and humid. The couple of times that it has snowed so far, it melted right away or quickly turned to rain, while people north of the lake got a nice dusting of Schnee. Needless to say, I’ve been so jealous.
My birthday is coming up on Sunday, so I’m traveling to Ulm to visit a Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market, and have some Mexican food to celebrate! Perhaps I will get lucky and be able to run around in the Schnee at the Weihnachtsmarkt…
Last weekend my friend and I decided to take a last-minute trip to Dublin. That’s fine, but only if there isn’t a really important game and a Passenger concert that same night.
I’ll be honest with you all. I really didn’t like Dublin. It just wasn’t my type of city, I wasn’t impressed, and it did not live up to its reputation in my mind.
Besides the horrible traffic and copious amounts of taxis, I was disenchanted with the architecture, unappealing bridges, and chaotic mix of modern and historic buildings that seemed more of an eye sore to me than a harmonious mixture.
I’ll try to keep it light, and tell you the few good things about the city followed by a much better second day for the weekend.
When we arrived, the city was super crowded. After finally settling in, we went straight to the Temple Bar District for some sorely-needed food. After eating we took a look around at some of the iconic bars in town.
They look nice from the outside, but inside, the Temple Bar wasn’t that exciting. In fact, I think that the Crown Bar in Belfast is much more gorgeous. Even Lavery’s and Filthy McNasty’s bars in Belfast are more tasteful. Needless to say, if this is the best the Republic of Ireland has to offer, I’m disappointed.
So now I’ll tell you something I did like: The Old Library at Trinity College. I love to read and I was especially excited to see all the old books and the lovely interior.
We walked around the city some more and happened upon Dublin Castle. I was expecting something massive and old with a beauty to rival the Edinburgh Castle. But no, it wasn’t like that. Only a very small part was those things and a lot of the castle seemed to be pained over in weird colors.
The garden wasn’t exactly what I would call a garden either, so I was further disappointed in that. The brick snakes in a Celtic pattern were interesting, but did not make up for the fact that the castle grounds fell so short of my expectations.
Moving on… We ran into Twin and another international student while in Dublin and had dinner with them. The rest of that night we were wandering around town trying to find a place to stay. We failed at this which put me in a very bad mood. My bad mood was not at all helped by the rude people in the city either…
So, no, I didn’t like Dublin. You couldn’t pay me to go back there. I felt very uncomfortable for some reason from the moment we got there, and the things I saw didn’t really make it better. I also felt like the city was completely disorganized.
No, I didn’t have the best experience considering we slept in the car that night, but I also wasn’t too happy before we realized there was not a single place in the city to stay. But hey, I’m human, and I don’t have to love every place I visit. Also, cities aren’t really my thing. I’m happier surrounded by trees any day. Which brings me to day two of our trip: Wicklow County.
We went to the Wicklow Mountains National Park and hiked 11 kilometers. That’s 6.8 miles. I was exhausted to say the least but the views were stunning. The first half of the hike was a bit slow but it really picked up later.
We hiked past a few loughs, past a small waterfall, and up a mountain onto a boardwalk. Here are a few highlights of the natural beauty:
On the way back, we also checked out some eerie ruins which I have since learned make up Glendalough, St. Kevin’s monastic retreat. The graveyard there had headstones dating back hundreds of years and there were even some recent ones, suggesting that the cemetery was still in use today. I was most attracted by the round tower from the 10th century. Really though, the ruins of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul were the most awe-inspiring.
All in all, our day outdoors was much better than our day and night in Dublin. The best part: the weather was clear. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and although it was cold enough that I saw ice for the first time here, I can’t really complain. Moral of the story: Always skip the big cities you aren’t sure about and head straight for the wilderness, if that’s your thing that is.
I’ve been pretty quiet about what I did last weekend. No one really knows so I suppose I should share with everyone. I took an amazing weekend out with Twin and two Germans in the Republic of Ireland! We spent the weekend in County Donegal, first arriving along the coast in the southern part of the county. The countryside was lovely, the music was chill, and the company was perfection.
As we went along this coastal route, we started to see more and more Gaelic writing in the towns until the road signs switched over to Gaelic as well. After driving along for a bit, we took a little detour down to a random beach. Twin, of course, got excited about tide pools, and I ran off across some rocks.
We got moving again pretty quickly, as we wanted to have plenty of time to explore the cliffs, and we also still had to drive up to the hostel that night. So, onward to the cliffs we go…
What cliffs am I talking about? Probably not the ones you are thinking of. We hiked along Slieve League (less famous than the Cliffs of Moher, but impressive all the same).
We had a really grand hike. Then we had to make it back past all these sheep in the road towards our next destination.
On our drive we were also lucky enough to see our first Irish rainbow!
This was followed by my first sunset on the ocean, and, let’s be honest, I was barely awake at that point. (So yes, I stole this photo from a friend!)
At long last we finally arrived in the area where our hostel should be. But we couldn’t find it. When we stopped for petrol we asked the man working inside the petrol station if he could tell us where it is. He said it’s just a few blocks down.
Well, we weren’t in the city; it was really more of a highway. Blocks refers to some weird building or section of a building on my campus, so we didn’t really know what that meant. After driving and realizing that we had most certainly passed it we turned around only to find that the hostel was literally the next thing after the petrol station.
Not sure if that’s just how they say it here or if he thought we were really dumb tourists. I think he was making fun of us, though it’s hard to tell. These Irish are an interesting lot.
Anyway, we made ourselves some tortellini for dinner and finally crashed. When we woke up in the morning and looked out the window, we saw that we were actually right at the base of Errigal Mountain. So, after our quick breakfast, we packed up and headed to a nearby car park that Twin had found out about.
The mountain is quite lovely. We also had fantastic weather for climbing it; however, I was not digging the bog at the bottom of the mountain. Stupid me, I only brought one pair of shoes and they were soaked probably not even ten minutes in.
So what do you do when you get fed up with the horrible mud plus shoes equation? Well… this happens:
Yeah, I hiked it barefoot until we got up to the rocks. And happy little Twin just kept going with her waterproof shoes. Note to self: Chucks are not made for the mud. They’re alright for the real mountain hiking, just not the bog.
Once we hit the rocks the climb got much better! It was quite exhausting, but not more than I expected. The temperature was strange though. At first we were hot, and I kept shedding clothes, until finally near the top, I had to start putting them all back on. Except for my feet. I gave up on those and just let them go numb with cold, then everything was all good.
Finally, we did conquer the mountain! It was nice to look down and see how far we had come. It was really interesting to me to think that my body was able to pull myself across the mud and up this massive rock. After reveling in this fact, all that was left was to enjoy the view…
When we had finished at Errigal Mountain we spent some time at Glenveagh National Park. It was a nice place but it wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as the other things we had done that weekend. The castle was interesting, but to be honest, I was more than a little freaked out about the decorations. The deer art reminded me a bit too much of the hunting culture back home.
So that’s my weekend in a nutshell. I have to say that was definitely the best weekend I’ve had since I arrived here. My upcoming four-day trip to Scotland will probably be even better!
I’ve now been in Northern Ireland for almost two weeks. Strange, right? It most definitely doesn’t feel that long. However, in this short amount of time I’ve managed to get around to quite a few places on the Emerald Isle.
When I arrived, I was surprised to find the weather quite favorable. I expected rain, but it was sunny and has been since we arrived. Each time I think that, I realize that surely at some point our luck will run out, and we will have miserable rain for weeks on end.
The second thing I noticed, before I even made it through customs, was the wind turbines. I cannot even begin to explain to you how happy I was to see wind power. The fact that I continually see this makes me ridiculously at peace.
After finding one of the staff members from the International Department and the other international students who came on my flight, we loaded up and went to campus only to find that we could not get into our rooms until 14:00, which was a problem as it was only 9:30. Instead, as a first activity, the other students from my flight and I went to the nearby seaside park.
That first day I was really just happy to get into my room and relax. The highlight of moving in was finding out that one of my flatmates happens to also love Rise Against.
The next several days brought about a pretty tedious orientation schedule, in which I learned that classes actually start a whole week later than I had previously thought. This was great news, because it means more time to explore!
Two days after arriving I joined some of the other international students in Belfast for the first time. On this trip, I met “Twin,” who is also a double-major in math and economics. Why is this worth mentioning? Because I have never met anyone who is also interested in both of these subjects and the type of work I’d like to do after college. It’s crazy to think that we found each other here even though she is from Minnesota and studies in Iowa (not so far from Missouri).
Anyway, we walked around Belfast for the evening, passing both the illuminated City Hall and Merchant Hotel, and dining at the Alley Cat which featured some interesting graffiti decor.
The night went pretty well, but I was still clearly exhausted. Twin and I caught a taxi back to campus. I have to say the next night was much more enjoyable, as I met more international students who weren’t American, and I had some pretty good conversations with a few Germans who seemed baffled that I am a woman studying mathematics. I guess there are a lot of things I don’t notice while going to a women’s college….
Saturday was my first excursion out and about in Northern Ireland. All of the international students went to Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. I definitely preferred Giant’s Causeway. The views were stunning from the start. Instead of trying to narrate the day, I’m just going to share some photos. Though, I must advise you to keep in mind that these photos absolutely do not do it justice!
Carrick-a-Rede was interesting, but I was unimpressed by the rope bridge. I thought it would be longer or higher up. It’s also gorgeous, but was less gorgeous than Giant’s Causeway in my honest opinion.
Thus concludes week one in Northern Ireland! Sunday night was a good dinner at SoZo’s. Monday was generally uneventful. But Tuesday, Tuesday it got real. I went up to Portrush with a friend. While he was surfing, I read The Essential Gandhi on the beach. Yeah, surfing is a big thing there, with wet suits of course. And yeah, I was reading Gandhi’s writings on a beach… Typical me.
When the beach adventure concluded, we went to Dunluce Castle, a recommendation from a friend who previously did the same study abroad program.
We took a bit of an adventure around the castle and the cove below. One thing that struck me as interesting is that people here are more likely to just jump a fence and do as they will, but leave no trash and take only photos with them. In the States I feel like people are more likely to trespass just to destroy things and break the law. It’s interesting to think about how Europeans seem to live in harmony with their surroundings whereas Americans just fence them off and destroy them despite the barriers in place.
As beautiful as the ruins, beaches, and general countryside are, the city of Belfast and its people are just as unique and vibrant! Friday night was Culture Night, and I must say I’ve never seen such a party. Everyone just seemed to be having a good time together as historic and modern Belfast became one.
In one area, I couldn’t help but to get way too excited about the graffiti art covering every surface. There were several local graffiti artists even creating work in the midst of the celebration.
I had a great time running around the city with the other international students. One of the best gems we found that night was a bar filled to the brim with Guinness memorabilia. It was really something to look at.
There were other events filling the evening including…
One thing I noted during Culture Night is that it was a pretty open event. People were drinking, dancing, and having a really good time as children simultaneously ran around. I don’t feel like I’ve even been at an event in the States where it was acceptable for adults to consume alcohol if children were present.
I find that I am enjoying this laid back Northern Irish culture much more than the uptight American culture. People here were also just drinking for leisure whereas at home, I feel like Americans drink to excess more often than not with the goal of getting drunk. There is definitely a drinking culture here, but I’m surprisingly enjoying being around it.
To round out my story of my first two weeks in Northern Ireland, I have to share what I did yesterday. I went with three other international students to hike Cave Hill. Situated at the base of Cave Hill is Belfast Castle. When you get to the top, you can see the city of Belfast to the right, up to Jordanstown (including my Uni) on the left, and the sea. On a clear day you can even see across the sea to Scotland, though we didn’t really have quite that much luck.
So, in summary, I am still alive up here. I’ve been enjoying my free time these past two weeks, and earlier today I had my first class, in which I was the only female. Feels weird after going to a women’s college, but I’m dealing with it.