Monday, 31 March 2014


When I arrived in Germany, I had the privilege of language. Although some things seemed strange and I still am horrified by the amount of paperwork everything requires at least I could ask in people's own language if I did not understand something. The international students arrive differently. With some of them I wonder what they were thinking, coming here. Flensburg is quaint in its own way, but it is not the most brilliant place to be if you don't speak German. My main reason for not coming would be that the university offers very few courses in English and although most students are willing to learn German chances are they won't master the language past an intermediate level in the 6 months they are here. 

The International Center is very committed to helping them and besides conquering bureaucratic mountains we also organise fun excursions. One such excursion took us to Lübeck, which has most of its original architecture because during WWII 80% of the town was untouched by Allied bombs (in contrast to cities like Dresden and Berlin which became rubble and ash).  As we learnt from our very friendly guide, Lübeck was a very rich city and could thus build with dark bricks and add unnecessary walls to create the illusion of height in order to appear even more grandiose.

Touchable replica of the city for visually impaired people. 

The trip started out with a bit of drama since one of the students accidentally pulled the emergency brake. I saw his hand moving in slow motion as he did it and then immediately felt the train stopping. It was dreadful. Luckily the conductor accepted that it was an accident and I don't think the young man will have to pay any fine (although admittedly I think he deserves to, gosh). 

We walked around with our guide as she explained interesting facts about the city and its heritage, most of which I can't remember. Admittedly, I was stressing most of the time about not losing anyone. The city is rather pretty though because of all the old buildings and courtyards. Also, if you are into marzipan this is the place to be since Niederegger Marzipan is made there (and has been since 1806). I bought some for my mother and sister although they both don't like it that much either, but I got overwhelmed by the assortment and had to burn the money in my wallet. 

Wall in Niedergger
Inside Nierdegger. 

On our way back a group of four students didn't show up and it turns out they did not change the train when they were supposed to, ending up in Hamburg (2.5h from here by train). When we got home I was exhausted and glad to be back, but there was a monster in the harbour so I walked to the other side and tried to photograph it. It is some enormous crane that stretches higher than the Flensburg skyline (admittedly, not a huge achievement, but still). I wonder why it was here. 

Matador-3-monster by day

Monday, 17 March 2014

The first days of spring

It had been unusually lovely the entire week. But we were preparing for a group of international students to arrive so I could not revel in the loveliness outside, instead spending most of my time in front of the computer. 

And then D-Day was upon us: the planes were landing, the students disembarking and hopefully all our planning would work out. A beautiful sunrise set the tone for an exhausting but fantastic day. We left Flensburg at 8.00 and drove to Hamburg, where I was dropped off at Ikea (yay Ikea!) to buy bedding for one of the students. I also went to town in the material section because I want to make myself some curtains. Our one roommate is moving out soon as well and she brought most of the kitchen utensils with her, so I bought two mugs, a whisk and new sheets for myself. 

Then I took the bus into the city and received a message that one student had missed his flight and would therefore land 4 hours later. My colleague was already at the airport and could thus leave earlier, whilst I had more time to kill and would bring the last two students back to Flensburg by train. 

I ended up getting out at the main station and just walking around. It is like my friend G. said: when the weather is no longer dark and brooding the population changes switches its personality. Everyone stops hibernating and heads out to soak up the sun.

After the exam period and worrying about all the arrangements for the international students it was soul quickening to get away from Flensburg and just walk around by myself without the pressure of having to discover the city. Luckily I had my camera with me so I just walked around, bought myself a sandwich and chilled by the Alster. 

The moment of repose did not last long because thereafter the days have been rather stressful: Thursday we spent the entire day at the airport and the entire weekend was filled with activities for the students. This next week is also dedicated to wading through the bureaucratic nightmare that is Germany. 

Additionally, the weather has turned again and has soured the atmosphere. No longer are people walking around joyfully and basking in the sunlight. But at least the Hamburg day has given me hope that spring is in fact coming, slowly but surely. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


Observation on a Tuesday

As pasta is when you went past al dente 
But relieved none the less that it was done,
the molehill had been conquered.

We loafed around on my couch
with intentions of going to the beach
because, you know, when the sun shines the day has to be seized.

Instead we just walked along the harbour,
and then went our separate ways to our separate beds.

The surface shivered
the way water pulsates when a cellphone vibrates next to it.
It was a glorious day.
Sunshine, finally sunshine.

I caught movement on the right
out of the corner of my eye.
Next to pier there was a bird of some kind,
in its grayish brownishness.

He stuck its head partially underwater,
scanning, scouring for fish,
just dipping his head in.

With a sudden burst of energy he is submerged
paddling  in slow motion
through the clear water.

I watch as his little feet kick- one two three four times.

The smallest sound and the bird is back,
a fish in the beak
and air in his lungs.

This happens time after time:
the dedication to finding food
going under
coming up
every time a success.

He proceeds like this along the length of the sidewalk
I stalk him as he glides soundlessly through his life.

He is the centre of expanding circles.
Always the circle
rippling out
in between waves of magnetic lines.

This beauty of a bird
This nucleus of a small life,
and no one sees him.

Monday, 3 March 2014

High Hopes

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
― Miriam Adeney

After 6 years of friendship and living on two different continents for most of those years, my friend has finally managed to visit me (usually I would manage to win a trip to Paris and see her). We spent three days in Flensburg just catching up and testing how long we could lounge around on the couch before we headed to Copenhagen for three days.

It is the most silent city, like a ghost town. Even the swarms of furiously pedaling cyclists make no sound. Very strange. I don't know if it is the climate or because we were there during the week, but the noiselessness was astonishing.

The first day we arrived, booked into our hostel and walked to the Tietgenkollegiet near the University of Copenhagen. It is a residence that looks as though the architect was playing a game of Jenga. There we also saw the Konserthuset (concert hall) before finding our way back to the main shopping street Strøget to eat something (which turned out to be Burger King because it was the cheapest). 

That evening we found the only source of sound in the entire city: our hostel. Monday nights were apparently acoustic night or something and there was a band playing below us (our room was directly above the bar/check-in) til well into the night.

Hello Copenhagen.

Tietgenkollegiet, or playing Jenga. 

The next day we made our way to a bakery because we thought we'd always grab some Danish pastry for breakfast, but sadly the store had disappeared. We found another though and then walked past Nyhavn to the Amalienborg castle to see the changing of the guard.

Like in John Irving's Til I Find You

Changing of the very young guards.

Then we jumped on a canal tour and saw the city from the water. We were extremely lucky with the weather during our entire stay in Copenhagen. Given that it was not even spring yet it was fairly warm and we had no rain. Yay! NO RAIN!!!


Vor Freisers Kirke
After the hour-long boat ride I spent more money on a pair of beautiful earrings than on the entire trip (bad bad Sabine) . We wanted to go up the Vor Freisers Kirke but were too late so we instead went directly to Christiania, which is a neighbourhood that doesn't see itself as belonging to the EU and where drugs are dealt openly. It was a bit too hippy-ish for us so we went in search of pastry yet again and walked along Strøget (it is one of the longest shopping streets in the world, so enough space to drift along silently). 

It was so good to get away from Flensburg for a few days and to spend time with someone where I don't need to explain my jokes or feel self conscious about what I am allowed to say without being too honest. It is a strange tightrope one walks when being alone in a new place and has to find new friends. But it makes me all the more thankful for the old ones that I can carry with me whether they live in the same city, the same country or 12 000km away.