Weeks 4-5! More than half-way done!

After the half-way mark, it certainly didn’t feel like I’d hit the halfway mark. In fact, I’m writing this half-way through my last week, and I certainly don’t feel like I’m going home in 3 days, but that’s a story for the next post (which will actually be on time, hooray!). But despite my program being half-way over, I was busy as ever with school programs.

In week 4, there was a ton of stuff that happened. On the school calendar there was a trip to the Natural History Museum, the city Carnival, and a trip to Bonn! And there were other big things that week too, like taking the test that would determine whether I’d passed B1 or not.

The natural history museum was cool, and exploring it with my friend John (from New Paltz), and my friend Diego (from Switzerland), was a ton of fun. It was pretty similar to your standard natural history museum (and by your standard I mean I’ve only been to the one in New York City and the Smithsonian one in Washington D.C.). This one was a lot smaller, with a pretty confusing layout, but a lot of the exhibits were similar. The special exhibit currently there was about living in the dark, so many of the exhibits were about animals such as owls, bats, or moles, or sea-creatures that live in darkness. It was pretty interesting, though I mostly just looked at what looked cool while skimming signs, because when you have a limited amount of time in a museum, it’s just not possible to read every sign (especially when every sign takes double the amount of time to comprehend). It went from animals living in the dark, all the way up to ways that visually impaired people live today. And then there were the dinosaurs and things about human history that are part of the permanent exhibit (I like dinosaurs). This was also Diego’s last week in Münster, so later in the day a group of friends got together to celebrate, which was also super nice.

The next day was the B1 Abschlussprüfung, which is the big test that everyone has to take in order to move up to the next level. I was in the B1 class, but I was really worried about it because I hadn’t been there for the first half of the course. At the same time, I wasn’t too worried, because if I didn’t pass then I would stay in B1 and not move up to a level that’s too hard for me. Good news though! I did end up passing, and then the next monday we started B2!

Friday, week four, began the Münster Send, which is a huge carnival that takes place in Münster. There were tons of rides, games, and vendor booths, and it was all pretty fun (and very over-priced). When we first got there, we were told that we could meet back in an hour for a free ride on the school, so we set off to go explore for an hour. The first thing we did was go on a ride called The Flasher, and let me tell you, it was awesome. We were all terrified while waiting on line, because it’s taller than everything around it, and then it goes around really fast. (I’m awful at explaining this, but imagine the thing in the photo on the left is a giant clock hand and you’re sitting on the end and the clock is being rewinded very quickly). At the top of the tower, you end up sitting up there for a few minutes as the car on the opposite end unloads and reloads, and it’s by far the most beautiful view of Münster I’ve ever seen. You’re high above everything, and you can see the entire city and the fields beyond it. The car spins slowly around so that you get a 360º panoramic view of Münsterland. The city itself was the most beautiful part, because it was really beautiful to see all of the red roofs and the various churches sticking out over the tops. I could keep rambling about how lovely it is forever, but unfortunately since it’s such a fast and flippy-upside-downy ride, I couldn’t take any pictures. And I don’t think my describing it over text is going to do it justice at all. I did, fortunately, capture some lovely photos from the Ferris Wheel, which boasted similar views of the city, but at a significantly lower altitude, so they don’t go on as far. When we met up for the free ride on the school I decided to go on the Flasher again, while my friends chose a different ride, but after the ride that gave me some time to explore the Send on my own, which meant I got to see everything that was around without having to worry about where everyone else wanted to go. I was going to leave because I’d explored the whole thing, and at that point being by yourself is kinda boring, but I ended up running into my friends again near the exit. I joined them for the fireworks show, which was pretty cool, and then we all went our separate ways, because we had to get up early the next morning.

The reason we had to get up early? To go to Bonn, of course! Home to Beethoven’s birth house, a lovely Schloss and Rathaus (see the photo at the top for the Rathaus), lovely churches, and a wonderful museum about the history of Germany since WWII. My favorite part of Bonn was Beethovens Geburtshaus, but everything was interesting.

We started with a city tour, but that was pretty short and we then had free time, so after going on a long adventure to find a public restroom, we got lunch at a currywurst stand. This was my first time trying currywurst, and mmm, I was missing out. It was very good. And then we went to the Beethoven House Museum. We weren’t technically allowed to take photos inside (I had to leave my camera in a locker), but I had my phone with me so I snapped a few. It was cool to see some of the stuff that I’d learned about in Music History courses in person, such as the actual papers of the Heiligenstadt Testament, or the instruments that he really played on. After that, we went into a really beautiful church to look around, and then got ice cream before meeting back up with the group to go to the museum. Once everyone was back together, we went to the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. It went through the history of Germany, but really, I just spent a lot of time looking at the stuff that looked cool. I made a new friend while in Bonn (her name is Kate and she’s pretty cool and is also from the US), so we spent a lot of our museum time talking, rather than reading about everything that we were looking at. What I did read, though, was pretty interesting, because I do like history, I just didn’t read a whole lot because to be honest I was tired and I think my brain had decided it didn’t really want to process a foreign language that day. The day as a whole was pretty interesting, because I like getting to see and learn about new places, so I’m definitely glad I got to go to Bonn.

The next week was just as busy (as always), with another movie night, a fun boating adventure, another concert at the music school, a trip to the beach with my host family, and a trip to the Münster Altwetter Zoo!

In week 5, I started with B2, so new text book, and harder class, but I find that it doesn’t feel much harder because at least this time I was starting from the beginning of the course. The end of B1 was much more grammar-heavy than the beginning of B2, so it isn’t as stressful. Tuesday, we went peddle-boating on the Aasee with school, which was fun. We made a New Paltz boat and spent most of the time talking about our time here and then just random life stuff. That Wednesday was Kate’s birthday, so after class, Kate, Robynne, and I went to the Pinkus Müller Brewery for lunch to celebrate! Or so we thought. It turns out that the place across the street, called Pinkulus, has tables outside Pinkus Müller. So it wasn’t until after we’d ordered that we realized that it wasn’t the Pinkus Brewery, but we had a really good lunch outside under some nice trees, so we weren’t complaining. We got ice cream and then explored the toy store and then made our separate ways home.

After that the weather started to get way too hot and it was awful. That Saturday was scheduled to be the hottest day of the week, and surprisingly the weather reports weren’t lying. Or rather, they were a little off, they didn’t report quite how hot it would actually get. It ended up being 105ºF. On the bright side though, that morning my host family had invited me to the beach. I denied at first because I desperately needed to shower (after all, it was hot out), but then I agreed and showered really quickly before packing my things for the beach. When I first got there I laid out my towel and immediately applied sunscreen (which I’m so glad I did, because I’m not a lobster this time!) and then laid in the sun for a while. I was bored, it was too hot, too sandy, too beachy. I’m really not a beach person. But then Jemima invited me to go swimming with her, and I agreed, naturally, because that would definitely help me cool off. Swimming was pretty fun, and we talked a lot, which is always cool (she gets a good laugh when I royally mess up my grammar, but then she helps me correct it so I (sometimes) get it right next time). Then we went back to laying on the beach, and I fell asleep for a little while. I woke up and my family was asleep and then I moved myself into the shade with them, because it was entirely too hot in the sun. I sat around for a while, trying to go back to sleep/at least alleviate my boredom, but I ended up just playing games on my phone until they woke up. We then got food (Currywurst und Pommes (fries). Yum.) and chatted some more, before going back to the beach. Jemima and I went swimming again, this time with a ball to play catch with. A little while later we traded the ball in for a set of snorkles, and we swam around. She had a good time trying to scare me by (attempting to) make me think that fish were grabbing my feet. I had a good time (successfully) scaring her by just putting my hand in front of her goggles out of nowhere. The water was pretty murky because it was a lake, so all of the sand and water gunk made it hard to see more than arms length away, but it also made it really startling when things suddenly appeared. We then played a “guess the song” game where you hum a tune into the snorkel while we’re both underwater and then we have to guess. It was pretty fun, and then shortly after that it was time to go home (by shortly after that I mean we were at the beach for a total of like 7 hours).

Actually one of the only performers we saw

The next day Robynne and I went to the zoo! It had been raining and thundering all morning so we weren’t sure if we were gonna be able to make it, but it cleared up in the afternoon so we decided to check it out. It was super cute, though the layout was confusing (and you had to pay extra for a map so we decided to just wing it). There was supposed to be a street artists festival going on, but due to the storms earlier in the day there weren’t very many performers out. Despite not getting to see the performers, we did still get to see all of the animals, and animals are cool.

Overall, I had a great time in Münster, and I’m excited go be going home, but that’s for tomorrow’s post 🙂

Weeks two and three: Highlights Edition!

I’m really behind on these because I got the blog more than half way into my program and I’ve been pretty consistently busy since I got here. I go home this coming weekend and there’s no way I can write a post about every week that’s passed in that time, so the next two posts are basically going to be just the highlights of the last month 🙂

Weeks two and three were fun (as were all of the other weeks). Week two consisted of a movie night, a concert at the music school, a trip to Bremen, and a free swing dance!

The concert at the music school was really cool for me, because it was a guitar concert, which is an instrument that I don’t tend to listen to very often. As a music major, going to live music events is an important part of our curriculum, so getting to do that even while abroad was really cool, and to see the similarities and differences between concerts at the Musikhochschule and our own music department at SUNY New Paltz. (And besides, who doesn’t love a free concert?)

The trip to Bremen was also really cool, and it was only a week and a half after I’d gone to Amsterdam, so getting to travel a lot was really awesome. I’m still not entirely sure what exactly Bremen is famous for, but it was cool to get to see cities other than Münster. There was a Stadtführung, or city tour, lead by the teacher from Kapito who was running the trip, but my friend Robynne and I decided to just explore the city on our own. We looked at the map that we had gotten and went to the Schnoorviertel, which is a really old harbor/shipping town. It was beautiful, the way that the architecture mixed really old buildings with some modern ones, and the shops were all very cute. We wandered around for a while and ended up going in a circle back to Schnoorviertel. While we were wandering, it had started pouring, so we ended up going into a random restaurant for lunch, which ended up being pretty good. After wandering for a while, the school had a trip into a museum; the Übersee Museum, a natural/cultural history museum about cultures all over the world. It was really interesting, the way it went from ancient to modern times, and it was really fascinating to get to see artifacts from cultures from so many different places.

The Sunday that ended week two held something pretty awesome as well: a free public swing dance! As a member of the New Paltz Swing Dance e-board (yes we have a swing dance club. Shameless plug that everyone should join because it’s tons of fun and we have lessons), I couldn’t resist going when I read about it on Münster’s Lindy-Hop website. It was an outdoor afternoon dance with a small stage set up in a park, and it wasn’t too far from my house so I decided to go. At first I was terrified to ask anyone to dance, because while I know how to say “would you like to dance” in German, it’s still a new language and a new culture, and I had to get a feel for it first. After observing from the sidelines for quite a while, a man (he turned out to be from Holland and his English was better than his German, so that made it easier for me) asked me to dance and told me that I’m never gonna get to dance if I just stand there and watch. We had a good few dances before separating, but that was just the small push that I needed. I asked someone else to dance, but he ended up not knowing swing, he was just there (I’m not really sure why), but we chatted for a while and then I was asked to dance by someone else. That ended up being a really great dance, which is always fun. I absolutely love swing dancing, so getting to go while in Münster was a wonderful experience. After a short break for ice cream (it’s become it’s own food group for me here), I sat down at a picnic table and just watched others dance for a while. It’s interesting to see how the locals here dance, because they have a much different style than what I’m used to. A little later I made awkward eye contact with someone and we danced. He clearly didn’t know how to Lindy, but that’s alright. I got sucked into a conversation about the state of the world and differences in cultures, which was pretty interesting (though he repeated himself quite a bit), and it helped me with my German since he didn’t speak any English. I danced with one more person (another really good dance) and then headed home before it started to get dark. It was a really fun day, even though sometimes I’m a little too awkward to function in situations like that on my own.

In week three, I found a really interesting shop, saw La Boheme at Theatre Münster, went to the Planetarium (admittedly I slept through most of the show), there was a flea market at Schloss Münster, music on the Promenade, and another swing dance!

Short explanation of the above photos: It’s half Disney/Mickey Mouse museum, and half shop with really interesting things like chairs that look like Prinzipalmarkt, or various garden gnomes.

La Boheme was super cool. I’ve been trying to go to more fully staged operas lately, and so I had to go while in Germany. Since one of my majors is classical voice performance, it should be a given that I see a lot of opera’s, but since they can be pretty expensive, I’ve actually only ever been to three (and they were all within the past year). I’ve been performing in opera’s since elementary school, but through a small workshop near my hometown, and we didn’t do fully staged opera’s often. Because the Theatre has a discount for college students (our New Paltz ID’s worked!), we got half priced seats, so we managed to sit in the eighth row for only 20 Euro. The performance was great, though at the end everyone started clapping in sync and it was the strangest thing.

The following weekend was one of Europe’s largest outdoor flea markets. Unfortunately, I was mistaken on where it was located, but we spent the day exploring the city and wandering around and eventually just so happened to come across it right in front of Schloss Münster (Schloss means castle in German. The Schloss is now the main building for Münster’s University). We found the flea market about 5 minutes after it was scheduled to close, but many of the vendors hadn’t yet started packing up, so we still found some pretty cool stuff. Walking home from the flea market, I got to experience part of “Music on the Promenade,” which is an event where all along the Promenade are various artists playing their music. Since I live along IMG_4063the Promenade, I got to see quite a few talented people along my way. My favorite was probably a drum circle at the very end, because they had really interesting rhythms, and I find it to be really fascinating the way that they could communicate with each other to play the songs without saying anything. It reminded me a lot of doing improvisational drumming in my music therapy classes, which I love doing. I don’t think they were improvising, but the style was very similar.

The next night, there was another swing dance! This time it wasn’t free, but it cost only 8 Euro for a whole night of dancing, and there was also a buffet. (I didn’t necessarily like the buffet food, but there was some fruit and yogurt, so I guess I can’t complain) Much like the first swing dance, I had pretty cold feet about asking others to dance. This time, however, my host family had come with me. They didn’t dance at all, but they came for a little while and we hung out. I only got one dance in before they left (I spent a really long time not dancing), but they had to go since it was a school night. After they left, I ended up getting in quite a few good (and quite a few pretty bad) dances. There were also quite a few times when I debated just leaving because it was pretty overwhelming. The first swing dance had been outdoors, but this time it was in a small venue and there wasn’t much free space to breathe. I ended up going outside for a little while, when one of the locals was talking to me and saying that i shouldn’t be nervous to just ask people cause once you get to know them everyone in the community is really nice. That didn’t surprise me because swing is generally a really great scene, but it was a good confidence boost. I still felt pretty overwhelmed though, so I took a walk around the block to get some fresh air, and then got a few awesome dances in before going home.

On a completely and totally unrelated note: One thing I do have to say, is that the food here is amazing. I haven’t yet had a meal that I didn’t like (with the exception of maybe one, but I liked half so that can count), which is saying something considering how picky I am. The food is also pretty cheap, at least at the grocery store. In restaurants, the prices are similar to American pricing, though you definitely get more for what you pay. I’ve had to get a to-go container nearly every time I’ve gone out to eat, and that’s great because then I have lunch or dinner for the next day!