So this is actually my second attempt at writing a letter to you all from the wonderful city of Marburg, Germany.
The first one didn’t go brilliantly due to:
A) It being pretty boring as I wrote it fairly early on and not much had happened.
B) I have only just got an internet connection in my room and couldn’t really start uploading it at work so by now it was pretty out of date anyway.
Anyway after having lived in Marburg for more than a month I feel I can give you a better idea of what the year abroad is like.
Despite going to Germany a few days before the Orientierungswoche (orientation week) began it only really hit me that I was going to be living here for nine whole months when I waved goodbye to my family as they drove off back to England. They had used my going away as an excuse for a holiday and came with me – Lots of extra luggage space when your dad and little sister are driving over in the car and mum’s luggage means an extra 20 kg!
It was a pretty stressful first couple of days as I had juggle my work experience and student orientation. I am working at the university library (no homework but access to books I need for my Year Abroad Project) but enrolled as a student in order to get help with accommodation and to sign up for random university classes if I feel like it. In the end though everything worked out fine and I didn’t have many issues with settling in here although the initial lack of internet and all the hills were a bit of a shock to the system.
Marburg is a really beautiful city. Well, not all of it due to the concrete greyness that is the main library, but you only need to walk for about 10 minutes and you are in the Altstadt, the old town, with an infinite amount of tiny back alleys and cobbles and cafés.
Ocasionally you will come across something very eccentric, like the lion statue that looks like a monkey (the most popular theory is that the artist was pretty drunk) and the chicken on top of the town hall that flaps its wings and clucks on the hour, every hour. There are also trees everywhere (Marburg is literally a green city) as it is on several hillsides of forest so you don’t really feel like you are in the middle of a city. This also makes for some pretty spectacular views. The best one I have found so far is in the American library on the 7th floor of one of the really horrible buildings I mentioned before. You can see all of central Marburg without having an eyesore from the 60s ruining the panorama.
One thing that definitely makes Marburg unique is the fact that there are a lot of blind and disabled people. This is because Marburg has a lot of specialised centres which help people to adjust and learn how to live with their disabilities and the whole city reflects this. There are models of sights like the Marktplatz and Elisabethkirche and the traffic light buttons have been adjusted so they are larger and point you in the direction of the road you will be crossing. It definitely put all of my problems into perspective and in a way it made the entire city feel more welcoming.
In truth there were some things I had difficulty with. When you are from England people are very reluctant to speak English with you and as during orientation week I was put in a group with two Americans, one of whom spoke very little German, and a Dane who was basically fluent, so not much German was spoken. The bus system does not run as often as Southampton and after 2 years of knowing that a bus will be along in 10 minutes it is quite difficult to get my head around the fact that I am going to have to wait an hour.
The reason for the description of Marburg as a fairy-tale city is because it forms part of the fairy-tale tour of the Hessen region. The Brothers Grimm studied law here and some of the Kinder- und Hausmaerchen (Fairy Tales) came from a storyteller in Marburg. 2012 is the 200th anniversary of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the Hessen region is milking it for all it’s worth. Marburg is no exception. There are plays, books, toys, chocolate, exhibitions and all in all it is a pretty brilliant time to be in Marburg, especially if you are studying the Brothers Grimm for your dissertation! And if you run out of things to do here you can go to Hanau, Kassel and many other places which are also celebrating the anniversary.
To basically sum up this entire letter I am loving life in Marburg (especially now I have internet in my room) and am really enjoying my Year Abroad so far. Obviously I do miss my friends and family but I have met so many lovely people here (a couple are even actual Germans – SUCCESS) and I don’t really seem to have a huge amount of time to actually be seriously homesick. I can now use a German keyboard and have even managed to get some research done for my dissertation. Things are coming along nicely!