One of the best parts about the Holiday Season in Europe is the Christmas Markets, or the Weihnachtsmarkt as they are called in Germany. You may be wondering what exactly a Christmas Market is. Well it is all of the joy of the holiday season, thousands of people, great holiday shopping, delicious food, and historic towns all rolled into one. Since these markets are so irresistible I’ve visited the ones in Koblenz, Strassbourg, Offenburg, Rothenburg od der Tauber, and Nuremberg. Living in Germany for this past semester has obviously made me partial to the authentic German Christmas experience so this past weekend I made my final travel destination the markets of Rothenburg and Nuremberg.
Rothenburg was my favorite town in Germany that I’ve visited so far because of all the great history that comes with it. It’s the best preserved Medieval town in Germany and it certainly looks the part. Wandering through the lanes of houses and around the historic wall that dates back to the town’s founding and is still standing one can forget for a moment what century they are really in. When I visited I even went on a tour of the city with a Nightwatchman who told us all about the city’s long and interesting background. And while their Christmas market certainly isn’t the largest I’ve seen, it’s definitely the most adorable and authentically German.
Nuremberg also had a great market, it’s heralded as one of the most authentically German as the town has very strict rules about stall decorations and merchandise to try and keep the market as traditional as possible. While I was in Nuremberg I also got to participate in a local myth, there’s a fountain in the main square that has a gold ring on the gate. It’s rumored that if you spin the ring twice and make a wish, it will come true!
The Christmas Markets have been a great conclusion to my semester in Germany but they, among a plethora of other factors, are going to make it so hard to leave in just a few short days!
It’s no secret that when you study abroad you get to see a different part of the world and experience so many new things that you never expected. What I didn’t realize was just how much I would get to see when I left Ohio at the end of August. Not only have I gotten the opportunity to explore Germany and the area around where WHU is located, I have been able to travel to places that I’ve always wanted to visit.
This past weekend I travelled to Amsterdam and was able to see the Anne Frank house, something that I’ve wanted to do since I was in 3rd grade. I’ve also been able to hike in the Swiss Alps, see where the Sound of Music was filmed, visit Oktoberfest in Munich, the Berlin wall, Westminster Abbey, castles in Cardiff and so much more! I never dreamed of being able to visit so many cities in such a short amount of time or see things that I’ve been reading about for years. Next stop is a tour of Italy where I get to hike to the top of Mount Vesuvius!
Yet another benefit that I didn’t realize before I studied abroad was how much these experiences are helping me prepare for future jobs and interviews. Just the other day there was a huge train strike in Germany and I couldn’t get home from where I was travelling and ended up having to find an alternate route home. I used this experience as a positive example of how I could adapt to change and respond under pressure in a skype interview a few days later; the recruiters loved that I had such unique experience and that I was able to incorporate seeing different pieces of the world into my education.
The people you meet while travelling have also been so interesting and something that was completely unexpected. There is such a variety of people in the accommodations I used at all these different places, from people in their mid-20s who quit their jobs to travel Europe for 9 months, to fellow study abroad students, to people from half-way around the world. The diversity is endless and such a wonderfully unexpected part of study abroad because you get to hear the world views of so many people.
There are many more benefits waiting to be discovered and I can’t wait to find every one of them!
The German education system has been an interesting experience, but I couldn’t be happier that I selected WHU for my exchange! WHU is really good about accommodating their Tauschies, what they call exchange students, and making exchange the best experience possible.
Class was a little strange at first as I had to adjust to a 3.5 hour lecture… for all of my classes. It was rough but the professors really find ways to break up the class since they know we can’t possibly handle all of the information at once. My very first lecture I was shocked when all of the WHU students started applauding the lecturer at the end of the period. It’s just what you do at the end of the lecture, no matter if it’s your regular professor or a guest speaker and it was an interesting culture difference.
All of the campus buildings, and the buildings around Germany, are really neat because they’re typically constructed around the remains of 15th or 16th century buildings. For example, one of the buildings on campus was a monastery at some point but has since been converted into an office/general purpose building on campus. It still has the original chapel and vaulted cellar (where the monks used to store the wine they made); it’s so cool being seeped in so much history!
Another thing that I love about the WHU class system is that it allows plenty of time for travel. It’s such a cool experience to be able to hop on a plane and be in a totally different country, culture, and environment in just a few hours. I’ve already been to Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland and am going to Berlin this weekend!
WHU is also really great about introducing you to German culture. We went on a tour of the region a few weeks ago to see one of their local vineyards in Boppard (as the Upper Rhine River Valley where I’m located is famous for its wine) and then to eat a traditional German meal (which was DELICIOUS). I also visited the Deutsches Eck, the point where the Rhine and Mosel rivers meet. It’s located in Koblenz, the bigger city around the teeny tiny Vallendar where WHU is actually located. It was such a cool experience!
All in all WHU is a great school; they really welcome their Tauschies and allow us to get a great education, but also leave us plenty of time to explore the world!