Frohe Weihnachten und einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!
Merry Christmas and a good slip into the New Year! Yes, I said slip into a new year, because that’s what the phrase translates into English, that is a pretty common phrase to be said to friends around the holidays. The holiday season in Germany is really an amazing time. Between the Christmas markets and the many traditions that may seem a little odd to Americans, and so much more I could not have asked for a better last few weeks in 2016! My classes ended on December 16th and on the 22nd as all my new friends were headed back to their home countries and families or traveling to new places and I took an 8-hour bus ride to spend my Christmas with a family in Hamburg that I had never met before. The whole ride to Hamburg I was thinking “What am I doing? I have only met one of these people and I don’t even know how long I’m staying!” and eventually I made it to Hamburg and it was all very real.
Now I’m going to back track a little bit and explain why I did this. I have a great aunt in Texas who contacted me out of the blue one day after she had found out that I was studying here in Darmstadt. She told me that she lived here and married an American soldier, my grandma’s brother, and eventually moved to Texas. She told me that she still had a cousin living in Darmstadt and her cousin had a son who, the last time they met, was 5 years old. Now the family I stayed with in Hamburg was this son, his wife and their son. So my aunt contacted me and her cousin’s son and she wanted us to meet so we met up while he was in Darmstadt. One afternoon we got coffee together and later on he invited me to spend the holidays with him and his family in Hamburg. To make this story easier to follow I’m going to call them my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin, so my cousin who is 18, picked me up at the bus stop and my adventure began!
Hamburg is a very beautiful and interesting city but it rained often, as it does here in winter in Germany. My family took me to see the Christmas market, the harbor, the museums, and so many more things. One of the biggest things I learned while in Hamburg and just in general over these past few months here in Germany is how to step out of my comfort zone and try and do new things. This past year I have done so many “firsts”, my first time flying was coming here to Germany, then I rode in a train for the first time, I’ve experienced not being able to communicate by language with someone, I have met people from all over the globe, and these are just a few of the “firsts” I’ve had over the last few months. In the weeks leading up to the end of the 2016, I experienced many “firsts” while staying with my family in Hamburg like going ice skating for the first time with my cousin and some of his friends, playing the card games Hearts and Rummy, and I also ate Thai and Korean food for the first time. While these may not be huge firsts or steps in my life like flying for the first time, they made me step out of my comfort zone. The food in particular was a big accomplishment for me because in all honesty I can be a picky eater and I and always nervous to try new foods but I’m glad I did try them because I enjoyed almost everything I ate.
I cannot thank my family in Hamburg enough for inviting me to stay with them for the holidays, from day one they treated me like family even though I have never met them before. It was so great to get to know them and about their amazing travel filled lives, to tell them about myself and even teach them about what I am going to school for. They were so excited to learn about me. My aunt is from Colorado and met my uncle while traveling and so the environment in the house really felt like home, from being able to help my aunt bake cookies (with Betty Crocker recipes and American measurements!) to speaking English and being able to learn from an American what it’s like to really live in Germany and get advice from her. Overall my time in Hamburg was truly amazing and I am so happy that I took the chance and went there, not to mention I got to snuggle with their dog for a whole 2 weeks. I never realized how much I rely on pic-a-pet for when I really miss my animals back home while I’m at Stout.
It was my first holiday season away from my family, and although receiving photos of my family on Thanksgiving, over Christmas and New Year’s made me sad but I will never forget the holidays I’ve spent abroad. From having to go to class on Thanksgiving Day to celebrating Christmas on December 24th to the crazy chaos that is New Year’s here in Germany I have made so many great and amazing memories here I cannot wait to see what’s in store for the rest of my time here in Germany.
Here is some more photos from some trips I did this fall.
Munich Germany and Dachau Concentration Camp