My life here in Germany, is absolutely wonderful. I don’t mean to completely brag, but honestly, I am having a great time. Now that my knowledge of the German language and culture is improving, so is my general life here. I understand more everyday giving me more freedom and opportunity. The past few months really have flown by. And now with the approaching Christmas season, it is busy and full of Christmas parties, family dinners, and some pretty great food as well.
Christmas time, or Weihnachten Zeit, in Germany is a very important part of the year. It is the season when families come together and celebrate with friends, music, food and drinks. It is so exciting for me to be able to experience this with the Sueltemeyer’s, who almost feel like a second family to me. Beginning in December or late November, all over Germany are something called Weihnachtmarkts.
These are somewhat like huge festivals with Christmas lights, decorations and much more. Various vendors set up small cottage like booths and lights, and sell everything from candles and ornaments, to specialty alcohol and food. Most of these markts have ice skating, curling, and music.
In my city, Cologne, we have many Weihnachtmarkts in different areas of the city. There is a very popular one located along the side of the Dom Cathedral, that is always full of tourists and people from nearby cities. In the Altmarkt (the small historical portion of the city) is another one, which also always full. Friends and families go to these Markets almost every night, to eat, socialize, ice skate, or drink Gluhwein, a special warm wine with spices and herbs (a drink I REALLY don’t care for). These markets are incredibly fun and heartwarming, a great way to face the cold and dark winter that is approaching.
In the next few weeks, my host family and I have very exciting plans. On Saturday my family held a party for family, neighbors and friends. This was an Adventstee party. I am not sure if there is a translation for this, but it has to do with a candle lighting tradition. We also have what are called Adventskalendars, which are calendars counting up to Christmas day, and each day you are given a small gift. My host parents have very generously bought me one of presents specially made in Cologne. I am not very well informed in the Christmas traditions or religious aspects, so this type of celebration is all new for me.
This year, I will be spending Dec. 21 through 28 skiing with my host family and neighbors in a resort in Austria. I am beyond excited. The next two weeks of school can not pass quickly enough. Having been skiing only once before, I can not imagine a cooler way to learn than in the mountains of Austria.
Shortly after the trip, I will return to Cologne, and move to my second host family. Even though my second host family only lives three houses down, it still is going to be a huge change. I will spend from New Year’s, until Easter break with the Walger family, and then move to the Czasny family (next door neighbors to the Walgers). I am very fortunate to have already met with all my host families many times, and that they are all very close friends with each other.
Although there are big changes coming, I am ready to embrace them. I love my current host family, but I know that living with a different family will show me another side of the German lifestyle.
So far I am very happy with the progress of my exchange. I love my friends, my city, my family. My language is improving, and I have many plans to look forward to in 2014. I do get a bit homesick, but luckily my friends and family at home as well as here are very supportive, and always willing to listen when I need to talk. I am doing a pretty bad job of keeping up with my blog, but I promise I will try to post at least monthly. I have been very busy with travel, school, and friends but I think these next two weeks will slow down a bit and before Weihnachten season is in full swing, I will try to update. I also have many pictures on my personal facebook page.
Thank you to everyone who is interested in my exchange, and to everyone who supports and helps me be here! I love every second of it!
Sophie Miller is a Cooperstown Rotary Exchange Student in Germany.