Freundin or Freundin?

So, my time in Hannover is almost up. 19 hours until I head back home, and I’ve really enjoyed it to be honest. I’ve found out a fair bit of stuff for my dissertation, I’ve met a really nice family, I’ve spoken German for two weeks, and the weather’s been outrageously nice. To give you an idea, I woke up at 3am as I needed the loo last night, and the thermometer in my room (with windows open all night) read 28 degrees Celsius.

Tomorrow, then, it’s back home for two months of a proper summer holiday – bowls, cricket and proofreading (of which I may have quite a lot I think, as I’ve had four enquiries whilst I’ve been here…) – before China.

Learning foreign languages is great. This trip has been totally justified by the fact I’ve been immersed in German for a fortnight, and at least four people outside of my host family have said how amazed they are: firstly, that I chose to learn German; secondly, that I have learned German to such a good level. Good stuff, I suppose! And they’re right – when you think about it, it’s not the easiest language to study, as demonstrated by a confusing few minutes a couple of days ago…

I came back in from the town, just as a girl was leaving the house. As it turned out, she was in the orchestra with Simeon, and they’d been practising for a concert this weekend. I went in, put my bag down and got chatting. “War das deine Freundin, denn?” I asked. The meaning, I thought, was clear enough (“Was that your friend (female) then?”). What I hadn’t thought about was the fact that the word for a friend, who happens to be a female, is exactly the same as the word for a girlfriend. So when Simeon answered in the negative, I too was a little confused. About a minute later, I twigged. “Aaah, also sie war nicht deine Freundin, sondern deine Freundin!” (“Aaah, so she wasn’t your female friend, but she was your female friend.”) See what I mean?

The moral of this story is thus. To avoid any confusion at all, if you want to ask about someone’s girlfriend*, say “deine Freundin” with the appropriate emphasis (and potentially raising of the eyebrows). However, if it’s about someone’s friend who just so happens to be a girl, say “eine Freundin von dir” (literally “a female friend of yours”). German – it’s a simple language.

* In case you’re wondering, by the way, there’s exactly the same problem when talking about boyfriends…


The Damned Red Man!

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in front of a red man at traffic lights while in Germany, and it’s definitely made me appreciate my little time-efficiency measures (such as revising listening whilst out jogging, or crossing the road diagonally – when nothing’s coming, of course). So, after returning from the train station at 2:30pm to find an email welcoming me to the Town Archive at 3pm (it was 45 minutes’ walk by the way, and goes directly past the train station…), I was pretty wound up to be honest! Well, more precisely, I had already been angered before that by some outrageously rude service in an ice-cream-cum-coffee-shop.*

Funny, considering Simeon (the 17-year-old of the family I’m staying with) started a debate about how he feels Germans are cold, not open and impolite last night. He had pretty strong views, but at the time, I had to say, my experiences had been generally good. I mean, Germans don’t greet strangers in the street like I would at home, but in the grand scheme of things, I’d had no issue. Until today.

Two scoops of minty heaven!

Two scoops of minty heaven! Shame about the service…

I generally am a pretty friendly, easy-going guy, but a waiter at such an informal coffee shop has four jobs, in my view:

  1. Take orders
  2. Carry food and drink to tables
  3. Clear up
  4. Smile and be friendly

The fourth is the least hard work, and also the most important. If someone messes up my order, as long as they deal with it with a smile, apologise, and offer to redeem their error, I couldn’t care less! But this German guy was out-and-out rude. So rude, in fact, that I was compelled to write a TripAdvisor review about it. (I’ve never written such a review before, and hadn’t ever intended to.) Shame, I guess. However, I dealt with it calmly and well – a sign of the changing times I think; had that happened while I was away on my own in Tuebingen last year, I’d probably have just melted into the ground and given up on all humanity. But that was quite an extreme downer…

Back to reality. Research has gone well here. My time in Hannover is almost at an end, but I’ve found some really useful yearbooks from Schwitters’ school, which are so detailed that they even tell me which texts he studied to learn English. Otherwise, I’ve just been translating and transcribing, while gathering texts and stuff for what will eventually be my dissertation in two years’ time. Plan is, however, to have it written while I’m in China. Advantages of that are two-fold: I can keep up my German whilst abroad, through Skype calls with my supervisor and all the readings being in German; also, I would have one-sixth less work to do in fourth year. WIN.

On another note, it’s my sister’s 18th today. Gutted I wasn’t there to spend it with her, but I’ve been busy here, and we’ve got a family curry out on Friday night. Can’t beat a good curry…

Happy birthday Soph :)

Happy birthday Soph 🙂

I’m pretty much finished my research now, so the last two days will be spent typing up and slacklining (but mostly slacklining).

* As a footnote, isn’t it funny how ice cream is a typical holiday (or simply not-in-England) activity? All told, I eat very healthily, and though there are good ice cream places in the North-East of England, thinking back, I reckon it must have been about four years since I’ve had one at home. Even so, only two in the space of a week whilst abroad is still small-time consumption!

Coffee, bus stops and other miscellaneous items

Hi guys!

Almost halfway through my research stint here now… I’m almost struggling to find more relevant stuff to be honest! I’ve been through the things I need to in the archive, and though there’s lots there, very little of it is about what I need to know. I’ve got quite a lot of useful stuff done though, so if würst comes to würst (see what I did there?…), I will do the research that I can do here and then have a couple of quiet days at the end. Tomorrow, however, I have an appointment at the Town Archive, where a nice man called Detlef has found me some annual general reports from the school where Schwitters studied. There are specific yearbooks too, but seemingly the year I need is missing. Ach!

Anyway, that’s tomorrow, so hopefully it’s a successful trip, after which I either will have more searching to do, or a fairly quiet next week. In other news, I have a few more anecdotes:


Those of you who know me at all will know that I do like a good coffee. Never more than two cups a day, but a fairly regular and steady consumption, nevertheless. I found a nice little coffee shop today – Cafe MOCA – where you can actually select from a range of beans, and they roast them in front of you, before making your drink. Weather was nice too, so I had a bit of a sit outside and tanned for a while. And there was a Chinese restaurant next door – I’ll class looking at their Chinese language menu as revision…

At Cafe MOCA, they roasted my chosen coffee beans in front of me

At Cafe MOCA, they roasted the coffee beans I wanted, in front of me

Bus stops

Okay, so Hannover was one of the most bombed towns during the war, with it lying on the crossroads (in railway terms) from North-South and East-West. (As an aside, I know we Brits often say “don’t mention the war”, and I’m in a way pretty embarrassed even to mention it, but I have found that the three or four people I’ve had dealings with actually are more than happy to talk battles and air-raids!) It’s quite an arty town too, so in the 60s and 70s, someone decided to get a load of modern artists together, and ask them each to design a bus stop for the town. Some of them are pretty funky – I’ll try and find more over the weekend – but the below one was the nearest to where I’m living…

Funky yellow bus stop

Funky yellow bus stop


Had to give it a mention, really. I had a couple of these in Tübingen last year, and found them really nice, so I went and got myself another one yesterday 🙂 Sitting by the Maschsee, eating a massive pretzel with a drink in the other hand – I guess research has its upsides too… The lunch breaks.

The Maschsee in Hannover. Beautiful.

The Maschsee in Hannover. Beautiful.

Anyways, not much else has happened really, but my German seems to be coming along nicely (good job as well, seeing as how I’m going to come back from a year in China and have to start from scratch again!) and the research is okay – though it could be more fruitful. I’ll leave it at that for now!

P.S. Can’t wait to get back for my sister’s birthday curry, at the finest Indian restaurant Sunderland has to offer 🙂 (They’re not paying me, otherwise I’d tell you the name!)

And so it begins…

The adventure has begun… I’ve arrived in Germany!

An outrageous coincidence occurred on the way though. My friend – and Chinese, German and Dutch – classmate, Josie, was off to Heidelberg to undertake a language course. I knew she was leaving fairly close to my departure date, so I sent her a message on Saturday evening. Turned out she was also on the 0910 to Amsterdam, before heading on to her connecting flight. Snapchat has been a wonderful addition to my life, providing 10 seconds of fairly pointless time-wasting at spontaneous intervals; on this occasion, I received a picture of Josie’s boarding pass, to read that she was in seat 05A. I thought that sounded familiar, so I glanced at mine – my seat was 05C (it was a smallish plane, so A was next to C, with D and F across the aisle). Of all the seats on all the flights to Amsterdam, we’d been randomly assigned two next to one another!

Anyhow, at Schiphol, we went our separate ways, and I made it to Hannover Airport, where I successfully navigated the endless walk to the Bahnhof (train station) and its ticket machine. Half an hour, and a U-Bahn, later, I arrived at the Christuskirche, where I was made very welcome by the family I’m staying with. Brief introductions and a cup of coffee dealt with, Hans-Peter (the father) took me on a short walking tour so that I could get my bearings, as well as see the university campus and Herrenhauser Gardens. It turns out the family lived in Perth, Australia, for six months, so we had more chat over our evening meal before retiring for an earlyish night.

Herr Braun took me for a wander around the area, and showed me how to tell the old from the new by the height of the storeys. These houses are the same height, but (to rebuild cheaply) the yellow house has five floors, while the grey (older building) has four.

Herr Braun took me for a wander around the area, and showed me how to tell the old from the new by the height of the storeys. These houses are the same height, but (in order to rebuild cheaply) the yellow house has five floors, while the grey (older building) has four.


Today I made my first foray into the Sprengel Museum. Isabel Schulz, my contact there, was available from lunchtime onwards, so first I took a brief wander around the city centre, which seems very pleasant – lots of green space. Everything is just about within walking distance; I’d say it’s slightly bigger than Newcastle, which is a comfortable size for me! I’ve found out what I’ll be doing more accurately too: some transcription of Schwitters’ letters, and basically identifying anything that may be of use to me for further research. The Archive itself is fairly vast – cupboards full of files – so I have two weeks to sift through and decide what I’ll need!

I’m back in tomorrow from about 10am until 4pm or so for my first proper day there. For now, I best dash – a couple of bits and bobs to do whilst online, then I may well head out for a run to practice my route to the museum for tomorrow. Will write again soon! (Also, keep an eye on my “photo-a-day” page, which I hope to update at least weekly.)

The might of the Civil Enforcement Officer

A rather funny thing happened today. There I was, enjoying the sun, doing some slacklining in my usual spot in Newcastle and chatting to Gemma, when a pretty angry-looking Civil Enforcement Officer came over. He was adamant that I had to take my slackline down, and made this point aggressively.

Well, I wasn’t going to argue – but I wasn’t even on council-owned land, and the vicar of the church (to which the land belongs) had, in fact, asked if I’d bring it along more often as he loved to see the land being used for fun activities! I did ask what his reasoning was for me having to take the thing down, and he said, “WHY?!”, as if the cause of concern should have been blatantly obvious. I looked gormless (as ever), and so he went on to explain that when I put my weight on it, damage is done to the trees. As far as the slackline box states, it is designed for use between two trees, with a maximum weight of 150kg (I’m barely one-third of that). I’m sure there are more menacing activities for him to worry about, but oh well…

Anyway, the guy took my name and address, promising to write me a letter giving his reasons. Look forward to that – especially to see how much research he does, and whether he learns the name of the activity, or generically labels it “tightrope”.

Complaint Ticket

Gemma and I then decided it’d be fun to go to the Civic Centre to ask whether we had actually been in the wrong. Sat waiting with our ticket, the tension was rising as our number drew nearer. But as it turned out, the guy who served our query had seen me doing it before, and although he called me “a bit of a nutter”, he couldn’t see that the previous guy had any right to move us on from the church’s land. He did concede that, had the complaint been about my own personal wellbeing and lack of safety equipment, at least that would have given reasonable grounds for asking me to stop… But I guess that’s my responsibility anyhow 🙂

What happened next? Took the slackline to an actual council-owned piece of land and proceeded to record some video. The nearby residents thanked me for the entertainment and said how they wished more fun outdoor activities would be encouraged. Can’t win them all…