Ok ok, running around the country-side would be more accurate, but that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 4 months. Not only is it a good way to keep all the good food here in check, it has allowed me to really see my physical surroundings. Since the Rhein River is only 100meters from my flat and there is a gravel path directly next to it, that tends to be my preferred running path. I used to run toward a setting sun on the river, then the path was littered with autumn leaves and since there have been many cold grey days. There have been foggy morning runs , jogs to neighboring villages and then there are those days that its the only way to clear my head, but it always helps it feel like a place to really call home, even if for just a few months. Barges drifting past and folks walking their grand-babies or dogs have become the norm. This past week the river has been exceptionally high and flooded most of my path, so this evening I decided to head up to the vineyards. There’s a first for everything and this evening it was running in the dark. Not safe you say- au contraire- Oestrich-Winkel has a crime rate in the negatives and cars don’t drive through the vineyards after dark. It was amazing and exhilarating to see the ‘town’ lit up at night from a higher elevation for the first time since being here! Not to mention hills are less daunting when they’re harder to see.
Yet another reason I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Deutschland is how they prepare for and celebrate Christmas. Santa’s are climbing into a window on every street and even the train stations have ginormous stars hanging from the high ceilings and nutcrackers sending you off on your way into the cold, bustling cities. One of many longstanding German Christmas traditions are the Christmas Markets found in every city. I’ve had the pleasure of wandering about the dozens upon dozens of booths filled with Christmas goodies with a child-like gleam in my eye in a neighboring village and in Munich. Both provided rather surreal experiences as we roamed with warm Gluhwein, a mulled wine, in hand, soaking in the 2 story lit up tree with lights strung between the narrow streets exiting the market squares as carols drift from somewhere. The vendors though, offer handcrafted everything, from painted wooden ornaments and statuettes to miniature villages and Nativities giving Santa’s workshop some stiff competition. Naturally there is also food, another delight to the senses. Spicy bratwursts, specialty potatoes, sugary crepes, candied nuts and the gluhwein can keep even a picky eater from going hungry.
All in all, it was amazing. However, as much as I love Christmas time, it is also exam time of year. For EBS’lers this means camping out in the library or other chosen location to study and not seeing the light of day (not that there’s much to see since it gets dark around 4:30 🙁 …..) from mid-November until exams are over on Dec. 21st. Though exchange students are notorious worldwide for not working as hard in the classroom as their fellow students, we exchange students here at ebs are somewhat mirroring our fellow EBS’lers because these exams are either the sole grade in the class or at least the majority of it. No pressure.