Today is pretty much the mid-point of the Heidelberg Summer School – two weeks down, two to go. There were plenty of things to keep busy with this week with school, excursions, and other extra-curricular activities. The weather here shifted dramatically, however, and the beautiful 30 degree days of last week were replaced with mostly rainy, sub-20 days. I was quite happy to have the umbrella I picked up in Berlin!
Here is a summary of week two in Heidelberg.
This week, we had our first test, which gave us an idea of how we were doing so far. It had no official bearing on our grades, but covered the important concepts we’ve been working on in class so far. I did fairly well, and it pointed out a few areas to improve on.
While these classes are much less in-depth than those at MUN, the focus is really on speaking and comprehension, and I definitely feel like I am understanding German a lot better than before. My spoken German hasn’t met the same dramatic improvement, but I’ve been able to hold my own in a number of full-German conversations this week!
This week, there continued to be plenty of activities for us to take part in.
Monday was the second session of the weekly ballroom dancing workshop. This week we covered the Rumba and the Jive, though the Jive was definitely the more energetic of the two. What set this week apart was that, after the standard workshop, there was an additional hour for those who were taking part in the closing ceremony performance. With a partner who also wanted to take part in the show, I stayed the extra hour, and we learned and practiced the choreography for the first half of the performance. I imagine this will be a good laugh for many of you reading this, so I hope to have some great footage for you after the show!
On Tuesday, I got to flex my tech support muscles again, and fixed my instructor’s overheating laptop. The evening, our class was invited to a barbeque at our mentor’s apartment, and we had a great time enjoying inexpensive beer and eating plenty of foods. I’m not completely certain on whose idea this was, but we discovered a delicious barbeque dessert which tasted so good!
What was slightly less fun was when I broke the screen on my friend’s iPhone while we were playing “Heads up/Charades”. Luckily it was I who broke the screen, so it was also I who fixed it.
On Wednesday, the University planned a free mini-excursion to Schwetzingen, a little town just outside of Heidelberg. It is home to a castle with a large and beautiful garden, and I was really looking forward to filming there. Unfortunately, it was raining somewhat heavily, and a majority of students, including our class, decided to postpone. We decided to try again on Wednesday, 27. August, and barring any issues I will be able to post about it later!
Instead of going to Schwetzingen, we visited the Studentenkarzer (student prison), an old artifact of Heidelberg University. Centuries ago, there arose a problem with student behaviour which needed to be addressed. The solution was to create a prison, where students who misbehaved would be sent as punishment. Showing up to class drunk was also one way to get a direct ticket in.
Students here were not permitted to leave for the duration of their punishment, for anything other than class. There was actually a tunnel which connected the prison to the main lecture hall, so that students could be escorted directly to class, and then back to prison once class ended.
The walls of the prison are covered in paintings, signatures, faces and crests. It wasn’t clear whether these were introduced before or after the prison was decommissioned.
After walking through the prison, we also checked out the University museum, which showcased the history of Heidelberg University. It was interesting to see that Kirchoff was once a student here.
There was an old photo of the campus across the river, In Neuenheimer Feld. The building above is actually the Mensa (cafeteria) there, and is where the disco last Friday took place.
I also found my name, but someone made a typo.
We also took the time to check out the Alte Aula in the Alte Universität building. This is where all class lectures used to take place. Now, this is where a number of concerts and ceremonies are held.
To warm up after exploring all this history, we visited a little café which served many varieties of hot chocolate.
They serve it by giving you a glass of very hot milk, and a special kind of chocolate made to be melted in drinks. I ordered chocolate-banana.
The table where we sat had a drawer, and in that drawer we found tons of notes, letters and stories on pieces of paper, left by visitors of the café for others to find. We took the time to add our own contributions.
Thursday night there was a classical piano concert, where works from Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin were played with great energy on a Steinway Grand Piano. You can see the piano and venue in the photo of the Alte Aula, above.
Friday night there was another disco, like last week. This time, it was hosted at Halle 02, a club in a warehouse, with the bathrooms interestingly located inside shipping containers. It was a bunch of fun, but by 2.30 am I had to leave to make it to the excursion in 5 hours. Sadly, in a couple paragraphs you’ll read that this still didn’t work out.
You can check out my last post for details about the excursion to Cologne, which took place on Saturday.
For this weekend, I purchased tickets to two excursions: Saturday was a boat cruise on the Rhine river (Rhinefahrt), and Sunday is a tour of Straßburg, France.
Sadly, Friday night’s disco rendered me incapable of making the departure for the Rhinefahrt. The two alarms I set simply couldn’t get me out of my slumber. I was really looking forward to a relaxing tour and seeing even more of Germany. The Straßburg trip tomorrow has no reason to suffer the same fate, and I will be sure to post about this small French-German town later this week!
The recurring concept I’m finding with traveling is time. You see it in history, in buildings, roads, nature and people. You feel the effects of it as you get settled in a new location, with a new daily routine, and new transportation needs. Two weeks is a short amount of time to experience and learn so much, to meet new people and push yourself to try new things you wouldn’t have considered before.
At home, it feels like there is a higher level of commitment to the tasks that fill up a day. The very nature of “home” has a permanence, and maybe demands more forethought. My experience here in Heidelberg has been the opposite. I’ve been able to really relax and change my pace. There is a lot of comfort to be found in not needing to schedule things to the minute, and instead to the hour or half hour.
While there are only two weeks left, I am thankful there is still so much to be done, all things that will continue adding to how special this trip is. Maybe I just won’t use that return ticket 😉