Saturday, 11 December 2010

Winter in Bremen

Well Winter has well and truly arrived over the last couple of weeks with the start of the snow.  It hasn't been as bad here as I hear it has at home so no snow days but it has made the city very christmassy!

In the Market Square in Bremen

Icicles on the car!

The frozen Weser

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Rachel's Visit

Rachel's visit last week coincided nicely with the start of the Christmas Market here in Bremen.  I had been to the Christmas Market here when I lived in Oldenburg four years ago but barely made it out of the section that surrounds the main station - I really missed out.

Rachel arrived on Thursday evening (very early so that nobody was there no meet her - thanks Ryanair!) and we went to a little restaurant near the flat before having an early-ish night.  Then after work on Friday we headed to the market and also met up with Linda. 

Here we are with the special Christmas Musicians

And here's Rachel with the regular ones
We had lunch in the market - after discovering a range of vegetarian options that I never knew existed, we settled on a delicious fried cheese selection!  Nice and warming and filling before we started on the Gluehwein.  Before we got to that however, there was another essential stop for any visiting vets - especially those who work on a farm:

After this we met up with Linda and enjoyed a couple of Gluehweins.  We headed down to the Schlachte where the best part of Bremen's Christmas Market is.  There's even a medieval section with all kinds of things including magic wines (that help with memory and eyesight for example!) soaps, incense (to cover up ancient drug smells probably, Mum) and spices.

We also had a Gluehwein down here where the Pfand cup (where you pay a bit extra for your drink and get the extra back if you take the cup back or have a nice little souvenir if you don't) was the cutest little boot ever so Rachel kept hers.  I will be going back for mine later and post a picture then.

Rachel made a friend

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


The end of October also saw the celebration of a local festival called Freimarkt which is basically a huge fair with rides, food and drink.  Unfortunately the weather wasn't as pleasant as the fairground when we decided to visit but it was still a good night and well worth a visit.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Shortly after the October holidays, on Halloween weekend, I headed to Aachen to stay with Amira - my Erasmus friend from Barcelona.  I had been to Aachen before to carry out work experience when I was seventeen but the memories were hazy and we had a great weekend rediscovering the city.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Holidays

Sorry about the lack of updates...again.  I will try to do better.  October was a hectic month for me though.  I was home for two weeks during the school holidays, although actually away again, this time in Venice, Italy with Dad and Bri for a few days within those two weeks.  Then it was back into the swing of things here.

So the holidays started off with a big surprise for my Gran who had no idea that I was coming home and got (hopefully a nice) shock in the M&S cafe when I walked up to her while talking to her on the phone, pretending to be in Germany.  We got to spend some quality time together while I was back which was nice too. 

After quite a lot of catching up including meeting the beautiful baby Olivia for the first time and seeing how much my beautiful baby niece Caitlin had grown while I was away, we headed to Venice for a bit of exploring.  Here are some pictures.

Monday, 4 October 2010

I am still alive!

No, I didn't have an unfortunate car accident after my last post and I haven't gone missing.  It has been a hectic month here, starting with the move, a visit from Mum and Doug and numerous events since.  Of course, there is always something going on in Bremen so this weekend was German Unity Day - 20 years since West and East Germany were reunited and there was loads going on in town. 

I'm writing in my free lesson at school at the moment (no internet in the flat yet - another long story) so I can't be on long. I just wanted to assure any of you still reading this that I am ok and will provide a full update etc over the next couple of weeks as we finally have autumn half term!  Can't wait!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Observations on Driving on the Right

I originally thought that the most difficult thing about driving in Germany would be driving on the right hand side...I was greatly mistaken!  I know I already mentioned driving and the difficulties when I first got here but lately, after a good three week break from any driving, I have been out and about on the roads again and touch wood, there have been no fatalities!  I still do find it crazy driving on tram lines, I was totally hemmed in by trams in the Viertel today! 

The hardest bit is not driving on the right - you just follow the car in front and even in quiet times there are some handy blue signs keeping you on track.  The cyclists and trams are still out in force and don't even look out for oncoming cars but I've started getting used to looking out for them.

Last night, I made the mistake of driving to school last night for parents evening and realising just how much quicker it is.  Ten minutes by car or an hour by train.  I'm definitely taking the car next week as I want to make the most of the time I have with my visitors and I'm seriously considering keeping it longer than planned, knowing how I feel about commuting in the Winter months.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Another Great Weekend

Now that I am getting into the swing of things at school and didn't need the whole weekend to recover, I managed to fit quite a lot in. 

First of all, Natalie's parents invited me on a tour of the town that they had booked as they had some friends visiting from Munich.  This was really interesting.  I had already read about some things but much of the information was new and I discovered a whole new area of the town - The Schnoor - which I will definitely going back to to investigate further.  I didn't take any pictures as I will be going back next week with my visitors and will get some then.

In the evening I went out for a lovely Greek meal and drinks with a new friend from school and two of her friends.  They were also teachers and it was nice to spend a night speaking and listening to German.  (Admittedly there was far more listening that speaking)  I also discovered some nice new bars to take visitors to. 

On Sunday, it was an early start and the first driving I had done for three weeks to accompany my host family on a steam train journey!  This being the first one I had ever been on, I was very excited although I don't think anyone could have been as excited as little Emil who spent the rest of the day telling everyone about 'his' steam train.  It was a great trip.

Afterwards, we went to a corn maze which a farmer had set up for families to visit.  I didn't actually go in the maze but I did climb the viewing platform and we had a rest and a drink there before coming home for a lovely lunch.

On Sunday afternoon, I ventured into Bremen where it was 'car free Sunday' which meant that all trams were free all day and there was a huge stage set up in front of the station with different performances going on all day, as well as stands of information and transport related offers!

Lessons All Round

I'm entering my third week in school now and have started settling in and getting used to things although I still keep getting told new things in the staffroom (in the blunt German way).  For example, I only just found out that I have to kick all of the kids out of the classrooms every breaktime and at the end of school and lock the room.  This is complicated by the fact that the kids try to convince me that this isn't true and they are actually allowed to be in there.  This usually results in me losing half of my break or missing half of my break duty in arguing with them - though I haven't been in trouble for that...yet.

The situation is helped immensely by the fact that Linda and I regularly meet up and compare notes on how things are going and what we've learnt that week.  It helps me realise that I am not the only one in the boat!  We also met Ed last week who is on the same programme at yet another school and while he doesn't experience the same young, female, blonde teacher prejudice, he has had his share of problems too.  He also informed us that it isn't even just our schools but that actually Bremen is at the bottom of the national league tables and they struggle to get teachers to fill the jobs that are going here.  In some ways this explains a lot but while the first few weeks have been hectic and at times frustrating, I haven't cried...yet, and I cried almost every week in my first school.  The pupils here are just as trying, if not worse but the lifestyle is so much better that it balances out.  The workload is less and the schol days shorter which means I'm not bringing work home with me and have actually developed a life outside of school.

Speaking of which, I should be moving in to my new flat this week and am looking forward to a visit from Mum and Doug on Saturday for a week.  Linda and I have been learning the ins and outs of IKEA German style and have managed to order (some) furniture for our new places.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that all runs smoothly this week - I'm not holding my breath, knowing how my luck goes!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

All systems go!

As you might have noticed, things have been quiet on here lately and this is because I have finally started work!!  I started last Monday and haven't stopped since.  The school has been more hectic than I thought and the younger classes are especially tiring.  It's not that they are naughty as such, (though I have broken up three fights already) but they are very loud. 

My School

I have had some great moments too though - had my first ever light bulb moment with year six learning the present progressive!  The same group also invited me to their music lesson where I watched their performance of Pink Floyd, Brick in the Wall which was brilliant.

The staff are really lovely on the whole and have been so helpful.  It's tough getting used to the differences because half the time, I don't realise there's something I haven't found out yet.  The whole system is different.  Here, the classes stay in the classrooms and the teachers move around.  Each class has a class book that you have to write EVERYTHING in.  A lot of the kids come from difficult backgrounds so we're not supposed to push them to hard but English is pushed as one of the compulsory subjects and the kids are very good at it.  Whether it's a better attitude or the access they have to the language, I don't know.

I'll write again soon but it's getting late and my crazy timetable means I have to get up at six to start at eight Wed - Fri.  Goodnight!

Thursday, 26 August 2010


To celebrate Mum's birthday, I surprised her by joining her in Paris for the weekend.  I can't say that the German railway system was running at it's well known efficiency, as I had one unscheduled night in Aachen.  However, my 29 hours in Paris were amazing.  We managed to see all of the big sights but I will definitely be heading back to do things properly.

Berenice in the Louvre
The view from my hotel!
The Art Work in my hotel room
Mini Arc in the road
Sacre Cour
Moulin Rouge
Eiffel Tower
Notre Dame
Mum and Me in front of Notre Dame

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

And so week three begins...

Here I am now in my third full week in Germany, still not working and still on the hunt for a flat.  However, I am keeping busy.  This week I have found the local cinema and seen Das A-Team.  They do a Ladies Night once a month.  For August (tomorrow night), it's letters to Julia and the one I'm really excited about in September, is Eat, Pray, Love.  So I am managing to add to my film list without shelling out a fortune for DVDs and also improving my German at the same time.  My host, Nathalie, introduced me to a good way to improve my German last night which is to watch the Cosby Show in English and German to pick up new vocab!  What a great idea!  It's years since I watched that show and it's hilarious how dated the fashions look already.  What a blast from the past!

Also yesterday, I managed to cross another one off my 30 before I am 30 list by joining a French class.  I really want to make the most of it if I am to sit my AS Level this year, I need to.  Although, having all of this time off to get paperwork sorted, I don't know if they will let me out for exams too.  I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

At the weekend I bought a Bahncard on special offer since it was the anniversary (175 years) of rail travel in Germany.  This means I can get reduced price rail tickets for travel all over Germany so I am planning a trip to see my friend Amira in Aachen next month and get the travel bug back.

Later this week I am going to be meeting the rest of the teachers on this native speaker programme which will be nice.  So far I only know Linda and she is lovely so hopefully, I will get to know some more nice people to spend time with and hopefully also practice my Spanish with as one is a native Spanish speaker.

Monday, 16 August 2010

La Strada (Part 2)

Snday was another busy day for the La Strada festival and this time I managed to see some more before rain stopped play.

This is not just the back of someone's head - if you look closely, as we had to, you will see the dancers through the crowd.

Here are a French act (you can only see half) with some amazing Diabolo skills.

Here you can see just how popular some shows were.  We were unable to get in here to see the mime.

This was the main setting for the action in the Marktplatz.

Here's one we braved from the safety and warmth of Alex's on Domhof as it had started raining.  Again, it's a bit hard to see but the two men in uniform putting the red and white tape out are actors.

This was the same clown from the beach the day before but I managed to catch more of his show today which was quite funny and very international (think I counted five languages!)

After the clown show, we sat in the park for some churros!  (Something I have yet to actually find in Barcelona)  and then the heavens opened which meant that the rest of the performances in the park were cancelled and an early finish for us.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

La Strada (Part 1)

Well, as part of my first full day with the Thielmann family, we took a trip to the beach (yes Briony, beach) in Bremen to see part of La Strada for children.  It was a day of firsts really - my first time in a long time on a bike!  And I managed not to fall off!  My first time on the Weser River as we took the ferry across to the beach and my first time at La Strada.

La Strada is basically a street festival that starts Thursday night and finishes on Sunday evening.  Different goups take part in all kinds of different performances in different areas of Bremen.  On the beach today for the children there was a clown and an "art installation" which was basically giant inflatables for the children to play on!

The Ferry
The Ferry
The Weser
The La Strada Clown

La Strada Part 2 will be along tomorrow when I venture into the centre of Bremen to see - hopefully - a wider range of performances.