Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Basel, Switzerland

Looking back at these pictures is quite funny for me. I went to visit my best friend in Basel at the start of August (well actually, the last day of July) and it was to be the start of a big continental adventure for me. The fact that I even got to visit her abroad was kind of surreal seeing as we met here in Ireland and the move was only recent. But then the fact that I got to go to as beautiful a country as Switzerland followed by one of my favourites, Germany, was just unfathomable, and still kind of is. The weather in Switzerland was kind of unbearable for my pale skin. The temperatures were between 30-36 degrees Celsius (86-97 Fahrenheit) which was such a difference to the highs we get at home: a good day is probably only 22 degrees (72F). Still, the beautiful sights and my friend and her family's hospitality made up for it. I really had a lovely time despite anxiety over my solo travels which had yet to truly begin.

The most striking thing to me about Basel was its multicultural nature. Interspersed with traditional Fachwerkhäuser (timbered houses) are signs with languages from all over the world, inviting people to essentially speak the language of their choosing. The range of restaurants also covered many many different cuisines whilst still maintaining prominent positions for Swiss food and beer! The language spoken there is a dialect of Swiss German which I found essentially impossible to understand, despite the fact that I can speak German (though not fluently!). It was hard then, to force myself to speak German because the people in shops and restaurants had to switch language anyway, whether it be to standard German or English! But I did it a couple of times and it was an interesting experience.

Switzerland in general is just so clean! The streets were clean swept, almost to the extent on Sundays (when pretty much everything is closed) that it looked like nobody at all lived there in Basel. I really did feel that there was a great sense of order, everything so well kept and so thoroughly planned, such as changed tram times on the day of the fireworks. Most of the buildings were old, made of various kinds of brick and stone. Thus the overall vibe was really put-together, a really interesting mix of old and new, as new shops and businesses occupied very class-looking buildings.

I couldn't possibly end this post without saying what I lovely time I had visiting my friend. To see your friends in new contexts is always interesting and fun, but to be able to look back at our week together and think of all the fun things we did and saw as well as all the foods she introduced to me and the crazy and deep conversations we had, is just incredible. When she left me off at the train station, I was a total bundle of nerves. I knew for sure that I'd miss her, as well as the safety and comfort her family had provided to me. The next part of my journey would involve 3 train journeys with no one meeting me on the other side to tell me where to go. The next leg of my trip taught me so much about who I am, and what I'm capable of, and I can't wait to share with you the rest of the best month of my year if not life!

Did you do any travelling this year?


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Luzern, Switzerland

This was travel,
This was beauty,
This was Switzerland.

When trying to describe Luzern/Lucerne in my travel journal, I was completely lost for words. What could I say? How could I describe all that I saw and how it made me feel? I was in the most beautiful Swiss city I'd ever seen with my best friend, miles and miles away from home. It was overwhelming in away, the sun was beating down, sweat gathered at my back, the beauty and the sun blinded me in equal measure. The boat trip cooled me, I could not believe the blue-green water before me. I missed my family, who I knew would all love the place as much as I did. The colours, the cleanliness, the mood, all so fantastic. I hope you all get to see it some day.

Anna x

Monday, 29 October 2018

the start of a journey

I think it's not uncommon for a member of the blogging community such as myself to want to be a writer. To have always had dreams of published books with my name on the front page. I've always been so scared of writer's block and have had months and months of my life without new poems or stories, or stuck slaving away on old work that I fear will never ever work.

Blogging is something I fall in and out of love with every month. I love that I have this platform to share my thoughts, words and photography. It's so cool that I can seriously post whatever I want, create a portfolio of me that in my real life I'm way too scared to show anyone. My real-life friends haven't read my poetry, don't know how much I like photography, don't know the side of me that you have come to know in some capacity. And that's where I fall out of love. I feel like I say too much, I'm too honest and I shouldn't let that happen. It's so easy to be vulnerable online, which is dangerous especially when people find it so easy to be mean back. And so when I fear what I might say next, I disappear for a bit, but I come back. I've never left for long.

And truly, I don't think it's appropriate to share all the highs and lows of my life with you. I enjoy so much hearing your responses and reading what you have to say on your blogs. It's a special thing we've got going. But all I want to say for now, is that I'm trying my best. I'm trying my best to overcome adversity and trying my best to be the person who will no longer be pushed back, and boy, is it hard. And the best way that I can deal with it, is to create something, I think.

About 3 years ago I started work on my first novel. It got to about 70,000 words and I was so proud of myself and I forced myself to tell a few friends and my family told their friends and I edited it and other people read parts of it and gave me advice. I worked so. hard. on it, and then when the pressure of it actually having to be good and to mean something hit me, I stopped. Like blogging, I come back to it periodically and it still means a lot to me, even if it bothers me and I'll presumably never be happy with it.

But I want to give my novel another shot. I've had feelings coursing through me, telling me to write, but all my new ideas are drawing up blanks. So my novel, code name: TTFE (if you can guess what that stands for you're probably a really cool wizard), will become my child again. And I'm saying this publicly because I don't want to give up on it. I want to work it into something I'm happy with, as best as I can be. And then I want to send it off to other people and see how they like it. Writing is scary, because it's so easy to be rejected. But I know I need to try.

Thank you all so much for listening to me and sticking by me. I'm sorry if this makes little sense! But I'm planning on posting updates about this blog and my novel and my life on instagram, so please follow me! I'd love to get even more connected with you all. It's: @annaszuhause

Anna x

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Germany: Student Accommodation Room Tour // Studentenwohnheim

I've been looking forward to writing this post since way before I went to spend a month in Tübingen. I really wanted to know what a room in student accommodation would be like, and I couldn't find all that much on google apart from ads.

I stayed for the month of August in Georg-Fahrbach-Haus in Tübingen. It's a bit outside the town centre, about a 10 minute uphill bus journey. My room was on the 7th floor of a 13 floor high building. My room was across from the communal kitchen and down the hall from the communal showers and toilets. All of the communal elements of the accommodation were a bit grim. Like they needed a proper deep cleaning and a freshening up. So from that point of view, I didn't really like living there, but I quickly came to love my room.

Seeing as I was only there for 4 weeks and basically living out of a suitcase, I didn't have the chance to really personalize my room. However, I noticed it quickly felt more like home the more I unpacked and the more souvenirs, postcards and leaflets I propped up. I had shelves for each thing - shopping bags, toiletries, shoes, presents for home and Pfand (the german bottle deposit system).

The room was equipped with a single bed, a lot of shelving, a large desk, sink and wardrobe. There was underbed storage as well which I didn't use, but I'm sure I would have had I had more things and more time! My view was over a big field. Only minutes away was a forest-y walk and in the other direction a small shopping area. It was a nice balance of urbanity and countryside.

I've never had a sink in a room before, but I was so glad and grateful that there was one! Especially with everything else being so communal, it was nice for me to have a space where I could wash my face, brush my teeth and just have a water source in general. I would totally recommend getting a room with a sink in it if you know that you'll be sharing a lot of the other amenities (with 13 other people on your floor!)

The wardrobe was spacious and was lockable. I was able to keep my more valuable items there (like camera and laptop when I knew I wouldn't need them) without too much worry. I think the amount of storage space in the room was really excellent and meant that it could all easily be kept tidy.

Overall I was happy with my room. The bed was surprisingly comfortable and the room as a whole was spacious despite its small size. The huge negative about Georg-Fahrbach-Haus (and from what I heard from people living in other accommodation around Tübingen) was the lack of cleanliness. A lot of the cleaning is left to the students but no real rota is put in place and there are calendars and notices dated 2013 still up! Nevertheless it felt safe and wasn't particularly noisy.

Have you ever stayed in student accommodation before?

Anna x

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Freiburg, Germany

I was very fortunate to do a lot of traveling this summer, mainly in Germany but in Switzerland too. My best friend Laura invited me to stay with her in Basel, Switzerland for a week, the first day of which you may have read in my post "Celebrating The Swiss National Day with Fireworks". Basel is only about an hour away from Freiburg, and seeing as everything was closed for the holiday on the 1st of August, Laura suggested we go to see Freiburg, which I was more than happy to do! I had heard previous whispers of Freiburg being a fairytale town, so my expectations were high.

In my mind, Freiburg was to be a town of gingerbread brown houses with snowy roofs and a quaint feel. Maybe it feels more like that with the annual Christmas Market, but on a 34ºC/93ºC day, it felt far from it. I liked it genuinely, it was small and cute and colourful. There weren't many people there. It was peaceful. Too hot for me (an Irish summer is at best 24ºC/75ºF), which unfortunately inhibited the enjoyment, but a nice place to see.

There were plenty of shops and restaurants, definitely a place where one could live or holiday easily and happily. Being in Baden-Württemberg, it's well located for trips to France, Switzerland and other lovely places in Germany. We were only there for a day, so we didn't necessarily get to see much, but I definitely want to come back for the Christmas Market at some point over the next couple of years!

Bonus: I met an adorable bear in a department store and probably won't ever forget the effect he had on me.

Have you ever been to Freiburg? If so, what would you recommend I do there next time?

Anna x

Sunday, 16 September 2018

What I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

I'm now at the beginning of my second year of college, which is a completely crazy concept to me. First year went by so quickly, and while I have grown and changed and learned so much as a person, there are definitely a few things I wish I had known before starting college instead of learning the hard way. I'm hoping to take these things in with me to second year, and hope that those of you just starting your third level journeys can take something from this collection of thoughts too.

The first thing I'd have to say is, don't buy everything on your reading list. I'm not sure if I've ever explicitly stated this on my blog, but I study English, and as one might expect, the reading lists are huge and there are just books and books and essays and poems and so much more that is planned for the year. It's really expensive to try to buy all of them, and you probably won't enjoy every piece of writing you're asked to read, so having a physical copy sometimes just isn't worth it. The other side of it is, the deeper into the semester you are, the less likely it becomes that you're actually going to go to every lecture and read every book. So I'd recommend either borrowing books from the library, downloading free digital copies (think iBooks) or buying cheap editions of books (think Wordsworth editions). Definitely treat yourself to a few books you're excited to read, but owning every book is simply not worth it. 

Secondly, take advantage of your university's societies... but don't join all of them. The temptation to join societies in Fresher's Week is extreme. Everyone seems so nice, and the free stuff they're offering along with the cheap membership rates just makes everything even harder to resist. Maybe joining the knitting society would be fun, maybe I'll learn how to play snooker. The truth is, you probably won't go to the society events if you're only joining on the spur of the moment. Research which societies you'd like to join in advance. So many of them will have social media accounts. And if you know of anyone who's gone to the same university as you before you, you can chat to them about what they know. Joining societies is a great way to create a social outlet for yourself, and maybe even to pick up new skills. If there's something crazy you've always wanted to try, the chances are, there will be a club for it. Just don't join too many!

In the first few weeks of college, there will probably be a lot of free food being offered to you. People want you to sign up (for free) to newsletters, the Student's Union wants to welcome you, some random company you've never heard of will be promoting themselves with packets of crisps. Take the free food because before much longer, the free food supply dries up and you have to buy it all for yourself. You can save up the free food (provided it's snack-style) for days where you have loads of work to do and not the time to buy yourself anything. If the item is something you can't eat or won't eat, you can always give it to your friends who will be more than happy to take it off your hands!

Life is so much easier if you keep up with your readings and homework. It's college! You have so much more freedom than ever before. The temptation is just to party or nap or socialize the whole time. And honestly a balance of those is good, but please, for the sake of your own sanity, keep up with the weekly workload. It's so daunting at first, like how on earth am I supposed to read 3 books a week? but I promise, the more you do it, the easier and faster the whole thing gets. So then, when exam time rolls around, you'll be way less stressed and won't have to do any catching up, just a bit of horrible studying.

That's all I'll say for now, but I hope some of these tips were new or helpful for you! Please share any tips you have for incoming college students in the comments. Let's help each other out!


p.s. photo credz to my sister!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Celebrating The Swiss National Day with Fireworks

The day started with me waking up way earlier than I usually do. I put the final few things in my suitcase and carry-on and said goodbye to my house and dog. A goodbye to last 5 weeks. I was nervous, I both wanted and didn't want to be away from home. I'm a homebody and probably always will be. Then I said goodbye to my family. It was hard because you don't want to part ways sooner than you have to, nor do you want to be stuck saying goodbye forever. My flight was alright, a bit bumpy, only 20 minutes later than scheduled. I was happy to land and feel the warm air, so much warmer than my own country, and happier still to be reunited with my best friend.

I had to change out of my black jeans and long sleeved top, I had to sit in front of fans and drink lots of water to ease my body into the 15 degree Celsius change in temperature. We caught up and talked for ages and went back out into the city. It was lovely. It was new and old and happy. We started the evening with sparklers in the bathroom, then brought them to the city. We ended the night with a special fireworks show along the Rhine. We sat and then stood on the old bridge, which was filled with citizens of Basel as well as tourists. The street lamps were shut off and a hush began among the crowd. Then the fireworks started, and they were beautiful. A full 25 minute show of them. It was magical, and felt like such a strong welcome. I had no idea what we'd do when I arrived early that afternoon, and to be standing on a packed bridge surrounded by "oohs" "ahhs" and a brightly lit sky was surreal.

A good start to my continental summer.

Anna x
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