Back to reality [Emma Kennedy, Freie Universität Berlin]

So it’s back to Berlin after a lovely, cosy and frankly too short Christmas break. It was great to be home, particularly as I hadn’t seen most of my friends in months, and I thoroughly enjoyed partaking in all the Christmassy activities which, as always, centered around family, friends and food in abundance. Thirteen days later and it was back to reality. However ‘reality’ is really not so bad when you live in a city like Berlin and, as our next lot of holidays are only a month away, I really have no right to complain. The novelty of my new surroundings has just about worn off, which is not a negative thing as I’m now more confident with language and orientation, feeling less like a wide-eyed visitor and more like a resident (although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to master the Berliner dialect).

I arrived back last Sunday evening, surprisingly (and happily) with no delays to my journey, and it was straight back to class on Monday morning. With just 3 more weeks of lectures before the end of lectures this semester, the focus is more than ever on the exams, and always I’m conscious that my free moments should be spent inside revising, which is easier said than done when the weather outside invites all kinds of fun activities (more on that later). I’m curious to see how the format of the exams differs from that in Edinburgh – I’m sure they will be equally stress-inducing, in any case, but I’m trying to stay positive.

On Saturday I found myself once again waking up at a ridiculous hour in the morning and then spending 1.5 hours staring at the garish yellow seat backing in front of me and trying to drown out 23 adverts for “hot, fresh sandwiches!!”, bargain perfume and ‘smokeless cigarettes’ – yes, apparently I just can’t get enough of those Ryanair flights. My friend and I were on route to Stockholm for the weekend. First impressions of the place? Well, there’s probably a reason Scandinavia is not one of the top holiday destinations for January: as predicted it was absolutely freezing (I was struggling even under my 6 layers of clothing), so cold that several people were walking down the street in ski attire. One intrepid woman was even using ski poles to manoeuvre herself along the snow-covered pavements… We stayed on the river, in a youth hostel on a boat – the excitement of which was somewhat dampened by the fact that all the water around the boat had frozen, but it was very cute nonetheless. Weather aside, the city itself was lovely; very pretty with lots of neat buildings and sculptures, cobbled streets and coffee shops for a tradition they call in Sweden ‘fika’, their equivalent of our tea and biscuits, or Germany’s Kaffee und Kuchen – alright, so maybe it’s not a uniquely Swedish concept! We visited museum for the Vasa, the 17th century warship that sank on its maiden voyage (Sweden’s answer to the Titanic, but a lot less famous) and had drinks in a bar which was a former underground wine cellar, and where all the staff were dressed like monks and wenches (!). I had heard Sweden was an expensive place to visit but given the silly prices of the flights and the fact that we walked everywhere (entirely possible in Stockholm and throughly recommended for a bit of warmth in the arctic conditions), we managed not to spend too much, and had a great time.

I came back to Berlin to find that even more snow had fallen over the weekend. I didn’t know whether this was standard winter weather but apparently it’s the worst snow they’ve had in ages and has caused disruptions across the country. I didn’t mind, as snow is one of my favourite things about winter, but disturbingly I have heard that the city has sold clean out of sledges – catastrophic! We’ll just have to find mode of snow-friendly transportation as the sledging opportunities are too good to pass up!

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