Swings and Roundabouts, Castles and Walks

It is Sunday at the end of week two, and what I’ve lost on the swings, I’ve gained on the slides.  The stresses of the first week are all but forgotten.

In my morning class, there has definitely been a shift in the energy- everyone seems to have relaxed.  In my first week, there was minimal interaction between classmates other than school stuff, except between those of the same Muttersprache (native tongue).  But now we are chatting socially in the breaks, hooking up on facebook, and taking an interest in each others lives.  Everybody wants to know ‘your story’ and so words associated with my move from Australia to London, why I am studying German, and what I do for work have all become part of my easily re-callable vocab.

Guten Morgen everybody!

Guten Morgen everybody!

From the language point of view, I am feeling really good about how things are coming along.  I am much more confident in class, especially speaking, and even better, understanding what is said.  The things the teacher Alina says as instruction sounds less like Klingon- somehow, my brain understands them, even though I’m not consciously translating which means quite often, I even know what we are supposed to do! (What a notion!)

I can hardly believe how much I have learned and retained in these two weeks.  I guess that is the benefit of living where the language is spoken- you walk out of the class room, and an opportunity to use something that might have seemed ‘obscure’ is immediately at hand.  When I think of how long things took to sink in in Australia, I realise just how valuable what I am doing really is.

Our lovely teacher!

Our lovely teacher!

Everyday, something happens which leaves me feeling chuffed- a brief but all German exchange in a shop, a stranger asks a question in German, and I can understand and respond, or reading a sign and knowing what it means.  This contrasts greatly with even last weekend, where I suffered from a medical condition known as Brainius Farticus when asked even a simple unexpected question by a stranger on the street.  For some reason quite a few people here ask me for help.  (Is pink hair associated with approachability?)

On Wednesday, I had a conversation with someone who had very little English – we spoke for 5 minutes!!  For any of my old German lesson buddies back home, you’d know this is pretty exciting!  Of course, we both fumbled around for words, and had to say things in a different way, but the meaning was clear (in fact, you’ll hear all about this in a blog called “The Encounter”).

But Friday was the best.  I left the apartment, stopped to put on my gloves, and my flat mate Ricardo appeared.  Normally, I leave for school a bit earlier than my flatmates, so we’ve never walked together.   Although we have lived here for 2 weeks, we haven’t really talked, (and to be honest, I thought his name was Stefan).   He is Spanish and speaks only a very small amount of English, but we were able to chat in German for the whole 20 minute walk (at the end of which I confessed I wasn’t sure what his name was).

We discovered that we were both lawyers (what are the chances!?) and that he was my age.  Also, he had the misfortune of having to do law work in the evenings after school.  I don’t know how he does it- I do 2-4 hours of homework a night, eat and I’m ready for bed!  I definitely feel more confident using my new found knowledge with others who are also learning… there is less pressure to be 100% (or even 50%) correct.  Chances are, they are near your level, or have been there not so long ago, and therefore its ok to just to try.

When I compare this to the first day I arrived, I’m thrilled.  On that day, I couldn’t answer simple questions from this lovely bloke Joe who took me from the train to the accommodation.  With actual native speakers, I still struggle, but luckily, have perfected the use of my catchphrase “Es tut mir leid.  Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsche. Können sie wiederholen langsamer bitte?”  (I’m sorry, I only speak a little German, could you repeat that slowly please?”  without suffering Brainius Farticus.   I have a long long way to go, but getting to this point has given me so much confidence, that instead of panicking, most of the time, I just rely on my phrase and a big apologetic smile.  I’m sure everyone trying to speak in a foreign land knows the locals are a lot more sympathetic to speaking English, if you have first had a crack at speaking (albeit in a garbled manner) in their language.

Contributing to my enjoyment is the size of Heidelberg.  Especially when you are traveling alone, seeing someone you know (or have simply seen before) is very comforting.  I think in particular because I have magenta coloured hair, people recognise me too, and it’s lovely when they call out ‘Hallo Tina’.  Of course, I always wave, smile and say ‘hallo’ BUT I’m not so good with names.  To be fair, at the Sprachschule, the two greatest categories of students are Japanese and Tunisian, and there are about 100, 20-22 year old boys from Tunisia named Mohamed who all hang out together, so it gets confusing!

Anyway, enough words from me- how about some pictures?  Over the last week, I have visited both der Schloss (the Castle) first built in the 13th century, and the romantically named ‘Philosophen Weg’ (sounds a bit Harry Potter eh?).  The Philosophers Way is an area that has been used for growing grapevines for a thousand years.  The Weg sits above the Neckar River, on the other side from der Schloss at the end of the Alte Brucke (old bridge), and I can actually see it from my kitchen window!  It was called Philosophen Weg after being used and visited by many great philosophers in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The views are spectacular, and walking up the cobble stoned path, between the moss covered stone walls was magical.

Both COULD be Harry Potter sets.  It is so hard sometimes to believe this is all real!

View of Der Schloss (castle) from below

View of Der Schloss (castle) from below

Walk up to der Schloss (castle)  I stopped to take plenty of photos and catch my breath

Walk up to der Schloss (castle) I stopped to take plenty of photos and catch my breath

Getting some air, with Heidelberg in the background

Getting some air, with Heidelberg in the background

View from der Schloss.  Note the big Church, and just to the right of it, the entrance to my apartment

View from der Schloss. Note the big Church, and just to the right of it, the entrance to my apartment, plus the Alte Brucke (old bridge) and at the end of the Alte Brucke, the Philosophen Weg.

Inside der Schloss

Inside der Schloss

From outside der Schloss

From outside der Schloss

Practicing for my new career as a ballet dancer

Practicing for my new career as a ballet dancer

The Philosphen Weg

The Philosphen Weg

And more Weg!

And more Weg!

View of the Alte Brucke and Church from Philosophen Weg

View of the Alte Brucke and Church from Philosophen Weg.  Look to the left of the church- the windows you can see in  the yellow house are our bathroom and kitchen!

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About The Tina Sparkles Experience

Welcome- these are travel and dating stories with a difference- there is no doubt Tina Sparkles has the ability to find the humour in any situation. Every blog is guaranteed to be a laugh- hope you enjoy!

One Response to “Swings and Roundabouts, Castles and Walks”

  1. Photos are beautiful mate, keep me coming!!!!

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