Livin' my best tourist life at the Colosseum in Rome. (Photo from the always-fabulous Bethany Bella)
I'm just about a month into my new, European life, and I couldn't be happier. So, as hinted in this post, here's a list of 23 reasons why I'm overjoyed to call Germany my new home:
Public transportation. It may be frustrating to miss a tram by 3 seconds after running frantically down the street with a backpack (as I have now done countless times)... but ultimately, the ease of getting around (and not having to drive/pay for gas) is a luxury I'm very grateful to have.
Recycling/earth-consciousness. Germany specifically is very environmentally conscious as a whole – from the sustainability promise of the Mensa (cafeteria/dining hall) to the sort-it-yourself recycling (paper, plastics and metals, food scraps...) system to the fact that I have to pay for a bag when I don't bring something to carry my groceries home in, I feel like I have already become a more earth-conscious person.
Currywurst. Or, specifically, vegan currywurst. Leipzig is a wonderful city for many reasons, but something that I haven't found elsewhere (yet) is vegan currywurst. Check out Curry & Co. near Hofe am Brühl for my new favorite meal.
Käsebrötchen. Yes, this literally translates as a small cheese bread (or cheese dinner roll, take your pick), but it is one of my favorite things. For about €1, I can get myself a nice, fresh-baked snack/breakfast.
Kräuterquark. While I'm on the topic of food (much of which I also miss about living in the US too, admittedly... please Chipotle, open a franchise here!), something that I have never been able to get in the US is a magical little thing called quark. You can put it on a bagel, on a flatbread, in baked goods, with some herbs for a dip... the list goes on and on. My favorite iteration of this cream cheese-reminiscent spread is Kräuterquark, which is excellent for dipping potato wedges into.
Free tuition. My university fees here are less than the university fees I have to pay OU this semester to maintain my double-degree status. I wish I was kidding. The uni fees here also include free unlimited public transit (!!!) in Leipzig, as long as I have my student ID card with me.
Travel, travel, and more travel. As much as I love Leipzig, I fully intend to take (and have already taken) advantage of the ease and relative inexpensiveness of travel here. Since arriving in Europe last month, I have spent time in Italy (Rome, Vatican City), Estonia (Tallinn, Tartu, Viljandi, Saku), Latvia (Riga), and Germany (Berlin, Leipzig, Erfurt). I'm finally staying put this weekend, which will be nice, but already have another trip to Berlin planned when my dad comes to visit in October and a trip to Meißen at the end of the month.
The cost of groceries. I live near a Rewe, which is one of the more expensive grocery stores here. However, I rarely spend €5-10 there. A bag of penne pasta (Ja! brand) is 36 cents. 36 cents! I buy fruit at Marktplatz on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, and sometimes splurge for nice cheese or some bread...which is not a splurge compared to what I'm used to. I do shop more often, since everything is super fresh/homemade/has no or very minimal chemicals and preservatives in it.
Deichmann. Yes, German friends, I have included my favorite shoe store on this list. But for someone who loves shoes, this should come as no surprise. I have only bought one pair of shoes (a super cute pair of flower-patterned boots that will work for both RAIN and WINTER, mom...) so far, but I have a pair of ankle boots that I bought there two years ago that are still going strong.
Euros. Not the dollar-to-Euro exchange rate right now (I have lost quite a bit of the savings I worked so hard to have for this move thanks to the sinking dollar), but the ease of paying with Euro coins. For those who don't know, Euro coins exist for the following values: €2, €1, €0.50, €0.20, €0.10, €0.05, €0.02 and €0.01 (the smallest bill is €5). I can open my wallet and have a ton of coins... in the US, this would mean that maybe, if I'm lucky, I have $5. But when I finally dumped out the brick of a wallet I've been carrying around a few days ago, I had about €20 in coins stashed in there. Also, Euro coins have a number that says their value on them, so they're super easy to see/use.
Fair wages/tipping. As someone who has worked in foodservice with a wage based on tips before, I'm usually a pretty nice tipper. In Germany, and much of Europe, bartenders, waiters, waitresses, etc. are actually paid a decent wage instead of the bullshit rates in the US. It's easier to calculate rounding up the bill and adding a Euro or two (depending on the service and what kind of restaurant you're in) than trying to do math.
No/less rush in restaurants. This one I'm a little on the fence about... I really like that waitstaff is generally there when you need them but not jumping all over you with the bill as soon as you look like you're done eating, and that my friends and I can sit in a restaurant for a while after finishing our meals to continue our conversation. However, as someone who tends to keep a tight schedule, I wouldn't mind the bill magically appearing as I'm finishing my meal.
All of the history. I study history (as it relates to media), and no surprise here, Europe is chock full of history, and Leipzig is no exception. My university here, Universität Leipzig, is formerly known as Karl-Marx-Universität. I regularly walk past the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church), where the famous Monday Demonstrations that helped lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 began. The Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Monument to the Battle of Nations) commemorates a battle lost by Napoleon Bonaparte against Russia, Prussia, Sweden and Austria in 1813 here in Leipzig. There is a place here called the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum that focuses on contemporary German history, and after a class visit today, I know I'll be back many times. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
€1 for an ice cream cone. Need I say more?
A new routine. I lived in Athens, Ohio for five years. While I will always love that little college town, I am so glad to be somewhere else. This sort of change is really good, and I'm able to get into my new routine and concentrate on what is really, truly important to me now even more than I was back in Athens.
The architecture. Now, my cousin is studying architecture and I'm sure has many things to say about this... but as a non-architect, I have to say, some of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen are in Europe. There is so much interesting architecture here, including some of the buildings that make up my university. Germany's history is reflected in its architecture. For example, I currently live in an apartment that was built in the 1970s ish when Leipzig was part of the GDR (der DDR auf Deutsch), and looks exactly like some of the other "copy and paste" apartment buildings nearby.
Fußgangerzone. Walking-only areas, aka the city center after morning deliveries have been made to the shops. Not only do I get some exercise, but I also have to slow down and enjoy the city that I'm in. I see something new every day!
My bicycle! I bought a used bicycle from Ebay-Kleinanzeigen (sort of like a Craigslist here in Leipzig, where you can buy and sell everything from clothing to toaster ovens to bicycles) last week, and I'm really enjoying cycling around the city and getting some exercise just by going wherever I need to go. Germany (and really Europe as a whole) is very bike-friendly.
Primark. I love to shop, and attribute that to the fact that my dad used to take my sister and I to the mall every week or so to kill time, so naturally I've already scoped out some of the best deals in town. I bought a pair of jeggings, a nice shirt, and a flannel shirt at Primark a few days ago for about €25.
The time difference between here and the US. I both love and hate this time difference – being 7 hours ahead of my sister makes it hard to find a time to Skype, but I also get to live my life in the morning and get a lot done before the daily barrage of emails from OU arrives. I'm a morning person to begin with, so this just adds time to my life.
Tax is included. When you check out at the grocery store, or at Primark, or anywhere else, the tax I'm used to being surprised with at the end of my shopping trip seems to have vanished. It is already included in the cost of the food/items I am buying, so while I'm still paying it, I don't feel like I'm paying it, and to this American, it sorta seems like I'm saving money.
Recycling bottles pays. A little caveat to the previous superlative... when you buy a bottle of anything (beer, Radler, water, tea, soda, etc.), you pay a little extra for the packaging it comes in. But when you drink your drink, bring the bottle back to the grocery store and stick it in the magical bottle machine. Print your ticket, and ta da! you get your money back. I guess technically you don't get paid to recycle, but if you buy Ja! brand water bottles at Rewe, you're actually making 14 cents per water bottle.
Every day is exciting. Every day could be exciting in Ohio too, but I wake up every morning excited about the new place I'm going to explore, about the new food I'm going to try, about the new word(s) I'm going to learn. Living abroad like I have been fortunate enough to twice now, is not in the cards for everyone, and I am thankful every single day that I wake up in Leipzig.