Living the Seasons
Ice-cream on a balmy summer evening, collecting chestnuts in the autumn forests, Christmas markets with mulled wine, and an all-night festival to welcome the spring: Masters student Lara embraces change on a DAAD scholarship.
Moving to Heidelberg to complete a Master’s in Molecular Biosciences was possibly the best decision I will ever make. As well as being completely satisfied with my study programme, it’s been a full cultural immersion - starting with zero German skills to where I am now; able to communicate freely and happily in this challenging language. I’ve travelled to fourteen European countries and met incredible people throughout. I’ve made the closest of friends, and have begun to develop a much clearer understanding of myself and what I truly value in my life. During two years in Germany, I’ve always had a positive feeling of moving forward. This feeling is associated with seasonal transitions, but it’s much more than that. It’s a feeling of growing, of excitement, and of moving in the right direction. I’ve gathered a few photos and thoughts in attempt to share a glimpse of this experience.
High Summer in Heidelberg
Contrary to popular belief, Germany is not always the land of the cold, grey, and damp. From July to September there is plenty of sunshine, tanned skin, pots bursting with summer flowers, and temperatures soaring up to 39 °C. The evenings are bliss as it cools down but remains mild enough to wander over the old bridge with an ice-cream, listening to the street artists softly playing the ”hang” drum.
As the pressure of the university year intensifies in October, the summery landscape begins to transform into one of reds, yellows, and browns. In my study-free time, I’ve gone like a local into the woods to collect chestnuts and walnuts - which are plentiful and delicious, especially when roasted. A most intriguing collection of pumpkins can be found at the markets, and pumpkin soup and onion cake are offered on every café menu.
There is a magical transformation in Heidelberg as snow begins to fall. A calm stillness passes over the city, the trees dress in their splendid white coats, and, well, life continues remarkably smoothly (unlike what I recall from home!).
Christmas Cookies and Mulled Wine
Sure, Christmas is a commercial affair in Germany, too. But there is a touch more tradition, more music being played and sung, festive ”Plätzchen” cookies being baked in the kitchen… and the crowds in the streets don’t appear to be madly Christmas shopping, but instead meeting friends over a hot cup of spiced ”Glühwein”.
Walpurgisnacht: Welcoming the Spring
On the first of May in Heidelberg each year, the end of winter and coming of spring is celebrated in a most curious fashion. What seems like the entire city walks up the hill to an amphitheatre built of stone. Here, bonfires glow, drums are beaten, and people gather around the fire to dance, perform tricks, or simply drink a beer and absorb the tribal atmosphere.
Springtime in Heidelberg is genuine, unspoilt and wonderful. Bunches of delicate purple wild flowers begin to bravely sprout their heads above the grass. Pale blossoms bring a flurry of life to the stark branches above, and a sweet smell of crocuses wafts through the cold air. Students bravely peel off their layers and soak in the sun by the riverside. Though you have to watch out, as I learnt pretty early on that ”der April macht was er will”: the weather does absolutely whatever it wants during spring (particularly in April). Adopting the German habit of always having a rainproof sports jacket on during these months is definitely of practical benefit.