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Brückenschläge und Schlagworte

Tag: friends

Bridge in Leipzig, Germany

Last year, I wrote a bridge post about a bridge in Stuttgart where I met up with three friends from grad school. We are making this meet-up an annual thing, and this year it took us to Leipzig.

Bridge, Leipzig, GermanyJust like last year, the weekend with the girls left me inspired, grateful, and all in all fulfilled. I have never had a stable group of „my girls“ that has accompanied me through me entire life. Funnily enough, the girls and I didn’t even hang out all the time when we were studying, and we are not the kinds who speak on the phone every week. But out meetings have come to be something I look forward to all year.

The bridge metaphor I used on last year’s post still holds true – we are crossing through stages of our lives together, and once a year we meet and discuss what is going on, how we see the world, what is on our minds. We are alike enough to understand each other, but different enough to learn from each one’s perspective. On my way home to Berlin, I thought: „Well, now we’re going to make new experiences for a year, and next time those experiences will help us explain life to each other, as they do every year.“ I have to say I can’t wait.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany

Today’s bridge I haven’t actually ever crossed yet, even though it sounds quite intriguing because it leads to the Isle of Youth.

Abteibrücke, Berlin, GermanyBerlin’s Treptower Park is one of my favourite green areas in the city. It is very big and has corners that seem completely undomesticized – you can actually feel like you’re out in nature, but you’re still inmidst of the big city with all its benefits of the way home not taking forever. The walk by the Spree river toward Plänterwald brings up memories with my lovely friend Ulrike of ansichtswechsel, whose blog you should check out for amazing photography. We like to take this path on our (by now almost traditional) New Year’s walk, when we evaluate our pasts, presents and futures together in ways that only girlfriends can.

En route you pass an island in the river which is called Insel der Jugend, Isle of Youth, and the Abteibrücke, the pedestrians‘ bridge that leads across the Spree river towards it. The bridge has a long history, it was built in 1916 already. I really like how it stretches between the two pretty towers with their somewhat functional architecture and bright red roof tiles. From what I gather, the Isle of Youth is called that because the people who liked to visit were usually young – there used to be a Youth Club on it. But why give up hope. Maybe one day I will cross the bridge and come to the other side younger then I started out. It never hurts to believe in a bit of magic.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Wooden Trail in Lahemaa, Estonia

This may not even count as a bridge – but it gets one from A to B across a body of water, so I figured it counts.

Bog, Lahemaa, EstoniaMy picture shows the wooden trail that you follow across the large bog in Lahemaa national park in Estonia. I spent my last birthday there and was completely taken by the variety that this gem of nature had to offer. The day finished by a visit to the bog where my friend Wiebke, who you see in the picture, and I took the chance and jumped into one of the lakes with their red waters. Swimming along surrounded by beautiful nature and under a bright blue summer evening sky, my skin looked as though it was covered in an ever so slight and even layer of rust. The water is not contaminated; in fact it is very healthy and full of minerals.

After the refreshing swim, we tried to catch up with our tour group and quickly made our way over the wooden footpath, careful not to tread to either side of it lest we destroy the plants and get very wet feet. The whole scenery seemed to me as though out of a fairytale. The footpath took us through a wonderland safely to a promising new end. And it didn’t connect the two sides of the bog going above and across, it didn’t elevate itself to higher levels, but it was a bridge that stayed level with what it was overcoming. It was humbling to walk it.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

A Hidden Gem in Pomerania – Grudziądz

When I came to Gdańsk in February, my friend Karol suggested that one of these days he’d show me his home town Grudziądz, some 120 kilometers south of Trójmiasto (Tricity, the city complex Gdańsk is part of). Grudziądz is one of the countless middle sized towns in Western Poland with a long and difficult Polish-German history – and in that sense it might not be immensely unique. However, I have come to find out that each and every one of these places has their own charms and their own stories to tell; and all the more so when you get to discover them with a local. I never had to think twice. So on this beautiful day in May, Karol and our mutual friend Aga pick me up at the hostel. We pack up our umbrellas – it is supposed to be a warm but rainy day – and board Karol’s little old Opel to leave Gdańsk in bright sunshine.

I have already described my very first impression of the town in this post. We approach the city via Malinowski bridge and the cityscape touches upon those places in my heart reserved for a feeling of home. I love it instantaneously. As we pull into town, we park the car in the parking lot of Karol’s old school.

Liceum, Grudziądz, PolandBeautiful red brick stone buildings abound, and students dressed up in suits and fancy dresses – Aga walks up to them and asks them how their matura went, the final exams in Polish high school. They smile shyly and say it went okay, and that the subject was English. I’m reminded of my own high school days. None of us really dressed smugly for the finals. I like it, it adds meaning to the occasion.

We walk back to the main street and buy tram tickets at the machine to take a little round trip of the city. The tram is old fashioned and cute.

Tram, Grudziądz, PolandIt goes right through the narrow and tiny cobble stone streets in the old town. As Aga points out, in Gdańsk it only goes along the large alleys in specific tram trails. Here, cars drive over the tram tracks as well, the ride is thus very lively and gives you a good idea of city life in Grudziądz. We pass by beautiful old houses, in Polish they are called Kamienice which derives from the word kamień, meaning stone.

Kamienice, Grudziądz, PolandThere are so many of them, the historic structure of the town is amazing – unfortunately they are not too well kept. I personally love the morbid charme that this entails, but Karol rightfully points out that the city deserves to be beautiful to its full potential, and that is not nearly reached. Many buildings are empty on their ground floors where there should be little shops and buzzing life. But I only notice that because Karol and Agnieszka point it out much to me. I revel in the towns gorgeous scenery and in its liveliness as people are walking down the streets in bright early summer sunshine.

Kamienice, Grudziądz, Poland

After the tram ride, we walk through the narrow streets lined with Kamienice towards the Rynek, the market square.

Rynek, Grudziądz, PolandIt is your typical Polish market square with pretty old town houses and a monument in the middle. I love these wide open spaces in the middle of an urban area. They give me breathing space and let me see the sky, the add light and freshness to the comfort of narrow streets and tiny alleyways.

Karol then takes us up the castle hill and shows us beautiful views of the Vistula river to one side and over the town to the other. It smells like spring, and everything’s in blossom. The leaves on the trees haven’t sprung to their full-fledged green splendour yet – they are still young and light and careful, like symbols of hope.

View from Castle Hill, Grudziądz, PolandAfter a walk through the botanical garden and a delicious lunch at a Chinese restaurant, we come back to the water front. It may well be my favorite place in Grudziądz. The granaries and the city gate Brama Wodna, Water Gate, sit proudly and eternally next to the glistening river that flows on ever so steadily, ever so calmly, with a certainty I wish I had when it comes to planning my own life.

Waterfront, Grudziądz, PolandNext to the raftman’s monument, there is a collection of street signs nailed onto wooden posts of streets all around Europe named after Grudziądz. There is one in Gdańsk, one in Hamburg, and one in Berlin:

Street signs, Grudziądz, PolandI find it once more ever so meaningful how in German towns, the streets will be named after Graudenz, which is the German name of Grudziądz, when in Poland they will obviously use the city’s contemporary name. Of course there is German heritage in the city – many of the mentioned Kamienice were surely built when the place was German, and the granaries and the castle area remind of the Teutonic Knights who reigned here in the middle ages. Still, Grudziądz is nothing but Polish to me. I had a short conversation about this with a German guy in the hostel in Gdańsk who said he felt a certain melancholy in the presence of the German heritage of this area, and a sense of loss. I have no idea what that must feel like. This is not lost to me! This is more than accessible, and it is part of me in a new, great way, it is home away from home, it is Polish, but it is not strange or foreign.

To finish off the day, as we drive out of town, Karol turns soon enough after the other side of Malinowski bridge and takes us to the other shore of the Vistula river to show us this stunning view of his home town:

Grudziądz, PolandThe sun has gone down a little, clouds are collecting. The Polish obłoki, tiny cute white fluffy clouds, have turned into chmury, big grey rain clouds, so the promised windstorm may come upon us after all – but for now the sky is still blue, and the summer’s day’s light is still bouncing off the glistening surface of the river. What a blessing to have friends to live through days like these with, and what a gift to be able to visit places like this one in this world.

Karlshöhe in Stuttgart, Germany

The bridge I am showing you today may not be spectacular, but I absolutely love how the picture turned out. Karlshöhe, Stuttgart, GermanyThis weekend, I met up in Stuttgart with my girlfriends from grad school. Even though I used to live very close, I never saw much of Stuttgart before. My friend lives here now, and being shown around by her I got a whole new perspective on the city. As if it hadn’t been enough to be around wonderful people and feel that great sensation when you haven’t seen someone in a while, but it still all feels as though you had seen each other yesterday, we were also really lucky with the weather. Spring was definitely coming about yesterday as we strolled through Stuttgart’s fairer corners.

After we had taken a beautiful walk through a forrest that was still wintery, we came back down into the residential areas of Stuttgart’s South. Beautiful houses lined the steep streets, and the sun was bright and warm to a degree that it really felt like winter was over. We decided to get a drink on Karlshöhe, another small hill that had a cute little restaurant. In search of the place, we came across a dent on the hilltop. The bridge in the picture led over that dent, and as my friends crossed it and I took this picture, I had so many associations once again that dealt with transgression. Me and these girls, together we’ve crossed over from being students to having jobs. Maybe also from being girls to being women. Now together we were crossing from winter to spring. And I really hope they’ll be around for more crossings into the next stages of my life.

If you have read My Mission statement, you know why I love bridges. To me they are the most universal symbol of connection, of bringing people together and overcoming anything that may seperate us. I want to present to you pictures of bridges that I really love in places that I really love on my blog every Sunday. If you have a picture of a bridge that you would like to share with my readers as a guest post, feel free to contact me!

What’s one more Identity?

A couple of weeks back I was having drinks in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district with Adam of Travels of Adam – if you haven’t yet stumbled upon his great blog you should make up this oversight as quickly as you can. We had a great evening of drinking wine and chatting about travel, life in Berlin and blogging. We finally left the bar to walk to the tram stop together, and when we had just one more pedestrians’ traffic light to cross, we saw the tram get in to the stop. The traffic light was red. It was obvious that we’d miss the tram if we waited for it to turn green. Adam asked: “Wait or run?” I said: “Run!”, and so we did. As we got on the tram, Adam said: “You are so unlike any other German I know, I love it!”

This got me thinking back on all the times my German identity has been questioned – even if in jest.

In Bristol, England, I walked into a coffee shop to buy a latte. After taking my order, the barista asked: “So how are you today?” I replied: “Really grand! Enjoying being away from home for a bit.” He asked: “Where’s home?” I said: “Germany.” He looked up puzzled: “I thought you were Canadian! You don’t have a foreign accent in your English!”

In Mostar, Bosnia, hostel owner Bata gave me advice on how to get into one of my favorite sights, Blagaj’s Tekkija, without having to pay an entrance fee. He said: “You’re almost local, you just tell them ‘Gdje si, legendo!’ [which roughly translated to ‘What’s up, my man!’] and pass right through.”

Tekija, Blagaj, Blagaj, Bosnia and Hercegovina

The Tekija of Blagaj, one of my favorite places in the world

In Rijeka, Croatia, we were having a lovely night in someone’s back yard singing, dancing and, again, drinking the night away. I sang songs in Croatian and was totally in my happy place. My friend Nina said: “You have strange hobbies for a German girl, Maki. Shouldn’t you be working in a Hypo Bank and have a boyfriend that you see just once a week?”

In Nis, Serbia, I was hanging with hostel people in the smokers’ lounge when the phone rang. The hostel owner, Vlad, ran to get it, leaving his cigarette in the ashtray. When he didn’t come back after a while, I took it and said: “Vlad won’t finish this, eh, I might as well.” His co-worker by the same name looked at me in awe and said: “When you try to get back into Germany, they won’t let you. They will think you’re Serbian.

Hanging out in Maribor, SloveniaIn Novi Sad, Serbia, we were singing, drinking and eating Ajvar in my friend Lazar’s kitchen well into the night. Ajvar is a delicious paste made from egg plant, tomatoes and peppers. There was a large jar of it and one spoon, and it circled. When the jar was almost empty and Lazar was scratching remains from the ground, I advised him to do it with the spoon’s narrow end to get even the last bits out. His face split into a grin. “You blend in very well here.”

In Gdansk, Poland, I was visiting a conference, but hanging out nights with my friends who use a lot of swear words, especially the infamous “kurwa”, an approximate equivalent to the English f-word. Finally one night I told them: “Guys, you gotta stop it with the swearing. I almost said ‘kurwa’ at the conference today!” They all broke into laughter, and my friend Karol said: “Marielka, I think you may have deserved the right to Polish citizenship now.

Sejm, Warsaw, Poland

This is me at the Sejm, Polish parliament, in 2007. I wouldn’t have thought back then that anyone would ever attest me a Polish identity…

It looks like I’m not your prototype German. I’m not sure what that would be, but apparently not someone who crosses red traffic lights, speaks foreign languages, tries not to let food go to waste, sings Balkan songs, finishes a stranger’s cigarette, or swears (in Polish at that!). When writing about this, I noticed how many of these stories involve people in foreign countries that I consider friends. It also brought to mind that I have a Croatian nickname, Maki, and a Polish one, Marielka. I realized how integrated, how much at home I feel in so many different places.

Lake Skadar, Montenegro

When I posted this photo of my Australian friend Steve and I, taken at Lake Shkodra in Montenegro, on facebook, my German friend Stefan (who speaks approximately every language in Europe) commented it in Bosnian by the words: “Ti ces nam vratit kao prava Bosanka” – “You will come back to us like a true Bosnian girl”.

When someone attests me a new cultural identity, it is the ultimate step from being a traveller to being a part of the culture in some small way. It makes me very happy to think that I am a little Canadian, a little Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian and Polish, and of course also a little German. I like to think that I have been drawn to Middle Eastern and Eastern Europe because part of my soul has always been there, because there is something inside of me that has always been Slavic – while that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate and identify with my German heritage. Don’t get me wrong, I’d never want to get rid of that! I throw on black, red, gold colors when we play international soccer tournaments just like any other German, and I am ready to sell Germany as a lovely travel destination to anyone who wants to hear it. I am most certainly German, and as difficult as it sometimes feels to say this: I love my country.

The beauty of all these little anecdotes, however, is that I don’t have to be exclusive on this one. This isn’t a monogamous relationship. In a globalized, fast paced, cosmopolitan world that asks of young people to be flexible, variable, willing to adapt and open to new things, I seem to have taken on multiple identities already – and with every new one that is added to that, the only question that comes to mind is: “What’s one more?” I have a beautiful summer love affair with Croatia. I have a strange fascination, an infatuation if you will, with Serbia. I have a difficult, but serious relationship with Bosnia. The US are like an ex-boyfriend who I still think very fondly of – in other words, yes, we’re still friends. Poland is something like the love of my life. I well think I could get married to Poland. And Germany – Germany is my parent and my sibling. Germany is family.

What do you think? How many identities do you have? How do they show? And do you strive for more?