My first week of school has been incredibly interesting and perhaps a little overwhelming, but in a good way. My life here is much faster and purposeful than that of slow, old Adelaide.
Firstly, I’d like to say that I was extremely lucky to get a room in the apartment I did because my housemates, Heidi and Annette (who will be known henceforth as H and A) are absolutely awesome, and I couldn’t have picked more welcoming and friendly people to live with. Since H and A are both from Old Bavaria, I have been very much been surrounded with hearty, nourishing Bavarian grub and beer at home. However, as I’m technically living in Franconia not Bavaria, I’ve been making a concerted effort to try as much traditional Franconian tucker and brews as possible, and I’ll be writing about the cuisine a little later in this post.
German schools are very different from Australian schools (and according to my fellow assistants, very different to the UK). I guess I’ve seen enough crass German high school movies to not be surprised by what I’ve seen here (Fack Ju Göhte), but one thing is clear: there is much more freedom in German schools. The relationship between teachers and students is far more relaxed, and if I listed all the things I’ve seen here that would get a student suspended or expelled or a teacher fired in an Australian school, it would fill an entire page. As one of the other assistants famously remarked: “there are so many rules in Germany but then none for teenagers”.
I’ll certainly also have to get used to the dynamics and politics of the staffroom, but generally most of the teachers that I’ve come into contact with are welcoming. There are a quite a few teachers who are around the same age as me, the “cool” teachers, I guess, who’re keenly interested in socialising with me, so it should be interesting to see how that turns out. Also, I got my official timetable and have Mondays off!
The classes I’ve observed have ranged from year 6 to year 10 and it is very clear that every class is different and every teacher has a different teaching style. One of the younger teachers invited me to Wandertag (“hiking day”) on Wednesday (hiking, especially through forests, is a big deal in Germany) and I was more than happy to tag along. We originally planned to go to Franconian Switzerland, an area famous for having the highest density of breweries in the world. However, due to problems at the train station, we ended up hiking 8km north of Erlangen and back. The year 7s spent the hike testing their English on me, which was actually really good and they literally asked me every question they could think of, from “do you like dogs” to “what kind of phone do you have?”. So now I’m on high-five terms with them.
The hike culminated at a lovely beer garden overlooking some small villages. I ordered an insanely delicious plate of Franconian Sauerbraten (“sour roast”) with Kloß, a spherical potato dumpling, which is the regular side in this region. Some of the students had schnitzels so I introduced them to the Australian shortened form, “schnitty”, which they found incredibly amusing, perhaps they’ll be able to speak like true blue Aussies by the end of the school year.
On Friday, two of my fellow English assistants, also assigned to beautiful Bavaria, David from Manchester and Carina from Stoke, visited for the weekend, as there was a festival opening in a city close to Erlangen. That evening, we dined at Kitzmann, one of the two local breweries of Erlangen, that was packed with locals, so we waited about 20 minutes for a free table, which was definitely worth it as the food was excellent. I decided to go with the Franconian Krenfleisch, boiled beef rump with a rich horseradish sauce and lingonberries. There was also a carp menu also available, as they are currently in season in Franconia and many restaurants source carp from their own ponds; I’ll have to give it a shot before the season is over.
The Michaelis-kirchweih, or in the local dialect “Färdder Kärwa”, is an annual festival that is nominally connected with the church, the archangel Michael and other religious stuff but feels more like a celebration of beer and drinking it. It commenced in Fürth, a city just north-west of Nuremberg, on Saturday with the tapping of a barrel of special festival beer (Märzen) brewed for the occasion by the local Fürthian brewery (Grüner). The festival takes place on the inner city streets of Fürth and is a very family friendly affair, even if people are already doing some serious drinking at 10 in the morning.
It was here we tried Obatdza (a mouth-watering spread made of seasoned cheese, onions and butter), fish sandwiches (very North German, but incredibly popular here for some reason) and the local snags (Bratwurstschnecke). Grüner’s Märzen was exceptional and tasted much better than their regular lager but it really hits you since festival beers tend to have a higher percentage of alcohol than regular brews. There was even a furry sheep mascot, “Betzila”, probably the Franconian diminutive of “Betsy”, bouncing around the festival with a dirndl. After 6 hours at the Kirchweih, we were exhausted and really feeling the alcohol, so decided to return to Erlangen for frozen pizzas and DARK.
We plan to meet up again with some other assistants for Oktoberfest next weekend, and it might be an idea to take it easier as Oktoberfestbier is an incredibly effective intoxicating agent. I’m also going back to the Michaeliskirchweih in Fürth with some of the teachers from my school on Tuesday, which is sure to be quite interesting.