Kurth-Voigt and Bremen: My Opportunity to Explore my Passion

by Liz Bodenman ’20

In the first semester of my time at Uni Bremen, I had the privilege of utilizing funds granted to me through the Dickinson German department’s Kurth-Voigt Research Prize. Securing the grant required me to formulate a viable research question and plan with which to explore possible answers. My question, though still unanswered, pertains to the vegan and vegetarian movements in Bremen and Germany as a whole. How are these two movements so successful in a country that hails meat and dairy in nearly all its traditional cuisines? Though I was not going to get a satisfying answer during the few months I lived in Bremen, I was able to expand my mind through attending two exciting events, funded by Kurth-Voigt.

My start-up workshop. Photo creds to Momentum Novum (the runner of the conference)

First I was able to participate in a three day sustainability conference in Heidelberg, where I attended several different workshops pertaining to food consciousness and the environment, where themes on vegan/vegetarianism echoed throughout. During the conference every participant took part in one block workshop where they worked in groups to formulate a project. My block workshop pertained to the world of ‘start-ups,’ taking us through all the steps necessary to have a successful start-up, then having us present a start-up of our own creation at the closing ceremony. The conference was very international, but getting the German perspective on sustainability proved invaluable for the ways in which I would view German vegan and vegetarian organizations/companies. Then to get an idea of which companies and organizations existed in Germany, I did a bit of digging and found another event useful in exploring my question.

On the way to the Veggienale Fair in Frankfurt

This next event was a day-long ‘Vegginale: Ecological Fair’ in Frankfurt. These Vegginale Fairs are held throughout the year in the major cities across Germany, featuring different national and international organizations and companies relating to sustainability. There is a specific emphasis on veganism and animal rights at these conferences, as vegan/vegetarian activists typically go hand-in-hand with purely environmental activists. Stands were occupied by everything from clean energy firms to a couple selling their homemade vegan honey. The diversity of the content at Veggienale was a good representation of how many ways Germans choose to express care for sustainability and equal rights for all beings.

If I had decided to continue my research project and use the remainder of my grant funds, I could have gone on a few more trips in which to learn about and observe the vegan/vegetarian movements in Germany. My curiosity on the topic remains open, and I plan on exploring it to some extent during my final two years at Dickinson. The Kurth-Voigt is a wonderful opportunity for Dickinson students of German who are curious about an aspect of German life, society or culture and wish to explore it further.

 

Vienna Excursion

In February/March, 2019, we went to Vienna again for a one-week trip. Please read about a few of the highlights:

The Schönbrunn Palace would be the most impressive part of the Vienna excursion. As an image of the Habsburg rule, the palace manifests its presence in its sheer size and beauty. Schönbrunn not only introduces visitors into the lifestyles of the old monarchs with fascinating details, but it also lectures them on aesthetics and culture. Indeed, the palace itself is such an visual reward that impressed me with murals and rococo designs. To a certain extent, they divert your attention from learning the influences of Maria Theresia and the other Habsburgs. Schönbrunn is an unquestionable landmark of Vienna that demonstrates a glorious and glamorous part of Austrian history. I would suggest that the palace serves the sole purpose of impressing and exciting visitors, to bedazzle them. It somewhat creates a seemingly beautiful mirage of the royal life that is too good to be true. >Jack Xia ’20<

Wiener Burgtehater: Settling into my seat in the 4th row of the gallery, the packed theater is buzzing with chatter. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the other half of our Dickinson group a few rows away and we wave excitedly at each other. The lights dim, and the chatter dies down to a murmur, then silence. The play starts. The story revolves around a famous actor, Hendrik Höfgen, who flees to Paris when the Nazi party rises to power. He is persuaded to return to Germany to continue his acting career. Eventually, he is casted as a main character (Mephisto) in the famous play Faust but struggles with accepting a career that’s backed by a Nazi general. Or at least that’s what I understood. In all honesty, I didn’t quite understand 100% of the play, but it was so much fun to watch. Maybe it was because it was my first play, but I thought the staging and effects were so cool and creative. There were huge panels that were moved around, the whole stage revolved, a singing lady descended from the ceiling on a silver hula hoop, latex skin was peeled off, and there was a giant treadmill involved. During intermission we would burst into “What just happened?” and “Wait, but I thought…” We even talked to some Viennese students that were sitting near us, who were happy to take part in our efforts to understand the play. All in all, we didn’t understand everything, but we enjoyed the play very much and we left happy, having experienced some true Viennese Hochkultur. >Karen Hoang ’20<

The crown of the Holy Roman Empire

On the 28th of February, we had the opportunity to go to the Schatzkammer in Vienna. This Treasury was historically a vault in which the von Habsburg family stored valuable objects like jewels, crowns, and clothing, but also important documents like treaties. The Habsburgs exercised control over large swathes of land throughout the medieval and modern periods, at times controlling Hungary, Czechia, Spain, and modern-day Benelux States and Netherlands. As such, the Schatzkammer was full of artifacts of great historical significance. For example, the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, which the Habsburg line held for almost 500 years, was on display towards the end of our tour. Another interesting sight was a “unicorn horn,” in fact the horn of a narwhal, which purportedly had the ability to act as a universal antidote to poison. Aside from that there were many intricate works of weaving and metal working, including the robes worn by the Kaiser of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the King of Hungary. One thing that I also found particularly fascinating was the large collection of religious relics in the Schatzkammer, owing the powerful bond between the Habsburg line and the Catholic church. Among these is a piece of wood with a nail hole that supposedly comes from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, a tooth from both John the Baptist and St. Peter, and a piece of the tablecloth from the Last Supper. For people interested in history or in religion, the Schatzkammer is a place one should not miss. >Corson Ellis ’20<

Garbage incinerator, beautified by Hundertwasser

The Dickinson trip to Vienna, Austria, was amazing. Vienna is so beautiful and filled with History; there wasn’t a day that I didn’t learn or experience something new. One of my favorite activities our group did during this excursion was the Hundertwasser tour and museum. Vienna is filled with art and cultural museums, but Hundertwasser was something I hadn’t seen before. This art installation from Friedensreich Hundertwasser is filled with his paintings, sculpture, and unique artistic style. One of Hundertwasser’s trademarks was not using any straight lines. This was incorporated in all of his work, but it was also incorporated into the Hundertwasserhaus itself, which I found interesting. My favorite part of the architecture was the floors because unlike most art museums, these floors are slanted and uneven, which adds so much to the experience. Not only is the artwork itself brightly colored and whimsical, but the entire atmosphere of the building is eccentric and welcoming. The walking tour was also exciting because we got to see other architecture designed by Hundertwasser and learned about his history and the history behind Hundertwasserhaus. >Megan Kropf ’20<

During the Vienna excursion, we took a one-hour train ride to Bratislava.  We went to this café called UFO because it is shaped like a UFO and it is one of the highest points in the city.  The café is high enough for you to see Austria and Hungary in the distance while on the other side, you can witness the whole landscape of the city.  We took a tour around Bratislava since it is not that big of a city.  On the way through the city, the tour guide shared interesting facts of the Bratislava and Slovakia such as around 50% of the nation’s economy depends on the car industry, and despite Slovakia being a relatively poor country, it is quite expensive to own a home in Bratislava.  We saw the main sites of Bratislava such as the Bratislavaer Burg (Bratislava Castle), Cathedral St. Martin, the Old Town Hall, the parliament’s palace, Michaelertor, and the Blue Church.  The tour guide connected the Bratislavaer Burg back to the history of the Hapsburgs, and why it was built and symbolized.  After the approximately three-hour tour, we had the whole day to make our own memories and be independent throughout the Slavic city. >Sandi Kadric ’20<

In sum: In Vienna, we learned a lot about the history of Austria and by extension Germany. I never knew much about the history of Austria, so I found the tours and museums very interesting. My favorite part of the trip was learning about the Hapsburg dynasty, and visiting the castles which they lived in. I also enjoyed visiting Vienna’s many churches. One of my other favorite parts of the trip was the day in Bratislava. I knew basically nothing about Bratislava and Slovakia, and I enjoyed learning about the city and its history. >James Moore ’20<

Community Service at Retirement Home

by Sandi Kadric ’20

Every Tuesday at 3pm, a group of Dickinson students visited the retirement home in Bremen to talk to four over 90-year-old women. The women came from different areas in Germany such as Bremen, Berlin, a town in now present-day Poland, and a town in the vicinity of Dresden. They talk about their times growing up in the Nazi regime, running from the Russian soldiers, or any consequences that resulted from the second World War. They are not afraid to give insight on personal, tragic stories as they are instantly comfortable with sharing with you since you walk in the door. However, the content is not always heavy as sometimes they fast forward to present day and talk about their families, pets, cooking, etc. The environment is always open and friendly as we always treat ourselves to coffee and cookies.

The women are still mentally sharp for the hour and a half, sometimes two-hour meetings. They want to get to know us well, so it leads to free-flowing conversations. Sometimes it is difficult to understand their German by not knowing some of the words; however, there is a worker that accompanies us who helps us understand the content and is able to translate us in English if ever needed. Speaking to these women gave an insight into the German identity, and it always put a smile on their faces as well as the Dickinson students.

GRMN 340: Comparative Cultures

When I first enrolled into the course, I was skeptical at what we would be discussing, because as an American raised in the 21st century, I’ve never had to think much about Germans in the context of American culture. I appreciated the way this course was able to go through every major era in U.S. history, speaking about the German presence in each. I also enjoyed hearing more about the German perspective on America (as I’ve never really thought before what Germans think of us… I had no idea how Americanized Germany is, but it makes sense considering the U.S. occupied Germany for many years). It was nerve-racking to complete a 15-minute presentation ‘auf Deutsch,’ but I’m grateful I was able to get some practice before completing presentations in other classes. Overall, I feel like a I learned a lot from the course and enjoyed it very much. >Liz Bodenman<

I really enjoyed the course “Kultur heißt vergleichen: USA / Deutschland.” It was very challenging for me to read long texts in German, but it improved my knowledge of the language greatly. Overall, I learned a lot in this course, and I especially enjoyed studying German-American migration patterns. The trip to Bremerhaven was helpful and informative. I also enjoyed learning about the impact of American and Western culture in the GDR. >Malou Planchard<

I really liked the seminar because I learned a lot about the relationship between Germany and the US that I didn’t know before. It was great to learn about this changing relationship over the course of history and how its developments have influenced our thinking today. Moreover, we had a lot of interesting discussions which were very informative and a great place for exchange of ideas and opinions especially since all the attendees were from different countries. >Isabell Hamm<

I thought the course was really insightful for the relationship between the US and Germany. I liked that we started in the 19th century because most people often start with World War I and omit the immigration influx. Also, I liked looking through the lens of pop culture throughout the 20th century because in America, we only focus on the political tensions. It was unique to also read it from a German perspective of how they viewed cultural traits and where did they come. I thought the discussions went well as we had good debates, and Dr. Ludwig furthered the discussion. >Sandi Kadric<

Roaring Twenties

I enjoyed learning about the stereotypes both America and Germany have formed on one another. I also enjoyed learning about how German people emigrated to America in search of “The American Dream” as I think that this mentality was still as prominent in recent years as it was over 200 years ago. However, my favorite part of the seminar was discussing more recent historical aspects (1920’s-present). Anti-war protests, “the roaring twenties” and women’s rights movements particularly interested me. I also enjoyed learning about Iraq and Palestine and perhaps how the media influences a great deal of what we view on television/in the media. Finally, it was great learning a different approach on how to read articles/pieces of writing. I now know the importance in not believing everything I read as there are many factors to take into consideration such as the writers’ viewpoint/sources which influence what we read. >Amy Hughes<

What interested me the most about this seminar was the content specifically. There was a lot of material and texts given for the students to learn, in more detail, about the topics discussed. This was extremely helpful in understanding each topic every week. Personally, I found the topic I done my presentation on the most intriguing because of how much more I learned by all my research in order to understand as much as I could for my presentation. Overall, I learned an unbelievable amount of content about each topic which in turn, made me very interested in this module. I enjoyed this seminar immensely throughout the semester. >Lisa Doyle<

Berlin Excursion January 2019

Stasi

by Sandi Kadric ‘20

We visited the Stasi Museum and prison. We learned about the operations of Stasi, and how involved they were in East and somewhat West Germany. In the museum, we saw how many files they had for each individual, e.g. what they bought, where they lived, where they worked, what facial features they had, etc. We looked at the technology they used to spy on others and how outdated it seems today. Our tour guide also explained how Stasi members were trained, and how they would spy on people such as going into their apartments when the family was away. The tour guide did a great job of explaining how big of an influence the Stasi was, and how much bigger they were than other organizations such as the Gestapo. We also visited a Stasi prison and the tour guide was falsely imprisoned. He showed us all the prison rooms and he shared his experiences. He explained the circumstances and situations in the prison really well, such as sanitary conditions, the mental, physical, and emotional abuse.  The tour guide shared his own experience of how he was captured, and how it was a struggle to have a normal life after being in prison for so long when he was finally released.

 

B.K. and Christa Tragelehn

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

After a few days in Berlin learning about the living conditions in East Germany, on Saturday, January 13th, we had the pleasure of meeting a man and his wife who had, as I like to put it, lived the full East German experience. They had lived not only through the everyday difficulties in the GDR, but through the specialized difficulties of being at the center of a theater scandal. Theater Director, author, and translator B.K. Tragelehn, an older, kind-eyed gentleman who enjoys stroking his cat and smoking cigars, welcomed us into his warm and cozy apartment for a chat and “Kaffee und Kuchen.” As we entered, his wife began serving us immediately, being the perfect hostess, and letting us gawk at the 18,000 books that covered their walls.

Christa & B.K. Tragelehn (middle) with group (Mary, Dr. Ludwig, Liz, Sandi, Dr. Falk Strehlow)

Gently puffing away at his cigar, Herr Tragelehn recounted the pinnacles of his life. Being a child in Dresden whose family was subjected to the WWII bombings (firestorm). Befriending and working alongside famous playwrights Bertolt Brecht, Erich Engel, and Heiner Müller. Meeting his wife for the first time (who he has been with for over fifty-five years). And perhaps most fascinating, being sentenced to work in the coal mines after directing the

B.K. Tragelehn with Liz

GDR-critical play Die Umsiedlerin in 1961. His wife chipped into the story too, explaining how difficult it was to live on little money, trying to make ends meet while her husband toiled in the mines.

Visiting the Tragelehns was my favorite part of Dickinson in Bremen’s Berlin excursion. It was truly awesome to meet such kind Berliners who were willing to give us a glimpse into the East German world. It was a very valuable, memorable experience.

 

Mary, Dr. Ludwig, Liz, Sandi (from left) at the German Historical Museum

 

WG Life

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

Deciding to live in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft) was one of the best decisions I’ve made during my study abroad experience in Bremen thus far, if not THE best. There are several reasons I’ll urge you to find a WG in place of living in the Studentenwohnheime that Dickinson guarantees, but here are the main three:

  1. Community

Upon my arrival in Bremen I was tired, confused, and nervous to begin my new life. But all those feelings vanished when I first walked through the door of my WG, greeted with a hug and a ‘Willkommen zu Hause’ from my new flat mates. Since that first day, the two young women and three young men who live with me have been nothing but helpful, supportive, and uplifting. They make coming back to the WG feel like coming home. You won’t be able to find this living alone in the Studentenwohnheim.

  1. Language Practice & Utilization

The five other young people I live with are German and have agreed with speak only German with me in order to help enhance my skills. Though sometimes it is difficult to wake up at 6am and speak auf Deutsch with whomever I encounter in the kitchen, it has really pushed me to improve my language skills. I highly recommend when searching for a WG, you try to live with Germans who are willing to help you with your speaking skills.

  1. Location

My WG is located in the Neustadt, an up-and-coming part of Bremen full of students, immigrants and young families who make it a vibrant, yet homey place to live. I am an easy bike ride away from the Altstadt, Hauptbahnhof, Viertel, and the Weser. While Horn, the area in which the Studentenwohnheime are located, is nice, it doesn’t begin to compare to other parts of Bremen such as Neustadt.

Now that I have convinced you that WG life is the way to go in Bremen, here are the best places to find a WG:

Viel Erfolg und viel Spaß!

Thanksgiving Dinner

by Sandi Kadric ‘20

On November 24, 2018, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Germans who accompanied us. Everyone at the event wore formal clothes like suits and dresses. Before dinner, we introduced ourselves to other friendly Germans. The organizer of the event, the President of the Carl Schurz German-American Club Neil van Siclen, introduced himself. Then, we could select our food from a variety of options. There were green beans, mashed sweet potatoes, casseroles, turkey etc. that came along with a salad bar.  You were welcome to eat as much as you can (I had four plates). There was vegan and vegetarian friendly food as well. While we ate, everyone introduced themselves to the table and had conversations with each other. It was mostly German, but we could also speak English when something was too difficult to translate. The table was diverse with people from different age groups and from different areas of Germany. After the meal, we played a little quiz game with prizes. The Dickinson participants were really good: three of the four contestants received a prize. At the end of the evening, people went to the bar and ordered some drinks. It was a nice evening where we made some fun memories.

Cooking in Bremen

by Liz Bodenman ‘20

One of the biggest differences between being a student at Dickinson and a student in Bremen is the access to healthy eating. While Dickinson has multiple difference spots on campus from which students can quickly get nutritious ready-made snacks and meals, Uni Bremen only has a few eating spots with limited open hours. Therefore, it is impossible to depend solely on the university to provide oneself with food, making cooking an essential skill to have when studying in Germany.

To ease the transition of going from American convenience to German independence, the Durden Dickinson in Bremen Program provided us with a professional cooking instructor and a night of fun food experimentation! To add to the experience, Uni Bremen students interested in studying at Dickinson for the year were invited to cook with us, thus making it not only a time to learn new cooking skills, but also meet new people and further enhance our German speaking skills.

After spending the evening shopping for ingredients, bustling around the kitchen, and enjoying the fruits of our labor together, we concluded that cooking is far easier and more enjoyable than it may seem for those of us who are beginners (or let’s face it…those who are too lazy to make a nice meal after class).

Bremen for Runners

by Ben Soder ’19

Bürgerpark

Getting Started: Bremen is quite a nice city for running. The fields to the north of the city, the Bürgerpark, and trails along the Weser are great scenic places to train. Additionally, you will never share a busy road with cars, given the great biking/waking infrastructure in the city. All in all, you can’t go wrong running in Bremen!

 

 

Here are links to some good runs from the apartments on Spittaler Strasse:

5 miles through Blockland: https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200125871

Run to the 1 mile race course in the Burger Park (soft surfaces): https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200129711

10 mile run through Bremen: https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200133767

Stadtwaldsee (lake with great swimming): https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2200135885

These are some good starting points that will lead to areas of Bremen that are definitely worth exploring. One of my favorite things to do while abroad in Bremen was to find new places to run. Don’t be fooled when you step off your train or bus when you first get to Bremen… There is much more to the city than the Hauptbahnhof!

 

Cross Country/Track in Germany:

Now, the previously mentioned routes are great and all, but you will get very bored out there running alone. There is no track or cross-country program affiliated with the University of Bremen. Instead of running for the University, you will have to join a club if you want to join a formal team. Of all the clubs in Bremen, your best option is ATS-Buntentor. Marian Skalecki coaches a competitive group cross country and track runners. For further information, visit the Buntentor website (https://www.atsbuntentor.de/sportangebot/laufen.html) and/or contact Marian (Director Ludwig has the email address). The German Cross-Country season starts in October, so if you would like to compete, it is recommended that you come in with at least some summer base training and join the team immediately when you get to Bremen in late September/early October. This club is not only a place to train and compete, but also a great place to work on your German skills and meet some awesome people!

Besides, the Bremer Nachtlauf (Bremen Night Run) happens every May – a great, friendly, fun event. Dickinson students have joined and ran 5 or 10 k through the city center. Up-to-date infos on other running competitions in Bremen and vicinity can be found here: http://www.runme.de/wettkaempfe/bremen/

 

Celebrating Thanksgiving and 4th July in Bremen

by Stefani Zaharieva ’19

Over this past year, the Carl Schurz German-American club in Bremen organised two big events which we were able to attend. We had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving and Independence Day with the German-American community of Bremen. 

The Thanksgiving dinner was on the fancier side and everyone dressed up. The meal was really good and even upon our arrival we were greeted with sugar cookies in the form of pumpkins and a glass of champagne. We talked with some of the German guests including students who were in their senior year in high school. So if you are coming to Bremen this coming fall and are sad to miss Cafsgiving as well as real Thanksgiving dinner with your family, don´t worry. The Bremen program has it all figured out and you will have the chance to celebrate this special day even abroad. 

The 4th of July was a casual celebration – a dinner in the style of picnic. We all brought food with us and shared. It was potluck style, and Molly and I brought watermelon since that is the perfect dessert for those hot summer days. We have been extremely lucky with the weather this past semester – a lot of sunny and warm days thanks to which we really started loving Bremen. Everyone was friendly and enthusiastic, and it was nice to have one last get together before everyone starts leaving.