17 Memories // August 2017

Hello world,

wow, what a month. August started hot and crisp, and now September is slowly taking the reins to segue into my favorite season of them all: fall. But before we start that chapter, let’s look back at all the wonderful moments I got to experience these last weeks in the most beautiful country I know: Switzerland.

Here are 17 memories I made in August 2017:

1 I went back home to Bern. Boy, did that feel good.

2 Some friends I made in Heidelberg this year came to visit me and had to admit that I do have the prettiest home town possible.

3 We took the boat 20km from Thun to Bern and got soaked, because we all sucked at rowing.

4 On my first Swiss National Day as a Swiss citizen, I visited the federal government building and got some chocolate for free.

5 With a good friend, I hiked for the first time this year. We got lost but ended up in a perfect spot anyways and with awkward tan lines.

6 I slept in a tent on the shore of an alpine lake 2537m above sea level and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life at 6:13am.

7 I participated in a kids’ program from church. This year was the ten-year anniversary, and I have been a part of it for eight of those ten years.

8 Flora, another close adventure buddy, and I hiked a super scary trail along the ridge of a mountain. We concluded that we thereby both overcame our fear of heights.

9 I cooked salmon, and it was so good.

10 I spent a lot of time writing a lot of applications.

11 My best friend Nicole and I drove to a remote but insanely beautiful part of Switzerland where we stayed in a hut after hiking up 1000 meters of elevation.

12 We had already taken disappointed photos, when we discovered a gorgeous sunset breaking through the thick clouds. Sorry for our high-pitched screaming. We were very pumped.

13 Reluctantly, I went back to Heidelberg, because I had fallen so deeply in love with Swiss mountains.

14 There, I surprisingly managed to write most of my scary term paper. That lifted a heavy burden off my shoulders.

15 Since all my friends were gone or busy, I took a trip up a mountain for sunset all by myself. Thank God I did that, because that sunset was one of my favorites. Plus, I even met someone to chat to about Swiss history, legends, and geography.

16 For my last trip to the mountains, I went to Lauterbrunnen, which is one of the top tourist attractions of my area. That was surprisingly pretty. I was about forty years younger than the average visitor on a Wednesday afternoon, but I did not mind. I am a pensioner at heart anyways: All I want is nothing more than hikes, sleep, and coziness.

17 I donated blood! I had been wanting to do this again for a long time now because of my rare blood blood type. Thankfully, I finally got up the nerves to go through with it. Thus, I have this month not only overcome my fear of heights once more but also my fear of needles.

This August was a long-awaited break for me, and I am so grateful for all the wonderful memories I got to make. My summer bucket list is so full already, and I can’t wait for late summer/early fall to take over. I am leaving Switzerland tomorrow, which saddens me, however, I truly made the most out of my time here. Let’s hope I get to witness many more mountain sunsets and sunrises in the years to come.

xo

The Things I Learn at University

Hello world,

This post is fresh material for all those who’ve ever asked me, “What can you even do with American Studies?” And I don’t even mind.

Two weeks ago, I did something I had been wanting to do for a long time: With a good friend, I packed my bags, hiked up a mountain, pitched a tent, and woke up early to watch the sunrise in a beautiful spot. Check that off my bucket list.

I love nature. I love spending time in nature. Thus, because I am now a smart-aleck university student, I want to talk about… the study of the love of nature. Yup, that’s what I learnt about this past semester (among other things equally important).

In a course called Call of the Wild, we talked a lot about transcendentalism, which was a philosophical movement in the U.S. in the first half of the 19th. It sought true happiness in nature, because nature and humans itself were considered inherently good but corrupted by society. So, if you are mean, don’t worry: You have simply been corrupted by civilization.

The two main representatives of Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, coined many of the quotes you will find upon typing in ‘nature’ or ‘nature love’ into Pinterest. You know, the perfect Instagram captions.

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

But what even is nature and wilderness? What is left of it? Hasn’t everything been civilized through satellites and maps? Is wilderness constructed, because there would be no wilderness without civilization/us? What is the value of wilderness?

Isn’t it unfair that some landscapes are considered far more beautiful — scientists would say ‘sublime’ — than others and thus more worthy of protection? Because I just posted four pictures of the exact same mountain that is super hyped in Switzerland, because it is on the Toblerone packaging (among other reasons).

We also talked about ecofeminism. This is a philosophy that connects feminism and ecology, because feminine adjectives are so often attributed to nature (especially by Emerson and Thoreau). In American literature in general, nature is often depicted as a female refuge: the untouched land, which can be moody but is undeniably beautiful. Funnily enough, society was also associated with female adjectives: clingy, domesticated, and overprotective.

Ecofeminism draws parallels between the suppression of nature and women. While it sounds far-fetched, it is actually very interesting. One could argue that the suppression of nature was justified by ascribing female characteristics to it, e.g. conquering the virgin land.

Of course, I myself don’t consider these characteristics female, however, a lot of people have in history and sadly still do. I know a ton of clingy, moody, domesticated men.

When I told my brother about my topic for my term papers this summer, he said he couldn’t imagine anything more irrelevant and boring. Maybe you’re thinking the same after reading what I learnt this past semester. That is fair enough, but I absolutely love my major and getting to know more ‘irrelevant’ stuff on a daily basis.

And I also love nature, which is why I had the best time exploring the Matterhorn area. Last summer,  I flew halfway across the world to experience nature and forgot thereby that everything I could ask for in nature is right here: in my beautiful home country.

Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink the wild air.  (Yes, that is an Emerson quote.)

xo

A Scottish Sunset

Hello world,

Some days are special. They stand out when looking back. They give you that tingly feeling in your tummy. They are hard to plan; You can try, but in the end it is a combination of adventure, companionship, nature, and a bit of magic that will set my heart on fire.

I had one of those magical days on my Highland tour in Scotland. The day would have been great in itself, but what turned into one my favorites was how it ended: topless on an isle amidst castle ruins during sunset.
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After a long day in the Highlands, we returned to our hostel in Kyleakin, which is right next to the bridge. There used to be a toll on the bridge, but far before the bridge there had already been a Norwegian princess making money from tolls: Saucy Mary.

Legend has it that Saucy Mary and her husband, a Scottish clansman, laid a heavy metal chain from Castle Moil on the Isle of Skye to the Scottish mainland. They then demanded a heavy toll from passing ship captains. Saucy Mary thanked them for paying it by flashing her boobs to the ships.

I could not find any secondary source anywhere online, however, our tour guide told us if we flash our breasts from the castle ruins it is believed to bring luck.

Seems legit. (Our tour guide was a young woman by the way.)
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We decided to go for it. Six girls, one husband. The tide was coming in, thus we did not have much time. The way up was already quite the mudflat hiking. I was the first and showed no mercy to my boots. So eager was I to reach the castle before the sun had gone down that my shoes were already soaked within two minutes.

If you ever encounter a similar situation: Always choose watching the sun set over staying dry.
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We reached the castle ruins ten minutes before the sun disappeared. We were all out of breath, sweaty, and disgusting, but we had a laugh about it. All of us had only met the day before — we were practically strangers. However, in that moment it seemed like we had been friends forever. 

That’s what travel does to you: It makes you bond with people you have nothing in common with except the love for adventures.

Speaking of adventure: We then all took off our tops, grabbed each other by the hands, and started cheering. That was the magical moment: Standing on that hill, sweaty and disgusting, on the Isle of Skye during sunset with a bunch of newly found friends flashing the whole Isle of Skye and Scotland and the Atlantic ocean. All the while howling and giggling.

I felt very alive in that moment.

Strive for the moments that make you feel alive. I know, I know, sappy sunset and sunrise pictures always make me say that, but seriously: Start living! Stop worrying. Get out there, get sweaty and disgusting, make new friends, seize the sunset.

The way back was very cold and wet and hysterical: Six girls on adrenaline wading through mud with their white converse can create quite some noise. But the moon was shining, and nothing could dampen our mood. Not even the smell from our armpits.

That night was a really good night, too. A lot of jokes on the guys who had missed out on our flashing, a lot of Guinness and a lot of Scottish folk stories.

Turns out, we are all just strangers with memories.

xo

10 Reasons To Visit Israel

Hello world,

Before I left for Israel, I was asked why on earth I would want to go there. Political issues tossed aside for once, I am here today to answer that question. Israel is more than terror, religious conflicts, and disagreements on territorial entitlement.

Israel is really pretty.

Let me give you ten good reasons to bravely face the endless security checks.

1. The Mediterranean Sea.

Israel has a 273 km long coastline with the Mediterranean Sea. In Tel Aviv, there are the most beautiful beaches where you can catch some salty air and sandy feet. Tel Aviv is like the cool big brother of European Mediterranean cities: It is full of parties, sushi restaurants (TLV has the highest sushi restaurant density after Tokyo!), and diversity.
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2. Female Power

Did you know that Israel is an absolute frontrunner when it comes to gender equality? They have more female professors than male! The Zionist movement was one of the first to include women as proper members. They were one of the first countries to ban underweight models!

3. Sunsets

Speaking of coastlines, sunsets are amazing in Israel, because there are so many breathtaking shores. I can recommend the Northern city Haifa, but we basically had 10/10 beautiful sunsets and some pretty sunrises, too.
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4. Food

Let me tell you about the food: It is a-ma-zing. Hummus, Falafel, fried cauliflower, Tahina, pickled eggplants, freshly baked pita bread – I will have to stop there, because I could go on forever. Israeli food is a mixture of different cultures, but it is almost all mouthwatering, healthy, and inexpensive. It also very easy to be vegetarian.
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5. Camels

In the Negev Desert you can ride camels. Do you need any more incentive to go? There are camels, and they are the most adorable, goofy looking, badass animals. They might hurt your butt already after an hour, but still you won’t want to ever get off.

Also, you can stay the night at the camel ranch, which is quite the experience..
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6. New History

Israel has been the refuge of many people of all religions, but especially for Jews after the Holocaust it was a crucial turning point in their grief-stricken history. All tourists, German or not, should try to understand this country’s complex history of the last century and less. If you have the time, please visit Yad Vashem in Jerusalm, the Israeli museum and monument for the Holocaust and its victims.
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7. Ancient History

Building anything anew is quite difficult in Israel, because there is so much ancient history everywhere. Having been the showplace for prophets, kings, armies, sieges, Jesus, and pilgrimages, there is so much to explore. How about a visit to Massada, King Herodes’ winter palace and location of the Great Rebellion AD? It is also great at sunrise.
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8. The Dead Sea
If you are going to Israel in the off-season (September-May), please go visit Ein Boqeq. It is the beach you have dreamt about your whole life. The turquoise water, white ground, and orange sand will make all your friends extremely jealous. Plus, Dead Sea water and mud is very healthy. (Do not shave beforehand. I repeat: DO NOT SHAVE BEFOREHAND.)

9. Attractive people

Yup, that stereotype is true. Everyone is attractive..
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10. Good stories

Public transport in Israel is very good in theory, but a bit dysfunctional in practice. We waited for so many busses in vain, got off at the wrong stop, were forced to take a taxi or hitchhike, and created hilarious stories on the way. Once we accidentally took the bus far too far, but found a beautiful lookout on Lake Nazareth, a stray dog, and a rain storm.

Side note: Don’t hitchhike by yourself, especially as a woman.

Side note #2: Everyone in Israel is very helpful and interested, thus we were never in true danger of not reaching our destination.
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Israel has in the Western World mainly been perceived for its problems and political choices. While these problems and choices are very real and controversial, the country is also far more than just that.

Israel has an extremely diverse geography, population, and cuisine. It offers much on a terrain half as big as Switzerland. Besides its problem areas, it excels in other areas such as gender equality and democratic principles as the only country in its region.

I understand if you do not agree with its choices, but as with all things in life, there are several sides to this story.

xo

Falling in Love with Edinburgh

Hello world,

I spent a couple of days in beautiful, spooky Edinburgh after spontaneously booking a trip to Scotland, because I had been binge-watching Outlander. 

I did not come to Scotland for Edinburgh. In fact, I had heard it was a rather dark and dodgy city. It certainly was, but it was also one of the most captivating cities I have been to.

Let me just say: On the third day I went to look at the university and googled possible postgraduate degrees I might pursue in the Scottish capitol. Edinburgh blew me away.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Population: 464,990
Correct pronunciation: Edinbura (u very short, roll the r)
Big-Mac-Index: U$ 3.73
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  1. Visit Calton Hill by sunset or sunrise. It is not a big hike, but I guarantee you that most postcards and pictures you have seen of Edinburgh were taken there. You have a good view over the whole city and some fancy neoclassic building as your foreground. The sunset I witnessed there, was not even clear, however, the light was beau-ti-ful. 
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  2. Walk a lot. It is the best way to explore this city’s closes, courts, and alleys.
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  3. Go to museums. There are so many in Edinburgh, and they are almost all for free! I visited the Writers’ Museum, the National Museum, and the Museum of the People. All of them were great. I also heard good things about the Museum of Edinburgh and the Museum of Childhood. If you can only do one: Visit the National Museum; it is overwhelming and fascinating.
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  4. Stay at the Castle Rock Hostel. It is cheap, a great social hotspot, offers a lot of activities and free wifi, and it has received a ton of awards. Plus, the receptionists (24 hours a day!) are super nice. I loved it there.
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  5. Do the Harry Potter Trail. It is for free and a must for every Potterhead. They start every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3pm at the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue. The enthusiastic guide will tell you all about the inspiration J.K. Rowling got from Edinburgh.
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  6. Try Haggis just once. Or if not, have some other Scottish food. We went to the Royal Mile Tavern, which was actually pretty good. Plus, you get a discount if you are staying at the Castle Rock.
    If you are not into really unhealthy food, there is also a lot of good and cheap places in Edinburgh, such as Hendersons in the New Town or El Torre Loco at Grassmarket. Other than that, Marks & Spencer always has good takeaway options. 
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  7. Visit St. Giles Cathedral. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Now I want a blue ceiling with stars in my bedroom.
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  8. Hike up Arthur’s Seat to see the sunrise. Arthur’s Seat is a hill located just below the Royal Mile. It is an actual hike to get up there (300 meters of elevation) and you will have to get up at 5 am, but it is definitely worth it. Although it is not very touristy, it would recommend sunrise instead of sunset, since it does get a bit crowded for the latter.

Edinburg is not only a great place for affordable (solo) travel, it is also packed with friendly locals (who love their country), a bloody and Game of Thrones reminiscent history, a fantastic nightlife, many North Americans (they are very easy to make friends with), and a rugged atmosphere.

I absolutely loved it there. Who knows when I might come back. Hopefully, it will be for a bit longer.

xo