I don’t want to write and individual blog entry about every city that I went to during my stay. I am sure I would repeat myself way too often and I want to fill my blog entries with interesting text rather than pictures that speak for themselves, I am just not a passionate enough photographer to be able to do that.
So here it is, my little personal unorganised Erasmus UK travel book (I will list the cities in the order I visited them; and I think I will split this in two entries):
Nearly every one of us has seen Manchester’s airport multiple times, but we decided to give the city a chance as well. For me it had an urbanely feel. Big shopping streets and malls, easy to get lost in.
We went to the art gallery, split up into small groups and made funny comments on Victorian paintings. And when we got together at our meeting point, it turned out that my group was the only one to miss the awesome 100-years-of-vouge-exibition. So we were screamed at to go back and look and it was indeed pretty awesome. And I am sure not only for people like me that like fashion.
Then we had less than half an hour left for the John Rylands library, which is definitely not enough! We only saw the main attraction, a huge, beautiful old room that almost looks like a church. Old libraries have the best atmosphere. Calm and wise and mysterious.
For the rest, we walked around the city’s big streets, saw some nice night lights, and looked at the cathedral from outside (you can peek in for free, but a full entrance was too expensive for us).
York is the partner city of my hometown in Germany actually, so how thoughtful and culturally interested of me to go there! I fell in love with York a little bit, it is so cute! (Cuter than my hometown, so props to you Münster, good partner choice) Some of the streets reminded me a lot of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter, so narrow and full of interesting shops and crooked houses. I especially liked all the old, second hand, and completely unorganised bookshops.
The cathedral is nice as well, and apparently there are some museums worth visiting. We preferred to just walk around town, instead of joining the other for those. To be fair, some British students told me that York has some nasty and ugly streets outside of the cosy, touristy part. I didn’t see them, but perhaps York is the nicest when you see it as a tourist for just one day...
I have been to London multiple times now. There is a bus from Sheffield to London that takes 4 hours to get there and costs 10£ both ways. We left at 6 in the morning and slept the whole drive, the way back was annoying though, we got stuck in traffic and it took forever! It was raining a lot that day, but we walked around a lot anyway. The Christmas decorations on Oxford Street were one highlight for me. And one of us had never been to London before; it was great to watch him being impressedJ. I would recommend just walking around London to enjoy it. Along the Thames, over the bridges, around the parks, not necessarily the Hyde Park, there are other very beautiful ones as well. And peek into the free museums: I especially like the Natural History one, the clothing section in the Victoria & Albert and the old Egyptian part in the British Museum (this one has an extremely nice entry hall as well).
I was not that impressed by Leeds. It is pretty good for shopping I think. There is a huge mall and the streets are full with shops. But mainly the common chains, I didn’t see a lot of cute independent stores.
We were there during Christmas time as well, and they had a ‘German Christmas Marked’, which was interesting. The stands looked authentic and the stuff that was sold in them was too. It was rather small though, and there was too much space between the stands. A Christmas marked has to be narrow and crowded.
It is not my favourite part of my university subjects, but I study linguistics as well. Sometimes it is interesting, sometimes I ask myself how people possibly get the idea to write pages and pages on ‘Left sentence periphery, verb placement and verb-second constructions in Old High German syntax’ (I did not make up this appealing beauty, I found it with one search in the library catalogue). But it trains my brain to listen a bit more carefully when I hear people talking.
I didn’t know anything about the northern or the Yorkshire dialect before I came here; well I knew that there was something called ‘the Yorkshire dialect’, but not how it sounded. Apparently, it has a lot of different characteristics, the detailed Wikipedia entry has a pretty long list. I mainly noticed one thing (which is the first thing on the Wikipedia list, so I guess it is very typical): Words like lunch, cut, mum, stuff are pronounced with a vowel that sounds more like the German ‘u’, they sound like a German who doesn’t know English would read them out with a German pronunciation. This is the most helpful explanation that I could come up with, I could use the phonetic transcriptions here, but do any linguists read this, I think not... You get used to the sound after a while. At first it was extremely strange, now I like it when I hear it, and I like that I will recognize it from now on and it will remind me of Sheffield.
Another thing: ‘Cheers!’ It is not only typical for Sheffield or Yorkshire or the North, it is everywhere in the UK I think. People say it everywhere, all the time, in all kinds of situations. Said to me it meant things like: ‘Thank you for buying chocolate, Pringles and something else unhealthy and goodbye!’, ‘Oh nice that you have 7,29£ in coins!’, ‘Sorry I stumbled on you!’, ‘Your ID shows that you’re over 18, get in here!’, ‘No problem, I am glad I could show you where the toilets are!’ A web page called ‘urban dictionary’ says cheers is ‘a word used by Britons on any occasion, covering any meaning from “thanks”, “hello”, “no problem”, to “an alien just raped your chinchilla in the left corner of my blue garden shed”.’ How nice.
Also funny for me is how students talk with teachers and lecturers here. They address them by their first names. At home we do that to some younger teachers at the English department, but generally not. Would be very confusing. And it’s not only the first names, it’s the whole attitude. They write mails like ‘Hey Matt, how is it going, about my essay topic I wanted to ask...’ They don’t bother with PhD titles like we do in Germany. We talked about politeness and forms of address in my Germanic linguistic course, and some students who spent an Erasmus in Germany told that they got very confused answers when they stared their mails with ‘Hi Angelika, wie geht es dir?’ In school and even at university now, a teacher’s first name is something private, something that you usually don’t know or that is funny to find out. I remember laughing with my friends about the idea that our German teacher’s wife would call him ‘Ulrich’. That anyone would call our German teacher by his first name. But when I think about it longer, I prefer the relaxed attitude here. It is annoying to look online if the teacher you’re writing to has a PhD before you can send the mail!