Vallendar Living

Hi everyone!

I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my semester at WHU. So far, most of my blog has been about my experiences in getting new experiences, within and outside Germany. There will be more, I assure you, so stay tuned! But for this time, I want to show you more about my daily life in Germany.

Living Accommodations

So when you Google the name of the place where I live in, you get this:

Haus Wildburg
Haus Wildburg

That’s partly true. Haus Wildburg is a property owned by the Marien nuns who work and live in this building as well as the housing units immediately behind it past the metal gate. We live past the gate, past where the nuns live, up a little hill to the student dormitory section.

Haus Wildburg is one of the cheapest housing options available to Tauschies at WHU. For 335 Euros per month (which, I now know, is very over priced in Germany) you get this:

Single unit, with one bed, a closet, a desk, a sink, and a radiator. Oh and a chair.
Single unit, with one bed, a closet, a desk, a sink, and a radiator. Oh and a chair.

As well as usage of the kitchens and common areas, which are essentially lounges. The facilities are old, but they get the job done. It’s small, but for me, it’s enough. I don’t take up much space anyway. (Haha)

I live with nine other students, most of whom are from America, so it didn’t take much adjusting to get along. It’s nice living with other people. When I go down to the kitchen to cook dinner (which I never did back in Hawaii because there was always the cafeteria that served buffet style meals), I would usually hear the boys in their kitchen, and it almost always smells amazing. No joke. The guys can really cook.

Which reminds me of the peculiarities of Wildburg. There are separate common areas and kitchens according to gender: one each for male and female. For laundry, we have to pay four 50-cent coins to use the washer and 3 coins for the dryer. That means one load of laundry will cost 3.50 Euros. Eek! Also, the nuns are VERY diligent landlords, and coupled with the fact they speak close to no English, makes things at times quite interesting.

Food

I know Europe has a reputation for being expensive, and I can validate that because I’ve been to some very expensive places (but nice ones. More on that later), but at least compared to Hawaii, groceries are very cheap here. I rarely spend more than 10 Euros on groceries, even at the most expensive store nearby campus, and that can last me for over a week. There are a few main places to go shopping for essentials at:

1) REWE (pronounced like “RAY-VUH”): the newest store in town, a few steps from school, and the closest store to home. Also the most expensive. But if you buy the Ja! brand, it’s like Safeway Select, or Kirkland Signature, or the CVS brand. You get it for cheaper – about the cheapest it gets.

2) Lidl (pronounced like “needle” with an ‘L’): A few minutes from campus not far from the Vallendar train station. It looks like a warehouse, and you can usually find cheaper produce and goods here than at REWE. But if you get Ja! from REWE, it’s comparable.

3) Aldi & Netto: Two separate stores, literally side-by-side, only divided by a parking lot between them. They’re about the same distance from school as Lidl (a bit further) but in the opposite direction. You can probably some of the best deals at these two places as well as good variety. For me though, it’s just really far to walk with a bunch of groceries.

The German diet consists of a lot of meat (yes, wurst), which I ate a lot of during my first few weeks here. Now that I cook a lot, with one good meal a day, I can save a lot of money. My home-cooked dinners have cost me no more than 2 Euros. Actually closer to 1 Euro, with pasta, meat, and veggies.

School

Compared to most campuses I’ve been to, WHU is actually quite small, which is nice because I’ll never have to rush from class to another. Every room is clean, well-lit, and new. The school has only been around for three decades, but it has already maintained a solid reputation for rigor and excellence for years.

The largest lecture hall at WHU. Not the most comfortable one.
The largest lecture hall at WHU. Not the most comfortable one.
Another lecture hall. Smaller but with better seats ^^
Another lecture hall. Smaller but with better seats ^^

And this is one of my favorite places on campus (aside from the library that is accessible 24/7):

The WHU chapel. Anyone is welcome to play the piano as he/she wishes. It is, however, not a sanctified chapel.  Image courtesy of Google.
The WHU chapel. Anyone is welcome to play the piano as he/she wishes. It is, however, not a sanctified chapel.
Image courtesy of Google.

Oh and they have coffee serving vending machines. For 60 cents, you can get a decent cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or even shot of espresso with milk. Every school needs this. What would I do for one of these so I don’t have to wait in line for Starbucks (and watch my paycheck dwindle down…)

Also comes with a cup :)
Also comes with a cup 🙂
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Port of Happiness

Porto, Portugal
Portugal

Of all the places I’ve been to so far, Portugal was definitely the hardest to leave. I’ve always wanted to go to Portugal, so when I got to Europe, this was one of the first trips I planned and was really excited for. There are many reasons why, but I can guess it’s probably because I spent part of my childhood in a place with a very prominent Eurasian culture—I was born in Macau, so it was Chinese and Portuguese to be exact. My favorite pastry of all time has always been the Portuguese cream tart, fresh out of the oven. And I’ve always preferred wine to beer (though German beer is pretty good.)

I don’t get nostalgic very often because I left my childhood home when I was very young for Hawaii, which was a very different place that doesn’t remind me of home much. But those feelings came flooding in as I walked on the roads paved with the smooth black and ivory tiles that are so typical of Portuguese urban planning. Our destination was Porto, which produces probably the best wines and dessert wines in the world.

My juice box of red wine that I finished at the airport. (no straw included)
My juice box of red wine that I finished at the airport. (no straw included)
Portugal is also known for the blue-and-white porcelain tile work. It's absolutely gorgeous, indoors and outdoors. This is in the Porto main train station.
Portugal is also known for the blue-and-white porcelain tile work. It’s absolutely gorgeous, indoors and outdoors. This is in the Porto main train station.

In all respects, we got very unlucky with the weather. The sun rarely shone (but when it did, it was warm and very beautiful), and most of the time, the sky was quite gloomy and one night, we even had to brave hurricane-like weather to get back to our hostel.

But in all honesty, I loved Porto and Portugal in spite of the poor weather. I don’t think I’ve fallen in love with a place so quickly, so completely—especially in such unfavorable conditions. Which says a lot about Portugal, I think.

Our stroke of good weather occurred when we took a day trip to Lisbon by bus for 32 Euros, round trip (three and a half hours, each way). It didn’t hold up by the time we got back to Porto around midnight, which was when we had to fight the typhoon to get back home. So if you’re planning to go to Portugal, might I give fair warning that compact umbrellas are pretty much defenseless. They might survive the rain, but the wind is an entirely different story.

Here are my highlights of Portugal (Porto and Lisbon), in no particular order:

–          Visiting Livaria Lello, one of the most famous and beautiful bookstores in the world, about five times. Legend has it that J.K. Rowling got inspiration from this bookstore to create the Hogwarts Library.

Unfortunately, the bookstore is still privately owned, and its owners do not allow photos to be taken inside. All the more reason to go there yourself and see it!
Unfortunately, the bookstore is still privately owned, and its owners do not allow photos to be taken inside. All the more reason to go there yourself and see it!

And for you serious Potter fans, this cafe is where (again, the legend goes) JK Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter book (HP and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone).

The Majestic
The Majestic

–          Amazing, cheap food. My wonderful meal of delicious pork chops and half a bottle (maybe a third) of red wine was only 5.50 Euros. My huge portion of the typical Portuguese Francesinha was only 6 Euros in a restaurant.

–          The people. I am still in amazement at how helpful, kind, and content with life the Portuguese are.

–          Our hostel. We stayed at Pilot Hostel, which had great facilities that were clean and modern, free tea and coffee 24/7, a kitchen, and wonderful staff. It’s not perfect, but for the quality of our stay, you would not believe it was only 8 Euros per night.

–          Going up on the famous elevator in Lisbon and getting a wonderful aerial view of the city.

–          Exploring the medieval St. Jorge castle and seeing picture perfect weather in Lisbon.

–          Seeing the Atlantic Ocean for the first time on the other side.

–          Making footprints in the sand.

*Germany is centrally located, which means it’s obviously landlocked. It’s the farthest from the ocean I’ve ever been. I’ve moved around a bit, but never very far from the coast…*

–          Our free wine tasting. Even if you aren’t a wine drinker, I promise you: YOU WILL LOVE PORT WINE.

–          Being told I have a good accent when I spoke Portuguese. Which I can’t, by the way. But I made it a point to learn it one day!

Even now, I still wonder what it is about Portugal that makes me want to go back. Like right now. Maybe even live or retire there. I don’t know. I suppose it’s the combination of really little things. Sure, I enjoyed the touristy things, but I think it was something more intrinsic and intangible that makes me so content with life when I am there. Till next time, Portugal!

**Disclaimer: I was not too impressed by the cream tarts in Portugal, to be honest.

But you still can't go wrong with buying one! For 1.20 euros, you can get a gigantic pastel de nata. Standard size 1 euro.
But you still can’t go wrong with buying one! For 1.20 euros, you can get a gigantic pastel de nata.  Standard size 1 euro.

I suppose I have been immensely spoiled by the freshly baked and piping hot tarts that I can only get from the little bakery on the island of Coloane in Macau. If you ever get a chance to go to Hong Kong, spend at least a day in Macau. I can blog for ages about that city, but for now, just try the cream tarts.

For more pictures, please visit:

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