Far out! I can't believe how quickly time flies!
To start with, I'm already two-thirds of the way through my stay in Bayreuth, Germany. I arrived on the 1st of February, blinked, and now it's April?? These last nine weeks have seriously rushed by!
Not only that, but I recently had my one-year PhDiversary, and totally forgot to celebrate! I found out that my first annual report was approved, and my candidature has been officially confirmed. Woo-hoo!!
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So yeah, time flies! Before any more time flies by, I want to take a moment to look back and reflect on the first year of my PhD and the last two months here in Bayreuth…
Let’s start with the first year of my PhD, where I spent my time planning, reading the literature, writing my research proposal, applying for grants, collecting samples out in the field, and then processing those samples back in the lab (many a late night scraping bugs off plants... yep you read that right). There have definitely been some stressful moments (I’ve had to learn a few things the hard way) and there's still a looong way to go... but overall I’m happy, proud of what I've achieved so far, and feelin' pretty well prepared for the next stages of my project! As always, big thanks to my fantastic supervisors and my wonderful friends and family for all of your support, it really means a lot ❤️
Moving on to the last two months, I've been in Bayreuth for two reasons: 1) to learn more about stable isotope research from one of the world experts in my field of study, and 2) to analyse all of those samples I collected last year! On both of those points, I feel like the last nine weeks have been a success - I’ve gained some real hands on experience, learnt so much from my supervisor as well as all the other students and technicians in my lab group, and analysed hundreds of my samples. Best of all, I finally have a big ol’ spreadsheet which is slowly filling up with numbers, and (as uncool as this may sound) having some actual data is just so cool! 👓
I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to come here for my research, and I’m really happy right now with how everything is going. Sometimes I have to remind myself that doing a PhD is a marathon... not a sprint! It's okay to take breaks when you need to and it's important to celebrate all the mini-milestones. You can do it!!
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Anyway, while I have been hard at work in the labs during the week (promise!), I've also been lucky enough to travel around a bit on the weekends. Much of this travel has been thanks to the kindness and generosity of my supervisor and all the new friends I've made here in Bayreuth - everybody has been so warm and welcoming! I cannot thank all of you enough for showing me around ❤️
So, as kind of a celebration for my PhDiversary, I've taken some time to put together a bunch of my favourite photos and thoughts from a bunch of the lovely places I've been able to visit, including Nürnberg, Wallenfels, Bamberg, Fichtelgebirge, Munich, Leuna, Merseburg, and Halle. Hope you enjoy! 😊
Aside from Bayreuth, this was the first place in Germany I really got to explore. I only ventured into the older part of Nürnberg within the old city walls (the town has grown much larger since medieval times, but kept a lot of history within the walls). The main attraction I saw in Nürnberg was the Imperial Castle! I took a self-guided tour and saw lots of beautiful artwork, medieval weapons, and a view into the garden where the crossbowmen club (apparently) still does target practice to this day!
Then it was out into the cold for me, with a spiral-staircase climb up to the top of the Sinwell Tower - sooo worth it for that view! It was actually snowing into the tower, so my hands were pretty frozen after taking these shots!
Freezing cold but satisfied, I moved on from the Imperial Castle and wandered the streets until I found somewhere for lunch! After seeing the markets and some (kinda weird) statues and fountains, I warmed up with a traditional Nürnberg lunch of mini-sausages called Rostbratwurst!
Before heading home, I also visited the beautiful St Sebaldus and St Lorenz churches, with their incredible stained glass windows! The churches and cathedrals in Europe have such incredible architecture and decoration, and I always find them to be so lovely and peaceful...
My thanks to Gerhard and Margaret for taking me with them to Nürnberg!
I visited Wallenfels as part of a seminar retreat with my wonderful lab group. We stayed in a beautiful pink three-story house, with a slanted spiral staircase and a lovely view of the little town below. We also had a lot of delicious food - including raclette (a table-top bbq with lots of vegetables, meats and cheese!), a soup with sausages and onions, and a home-made birthday cake for one of the students! Aaand a variety of alcohols - German beer, Bavarian white wine, and a kind of herb liqueur/schnapps!
This little trip was a great opportunity to meet the other students in my lab group, and to hear about all of the exciting topics they're researching - not just carnivorous plants, but mycoheterotrophic orchids and parasitic plants too! I gave a presentation too, with lots of pictures from my field trip to the Kimberley region of Western Australia last year 😊
Bamberg is a really lovely town, with a lot of beautiful architecture! There's "Little Venice" along the river's edge, there's the stunning Cathedral of St Peter and St George, and everywhere there are just gorgeous, colourful houses! I can't tell you how much I want to have a pink and blue house! The green building at the end is actually a brewery, well known for its smoky beers - something to try if you like beer, I suppose!
Seeing as I am not a fan of beer, I instead tried some roasted chestnuts from a street vendor, had a delicious sausage in a bun, and bought some fancy chocolate pralines! I have to say, if you ever go to Bamberg, definitely check out Mohren Haus! It's the skinniest shopping mall ever, filled with so much colour! Also, Riffelmacher next door is apparently a lovely place for ice-cream, but they don't sell it in the winter time...so I must go back!
On the way to Bamberg, we saw a bit of the countryside and smaller towns, and stopped to explore the Seehof Palace. On the way home, we tried some wine and had dinner at a very cosy pub, which had the cutest, biggest, fluffiest puppy dog!
Big thanks to Johannes and Evelin for taking me on a road trip to Bamberg and showing me around!
Seeing as I arrived in Bayreuth at the very end of a relatively warm winter, I've only been able to experience two or three snowy days here, all of which resulted in just a light sprinkling of snow. Going to the Fichtelgebirge (Fichtel Mountains) was my chance to see some proper snow!
We went on a refreshing hike in the thick snow of the Ochsenkopf, and saw a couple of sweet donkey's, some pretty cool fungi (which can apparently be used as kindling for fires!) and icicles hanging from the tree leaves. We also had lunch at a little restaurant on the mountain-side, which had been improved and renovated a year or so ago thanks to a Gordon-Ramsay-style German TV show!
My thanks to Julienne and Andreas for taking me on this hike through the Fichtelgebirge!
Munich is one of those places where you simply cannot see everything in one day, but we tried our best! We started by walking through Alter Hof Palace's central square (first photo below), where apparently a pet monkey carried baby Prince Ludwig IV out of the turret window and onto the roof... luckily, the monkey returned the baby prince safely! After this, we had a traditional Munich lunch (Weißwurst AKA white sausage), watched the glockenspiel show at the Gothic Neues Rathaus. and had a look inside the Hofbräuhaus Beer Hall where there was live music and a great atmosphere!
We also climbed to the top of the tower of St Peter’s Basilicaa - 300 or so steps of narrow staircases winding up and up! While it was a bit squishy with other tourists around you, the views of Munich were incredible! From above we could see everything, including the green roofs of the Viktualienmarkt (note: victual is Latin for food!) - they had fruits, vegetables, cheese, spices, and so on, from all over the world. I even saw a durian!
The rest of our wandering took us to the Field Marshall's Hall (Feldherrnhalle), St. Cajetan of Theatine Church (Theatinerkirche), the Bavarian State Opera House, Munich Royal Residence (Residenz), and the Hofgarten! I really love the architecture of all these places, although you might notice one photo in the gallery below where the 3D-details of the wall are actually just painted on, let me know if you spot it! 😉
Soo...we also saw some pretty strange and cool stuff on our way to and from Munich, including some guys with a horse mask in a yellow van, a German basketball team, some mistletoes in the trees, and a view of the Alps off in the distance! And you can also see my dinner, chicken cordon bleu, not really a German dish traditionally but it was sooo yummy!
My thanks again to Gerhard and Margaret for showing me around Munich, and to their family for welcoming me into their home afterwards for cake and a cup of tea!
Leuna, Merseburg & Halle
I got to come along to Leuna, Merseburg and Halle as part of the birthday celebrations of one of my new friends here in Germany! I am so grateful to have been invited along, and to get the chance to see these beautiful places and join in on all the festivities in Leuna - including a lot of delicious food, a walk along the Saale river, learning a bit about geocaching, and watching Simon's Cat! 😊
We spent the birthday afternoon exploring the Raven Markets and Cathedral in Merseburg, which is a town very close by. Legend has it that sometime after the cathedral was built, a golden ring belonging to a bishop was stolen. The bishop believed that his servant had been the thief, and sentenced him to death. Years later, the ring was found in a raven's nest in the cathedral grounds, and the bishop realised that the raven was actually the thief! To acknowledge his big mistake, the bishop declared that a raven must be kept at the cathedral at all times... No-one is sure how true this story really is, but they do uphold the tradition and keep two ravens in a big cage in front of the cathedral. Twice a year, they hold the 'raven markets' where people come to sell handmade pottery, soaps, candles, toys, all sorts of crafty things, and we just happened to be there on the right day! I'm so glad, because I loved it!
We also visited the animal park (tierpark) in Merseburg - baby goats, pigs with big hanging bellies, a sheep sneakily eating grass from the other side of the fence (the grass is always greener...), a giant turkey, and oh did I mention the baby goats!? What more could you want??
Our last stop on this weekend trip was to visit the Halloren Chocolate Factory (Schokoladenfabrik) in Halle, which is the oldest chocolate factory in Germany! It was a fascinating place, with a display room made entirely out of chocolate, chocolate molds and wrappers from throughout history, a view into the factory itself (though no photos could be taken here), and even a chocolate butt (don't say I didn't warn you)!
There's a little story from this factory that I thought was really sweet and wanted to share. Basically, a long time ago, the people of Halle laid roses all over the street to welcome Emperor Otto to the town, but he unfortunately didn't take the rose-covered route... Instead, an unsuspecting miller's boy wandered through with his donkey, and this caused such joy and delight that 'the donkey that walks on roses' became a symbol for the town! Cute!
Big thanks to Saskia and Philipp, and Philipp's family for showing me around these wonderful places, and welcoming me into their home!
Phew, that was a lot of photos! Good work if you looked at them all, haha! Hope you enjoyed reading about my time in Germany so far, I really enjoyed putting all my photos and thoughts together! I can't believe that in just four weeks I'll have to say goodbye to beautiful Germany and all of the wonderful people I've met here... it would be nice if time could slow down just an itty bit!!
Again, I just have to thank all of the people who have been so kind and taken me to these wonderful places. I really appreciate you all welcoming me into Germany so warmly! And to all my friends and family back home, I miss you and hope you're all well! Tschüß (bye)!